TRAVEL NORTH - 46: A RAILWAY ARTERY, Extending Eastward - 2. Commondale-Grosmont

Look back in time...

Period postcard view of Commondale looking past the brickworks on the left. Since this shot was taken the trees and houses have grown, although there has never been road access to the station...
Period postcard view of Commondale looking past the brickworks on the left. Since this shot was taken the trees and houses have grown, although there has never been road access to the station... | Source
This is the scene I had when I came to my first Scout camp at Commondale in 1960. The shelter was pretty dilapidated. The camp site was where previously the brickworks had been, closed the year I was born in 1947
This is the scene I had when I came to my first Scout camp at Commondale in 1960. The shelter was pretty dilapidated. The camp site was where previously the brickworks had been, closed the year I was born in 1947 | Source
The brickworks butted onto the moor at the back of the village that grew near the station at the bottom of the dale. Besides bricks household earthenwares and sanitary wares were produced
The brickworks butted onto the moor at the back of the village that grew near the station at the bottom of the dale. Besides bricks household earthenwares and sanitary wares were produced | Source
This is the waiting shelter at Commondale Halt as it is now; a short two car diesel unit  from Whitby heads up to Middlesbrough by way of Battersby
This is the waiting shelter at Commondale Halt as it is now; a short two car diesel unit from Whitby heads up to Middlesbrough by way of Battersby | Source

With no village to serve, there was no station at Commondale in 1861 when the line opened to Castleton..

Before the railway arrived there were a few scattered farms in the district. John Slater Pratt established the Cleveland Brick & Pottery Co. at Commondale to exploit local clay deposits. To enable coal and other raw materials to be brought in by rail and the finished goods taken away, a siding was laid in from the main running line. After John S Pratt died the works were taken over by John Crossley in 1872. Closure came finally in 1947.

Aside from bricks the company produced sanitary goods, building products and domestic earthenware. Three industrial locomotives were operated on site to shunt wagons and prepare trains for the railway company's locomotives to take out. Houses were built for the families of works employees, and by 1891 the community was large enough to warrant the North Eastern Railway (NER) gving the nod for a basic station. Passenger and goods receipts would be handled east of here at Castleton, as no offices were built at Commondale. The only building - on the Kildale end of the platform - was a solitary brick structure, a waiting room with toilet facilities.

Castleton: Tenders were accepted from Messrs. Smith & Wright to build the line and stations from Kildale to Castleton. Building the Station Master's house would cost the NER £489, a warehouse £393.19s (£393.95p). Passenger traffic would begin 1st April, 1861 between Stockton-on-Tees and Castleton, a shed and turntable provided to house and turn the locomotive to work the trains.

Traffic on the NY&CR route only went beyond Castleton in 1865 to Grosmont and Whitby on the Whitby & Pickering Railway (W&PR). The station was renamed 'Castleton Moor' in 1965 to prevent confusion with other stations on the British Railways North Eastern (BR/NE) system by the same name. When the station closed to goods on 7th June, 1982 it was the last on the line to do so, the others having done so in August, 1965. The passing loop was lifted and signal cabin closed the following month. The track down the branch would be singled between Battersby and Whitby with the exception of Glaisdale, controlled from Middlesbrough throughout. The station, although still open for passenger traffic, would be unstaffed in common with the rest of the branch.

Whinstone from Scale Cross Quarries and gannister from Castleton Gannister Quarries was handled through the station on trains bound for Teesside by way of Battersby. Gannister is a hard, fine-grained form of sandstone used in making silica bricks used to line steel-making furnaces.

Danby: the station was opened by the NER in 1865. Goods traffic was largely agricultural produce, livestock and livestock products.

A water tower and crane were installed in 1866 at the Grosmont end of the station. Tank capacity was 13,000 gallons, the only location between Battersby and Grosmont for locomotives to be watered.

Danby closed to goods on 2nd August, 1965 and would remain open to passengers as an unstaffed halt.

Houlsyke, a hamlet about a mile east of Danby had a siding for delivery and collection of goods by local farmers. There were no passenger facilities.

Lealholm: opened 1865 in common with other stations between Danby and Egton Bridge. The name was also written as 'Lealholme' and the station alternately referred to as 'Lealholme Bridge'. Although the 'Up' platform was rail served, there was no continuous loop, therefore trains had to shunt to enter - the platform was used for horse and livestock traffic. In 1962 the rail link was finally lifted, isolating the platform. The station closed to goods on 2nd August, 1965, the track to the goods shed lifted in 1966. In 1972 the goods depot was taken over by the Magenta kit car builders, their vehicles being of fibre-glass based on Austin chassis. The goods shed has since been used as a vehicle repair shop and MoT (Min. of Transport) test centre for roadworthiness.

