TRAVEL NORTH - 44: BATTLE OF THE RAILWAYS, Fisticuffs On The Foreshore

'Scratch below the surface...'

Scattered about East Cleveland (The original's in North Yorkshire) are reminders of past railway routes and installations. This is a Cleveland Railway brick signal cabin close by the North Eastern Railway's Pinchinthorpe Station, near Guisborough
Scattered about East Cleveland (The original's in North Yorkshire) are reminders of past railway routes and installations. This is a Cleveland Railway brick signal cabin close by the North Eastern Railway's Pinchinthorpe Station, near Guisborough | Source

Planning and early days

The bridge that carried the Cleveland Railway over the Stockton & Darlington route to Redcar and Saltburn from Normanby Jetty on the south Tees shore
The bridge that carried the Cleveland Railway over the Stockton & Darlington route to Redcar and Saltburn from Normanby Jetty on the south Tees shore | Source
Seal of the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway (WHH&R)
Seal of the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway (WHH&R) | Source
Seal of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR)
Seal of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) | Source
In the foreground in this view from the 1950s are Middlesbrough Docks, further along is Cargo Fleet and the railway to Redcar
In the foreground in this view from the 1950s are Middlesbrough Docks, further along is Cargo Fleet and the railway to Redcar | Source
The Cleveland Railway and associated networks in 1863 before absorption into the North Eastern Railway
The Cleveland Railway and associated networks in 1863 before absorption into the North Eastern Railway | Source

The Cleveland Railway was built from Normanby Jetty on the south bank of the Tees, east of Middlesbrough.

Its course ran from there south by Normanby - near Eston - uphill to Upsall Grange and along the Guisborough road behind the Cross Keys Inn eastward past Guisborough to Loftus. This would be a supply route for East Cleveland's iron ore to Tyneside by way of the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway (WHH&R). There was also a line that ran uphill to Upsall Pit on Barnaby Moor, rope-worked from near the junction.

The route was proposed jointly by the WHH&R, which advanced 50% of the capital to build the line, and local landowners or mine owners (in some cases one and the same). The difficulty for the WHH&R lay in their proposed route, that would have to cross the Stockton & Darlington line from Middlesbrough to Redcar. Its own operations were conducted in eastern County Durham, north of the Tees.

The Cleveland Railway (CR) would be built as a mineral line only. No passenger service was foreseen during its short independent existence. Built in several stages, it would bypass the old market town of Guisborough (owned by the de Brus family) and opened in 1861 after being mired in dispute with the S&DR, its sole rival over ground proposed for expansion. The S&DR tried repeatedly - without result - to block the CR, thus maintaining its monopoly south of the Tees. The CR's independence ended only in financial trouble and being absorbed by the North Eastern Railway (NER) in 1865, two years after the S&DR had been absorbed on favourable terms by the NER.

The new owners would connect the line in stages with mines on the North Sea coast around Saltburn. The line west of Guisboroughwas cut back and closed by 1873, part of the line kept open by British Railways as a freight only line to brickworks south of Normanby village near Flatts Lane. In 1966, at the same time as the Co-operative coal depot at Eston and a scrap yard at the back of Normanby close to the branch line. [Between 1902-1929 a passenger service introduced by the NER connected Eston with Middlesbrough, withdrawn by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) due to competition from local bus services on cost and income basis. The branch continued as a goods line until after WWII, beyond which only coal wagons ran over the branch].

The NER built four passenger stations on the eastern end of the CR's branch beyond Guisborough in the 1870s, which were closed between 1958 and 1964 together with the Guisborough-Brotton route. The easternmost section of the line, beyond Brotton is still in use as part of the link between Boulby potash mine between Staithes and Boulby village.

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A founder member of the North Eastern Railway Association, Ken Hoole came to the North East in early youth with his family. Military service saw him overseas but he never worked for the railway in his adopted region. Living at West Ayton near Scarborough he was on the threshold of one of the forgotten railways, the Forge Valley Railway that ran between Scarborough and Pickering. His interest in the North Eastern Railway expanded around the system that took him between Selby and Berwick-upon-Tweed, Scarborough to Leeds and the Pennine branches of the NER, most of which have been lifted - almost forgotten. Travel with him around the North East through vintage photographs, maps and drawings.

