Golden age of rail recalled as train enthusiast leaves Wensleydale Railway his fortune to help them in time of need

From fine dining being de rigueur in second class, to flamboyant art deco compartments allowing passengers to travel in style, just the notion of the golden age of railway can elicit wistfulness for a time long gone.

Some 3,000 photographs, dating as far back as the 19th century, will go on display at Finghall Lane Halt, run by the heritage Wensleydale Railway, after they were granted custody of the National Railway Museum’s photography archive. Pictured: Guy Loveridge with the archive
Some 3,000 photographs, dating as far back as the 19th century, will go on display at Finghall Lane Halt, run by the heritage Wensleydale Railway, after they were granted custody of the National Railway Museum’s photography archive. Pictured: Guy Loveridge with the archive

And now visitors to one of Yorkshire’s heritage lines will be able to delight in stunning photographs from those times at a new gallery made possible by the generous bequest of a railway enthusiast.

Some 3,000 photographs, dating as far back as the 19th century, will go on display at Finghall Lane Halt, run by the heritage Wensleydale Railway, after they were granted custody of the National Railway Museum’s photography archive.

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The Richard King Gallery is to display the evocative images, which passengers on the line can peruse at their leisure during a stop-off point on their journeys.

The images show the golden age of the railways

The gallery has been created from a substantial bequest from the generosity of lifelong train enthusiast Richard King, who lived in Kent and died in 2018.

Guy Loveridge, commercial director of Wensleydale Railway, remembers the moment he found out the bequest could help save the heritage line.

He said: “I remember very clearly I was with Theresa, our financial controller here at Leeming Bar. Both of us were in tears. Already at that point we were looking for where the next pound was coming from to stop the railway going under, because it came just at the beginning of the lockdown.

“He was a shareholder, he passed away, and his executors decided this was an appropriate gesture. We love him for doing it.”

It includes professional side-on images of these engines, which were made in Doncaster

Mr King’s solicitors will be invited to the opening ceremony of the new gallery, which is set to launch its first exhibition next year.

Mr Loveridge, inset, said: “They give us a really interesting perspective because they cover all railway activities. People of my generation have forgotten you could book a horsebox on the railway, and we’ve got a picture of a horse being taken to the Grand National.

“We’ve got brilliant pictures of the interior of the most beautiful Art Deco carriages.

“There’s a whole sequence of professionally side-on photos taken of engines that were made in Doncaster.

“It shows us how societally, we’ve changed massively. The railways were the transport option in the days where it was horse and trap three miles away to market and if you needed to go any further, you went on railway.”

Mr Loveridge hopes the new gallery will affect what he calls the “dwell factor” of Finghall Lane Halt, encouraging passengers to linger in the station and imagine what it would have been like for travellers in days gone by.

“There’s a growing feeling, especially with Covid, that the past is better than the present,” he said. “These pictures will bring alive aspects of the railway world people have never seen before.”