Passengers still use what was the 'Down' platform in both directions and the station is unstaffed.

Castleton to Lealholm through the 20th Century

Again, the schematic map of the branch. We've started at Commondale - see diagram, centre - working to the right.
Again, the schematic map of the branch. We've started at Commondale - see diagram, centre - working to the right. | Source
Castleton Station in the 1960s. A Whitby-bound dmu stands at the 'Down' platform, a  visiting Deltic diesel at the 'Up' - is this the year Whitby Town FC qualified to play in the FA Cup Final at Wembley?
Castleton Station in the 1960s. A Whitby-bound dmu stands at the 'Down' platform, a visiting Deltic diesel at the 'Up' - is this the year Whitby Town FC qualified to play in the FA Cup Final at Wembley? | Source
Fast forward about twenty years, the station was renamed 'Castleton Moor' in 1965 - see text above
Fast forward about twenty years, the station was renamed 'Castleton Moor' in 1965 - see text above | Source
Preserved BR Class 4 4-6-0 75029 brings the 'Whitby Enterprise' through Danby Station under the road bridge
Preserved BR Class 4 4-6-0 75029 brings the 'Whitby Enterprise' through Danby Station under the road bridge | Source
Danby Station looking west towards Castleton - the buildings haven't changed, it's just the platform 'furniture' that's been updated
Danby Station looking west towards Castleton - the buildings haven't changed, it's just the platform 'furniture' that's been updated | Source
The North Yorkshire Moors above Danby on a fine day. It's not generally as wet this side of Yorkshire as in the west, although you can get some penetrating storms and winds in from the sea
The North Yorkshire Moors above Danby on a fine day. It's not generally as wet this side of Yorkshire as in the west, although you can get some penetrating storms and winds in from the sea
Lealholm Station looking back on our direction of travel - the goods depot was behind the station buildings, now a repair and MoT centre
Lealholm Station looking back on our direction of travel - the goods depot was behind the station buildings, now a repair and MoT centre | Source
A third generation diesel multiple unit leaves Lealholm for Glaisdale, which is where we go from here...
A third generation diesel multiple unit leaves Lealholm for Glaisdale, which is where we go from here... | Source

Glaisdale and Egton

Glaisdale: opened 1865 together with the stations on either side. In the 1860s and 1870s the Glaisdale Iron Company prospered, with production beginning 1866. Three blast furnaces, (accessed from the 'Down' line opposite the coal depot) ceased to operate a decade later. The works stood idle until sold off by auction in July, 1888 to John Dickson of Sandsend near Whitby. Dismantling was still ongoing seven years later. The material in the slag heaps was sold to Surrey County Council (south of London) for road building. The council leased the works' sidings to load the stone. The ironstone mines around Glaisdale also ceased production in 1876.

Five industrial locomotives had been used by the contractor Thomas Nelson in building this section of the NY&CR in 1865.

In 1933 the London & North Eastern Railway left a camping coach in the sidings at Glaisdale, available for hire by visitors to the area at £2.10s (£2.50) a week in summer, they would pay £2 weekly in late spring or late summer (until early September when children went back to school). The station closed to goods at the same time as Lealholm, remaining open to date as an unstaffed halt. It is also the only station between Whitby and Battersby with a loop to allow trains to pass. The coal depot at Glaisdale was sited near the bow girder bridge at the Grosmont end of the station, access being from the 'Up' line to the east of the platform.

A cafe opened in the waiting room at the station, trading in the summer season. Across the way the signal cabin was moved back to allow extension of the platform westward, latterly used as a 'club room' for a railway society after being de-commissioned (signalling is operated and monitored from Middlesbrough). Recently the windows were shuttered to avoid vandalism.

Egton Station: opened at the same time as Glaisdale. Goods and coal traffic ceased in August, 1965, with passenger services still running, albeit as an unstaffed halt. The station house and offices were sold off in common with other stations on the line back to Battersby. In the case of Egton as a nursery school, latterly as self-catering accommodation. Bus shelters have been provided for waiting passengers in inclement weather.

The station has been known for some time as Egton Bridge. The closed coal depot cells lie empty at the top end of the station car park. Just outside the station is an inn named after local martyr Nicholas Postgate (see picture below).

