'Last little girl to catch the last school train': Nidderdale woman remembers Pateley Bridge railway station
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Nidderdale’s passenger railway was abolished in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts which saw rail lines axed across the country
The Nidd Valley Railway was an 11.5 mile single-track line which ran from Ripley Junction to Pateley Bridge at a time when Pateley Bridge had 11 pubs and two breweries – and the ride gave the children an experience of a lifetime.
Marie Cluderay, now 67 but aged just six at the time, was ordered to run back to the school for the milk straws with only minutes before the last school train left Pateley Bridge station.
She said: “It was a special last train for all the children.
“It skirted through woodlands and the hillsides to Harrogate.
“It felt like we were going to the moon.
“It was my first train ride, very emotional.
“We all walked in crocodile fashion to the station, very excited.
“We got to what is now the medical centre.
“When suddenly Miss Morris stopped and said ‘Marie! You’ve got to run back and get the straws for the milk’.”
Free milk was given daily to school children until 1971 when Margaret Thatcher withdrew it from children over seven, earning her the nickname, ‘Thatcher the milk snatcher’.
Mrs Cluderay said: “I looked back at her dumbfoundedly, and said ‘but we’re already late Miss’.
“You couldn’t do that now of course, it was a different world then.
“Go now," she said, "we will wait for you.
“My heart skipped a beat and I legged it back to the school, crying, beside myself I would miss it.
“I demolished the cupboard, grabbed the straws.
“My legs were hurting but my feet barely touched the ground.
“I got to the platform and the train was steaming to leave.
“Miss Morris held out her hand, I gripped it and pulled her onto the train just as it was leaving.
“I’d have never gotten over it if I was left behind.”
Mrs Cluderay would watch the trains as a child coming over the Dales, and described the billowing smoke trails as a beautiful memory.
She said: “My mother was political, and was disgusted.
“Said Pateley Bridge will die with it.
“She thought it would make Pateley just for babies and old people.
“She gathered 5,000 signatures on a petition and sent it to Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister at the time.
The petition was turned down and the passenger train was finally abolished in October, 1964.
Mrs Cluderay said: “We’d all gather round to watch the news then.
“They filmed the last train out.
“There I was on the news at six, as the kid dragging the teacher along the platform.
“We watched it over and over.
“My mother found it hilarious.
Mrs Cluderay said: “The railway men used to let the children jump on the workers buggy for a ride, we’d get off at Harefield or Glasshouses.
“They’d say, now get yourself home!
"It was hypnotic and beautiful watching it pass along the hills.
“It was a real gem, it felt like a disservice to the people scrapping it, even today it feels like such a shame.”