TRAVEL NORTH - 43: WHAT CHANGED - A Peaceful County Town To Busy Hub?

... After almost two centuries of rail movement at Northallerton, a new image has transformed an old town...

Northallerton Station in the second decade of the 21st Century, over a century and three quarters after the Great North of England Railway first came to the town
Northallerton Station in the second decade of the 21st Century, over a century and three quarters after the Great North of England Railway first came to the town | Source
Current Northallerton links. There is still the Low Level line that links with the main line for freight to pass through to Teesside
Current Northallerton links. There is still the Low Level line that links with the main line for freight to pass through to Teesside | Source
"Alluerton/tune/Aluretune: King's land; Picot from Count Alan. Town..." The Romans had a settlement here; market place; Maison Dieu almshouse has 15th C foundation; old grammar school dates from 14th C
"Alluerton/tune/Aluretune: King's land; Picot from Count Alan. Town..." The Romans had a settlement here; market place; Maison Dieu almshouse has 15th C foundation; old grammar school dates from 14th C | Source

Then and Now - a good location for a railway

From the time the railways spread across the face of Britain, services have never been as fast and as clean as they are now. Only constant engineering works get in the way of enjoying train travel. Services around Northallerton in North Yorkshire have waxed and waned since the first rails were laid south-north across this part of the county in 1841.

Had it been built today without links to the south the North Eastern Railway would have run direct between the two main cities of the region - Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, connections with York may well have been less important. Leeds has grown from a village in the 19th Century to a city of commercial importance. York, on the other hand is still little more than a sizeable market town. Much of its rail traffic comes from the south.

When the North Eastern Railway achieved maturity it had the York-Newcastle main line - the Race Track as it has been described - as its main artery. Leeds, on the other hand was little more than a town on a thirty mile long branch line from York. On the other hand it was better served by the Leeds Northern Railway, which bypassed York and headed to the North East coast by way of Harrogate, Ripon and Stockton-on-Tees. Here it was linked to the Saltburn-Middlesbrough-Sunderland-Newcastle route that had been developed partly by the Stockton & Darlington, and Hartlepool, Dock & Railway companies.

Its intersection with the York line was introduced first at Thirsk as the Leeds & Thirsk Railway, and then at Northallerton when given assent for the name change to Leeds Northern. Here the Leeds Northern passed first parallel for a few miles, and then beneath the York Newcastle & Berwick Railway on its way north.

With a population of around five thousand souls in the early 19th Century Northallerton was no metropolis. Had the London & North Western Railway come this way no doubt it might have been turned into another Crewe, with ten or more platforms, marshalling yard and maybe a couple of locomotive sheds. True, the North Eastern was not backward in building big, yet for all its situation as a junction with lines radiating two ways north and one west (Wensleydale) Northallerton Station was a shade on the sparse side. An Up and a Down platform did for southbound and northbound traffic, a bay each for Leeds City Station and Garsdale.

For a rail enthusiast traffic held multiple charms, with trains from the Ripon or Eaglescliffe* direction giving the keen-eyed a bonus in locomotive numbers (there was a position spotters knew that overlooked the avoiding lines that passed Castle Hills in the 'V' of the converging lines). By and large traffic was predictable, with main line trains on the upper level for York or Newcastle, and below for Leeds or Stockton. There were exceptions, such as the King's Cross-Leeds-Newcastle-Edinburgh-Glasgow 'Queen of Scots' Pullman that approached Northallerton from Ripon and passed through the platforms northward towards Darlington for the remainder of its route north.

Most traffic on the Leeds Northern was unspectacular, with Leeds Class D49/1 4-4-0 'Shires' or D49/2 'Hunts' and Class B1 4-6-0 on stopping trains. Expresses might be hauled by Pacific classes A1, A2, A3 or A4 4-6-2, even V2 2-6-2 rushing through. The 'Queen of Scots' could be hauled by any of the Pacifics from 'Top Shed' (Kings Cross) or Edinburgh. There was also the Leeds-Glasgow 'North Briton' behind a Leeds A3. Then there might be a Liverpool Exchange-Newcastle (formerly a Lancashire & Yorkshire locomotive turn) behind a York V2 on the East Coast Main Line, the return working might be behind a B1. There might be a through run from Newcastle to Wakefield Kirkgate before a change of motive power was made. This engine could return with a Liverpool-York service, working back to Newcastle the following day on a stopping train.

