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Lake Lock Rail Road

The Lake Lock Rail Road

The Lake Lock Rail Road was arguably the world’s first public railway, earlier rail roads were owned by either colliery owners or canal company’s for their own transportation purposes, making this the first rail road that could be used by anyone.

The Lake Lock Rail Road Company was formed in 1796 with the capital being raised from 128 shares that were purchased by a wide range of people including a lawyer, banker, doctor, clergyman, merchant and widow. The Railroad was a narrow gauge railway and opened in 1798. The Narrow gauge road was ideal for the local terrain which is mostly a steep incline, it was also cheap to construct and easy for people to transport goods along. During times of bad weather the rail road was closed making it much more difficult to transport goods. In those days the road would have been as important as motorways are to us today. The line commenced at Lake Lock and ran towards Outwood. In 1804 the route was changed to avoid a steep incline, this resulted in the terminus relocating from Lake Lock to nearby Bottomboat.


There were also a number of branches to the various pits and to Lane Ends Stone Quarry. The rail road was later extended towards East Ardsley and Kirkhamgate and had a great impact on the development and layout of these villages. The main purpose of the line was to move coal from the various coal pits surrounding the line to the Aire & Calder Navigation for shipment. The load of three wagons was hauled by one horse with an average gradient of 1 in 70 down to the navigation. Goods were charged by toll, initially at 6d per ton, then increasing to 10 ½ d per ton. In 1807 110,000 tons were being carried each year, by 1819 this had reduced to 81,000 with a further reduction to 76,000 tons in 1823. The line gradually declined and was closed in 1836 when the major colliery owner J & J Charlesworth built an alternative railway to accommodate growing demand for coal.


The plaque that is situated at the junction of Lake Lock and Aberford Road

The Silkstone Wagonway

Although not as old as The Lake Lock Railroad, this 1809 Wagonway that runs through Silkstone (near Barnsley) is of very similar construction to the one at Lake Lock. This trail still carries evidence of the parallel stone sleepers that supported the rails upon which the coal wagons would have been pushed by hand and horse like the one at Stanley, making the photos below a good comparison. In recent years the Silkstone Wagonway has become a popular attraction, a small section of the rails have been replaced so people can see how the track would have looked when it was in use. Sadly there is no part of the Lake Lock Rail Road visible today (later mineral lines of a different construction are however still visible across parts of the village), almost 200 years have passed since the line was abandoned. In part footpaths still follow the line of the rail road at Stanley, especially in the Bottomboat and Lake Lock areas, undoubtedly the stone sleepers will have been lifted and used in the construction of buildings and walls in the area. If you do however happen to come across stone flags that have bolt holes as the photos below, please send us details.

Photos of a rail chair from the Lake Lock Rail Road

These were uncovered at Carr Gate near Lawns Lane during the construction of the M1. They are kept by Neil Brittlebank, a local historian from East Ardsley.


More to follow

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