After the withdrawal of the freight service from Hartley Quarry in October 1975 and the abandonment of the Eden Valley branch between Warcop and Kirkby Stephen the track was 'lifted', some of the bridges were removed and the land was sold off. The Kirkby Stephen East station site had already been sold for industrial use in 1969 and the building began a second career as a business called 'Station Mills' and known locally around the district as the "Bobbin Factory". Although it had once possessed some of Britain's most interesting railway heritage set in such fine scenery, the Upper Eden Valley seemed to have completely missed out on the opportunity it had presented.
There was an early attempt made during the 1970's to launch a project of the kind that was already at that time drawing thousands of visitors to attractions such the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, and creating new employment in rural areas. The hope was to save the whole Appleby to Merrygill route. But it did not succeed. The problem in the Eden Valley was that the main closure had come early in the 1960's, before the value of tourism to the rural economy and the potential attraction of heritage railways was fully appreciated. Also the location was distant from the contemporary mainstream railway preservation scene.
The first successful railway conservation project in the Kirkby Stephen area was the fight to save the nearby Settle-Carlisle line between 1981 and 1989. The impetus of that campaign led to a further campaign to save Smardalegill Viaduct between 1989 and 1992. This led to the formation of the 'Northern Viaduct Trust' who followed up on their first project by buying and conserving Podgill and Merrygill Viaducts and creating the beautiful railway walk between Stenkrith and Hartley, now a much used local amenity. Then in 1995, a Society (now the Eden Valley Railway Trust) was formed with the ultimate intention of operating a heritage railway service between Appleby East and Kirkby Stephen East.
Meanwhile in 1992 the 'Bobbin Factory' had ceased trading and by 1997 the former station building was derelict and much of the site had either reverted to scrub land or was covered in fly tipping. Eventually an area of 6.5 acres including the surviving building was secured by a group of enthusiasts whose vision was to restore and develop Kirkby Stephen East as a Railway Heritage Centre. To co-ordinate and manage this project the Stainmore Railway Company was set up in 2000 as a 'not for profit' Limited Company. Anyone can buy shares in the company and you will find an application form here.
The Stainmore Railway Company has a number of objectives including:-
To restore the former Kirkby Stephen East station to its original condition and to develop the site as a Heritage Centre and working railway representing the 1950's.
To provide an educational resource relating to local history and the development and operation of the railway.
To provide training in the skills necessary to restore and maintain locomotives and rolling stock.
To reconstruct as much as the former Stainmore Railway system as is reasonably practicable as a passenger carrying railway.
To obtain, restore and operate a representative collection of locomotives and rolling stock
Just how far we have moved towards achieving these objects during the last ten years you can read about here and judge for yourself when you come to join us in the 'Stainmore150' celebrations in 2011.
THE 'STAINMORE 150' PROJECT IS FUNDED BY THE HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND
The 'Bobbin factory' in the early 1990's before it was acquired by Stainmore Properties.
The 'Yorkshire Engine' moves cautiously across Bridge 2 - the first locomotive to do so since 1974.