Despite its location, locomotive allocations were minimalistic, catering largely for Wensleydale traffic. In the Coronation Year (1953) allocations were: 1949 Class K1 2-6-0 62044, 1899 Class D20 62347, 62372 and 62388, 1886 Class J21 0-6-0 65038, 1898 Class J25 0-6-0 65693, 65720 and 65726, 1894 Class G5 0-4-4 Tank 67312, 67318 and 67342, 1927 Class Y3 0-4-0 (Sentinel Shunter) 68159, generally 'out-shedded- at Leyburn to shunt the yard, 1891.Class J73 0-6-0 68359. From the build dates of the locomotives you can see most of Northallerton's engines approached life-expiry. They had been withdrawn before the shed closed in 1959, and the Wensleydale line was closed to passengers in 1954. In 1959 its allocation was more 'modern', with five BR Class 2 2-6-0, one ex-LMS Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0 and one Class K1 62044,

* Eaglescliffe was named thus in error. The village the station was supposed to serve - two miles away - was Egglescliffe. With time a larger community grew around Eaglescliffe station, formerly known to the Stockton & Darlington Railway as 'Preston Park' before re-alignment of the line to accommodate the LNR's extension to nearby Stockton.

Early days

The York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway company seal displays the arms of each of the cities, with York's at the top, Newcastle's on the right
The York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway company seal displays the arms of each of the cities, with York's at the top, Newcastle's on the right | Source
YN&BR Class 4-2-0 'Great A'. These locomotives would have stopped at Northallerton and Thirsk on their way south to York at the time when York's station was within the city walls
YN&BR Class 4-2-0 'Great A'. These locomotives would have stopped at Northallerton and Thirsk on their way south to York at the time when York's station was within the city walls | Source
Another YN&BR locomotive, a Plews 2-2-2. Both these locomotives were express classes when carriages were still four wheeled vehicles
Another YN&BR locomotive, a Plews 2-2-2. Both these locomotives were express classes when carriages were still four wheeled vehicles | Source
Copy of a page from the Bradshaw timetable showing services between Northallerton and Leeds via Ripon and Harrogate
Copy of a page from the Bradshaw timetable showing services between Northallerton and Leeds via Ripon and Harrogate | Source
Northallerton - the junction in 1892 shows the links from Harrogate and Stockton-on-Tees under the North Eastern Railway's East Coast Main Line
Northallerton - the junction in 1892 shows the links from Harrogate and Stockton-on-Tees under the North Eastern Railway's East Coast Main Line
Northallerton Station in the early 20th Century with the Up platform on the right
Northallerton Station in the early 20th Century with the Up platform on the right | Source
A sepia view of Northallerton station in the early 1900s. Not exactly busy, but some people managed to look rushed off their feet come-what-may
A sepia view of Northallerton station in the early 1900s. Not exactly busy, but some people managed to look rushed off their feet come-what-may | Source

The first company to establish a rail presence in Northallerton was the Great North of England Railway

The GNER opened 1841 between York and Darlington, with its one branch that left the main line at Eryholme for Catterick and Richmond to the north-west of Northallerton. In 1846 the GNER was absorbed In by the Newcastle & Darllngton Junction Railway, later renamed the York & Newcastle Railway. In 1847 came further amalgamation, this time with the Newcastle & Berwick Railway to form the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway (YN&BR). Once more, in 1854, amalgamation reared its head - this time with the Leeds Northern Railway and York & North Midland Railway to form the North Eastern Railway. Heady times during the 'Railway Mania'!

