HERE'S one for lovers of old railway lines.

While surfing through our electronic archive of old Yorkshire Evening Press photographs, we stumbled across this series of pictures of the Derwent Valley Light Railway.

They date from just about every period of the railway's history - from its official opening on July 19, 1913 by Lady Deramore (wife of the railway's chairman) right up to the end of its time as a commercial line in the 1980s.

For much of its life, the railway was affectionately known as the Blackberry Line, because of the blackberry-picking 'specials' which once ran from Layerthorpe to Skipwith. But one of our photos today, which shows a trainload of potatoes passing through Wheldrake Station in 1938, suggests that it might just as easily have been known as the Potato Line. Which perhaps doesn't have quite the same ring to it...

The original DVLR closed in 1981. But today, thanks to the efforts of enthusiasts and volunteers with the Derwent Valley Light Railway Society, a short stretch remains open between the Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton and the A64.

Volunteers even disassembled the old Wheldrake Station (the very one seen in our 1938 photo), moved it bodily to Murton, and reassembled it there.

In 2013, to mark the 100th anniversary of the line, the society's archivist Jonathan Stockwell (who had been one of the passengers on the last timetabled steam passenger train, which ran on August 31, 1979) teamed up with railway historian Ian Drummond to write a definitive history of the line.

It is a story that began at about 10am on July 19, 1913, with a gathering of invited guests assembled on the platform at York's Layerthorpe station. There, they watched Lady Deramore cut a double blue ribbon to officially declare the line open.

The DVLR was one of several light railways - low-cost railways that catered mainly for local people and businesses - which opened across the country as a result of the 1896 Light Railway Act.

The first train to run along the line - consisting of a locomotive, two coaches, two decorated wagons fitted with seats and canvas awnings, and a brake van - set off at about 10.30am on that morning in July, arriving at Cliffe Common at 11.42am having passed through Osbaldwick, Dunnington, Elvington, Wheldrake, Thorganby and Skipwith en route. It then promptly turned round and came back to York again.

Several of the light railways set up as a result of the 1896 Act proved surprisingly long-lived - and the DVLR was among them. It survived two world wars and the Beeching reforms and continued to run, on an independent commercial basis, until the early 1980s.

Passenger services ceased in the 1920s because of competition from buses: and from then until its closure, the line concentrated on freight, carrying agricultural produce to market in York as well as transporting coal, oil and petroleum, chemicals and concrete. During the Second World War it also carried materials for building airfields at Elvington and Riccall.

After the war, the railway closed in stages. It survived Beeching, but in the mid-1960s, the southern section of the line between Wheldrake and Cliffe Common closed. By 1972, all the line south of Dunnington had closed, leaving just the eastern stretch of line between Dunnington and York in operation.

In 1977, a steam-hauled passenger service was briefly introduced, in conjunction with the Friends of the National Railway Museum. This ran until 1979, when it was terminated: and the line itself closed in 1981.

But today, thanks to the Derwent Valley Light Railway Society, that short stretch of line between Murton and the A64 remains open, and in the summer months on Sundays and Bank Holidays, passengers can still enjoy a ride on the 'Blackberry Line'.

Stephen Lewis