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Garforth is located on the earliest main-line railway to be built in Yorkshire: the Leeds & Selby Railway, engineered by James Walker and opened to passengers in September 1834 and freight in December. James Walker (1781-1862) was one of the leading engineers of his time, succeeding Thomas Telford to become the second president of the Institution of Civil Engineers and holding this post from 1835 to 1844. He is best known for  a variety of dock and harbour schemes, while he was also consulting engineer to Trinity House. Railways formed only a small part of his practice but the Leeds & Selby, conceived as the first stage of a trunk route from Leeds to Hull, is remarkable for the adoption of masonry overbridges designed to cater for four railway tracks, although only two were actually laid. These were an advance on the bridges provided for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, while the next significant trunk lines, the Grand Junction and London & Birmingham, were still almost three years from completion when the Leeds & Selby opened. 

Garforth station retains a fine example of Walker's masonry overbridges while, just over a mile to the west (OS grid ref SE387342), is the sole surviving original cast-iron overbridge. A further three of the masonry overbridges can be found between Garforth and Micklefield, and are illustrated at the end of this page. The station itself is a good example of one of the NER's standard designs, built in 1872, and is accompanied by one of their standard cast-iron footbridges.

A train from Leeds passing beneath the skew bridge at the west end of Garforth station in 1993. James Walker adopted a quite shallow elliptical arch in order to allow space for four tracks while maintaining a relatively gentle gradient on the road above. The construction of these bridges was overseen by his resident engineer, George Smith. The raising of the parapet by three courses, though carefully done, tends to make the arch look even flatter than it really is.

The skew arch, with its winder courses carefully executed in sandstone ashlar masonry, now somewhat weathered. The abutments and spandrels are built from limestone, quarried along the course of the line east of Garforth and given a contrasting rough finish.


The bridge parapets end in these neat, simple curved newels. Only a small proportion of the trains using the station now go to Selby, since the opening of the Micklefield to Church Fenton cut-off in 1869 placed Garforth on the main line from Leeds to York.


(above) detail of the parapet prior to its being raised, from the 1974 view seen left.  In front is the cast-iron footbridge to a standard NER design adopted in 1883; this one dates from about 1896.


Shippen Lane bridge was provided to carry a farm track across the railway and employs a cast-iron segmental arch with a comparable span to the 54 feet (16.5m) of the masonry overbridges. Stone drums serve as terminal piers to the light iron balustrade of the original parapet. In this view, a wooden fence had been added behind the balustrade; the fence has now been replaced by a structure of steel sheeting. The structure is listed grade II.  


The original Leeds & Selby stations were modest 2-storey cottages in a somewhat vernacular, vaguely Tudor-Revival style. Garforth received a new station in the 1870s but the old one seen here survived as a house for almost a further century. South Milford gives a better impression of the original design and the way in which they could be augmented by timber waiting sheds.


The replacement Garforth station, seen here in 1993, was designed by Thomas Prosser, the NER Architect, and is a good, functional example of his late work, with a glazed platform canopy clasped between the projecting wings of the stationmaster's house and the office. Garforth is an early example of his Type 3 design, the plans having been prepared in 1869 although construction was delayed until 1872, when the NER directors finally bowed to local pressure. The accommodation for passengers and the station master's family was vastly better than in the original station. Other routes on which the Type 3 design was employed include the Wensleydale Branch (opened 1878), where the use of sandstone and frilly bargeboards created a more picturesque effect.

The late 20th century brought a considerable amount of housing development at Garforth, the fast and frequent train service making it an attractive proposition to commute into Leeds. This led to the opening of a second station at East Garforth, while the waiting area at Garforth itself has been enhanced by glazing in the front of the verandah.







© W. Fawcett, 2011