Let's get back to the Leeds Northern Railway and work from there: the company opened from Leeds to Stockton-on-Tees via Harrogate and Thirsk. In 1845 the Leeds & Thirsk Railway was given permission for a line from Leeds to Thirsk via Harrogate, Ripon and Wath, (renamed Melmerby owing to the pre-existence of a Wath further south in Yorkshire) opened 1848. Problems at the Leeds end from construction of the Bramhope Tunnel delayed trains to Leeds until 1849. The Leeds & Thirsk Railway (L&TR) applied for and was given permission by Parliament on 22nd July, 1848 to build a line from Melmerby direct to Northallerton, and then on 3rd July, 1851 received permission to change its name to the Leeds Northern Railway (LNR) in 1851. The northern end of the line to Stockton passed under the.the YN&BR by means of a bridge, built without interfering with services. The fare for the 238 miles from Leeds to Newcastle via the existing line from Stockton dropped to 2/- (two shillings).

Despite having the direct link, pressure was exerted by George Hudson of the Y&NMR/YN&BR for the LN to use the YN&BR line from Thirsk via a spur to the west of Thirsk.

The LNR formed an alliance with the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway (WHH&R), resulting in a price war with the YN&BR. A merger with the York & North Midland Railway (Y&NMR) was accepted by LNR shareholders. Royal Assent was given 31st July, 1854 to form the North Eastern Railway (NER) with the YN&BR as a third partner. A curve connected the LNR line to the YN&BR station at Northallerton, opened in 1856, although until 1901 Harrogate Stockton traffic still used the main line from Thirsk. The line via Ripon to Northallerton operated as a branch line. The former LN low level station at Northallerton closed that year, all passenger traffic being re-routed up to the main line station via a spur at the southern end. Another was added at the northern end of the station to leave the main line for Stockton across the main line for down traffic.


A long time ago, when I first joined the North Eastern Railway Association I was told of this hefty tome - and bought a copy. A quarter of a century later here I am telling you about it. It's an investment, a bit like buying a house... or a railway. A little about the book:

The North Eastern Railway and Tomlinson are interlinked in the same way as Robert Stephenson and railway building. If you want to know the in-depth history of the North Eastern Railway, this is the definitive work. Exhaustive, thorough-going, call it what you will, but his perception of the company, its predecessors and its early history are second-to-none. Having lived in the company's heyday, his observations are immediate and accurate. Many of its founding fathers were contemporaries. George Leeman steered it through its infancy, Robert Stephenson was commissioned on a number of its projects. The NER's territory, after acquisition of neighbouring railways, stretched from Selby north to Berwick-upon-Tweed, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Carlisle in the west, from Northallerton to Garsdale on the Settle & Carlisle Railway. With its sea-going ferries there were links to the Netherlands, North Germany and Scandinavia. Its hotels were sought out by the rich and powerful and its carriages were the envy of many in their deep crimson lake livery. Freight from the steel works, ironstone and coal mines was taken across country, to the several ports and cities of the region. Riches flowed back, making the NER one of the wealthiest companies in the empire.

March of time... Keeping traffic rolling

Further in time, the North Eastern Railway arms depicts York again at the top, Leeds on the left and Newcastle right
Further in time, the North Eastern Railway arms depicts York again at the top, Leeds on the left and Newcastle right | Source
In the National Railway Museum at York we see an early North Eastern 2-4-0 express locomotive that would still have pulled four-wheeled carriages, although six-wheeled carriages also made an appearance on the scene
In the National Railway Museum at York we see an early North Eastern 2-4-0 express locomotive that would still have pulled four-wheeled carriages, although six-wheeled carriages also made an appearance on the scene | Source
Wilson Worsdell followed brother Thomas to the Locomotive Superintendent's office late in the 19th Century. By the time his Class M1 4-4-0 was introduced carriages were heavier bogie vehicles and four wheels were well and truly relics of the past
Wilson Worsdell followed brother Thomas to the Locomotive Superintendent's office late in the 19th Century. By the time his Class M1 4-4-0 was introduced carriages were heavier bogie vehicles and four wheels were well and truly relics of the past | Source
North of Northallerton on the way to Stockton-on-Tees. Between here and Stockton were a small number of wayside village stations including Picton Jct  for the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway. This is the now closed Brompton-by-Northallerton
North of Northallerton on the way to Stockton-on-Tees. Between here and Stockton were a small number of wayside village stations including Picton Jct for the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway. This is the now closed Brompton-by-Northallerton | Source
The rail links around Northallerton in 1928
The rail links around Northallerton in 1928
Pre-WWII, Halcyon Days: Part of Northallerton's motive power depot in 1937 with a Class J21 0-6-0 for local passenger working to Hawes on the Wensleydale line
Pre-WWII, Halcyon Days: Part of Northallerton's motive power depot in 1937 with a Class J21 0-6-0 for local passenger working to Hawes on the Wensleydale line | Source

