Abbey Light Railway

The Official Website of the Abbey Light Railway, Kirkstall, Leeds

History of the Railway

The Abbey light Railway was founded in 1976. It is a family run operation supported by volunteers to restore and maintain vintage narrow gauge rolling stock. Our well equipped machine shop is able to carry out heavy repairs and the construction of new equipment. We have twice had Kerr, Stuart Wren 'Peter Pan' to visit the railway, but so far we do not have our own steam loco.

Our leader and owner of the railway, Peter Lowe.

An example of what we are capable of - The little ruston has a brand new set of wheels, machined in-house at the railway.

Volunteers, young and ...erm....not so young, cutting redundant standard gauge sleepers in half to make spare sleepers for our 2' gauge track.

The railway has occasionally played host to visiting locos. On two occasions Kerr, Start 'Wren' class steam engine 'Peter Pan' has run on the railway, and also this (at the time) brand new Hunslet demonsrator diesel loco visited.

Early ALR film

This video shows some old footage of the railway whilst under construction, including pictures of the locos operating in their 'as delivered' condition, without air brakes and nameplates. There is also scenes of the Priestman Cub mechanical excavator in operation.


Nick Tozer films

The videos in this section were all filmed by Nick Tozer, who has kindly allowed me to put them on the website.

It shows a trip up and down the line behind Odin, which looks really good with wasp stripes, as it had then on the bufferbeams, in my opinion.


This time of the railway in 1993. its more recognisable then the 1991 film, but everything looks a lot neater and tidier then it does today! In the film, when the train passes through the yard, look out for Druid as just a rolling chassis behind the Lister.


This is another film from 1993, showing Odin earning his keep and some scenes from  around the workshop.



Early pictures of the railway

The railway used to have a Priestman 'Cub' excavator, which was used in the construction of the railway. Here it can be seen crossing the mill race, by way of a ford that was built for it. This location is now where the foot bridge is. The digger had probably been accross the other side digging out the cutting. The digger was sold in the mid 90s, as it was no longer needed at the railway, and it was getting increasingly worn out and its body corroding from standing outside. It is now preserved in Hull, the city where it was built.

An early ALR passenger train, with No 1 'Loweco' for motive power and a single coach. Both these scenes are unrecognisable today as the trees have grown bigger and thicker.

A very early, if not the first passenger train. With Peter Lowe (owner of the railway) in the middle, and his sons Gavin on the coach and Craig on the loco. The loco is Number 2 'Atlas', The coach is the guards coach and shows it before the guards compartment was boxed in with sides.

A picture of building the railway. the Lister propels two V skip wagons and hauls the man rider over the bridge for ballast work up the line.

A P-way train consisting of No 1 'Loweco', The compressor wagon, the stone crusher, and three V skips, sits on the far side of the loop at the Abbey station.

No 3 'Odin' as delivered, before it was fitted with air brakes and before its exhaust was made to go upwards out the top. the Lister in the foreground also appears to not have its air brake hoses at this stage. This scene is at the depot, when British Home stores was still a Warehouse for the cooperative. The view of the abbey from here is long gone, as all the trees have grown up quite a lot.

The Route

Starting next to Bridge Road, next door to British Home Stores, the railway passes through the yard and alongside abbey mills meadow. It then dives into the woods and curves to the right. around the corner is the level crossing over a private road, and then over the bridge over the Mill Race. After the bridge the railway goes into an ivy coated cutting, and through woodland until it reaches the Abbey station, a journey of about 1/4 mile.


Passing over the Mill Race

Passing over the level crossing


Abbey mills meadow, with a train passing through going towards Bridge Road

And finally, at Bridge Road, running round to make a return journey.

This video shows the line in its entirity, from a couple of inches above rail level, on the front of No 5, the Little Ruston (which is whats making all the noise) from Bridge Road up to the Abbey.


History of the Abbey

The railway runs into the grounds of Kirkstall Abbey. The Cistercian Monastery was founded in 1152 by Baron Henry de Lacy of Pontefract. Worship ceased here in 1539 when the abbey was surrendered to King Henry 8th's commissioners. The abbey was presented to the city of Leeds by Colonel John North in 1889.

The abbey and its grounds have just had several £million spent on them. This has included the building of the visitor centre, resurfacing all the paths, installation of new benches and dustbins and some restoration work to the abbey itself, making it safe to walk around inside it.

The abbey grounds are a really nice place to go for a walk around, see the abbey, visit the abbey house museum and the visitor centre, and if you choose to visit on a running day, your visit could also include a train ride!




Keep a look out for the wildlife found on and around the railway.

Swans, Mallards, Little Grebes, Herons, Kingfishers, Jays and Thrushes have all been seen around the railway, also a Tawny Owl and Bats can be seen in the evenings around the Abbey. We have also seen Shrews, Mice, Rats, Hedgehogs and Dragonflies. Deer have also been seen around the abbey. Not a bad list for the middle of Leeds! there are also fish in the mill race, but if you are wanting to fish there, please choose a non running day (any day appart from sundays and bank holiday mondays) to do so.

As you can see, its pretty wild around here.

Secret Leeds

Click here to go to an excellent article on about the railway, written by Phill Davison about his visit in November 2007.

The article has links to an excellent 10 minute video on of the railway, with scenes of the Hunslet and Lister in action.


Links section

This part of the website is a collection of links to other websites that might of interest.

If you have a link that you think should be on here, please leave me a message on the guestbook.

Links about the railway

http:// - Geoff's railway diaries

http:// - Wikipedia article

Links about the locomotives and rolling stock

http:// - Wikipedia article on the Hunslet engine company

http:// - Wikipedia article on Motor Rails

http:// - Wikipedia article on Rustons

http:// - Wikipedia article about Muir Hill

http:// - Wikipedia article about Baguleys

http:// - Wikipedia article about Greenwood & Batley

Links to other websites you may find of interest

http:// - A website all about Kirkstall Abbey.

http:// - Narrow Gauge North, a model show devoted to narrow gauge railways.

http:// - Narrow Gauge Heaven, a website for all things narrow gauge.

Links to other railway attractions in Yorkshire

http:// - Middleton railway, Leeds

http:// - Keighley and Worth Valley railway, Keighley

http:// - Embsay and Bolton Abbey railway, Skipton

http:// - North Yorkshire Moors railway, Pickering

http:// - The National Railway Museum, York

http:// - Kirklees light railway, Clayton West (near Huddersfield)

http:// - North Bay railway, Scarbrough