Farnley Viaduct

(Photos 1-4, 6 & 7 © James Washbourne, photos 5 & 8 © Phill Davison)

On 1st March 1882, the London & North Western Railway established a route into Leeds New Station (known as Leeds City Station since 1938), bypassing the heavily conjested area around Holbeck and Whitehall junctions. Its eastern half was elevated above the mills, works, schools and terraces of Holbeck on a viaduct of 1,230 yards.

Built from durable engineering brick, the structure incorporates 83 arches ranging from 20-85 feet in span (most are 24 feet), 10 girder bridges and several blind arches built into a number of highly skewed intermediate abutments. Straight for 775 yards, the structure then incorporates tight S-shape curves - both in the region of 20 chains - to reach the west end of Leeds Station at Canal Junction.

The configuration of the track and signalling changed during its period of operation. Viaduct Signal Box was located on the structure but this closed in June 1937 as part of a resignalling scheme. The City Station modernisation work prompted the closure of both Viaduct Lines in December 1966, only to be reopened again on 1st May 1967 following the construction of a new connection to the East Coast Main Line at Geldard Road Junction. This then became the default route for trains arriving from London.

The last scheduled train to pass over the viaduct did so on 11th October 1987. The tight curvature rendered the route unsuitable for the overhead electrification equipment being installed between King's Cross and Leeds. Much of the track was lifted soon after although several sections of the Up line remain in place. A short length of single line was retained at the station end for stabling purposes, and electrified in 1991, but this was deemed surplus to requirements in 2000.

Many of the arches are still used as business units and proposals have been circulating for the structure's conversion into an 'elevated linear park' - similar to New York's 'High Line' - connecting outlying communities with the city centre. However the project seems to have stalled in the absence of funding.

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Apr 12

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