STEAM trains and old railway lines have a charm all of their own.
Few people can remain unmoved by the sight of a steam engine pulling liveried coaches across open country.
Railway historian Gordon Suggitt re-creates this world in his new book, Lost Railways of South & West Yorkshire.
He tells how the region was one of the first to witness the birth of the Railway Age.
The need to link mills, mines and quarries with their customers, both at home and overseas, soon led to a high-density network.
In July, 1840, the first steam rail route opened. This joined Swinton, Cudworth and Normanton, the latter station later being dubbed The Crewe of the Coalfields.
Many more routes were to follow, with the Dearne Valley Railway being the last to open in 1912.
Gigantic viaducts were built to cross valleys and tunnels were cut through hills.
And besides the obvious commercial value of freight traffic the railway owners were vastly encouraged by increasing numbers of passengers, many of them joining works club outings and holiday excursions to the Yorkshire costal resorts.
But this golden age was not to last. Competition from electric trams, lorries, buses and cars, plus a duplication of lines, began to take its toll.
Lines began to close as early as 1917 and the decline continued through later decades.
Some branch lines were very short; Holmfirth’s was only 1.75 miles long, but even so managed to have an intermediate station at Thongsbridge.
The line declined markedly in the 1950s to only four trains a day and regular passenger services ended on October 31, 1959.
The railway to Meltham was a 3.5-mile spur from the Huddersfield-Penistone line and included one of the most substantial retaining walls built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
Competition from buses in the 20th century led to many trains travelling without a single passenger and the inevitable end came on May 23, 1949.
The Meltham station building stood for many years, but has now been demolished, although the station house survives.
Countless other examples of a lost age are given in the book.
Fortunately, some lines have been preserved by enthusiastic societies and the reopened sections of track flourish, with passenger steam trains at weekends.
One such is the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, which has also proved popular with camera crews for films such as The Railway Children and episodes of Poirot and Last of the Summer Wine.
This well-written and excellently researched book brings to life the history of the region’s railways, the reason for their construction and for their closure.
Modern photos accompany those from earlier times, when the lines were open and busy. There are also details of what can be seen of these lines today.