Glaisdale and Egton Bridge

Glaisdale Station looking west, with the Station Master's house, offices and facilities on the 'Up' platform. A waiting shelter in the earlier NER building style stands midway on the 'Down' platform near the former signal cabin
Glaisdale Station looking west, with the Station Master's house, offices and facilities on the 'Up' platform. A waiting shelter in the earlier NER building style stands midway on the 'Down' platform near the former signal cabin | Source
Beside the sloping road down to the River Esk the coal cells have lost their dividing walls. Horse-drawn carts would originally have stood here for loading, latterly motor lorries until 1965.
Beside the sloping road down to the River Esk the coal cells have lost their dividing walls. Horse-drawn carts would originally have stood here for loading, latterly motor lorries until 1965.
Egton Bridge Station looking west with the blue 'bus stop' waiting shelter at the eastern end of the platform. The Station Master's house, offices and waiting rooms were sold off by British Railways in the mid-1960s
Egton Bridge Station looking west with the blue 'bus stop' waiting shelter at the eastern end of the platform. The Station Master's house, offices and waiting rooms were sold off by British Railways in the mid-1960s
Egton Bridge station buildings from the west side. The bay window was in the Station Master's office to check down the line when trains entered the station. Now apparently self-catering accommodation
Egton Bridge station buildings from the west side. The bay window was in the Station Master's office to check down the line when trains entered the station. Now apparently self-catering accommodation | Source
The Postgate Inn, named after local Catholic- martyr Nicholas Postgate. He fled abroad during the Reformation. Home-sickness brought him back - to a martyr's death. The inn is comfortable, carries a good menu and is known for its well-kept cellar
The Postgate Inn, named after local Catholic- martyr Nicholas Postgate. He fled abroad during the Reformation. Home-sickness brought him back - to a martyr's death. The inn is comfortable, carries a good menu and is known for its well-kept cellar | Source

Glaisdale, North Yorkshire

A markerGlasidale, North Yorkshire -
Glaisdale, Whitby YO21, UK
[get directions]

Scene of industry in the 19th Century, the station is the only passing point for trains on Whitby-Battersby branch line that links with Middlesbrough

Follow Messrs Groundwater and Thompson along the course of the railway through Eskdale or Esk Valley from Battersby to Whitby with its junction at Grosmont for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Both equally scenic routes, Eskdale and Newtondale draw tourists for near and far. Whet your appetite for travel down the branch with background information to feed your appetite for knowledge. Other lines are covered, some lost to history, others - like this one - still used and thriving..

Grosmont and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Grosmont's station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the main platform on the left to terminate here or travel on non-stop to Whitby
Grosmont's station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the main platform on the left to terminate here or travel on non-stop to Whitby | Source
Preserved Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Railway (ex-Londonderry Railway 0-6-2, not Northern Ireland but Lord Londonderry's County Durham collieries based at Philadelphia, Durham). The engine is based here permanently, shedded at Grosmont
Preserved Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Railway (ex-Londonderry Railway 0-6-2, not Northern Ireland but Lord Londonderry's County Durham collieries based at Philadelphia, Durham). The engine is based here permanently, shedded at Grosmont | Source
A Class A8 4-6-2 tank engine enters from Whitby. The platform shelter is still there, built by the NER in the mid-1860s. Trains to and from York came through the far platforms. Plinth-based signal cabin behind the engine was demolished mid-1980s
A Class A8 4-6-2 tank engine enters from Whitby. The platform shelter is still there, built by the NER in the mid-1860s. Trains to and from York came through the far platforms. Plinth-based signal cabin behind the engine was demolished mid-1980s | Source
Bradshaw's timetable and rail directory (Britain) dated 1950 when little of the network in the North East had been affected by closure. The following decade and a half would see it pruned sharply
Bradshaw's timetable and rail directory (Britain) dated 1950 when little of the network in the North East had been affected by closure. The following decade and a half would see it pruned sharply
Grosmont's iron works prospered until the late 19th Century when steel-making began on Teesside. The site is now a car park
Grosmont's iron works prospered until the late 19th Century when steel-making began on Teesside. The site is now a car park
The rail plan for Grosmont, including the iron works in the latter years of the 19th Century, with stone coming from the many mines in the district
The rail plan for Grosmont, including the iron works in the latter years of the 19th Century, with stone coming from the many mines in the district

Grosmont had been opened since 1835.

The Whitby & Pickering Railway (W&PR) had operated a horse-drawn passenger service from Whitby to Pickering via a rope-hauled incline at Beck Hole. Goods were locomotive hauled on either side of the incline until the Deviation route enabled locomotive hauled trains - passenger and goods/mineral - to operate throughout, albeit over severe gradients in places.

First referred to as 'Tunnel', Grosmont would see the NY&CR branch reach here in 1865 with trains running through from Stockton-on-Tees to Whitby. A new platform was added to the station on its south-west side to give Grosmont its 'V' or wedge shape familiar to travellers today.

