At the beginning of the 19th century, textile merchants in Leeds used Hull as their main port for bringing in wool from the Continent and for exporting their finished cloth. Although the waterways were gradually improved it was decided to build a railway from Leeds to Selby on the River Ouse. It would then be possible to use the river to take the goods to Hull.
The Leeds & Selby Railway was authorized by Parliament in 1830. James Walker was appointed as chief engineer and the four track, 17 mile line, was opened in 1834. Two years later Parliament gave permission for the line to be extended from Selby to Hull. The 31 mile line long line was opened in 1840. The Leeds & Selby line remained independent until 1844 when it was purchased by the York & North Midland Railway.