Inter-war, Wartime exigencies and post-War Austerity

The Railways Act of 1921 foresaw the North Eastern Railway amalgamating with other east coast companies to form the London & North Eastern Railway and came into force on 1st January, 1923. The inter-War slump saw investment in the railways decline, although new locomotives were introduced.

Locomotives were designed and built, such as the D49 'Shire' class 4-4-0, soon joined by sister class D49/2 'Hunts' produced nearby at Darlington to supplement stopping services between Hartlepool and Leeds. These had previously been hauled by D20 4-4-0. Both classes continued in service throughout the 1930s-1950s. Class D20 shared passenger services on the Wensleydale branch with Class J21 and Class G5. Freight down that branch was handled by Classes J25 and J27 (and Darlington J39). Freight on the LNR section to Leeds was handled by J27 and J39. The other way saw a wider range of motive power in use, including Q6. The main line expresses saw a range of Pacifics in use on passenger expresses, from 1923 Class A1 (rebuilt post-War to A3) and A4 'Streaks' in the 1930s. Class V2 2-6-2 was introduced for express freight services on the ECML as well as express passenger services. During the war, after Gresley's death in 1942 the next Chief Mechanical Engineer - Gresley's deputy - Edward Thompson introduced a few more classes, including B1 4-6-0, largely named after antelopes and nicknamed 'Bongos', that saw use on both main and LNR lines on freight and passenger traffic.

Wartime brought new problems, although avoiding lines were augmented by a rolling connection to the main line and Darlington over the Wensleydale line. The measures never needed to be used in earnest, however, although not removed for a long time after the war. Pacific classes were 'harnessed' for military purposes on troop trains as well as the V2, which also saw service alongside Robert Riddles' Austerity Class 2-8-0 on heavy freight (military hardware and vehicles).

In 1941 new platforms were built on the site of the old low level station's. These platforms were for emergency use during WWII and would have been used if Northallerton staton was damaged during an air attack. Trains would have been diverted onto the avoiding line, calling at the emergency station. There were two side platforms 784 ft long, with ash surfaces behind a revetment of corrigated iron and old sleepers. These were retained by sectons of old vertical rail bent over at the top to support platform edges made from old sleepers. Each platform had a re-used timber waiting shelter and oil lamps for illumination. The platforms were not used during the war, but were retained at least until the 1960s for use by trains bound for Teesside when there was engineering work on the main line. The platforms were finally demolished at the same time as the engine shed in 1964. No trace of the station remains following track realignment and deep ballasting. The low level line is still used occasionally by diverted trains during engineering work, but has no regular time-tabled passenger service.

The railway companies wiere never recompensed for their contribution to the war effort and to maintain safety and service operating standards the post-WWII Labour Government under Clement Attlee nationalised the railway system on 1st January, 1948. New classes of locomotives saw service on the infant British Railways, including the hard-working North British built Arthur Peppercorn designed K1 2-6-0. Class A1 and A2 were introduced. The K1 saw service largely on freight, sometimes on passenger traffic. The A1 and A2 augmented passenger services, sharing duties with their predecessors on fast services.