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Cleveland Railway in its prime

Waterfall Viaduct, Slapewath near Guisborough, a structure protected by law
Waterfall Viaduct, Slapewath near Guisborough, a structure protected by law | Source
The Cleveland Railway, its links to mine workings and the Tees
The Cleveland Railway, its links to mine workings and the Tees | Source

Origins, impetus

Building the line fulfilled the needs of mine and landowners in the Guisborough and East Cleveland area to take their ore to the Tees for onward transit to Tyneside. Guisborough already had a line, built by the Middlesbrough & Guisborough Railway (M&GR - see also TRAVEL NORTH.- 40 Mines & Lines.....) under the auspices of the S&DR. A minimal passenger service to Middlesbrough was provided by the M&GR - one train each way daily - on a branch not originally planned for passenger working.

Unpopular with local inhabitants, the M&GR was viewed as monopolist in its outlook and dealings with local businesses and mine owners, concentrating on its own interests at the expense of the common good. There were no connections for mines east of Guisborough, either. A Select Committee of the House of Commons (at Westminster) heard that the M&GR was unwilling to facilitate traffic other than to furnaces across the Tees that they were already associated with at Witton Park. The M&GR aroused resentment in the area to the extent that, one witness who testified to the Select Committee answered the question put to him about feelings on an alternative to the M&GR with, "they would jump at having such as proposal..." to buildThe WHH&R struck an agreement with various land and mine owners to build a line from Cargo Fleet on the Tees, by Normanby, Upsall, Barnaby Side around Guisborough to Skinningrove. Links would be added, to Staithes and Skelton-in-Cleveland for mines in the area to forward their stone for processing.

The route would continue on the north bank of the Tees from Port Clarence on the WHH&R's own network from a river crossing. Landowners interested in the scheme included Captain Thomas Chaloner of Guisborough, J T Wharton of Skelton, Anthony Maynard of Skinningrove and Ralph Ward Jackson of Normanby. Ward Jackson, chairman of the WHH&R provided the impetus on the project and saw West Hartlepool as an alternative to the burgeoning Middlesbrough.

The S&DR argued against the CR scheme and set out a rival proposal to a Parliamentary Enquiry. Both schemes were looked into, parts rejected and others accepted. The result was a sort of paper patchwork quilt. Ward Jackson's party was allowed to build a railway east from Guisborough to Skinningrove with a spur at Slapewath to the mine(s) at Skelton. Their line to Cargo Fleet was thrown out and they would be obliged to depend on the M&GR for their link to the Tees. The S&DR was allowed to build an extension from Redcar to Saltburn. Another bridge across the Tees was rejected, however. An Act that would allow the building of the branch was passed in July, 1858. The CR was funded by £120,000, half of which the WHH&R provided. Ward Jackson acted as its initial chairman.

Normanby Jetty, Cargo Fleet, Middlesbrough

East Cleveland sojourn

At the easternmost end of the Cleveland Railway, unidentified Riddles' War Department 2-8-0 with empty bolster wagons heads to Skinningrove Works for coil load. The brake van can be seen at the left below the bracket signal and gantry beyond
At the easternmost end of the Cleveland Railway, unidentified Riddles' War Department 2-8-0 with empty bolster wagons heads to Skinningrove Works for coil load. The brake van can be seen at the left below the bracket signal and gantry beyond | Source
Class V1/V3 2-6-2 tank locomotive brings a short passenger working from the Boosbeck direction past Slapewath on the former Cleveland Railway Guisborough-Loftus line
Class V1/V3 2-6-2 tank locomotive brings a short passenger working from the Boosbeck direction past Slapewath on the former Cleveland Railway Guisborough-Loftus line | Source

Normanby extension and fisticuffs on the foreshore

Ward Jackson persevered in seeking independence from the M&GR monopoly on north-south traffic around Middlesbrough, and a new proposal was put to Parliament in 1859 to take the line from around Guisborough to the Tees. Again the S&DR opposed the extension and although the Commons approved the Cleveland extension it was thrown out by the Lords'. This left the way open for a private line on lands owned by Ward Jackson and his backers. They began building in 1860 as the 'Upsall, Normanby & Ormesby Railway'. True to form, the S&DR opposed this plan, on the grounds now that the new line would have to cross their Redcar Branch. They relented finally, allowing a bridge to cross over their line.

A graver problem arose with the need for a new river crossing at Normanby Jetty. The WHH&R wanted to build a bridge across the Tees from Port Clarence (the site of the later Transporter Bridge), but this was blocked by the Tees Conservancy Commission (TCC) at the behest of the S&DR. The WHH&R decided to build a new jetty to enable laden iron ore wagons to be shipped across the river on lighters (broad-beamed non-powered vessels towed - at the time - by steam tugs). The S&DR this time tried to get the TCC to block the the jetty scheme and took legal steps through the Court of Chancery in London to prevent it but building began nevertheless.

