In 1849 Methley Junction was the scene of a confrontation between two railway companies which almost ended in tragedy.
The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway was due to open it’s line from Pontefract to the Midland Railway at Methley in the Autumn of that year.
The Great Northern Railway saw this as an opportunity to run their trains directly between London and Leeds. The stage was now set for one of the most vicious manifestations of the bitter inter-company rivalries of the Railway Mania.
Seeking to protect it’s own commercial interests, the Midland Railway which had succeded the North Midland in 1844, demanded that the Great Northern would not build it’s own line into Leeds. The Great Northern refused to give any such guarantee, so the Midland company threatened to stop all Great Northern trains at Methley and extract tolls from it’s passengers.
The dispute culminated in the infamous “Methley Junction Incident.” On the eve of the proposed Pontefract – Methley line’s opening on the 4th September 1849, Great Northern officials, suspicious of the Midland Railway, sent a light engine from Doncaster to Methley where the crew found that the points had been removed from the junction, an action that most likely would have derailed the first Great Northern train, a service which it was proposed to operate from Peterborough to Leeds.
If the ‘Doncaster Chronicle’ of the day was correct in it’s report, then passengers were not considered to be of much account in the affair: ‘Atrocious conduct in a railway company‘, the headline stated. ‘The Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway at Doncaster, having heard a whisper that something was going on at the junction of the Doncaster line with the Midland one at Methley, sent over a special engine before their first train was due to depart and found that servants of the Midland Railway had removed the points at Methley Junction, so that had the train proceeded, it would have inevitably run off the road.‘
The Great Northern Railway remained wary of the Midland Railway for some time to come and worked it’s St Leger race traffic to Leeds via Normanton and Wakefield, working with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway where necessary.