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KWVR @ 40
Meet the REAL stars of the KWVR!
If you've ever been on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR) you'll know that the huffing and puffing steam locos are the real stars – or are they? We've been down to Ingrow Station to find out more about the railway's unsung heroes...
The class system revealed @ the KWVR!
"We've done over sixty TV programmes and films. We take them all over the country. We've filmed with Nicole Kidman in Leicestershire, Gwyneth Paltrow in North Yorkshire, Michael Caine in the Lake District, David Suchet in Birmingham…all over the place!" So says steam railway enthusiast Paul Holroyd as he lists just a few of the places that these treasured vehicles have visited and the major stars they've been seen alongside on both the big and small screens. But, it's not the steam trains – perhaps the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway's main attraction – that he's describing. In fact, it's the historic carriages owned by the Vintage Carriages Trust based at Ingrow - one of the six characterful stations along the route of the KWVR. In fact, these carriages have never been far away from a starring role in the background of some major film or TV series since the famous railway re-opened in 1968. As the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway celebrates its 40th anniversary, Paul thinks it's an excellent time to show us around these wheeled wonders. As he puts it: "Everything tells a story!" So, let the tour begin...
Paul Holroyd: Keeping the past alive
The Museum of Rail Travel at Ingrow is, perhaps, a home from home for Paul. It's where some of the carriages restored and owned by the Vintage Carriages Trust are on show to the public in a long (and we mean long!) brightly-lit shed lined with memorabilia from rail travel in days gone by. Close-up, these carriages actually seem incredibly big and surprisingly colourful – all bright, glossy paint and shiny logos. They range from way back in the 1870s to the 1950s and Paul thinks that each one reveals something about the age in which they were built. He points out one from 1898 which, amazingly, has wheels made partly out of wood and has 'starred' in BBC TV drama North and South with Daniella Denby-Ashe and the new film version of Brideshead Revisited. Paul says the most interesting thing about this carriage is what it reveals about the class system at the time it was built: "It's got two Third Class and two First Class compartments. The Third Class smoking compartment was lit by gas originally and as you can see there are no facilities in here at all! You can't get up and stretch your legs, you're just in there for the duration of the journey. Next door in First Class, you get your own toilet – just for the five of you."
Just along the way, Paul Points out another carriage – the Museum's oldest, in fact - from 1876 which again shows how the British class system worked in Victorian times: "There's First Class, Second Class, Third Class and then a luggage compartment. If you measure the width of the First Class window then come next door to Second Class then down to Third then they get smaller and smaller. The doors are three different widths, too. That's quite apart from the standard of furnishing when you get inside. In First Class you've got luxurious velvet, in Second there's leather, but in third you've just got a wooden seat!"
Luxury: First Class...and smoking too!
It's fascinating details like these that help Vintage Carriages Trust volunteers like Paul get a grasp on the history of the carriages on show at Ingrow and which make all the hard work restoring them truly worthwhile. However, emphasises Paul, bringing the Trust's carriages back to tip-top condition and keeping them that way takes a lot of work. He points at another of the carriages and explains just how complicated it can become, even before a nail is hammered or a coat of paint applied: "This particular carriage took us seven years to restore. By our own standards, that's quite good! You're limited by two or three things. Obviously finance is a big problem, then you're limited by the amount of volunteer time. And before you even start restoring a carriage like this you need to research what you need. What did the interior actually look like? You've got to gather up whatever plans are available, photographs maybe, and then we make contact with other people who've got carriages of a similar vintage from the same railway company. Then we ask if they can, for instance, send us a luggage rack bracket so we can get a casting made at the foundry. A lot of it is research time as well as practical time doing the physical restoration work."
Once that restoration work is over then it's time for these historic carriages to really come into their own, rattling along the lines between Keighley and Oxenhope as well as being on-screen stars. Paul leads us to a green carriage which has seen its fair share of fame: "If you saw [TV drama] Housewife 49, this is the one Victoria Wood was in. We also took it down to Leicestershire for Nicole Kidman's The Hours. That was one seven minute sequence which took THREE days to film. I literally heard the same dialogue 130 times! We also took it down to Birmingham for the BBC for a one-off drama with David Suchet called Cruel Train. The BBC got this huge disused factory near Spaghetti Junction, they laid in six railway tracks side by side, then they built a replica of Brighton Station out of plywood. There were plywood platforms, plywood ticket barrier gates, a plywood station buffet, plywood level crossing gates, a plywood signal box – but real track, real carriages and two steam locomotives running about indoors making real smoke and steam!"
While accompanying these carriages on their travels means that volunteers from the Vintage Carriages Trust sometimes get to meet the stars, there is a serious reason why people like Paul need to keep a watchful eye over the vehicles they've spent years restoring: "It's very important that you don't let the film people just treat it as a disposable prop. You've got to make sure they don't just decide, 'Oh, we'll slap on a coat of paint here and stick something on there to cover that up!'"
Signs of the times @ KWVR
Forty years on from the opening of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, volunteer Paul Holroyd says all the Vintage Carriages Trust's members are still looking forward to exciting developments in the future and are hoping that they'll eventually be able to get hold of more 'new' (old, in other words!) carriages: "We've identified about two dozen carriages we'd love to have in the collection if only we had the room - and that's the big problem. It's a matter of getting land and getting buildings up to keep things under cover to protect them for future generations. I think the Museum has a good solid future. We're in a tourist area, we're part of Bronte country, there've always been people coming to Haworth for the Bronte connections but we're getting more and more known by film and TV companies so it'll continue to get us well-known."
As with every other volunteer working amidst the steam and timetables of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, the main thing Paul gets out of it is a sense of achievement. He sees it as a job which looks back to the past but is also rooted very much in the present too: "You're helping to keep a bit of the past alive which is rewarding. It's always interesting meeting new people and showing them around the Museum. It's also rewarding when you've done a filming project and you see the finished production on TV and you think that part of it was down to you!"
Want to take a closer look at some of the carriages and the railway memorabilia on show in the Museum of Rail Travel at Ingrow? Just click on the link below to visit our photogallery!
last updated: 02/07/2008 at 16:10