The dispute took a violent turn between two companies of men on the foreshore, probably stevedores [dockers to you and me] and hired bully-boys employed by either company, on September 10th, 1860. The clash was named by the local press as 'The Battle of the Tees' when TCC lighters sent to blockade the jetty were pulled out of the way by WHH&R steam tugs. The police were called on to stop the fighting and restore peace. The WHH&R had painly won and completed their loading jetty.

The line was opened by the spring of 1861, being two private lines that traversed the estates of Ward Jackson and Captain Chaloner. A bridge built in March 1861 carrid the Chaloner Branch over the M&GR close to Guisborough Station and bypassing the town to link up with the CR eastward to Skinningrove. The Cleveland Railways Act was passed in July, 1861 to enable the CR to work the new line. Despite the S&DR's determined opposition, Parliament passed the Act, by then fed up with the S&DR's antics, quashing all current and future opposition, and the line opened throughout on thirteen miles (21 km) from Skelton Mine to Normanby Jetty, Cargo Fleet Wharf.

At Slapewath the line crossed the deep valley by Waterfall Viaduct (now a scheduled structure) to skirt Guisborough on its southern edge and ran over wooden viaducts across Chapel Beck. On a near straight alignment the line skirted Barnaby Side to the west of Guisborough (originally connecting at a point east of the Cross Keys Inn with Upsall Pit on Eston Moor), crossed the southern end of Flatts Lane over a short bridge and veered northward over the 'saddle' by means of a rope-worked or self-acting incline. This was near the boundary between two districts, Middlesbrough and Eston, where it skirted Normanby Brickworks and south-westward over Flatts Lane level crossing behind Normanby village to Cargo Fleet.

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Cleveland & Whitby

Amply and generously illustrated with black & white photographs, maps and diagrams, Stephen Chapman takes you through an area bristling with railway and industrial history, competition between railway companies in the latter 'railway mania' of the 19th Century. The North Eastern Railway took the rag-bag of smaller companies to a new level of nationwide competition, although the Depression took the steam out of continued growth between the wars, leading to British Railways' having to close down unprofitable branches after the mines that supported them were worked out or closed. Few branches survived, those that did slimmed down to what you see today.

East of Guisborough

The North Eastern Railway absorbed the S&DR in 1863, the CR followed in 1865 on less favourable terms
The North Eastern Railway absorbed the S&DR in 1863, the CR followed in 1865 on less favourable terms
First station east of Guisborough built by the NER was Boosbeck - seen here in 1916 -, which also served Lingdale, Margrove Park and Charltons (next to Aysdalegate Mine)
First station east of Guisborough built by the NER was Boosbeck - seen here in 1916 -, which also served Lingdale, Margrove Park and Charltons (next to Aysdalegate Mine) | Source
Further along was Brotton - seen here in the 1950s - a couple of miles inland from Saltburn where two lines met. One led west over Riftswood Viaduct to the junction outside the S&DR Saltburn Station, the other was the  Cleveland Railway.
Further along was Brotton - seen here in the 1950s - a couple of miles inland from Saltburn where two lines met. One led west over Riftswood Viaduct to the junction outside the S&DR Saltburn Station, the other was the Cleveland Railway. | Source
Loftus Station, the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Rly. met end-on with the Cleveland Railway. West of here two mine branches converged on the main line in a triangle formation at Priestcroft Junction, one from Kilton Mine, the other Lingdale
Loftus Station, the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Rly. met end-on with the Cleveland Railway. West of here two mine branches converged on the main line in a triangle formation at Priestcroft Junction, one from Kilton Mine, the other Lingdale | Source
British Railways' North Eastern Region took over running at a time when mining was in decline and a 'sword of Damocles' hung over the branch. Stations east of Guisborough began to close in the mid-1950s
British Railways' North Eastern Region took over running at a time when mining was in decline and a 'sword of Damocles' hung over the branch. Stations east of Guisborough began to close in the mid-1950s | Source

Mergers and closures

Irregularities in the financial running of the WHH&R led to acute difficulties in 1862. As a result of his direct involvement War Jackson resigned from both boards and Parliament blocked further funds from the parent company to the CR. Money was however forthcoming for new extensions by way of Boosbeck and Loftus.

In three years all three companies would be taken over by the NER, the new management authorising a link from Saltburn by way of Skelton to the CR's route at Brotton. The 1872 fork gave a new link to Teesside's expanding iron works from the East Cleveland mines around the north side of the Eston Hills. The doubling of tracks east of Guisborough allowed extra traffic making the CR's line west of Guisborough redundant between Normanby Brickworks and Barnaby Side (north of the present main A171 road). A line had been laid in west of Guisborough by the NER from the CR Chaloner Branch to the M&GR at Pinchinthorpe (see title picture) which was subsequently closed and the M&GR branch to Nunthorpe Junction survived another ninety years.

