The Leeds & York Railway and the Tadcaster Viaduct

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry"

Many railroad proposals are never seen through to completion, even if significant infrastructure along the route is built, both here in the United States and abroad.

This was especially true in the early days of railroad companies, which were quite often small operations that did not have much support from governments, and were also competing against such charters that did. 

One such example of an unbuilt railway is the Leeds & York Railway, a proposal from the 1840's to connect its namesake cities in the United Kingdom.

Promoted by the Manchester & Leeds Railway, it was eventually a casualty of a non-compete agreement between the M&L and rival York & North Midland Railway.

Before the proposal was abandoned, workers had completed the Tadcaster Viaduct, which still stands today. While the company that built it came and went without laying track on it, it briefly did serve its purpose as a rail bridge, although only for a side track. (Location)

Tadcaster Viaduct in the distance. Alison Stamp, 2005. Wikipedia Commons

The National Transport Trust describes the viaduct as "An imposing viaduct of eleven arches spans the River Wharfe in Tadcaster, built as part of a projected direct Leeds to York railway promoted by the industrialist George Hudson through the York & North Midland Railway. The construction of the line was authorised in 1846 and was to run from Copmanthorpe to Cross Gates, joining the Church Fenton to Harrogate railway line between Tadcaster and Stutton.

The collapse of railway investment in 1849 lead to the line being abandoned after the viaduct had been constructed. The need for the line evaporated with the opening of the Micklethorpe to Church Fenton line in 1869."

Tadcaster Viaduct in 2007. Andrew Whale, Wikipedia Commons. Whale shared the following, "About a quarter-of-a-mile above the road bridge is a handsome viaduct of eleven arches spanning the Wharfe. This was erected whilst George Hudson was the ruling spirit in the railway world, but with the collapse of the "Railway King" the line, which was intended to connect Tadcaster with York, was abandoned. The viaduct was subsequently purchased by the North-Eastern Railway Co." Later, it was used for a short siding to a mill on the east side of the river." (Tadcaster Extract, 1890)

Today the bridge serves as a walkway over the River Wharfe, and as a reminder about how plans can go awry. The viaduct has also been the subject of several preservation efforts, and its historic and architectural significance has been recognized by its designation as a Grade II listed building.

Thanks as always for reading!


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