Northallerton Station, North Yorkshire

A markerNorthallerton Station, North Yorkshire -
Northallerton DL7, UK
[get directions]

The station and environs at Northallerton as they are today - not in Northallerton but in nearby Romanby.on the road to Bedale

Halfway through the 20th Century

The emergency low level platforms seen next to the motive power depot (51J) in 1955, early British Railways days, when thirteen steam locomotives were shedded here
The emergency low level platforms seen next to the motive power depot (51J) in 1955, early British Railways days, when thirteen steam locomotives were shedded here | Source
Looking the other way, with Class A3 Pacific heading a passenger working towards Leeds via Ripon and Harrogate past the locomotive depot
Looking the other way, with Class A3 Pacific heading a passenger working towards Leeds via Ripon and Harrogate past the locomotive depot | Source
Northallerton's motive power depot in 1958 seen from the north. The depot was squeezed between the low level lines and the higher East Coast Main Line, visible from the back of the Down platform
Northallerton's motive power depot in 1958 seen from the north. The depot was squeezed between the low level lines and the higher East Coast Main Line, visible from the back of the Down platform | Source
The Leeds Northern Line in 1950 with the closed Masham branch to the west from Melmerby (north of Ripon)
The Leeds Northern Line in 1950 with the closed Masham branch to the west from Melmerby (north of Ripon) | Source

A time of closures and modernisation

The former North Eastern Railway that was drawn into the LNER became the North Eastern Region of British Railways in 1948. The notion was to safeguard jobs and lines. Things changed fairly soon, not necessarily for the better.

In 1954 the Wensleydale Railway closed to passengers, and the classes of locomotives that saw service on the branch were either transferred elsewhere or withdrawn. In the later 1950s diesel multiple units were introduced on branch lines to reduce costs and further classes were withdrawn, including class D20 and D49 between Hartlepool, Ripon, Harrogate and Leeds. Freight was still operated by steam for a while longer. The line from Melmerby to Thirsk was closed to passengers in 1959, and the former LNR Starbeck(Harrogate)-Northallerton was closed to passengers in 1967, although some goods services lingered on until 1969. A little further north the Richmond branch closed to passengers from Eryholme in 1967, goods services lasted a little longer.

**Northallerton-Stockton (Hartlepool and Sunderland to Newcastle) is still extant, with divers companies offering passenger services from Teesside to York, Manchester Airport and Kings Cross. Eighteen freight trains daily use the route to access the ECML. .

Twilight of Steam around Northallerton

War Department (Riddles' Austerity) Engine   2-8-0 90434 heads Down empty plate wagons for Teesside onto the Low Level lines near Boroughbridge Gates Junction
War Department (Riddles' Austerity) Engine 2-8-0 90434 heads Down empty plate wagons for Teesside onto the Low Level lines near Boroughbridge Gates Junction | Source
Near the same place, Peppercorn A1 Pacific  60153 'Flamboyant'' (named after a racehorse)  also heads down to the Low Level line for Teesside with a freight off the main line
Near the same place, Peppercorn A1 Pacific 60153 'Flamboyant'' (named after a racehorse) also heads down to the Low Level line for Teesside with a freight off the main line | Source
Northallerton in 1960. At this time the route to Leeds via Ripon and Harogate was still in use as a secondary main line and diversion route in case of engineering work or accidents on the East Coast Main Line between Northallerton and York
Northallerton in 1960. At this time the route to Leeds via Ripon and Harogate was still in use as a secondary main line and diversion route in case of engineering work or accidents on the East Coast Main Line between Northallerton and York | Source

(Another publication I've had for some years in my library for quick reference...) Using views from the past and present, Alan R Thompson and Ken Groundwater build a picture of British Railways North Eastern region. The book covers the central area of the region between the coast and the county town of North Yorkshire with branch and main line aspects. Some little known colour images are reproduced here faithfully, that show now closed stations in their declining years. For example the upper view on the front cover shows Alne between York and Thirsk with the usual train for Easingwold strengthened with open wagons for an enthusiasts' special on the final day on the branch. The view below shows the same location decades later with the overhead wires and masts in situ. Even the bridge is not the same, having been demolished to gain height for the wires to pass beneath the road bridge

A New Age is ushered in...

