Elsecar Heritage Railway mothballed indefinitely after operators surrender their lease

Elsecar Heritage RailwayElsecar Heritage Railway
Elsecar Heritage Railway
A heritage railway near Barnsley faces an uncertain future after its operators decided to surrender their lease.

Elsecar Heritage Railway runs along a mile-long stretch of track that once served the ironworks and collieries of the industrial village, which was owned by the Earls of Fitzwilliam of nearby Wentworth Woodhouse.

The railway was a freight-only branch of the Mexborough to Barnsley line that closed in 1984 when the last mine shut. Barnsley Council bought the trackbed in 1994 and restored the line as a visitor attraction attached to Elsecar Heritage Centre. In 2006, they handed over its running to the Elsecar Heritage Railway Trust and leased the site.

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The trustees have now confirmed that they have had to hand back the lease to the council, who will explore options over its future viability.

It is not clear whether the closure of Elsecar's visitor attractions for prolonged periods during 2020 has been a factor in the decision.

A statement from the Elsecar Heritage Railway Trust said: "Elsecar Heritage Railway Trust has faced a number of challenges in recent times. As landlords of the site, Barnsley Council have been in regular contact with trustees to look at ways to address these challenges and to make the railway a viable attraction.

"The board of trustees have expressed that their best, and only course of action is to surrender their lease to the railway sites that are owned by Barnsley Council while further work takes place to determine their next steps. The railway sites include Elsecar, Cortonwood and the railway line between them.

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"The railway is an important part of Barnsley’s history and visitor offer and Barnsley Council are committed to securing the future of the railway for residents and future generations to enjoy. Working alongside the Trust they are reviewing a number of options to ensure the well-loved visitor attraction has a successful and sustainable future.

"The railway will remain closed for the time being while various options are explored. We will keep visitors updated on progress as plans are developed."

Steam and vintage diesel trains ran from Rockingham Station, at the rear of the heritage centre, to Hemingfield Basin, and there were plans to extend the service to Cortonwood and open a new halt at Hemingfield, a further mile away.

The announcement is a blow for Elsecar, which was recently designated as a Heritage Action Zone by Historic England, who have funded projects to increase public engagement with its industrial history and develop its tourism offer.

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Earlier this month it was announced that 16 buildings in the village had either been newly listed at Grade II or given upgraded protection status by the government.

The HAZ, which is run in partnership with Barnsley Council, will also involve promoting lesser-known archaeological sites, bringing historic buildings back into use as offices and retail units, identifying suitable sites for new housing, and encouraging local residents to become involved in future development plans.

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