Ryburn Valley branch line

The Ryburn Valley branch railway line linked Sowerby Bridge Station via Scar Head Tunnel to Triangle, Ripponden, and Slitheroe Bridge, Rishworth.

When proposed in 1865, it was intended to be a shorter main-line route to Rochdale and Manchester. It should have been built along the north side of the Ryburn Valley, where it would have been more easily accessible by the mills – and where the terrain was more easily worked – but the owners of the property along the proposed route vetoed the plans.

Permission to build the line was granted in 1865. Work started in 1873. Landslides and other difficulties in cutting Scar Head tunnel delayed the opening of the Sowerby Bridge-Ripponden line until 1st July 1878 (goods) and 5th August 1878 (passengers).

The contract price of £113,000 was overspent by £85,000.

There were 35 passengers on the first train on 5th August 1878, but by the end of the day more than 2,000 people has made the journey to and from Ripponden. When the first train arrived at Ripponden Station, a cannon was fired, the bells of St Bartholomew's Church were rung, and the workers were given a day off work from the local mills.

There were initially 10 trains per day between Rishworth and Sowerby Bridge.

A tunnel under Rishworth Moor and Blackstone Edge was proposed to reduce the distance between Sowerby Bridge and Rochdale by 5 miles. Because of landslides and other difficulties, the extension west never proceeded beyond the planning stage.

The line was initially open as far as Ripponden. The line was double-track and was engineered to main-line standards.

The Ripponden-Rishworth section to Rishworth opened for all traffic on 1st March 1881.

Trains for the branch had to back into Sowerby Bridge station, and the proposed line was never built beyond Rishworth.

In March 1907, in response to competition from the trams, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company introduced a new type of train – the rail-motor – and a more frequent service. At this time, only one line was used for trains and the other was used to store stock which was not in use.

The branch closed for passengers on 6th July 1929 - the last train ran in September 1929 – and for freight in August 1958 - the last train ran on 1st September 1958

See Martha Mallalieu and Rishworth pigs

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 10:46 / 15th March 2023 / 4711

Page Ref: MMR268

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