A new era ushered in... unidentified Deltic diesel bears the nameplate for the Down 'Flying Scotsman' service (10 am from Kings Cross, London) on her way non-stop through Northallerton. Nearest stopping point was Darlington (Up or Down)
A new era ushered in... unidentified Deltic diesel bears the nameplate for the Down 'Flying Scotsman' service (10 am from Kings Cross, London) on her way non-stop through Northallerton. Nearest stopping point was Darlington (Up or Down) | Source
Rationalisation of the junction in 1970 - English Electric D252 passes Northallerton's signal box southbound with a train of BR 16 ton mineral wagons
Rationalisation of the junction in 1970 - English Electric D252 passes Northallerton's signal box southbound with a train of BR 16 ton mineral wagons | Source

Ringing the changes

Diesel locomotives and diesel multiple units were ushered in throughout the late 1950s to replace steam. Northallerton's motive power depot was closed in 1963, and as mentioned above, demolished in 1964. No sign remains, unless you know what to look for under thick-grown bushes, thorns and weeds at the back of the main line Down platform. Steam in the North East gradually shrank to two sheds by September, 1967. Steam had not been permitted south of Peterborough into Kings Cross, London since 1963, with the exception of A3 60103 'Flying Scotsman'. Deltic diesels thundered through Northallerton along the main line on expresses from around 1962 between Edinburgh and London. Diesel multiple units saw increasing service throughout 1959 onward on the Leeds route until closure, with larger classes such as English Electric Type 2 on express services from Leeds to Newcastle and beyond. The 'Queen of Scots' Pullman service ran behind these, although it was withdrawn beyond Leeds before the line closed,

Gradually services that stopped at Northallerton were to and from Manchester Airport or Liverpool or Newcastle to York stopping services, although by then only Thirsk and Northallerton remained of the intermediate stations between Darlington and York. Electrification came to the line in the 1980s, some over-bridges needing to be raised or replaced to accommodate the overhead wires. Earlier InterCity diesel multiples still ran on the line until the 21st Century, although all have been replaced by the HST 225 units on an intensive hourly and half-hourly passenger service. Diesel sets from Liverpool and Manchester Airport still use the York-Northallerton-Hartlepool route. because that side has yet to be electrified.

Want to model Northallerton Station?

There are hints on baseboard work with regards to layout design in the Hub-Page RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 3: Base Boards etc

The Age of the Supertrain is upon us (- if it would only stay with one operating company)

HST Class 220 coasts into Northallerton with a cross-country train from Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the West Country (Exeter/Penzance). Since privatisation in the 1990s ECML train services have seen at least three operators come and go
HST Class 220 coasts into Northallerton with a cross-country train from Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the West Country (Exeter/Penzance). Since privatisation in the 1990s ECML train services have seen at least three operators come and go | Source

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2 comments

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 7 weeks ago from Victoria, Australia

Another great exposition on British railways, stations and rolling stock. I love all the information and also those lovely clear images and the way you have set everything out so clearly.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 7 weeks ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello Blossom, come in on the right platform again then?

For a small group of countries, the United Kingdom's had a chequered history of railway development, company rivalries, wars even - in the early days there was a proper scrummage not far from Northallerton on the River Tees. The Hartlepool Harbour & Railway Company backed a small company called the Cleveland Railway that wanted to build a railway across the Stockton & Darlington's line between Middlesbrough and Redcar at Cargo Fleet. The S&D tried to block it and sent a small army of heavyweights to disrupt work begun by the river. The HH&RC sent their own bruisers across the railway and the police had to step in. The S&DR eventually acceded and the railway was built up to Eston. It lasted 99 years, later becoming part of the Dorman Long works network to the ore crusher at Grangetown. Dorman Long built the Sydney Harbour Bridge virtually to the same design as the one they built at Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Google it), ferrying the parts through the Suez Canal in the early 1920s as they were completed. [DL underbid rivals for the contract almost to the point of bankruptcy in order to keep the works going].

Another snipped of history for you that links Teesside to NSW. We had a later one when James Cook Snr's house at Great Ayton was transported to Melbourne.

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