During the 1870s the NER built several stations on the eastern CR route. Passenger services commenced from Brotton, Skinningrove and Loftus in 1875 with the addition of Boosbeck in 1878. Each station was provided with goods and coal facilities. Guisborough Station was left on its spur (see TRAVEL NORTH: 38-40 Guisborough Circular, Parts 1-3), meaning in steam days up to the late 1950s trains had to reverse back out and carry on eastward from the junction near Hutton Gate. In the westward direction to Middlesbrough trains reversed into Guisborough Station. The arrangement continued to 1964, albeit operated with diesel multiple units (dmu's).


Normanby and Eston

Eston Station was added by the NER on a spur from Flatts Lane Junction south of Normanby village. Passenger services introduced in 1902 were unable to compete with local bus services to Middlesbrough and the LNER closed Eston to passengers in 1929
Eston Station was added by the NER on a spur from Flatts Lane Junction south of Normanby village. Passenger services introduced in 1902 were unable to compete with local bus services to Middlesbrough and the LNER closed Eston to passengers in 1929 | Source
A London & North Eastern Railway badge. When the railways were nationalised, the LNER's properties in the region were incorporated into British Railways' North Eastern Region
A London & North Eastern Railway badge. When the railways were nationalised, the LNER's properties in the region were incorporated into British Railways' North Eastern Region
A flyer advertises the products made at Normanby in 1901
A flyer advertises the products made at Normanby in 1901
Class J26 0-6-0 65756 of Newport Shed (51B) shunts across Flatts Lane at Normanby Brickworks in the 1950s - a similar engine would take coal wagons to the Co-op depot at Eston
Class J26 0-6-0 65756 of Newport Shed (51B) shunts across Flatts Lane at Normanby Brickworks in the 1950s - a similar engine would take coal wagons to the Co-op depot at Eston
An aerial view of Normanby Brickworks beside the Cleveland Railway's branch in the mid-1950s - next door neighbours worked there until closure in the mid-1960s
An aerial view of Normanby Brickworks beside the Cleveland Railway's branch in the mid-1950s - next door neighbours worked there until closure in the mid-1960s
Ordnance survey section shows Normanby Brickworks and neighbouring ironstone mine workings near the foot of the 'saddle' over which the Cleveland Railway passed by rope-worked or self-acting incline. There's a country park and centre here now
Ordnance survey section shows Normanby Brickworks and neighbouring ironstone mine workings near the foot of the 'saddle' over which the Cleveland Railway passed by rope-worked or self-acting incline. There's a country park and centre here now

What's left to see?

The easternmost end of the CR from Loftus to Brotton and the link to Teesside over Riftswood Viaduct behind Saltburn is used only by Boulby's potash trains - although for how long now, since steel-making on Teesside has stalled? - and aside from occasional steam specials no passenger traffic is permitted. The spur from the Middlesbrough-Redcar Railway past the Tees shore near Cargo Fleet at Normanby Jetty was lifted in 1966 with what was left of the Normanby across Ward Jackson's land. Normanby Brickworks closed, as did the Co-operative coal depot at what was left of Eston Station along with a scrap yard at Normanby that lay at the back of Garden Place. The trackbed northward from the west side of Flatts Lane is a footpath. Land on the east side is owned by Teesside University and includes the training ground for Middlesbrough Football club as well as premises rented by the National Health Service from the university. The section from Normanby to Guisborough is largely on private land including Upsall Grange. Behind the Cross Keys Inn is a short stretch of embankment crossed by a public footpath (see also TRAVEL NORTH - 4: WALKING THE MOOR... hubpages.com/travel/WALKING-THE-MOOR) that leads up to the moortop where Upsall Pit was until the late 1940s. From Guisborough the trackbed is a public footpath known as the Guisborough Branch Walkway.

A famous Middlesbrough landmark... And across the river in what was WHH&R territory...

The Transporter Bridge stands near the Riverside Stadium and spans the Tees to Port Clarence on the County Durham shore (now Hartlepool Unitary Authority)
The Transporter Bridge stands near the Riverside Stadium and spans the Tees to Port Clarence on the County Durham shore (now Hartlepool Unitary Authority)
Overshadowed by the Transporter Bridge, across the Tees in former WHH&R territory, the ruin of the North Eastern Railway's Central Division Port Clarence signal cabin. Time is the giant killer!
Overshadowed by the Transporter Bridge, across the Tees in former WHH&R territory, the ruin of the North Eastern Railway's Central Division Port Clarence signal cabin. Time is the giant killer!

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