In his book, 'The History of the Whitby & Pickering Railway' G W J Potter pointed to potential problems arising from the new alignment. The line from Battersby was largely single track, and two platforms were added only to selected stations. The 'Up' and 'Down' (Stockton and Middlesbrough in this case were 'Up') Battersby trains were booked to arrive in short succession. If the train from Battersby was late and that from Whitby on time, signalmen at Grosmont had two choices. They could stop the one from Whitby outside the station to wait for the other to clear the line, allowing the train from Whitby into the 'Up' York line (Pickering had by this time been connected by way of Rillington Junction to the former York & North Midland line from York to Scarborough). After the train to Whitby left, the train for Stockton reversed back to the junction and worked onward. Potter remarked on problems caused to passengers by the delays, that the hold-ups would accumulate over the day. Nothing seems to have been done all the same.

Industry arrived at Grosmont in 1862, shortly before the Battersby line, with Charles and Thomas Bagnall opening operations at the Grosmont Iron Company's works. Two blast furnaces were erected, a third was added in 1875. Additionally several local mines were bought. A standard gauge (4' - 8.5") line entered the works from the NY&CR at the Murk Esk bridge and crossed the iron works past the Egton road. This line connected with a network of sidings within the works, passed the furnaces and came out again towards Whitby, joining the W&PR branch opposite the brickworks site. When the furnaces worked to capacity two coke trains were needed daily, accessing the works from the NY&CR. The iron works was profitable until the closing years of the 1880s, achieving a mean annual output of around 40,000 tons of pig iron for processing elsewhere. With the growth of steel production on Teesside and waning local mineral supplies closure came in 1891.

Removal of slag for road stone or slag wool went on a further thirty years. Four industrial engines were employed in the works by the Bagnall brothers, including 'Arncliffe' from the former Glaisdale works. As mentioned already, a brickworks opened at Grosmont alongside the original 1835 line that became the 'Up' line under NER ownership. The remains of the brickworks can be seen on the east side of the line near the storage sidings (close to where the former Falsgrave signal bridge or gantry has been erected by the NYMR.

Grosmont closed to goods in early August, 1965, the yard now a car park for patrons of the NYMR. The brick plinth based wooden signal cabin by the goods depot rail access point was removed in the late 1980s, replaced temporarily by a ground lever frame at the level crossing (where the Co-operative shop stands). A new signal cabin was built on the other side of the line in the style adopted by the NER Central Division. Bricks for this structure were taken from the demolished three storey Whitby Town signal installation (now the site of the Co-operative supermarket close to the Marina). and for two years now has used a designated platform (Platform 2) with re-laid track to accommodate run-round facilities for locomotives, steam or diesel.

See also: TRAVEL NORTH - 13: RE-OPENED RAILWAYS, North York Moors and Wensleydale

...About that dream, then...

The 1857 plan for eastward extension of the NY&CR from Stokesley.
The 1857 plan for eastward extension of the NY&CR from Stokesley.
Seal of the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway that was absorbed by ...
Seal of the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway that was absorbed by ...
The North Eastern Railway, itself an amalgam of York & North Midland Railway, Leeds Northern Railway and York Newcastle & Berwick Railway - in time to be swept aside in 1923 by ...
The North Eastern Railway, itself an amalgam of York & North Midland Railway, Leeds Northern Railway and York Newcastle & Berwick Railway - in time to be swept aside in 1923 by ...
The newly formed London & North Eastern Railway (aka the 'London & Nearly Everywhere Railway'). After WWII, in 1948 the 'Big Four' became British Railways. Our area became...
The newly formed London & North Eastern Railway (aka the 'London & Nearly Everywhere Railway'). After WWII, in 1948 the 'Big Four' became British Railways. Our area became...
British Railways North Eastern Region... almost back where we started.
British Railways North Eastern Region... almost back where we started.

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2 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

This time frame has always been a fascinating one for me. Both England and the U.S. were making strides to expand their horizons, and the Herculean efforts it took to do so still amaze me today. I have read countless accounts about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and I try to put myself in their shoes, and I can't even grasp an image of the struggle. Anyway, that's what your article reminds me of. :)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 11 days ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Bill, nice to see you drop by. The comparison's a bit strong though. This line was hardly over 25 miles when first built, although the horizons were still being widened here in the 1880s along the coast and elsewhere.

This page isn't complete yet (clicked on the 'publish now by accident). Part one of this pair is finished, however. Take a dekko and come back to this page in about three hours to finish your journey into our past. Got another few ideas to keep this sequence local to Cleveland (Yorkshire). At Battle Abbey for the 1066 Weekend I met a young fellow from Cleveland Ohio who recorded me talking about my books. He's the one who told me the US version was pretty flat. George Stephenson's son Robert built a fair number of railways in the area around the north-east US states and Canada.

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