TRAVEL NORTH - 47: THE MINE LINE, Rosedale's Iron Ore Outlet, 1. Up High From Battersby
High on the North Yorkshire Moors...
The year 1858 saw the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway extend its line beyond Stokesley to Kildale in the shadow of the Cleveland Hills, with stations opened at Ingleby Greenhow, Ingleby Junction and Kildale. Ingleby Junction was renamed Battersby Junction in 1878, then Battersby in 1893. From opening Ingleby Greenhow's station was named simply Ingleby.
In 1864 the North Eastern Railway (NER) - whose line this was now - opened a branch from Battersby to Great Ayton and Nunthorpe Junction to connect with the former Middlesbrough & Guisborough Railway (M&GR) owned originally by the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR), absorbed by the NER the year before. The Great Ayton connection was instrumental to the course of this account, but let's leave that to one side and follow progress chronologically.
With the extension of the NY&CR branch to Kildale the Ingleby Ironstone and Freestone Mining Company opened a three-mile long narrow gauge line to Battersby from their working on the escarpment side of the Cleveland Hills at Rudd Scar. The NY&CR entered into an agreement with the mine owners to use their line as part of a proposed branch to West Rosedale. On being taken over by the NER a single track standard gauge line was opened from Battersby to West Rosedale Bank Top on 27th March, 1861, a distance of fourteen miles including Ingleby Incline. Because of narrow seams encountered Ingleby Mine was abandoned. Nevertheless a connecting spur was laid in by the NER.
Battersby was furnished with extensive exchange sidings - to assemble trains for the works on Teesside and in County Durham, and to forward empties to Incline Bottom - and a three-road locomotive shed with turntable, built 1875/76. After 1895 the shed was no longer used by locomotives that served Battersby, there being motive power depots closer to the works where they would pick up the empty mineral wagons at Middlesbrough and nearby Newport. The shed would later be used for different purposes, including the storage in WWII of three vintage NER 12-wheel dining cars. It would only be demolished in 1965, leaving the water tower as the only structure in the yard. Two rows of terraced houses were built for employees and their families, also still standing and occupied.
The Rosedale Branch reach ed southward for two and a half miles on an almost straight line to the foot of the Ingleby Incline on a rising gradient. The base of the incline begins on an elevation of 650 ft above sea level. For the first mile beyond Battersby Station the line crossed three local roads on the level. At Bank Foot, where the last of these crossings was situated, the branch came to the base of the steep escarpment of the Cleveland Hills which it followed to the incline bottom. About a half mile beyond Bank Foot a siding served building stone quarries located just below the escarpment crest, in what was Park Plantation. This was since replanted by the Forestry Commission, the body responsible for all forestry not in private ownership. The stone was taken down to the siding on an inclined tramway over a half mile in length. Large scale jet workings are visible along the escarpment. Between Bank Foot and the incline foot the former trackbed is now a private forestry road with access to cottages at the incline foot once owned by the railway and now upgraded for forestry employees (inside toilets, plumbing and electricity).
At the bottom of the Ingleby Incline were several reception sidings and small buildings, one of which was a weigh house, the footings for which can still be seen..
The line as it is today at the western end of Eskdale, and the watershed near Kildale
Follow the walk route on the map above, starting at Castleton to look around the district through which the railway runs (as it is today). There is a choice of five stations to start from between Danby and Battersby, with refreshments available nearby at Danby, Castleton, Commondale and Kildale. Battersby's nearest hostelry is at Ingleby Greenhow to the west.
Ingleby Incline to Blakey
Installed by the NER to replace the original incline of Ingleby Mines, the incline extended 1,430 yards to the crest of the escarpment at a height of 1,370 ft a.s.l. The incline began on a gradient of 1:11 and rose to 1:5 (or 20%). Wagons were drawn uphill by steel cables 1,650 yards in length that passed around two 14'-0" drums. Descending laden mineral wagons (wooden NER 12 ton and steel 8 ton vehicles) drew empties largely in fours at 20 m.p.h. for over three minutes.
Aside from a short length near its foot, the incline was double-track. Near the top the two tracks divided into three, the outer pair on either side passed over steel ramps that stopped ascending empties from rolling back. The centre road that passed through the drum house accommodated the laden wagons before their descent. Catch points were built into the track near top and bottom to avert runaways from fouling the incline. This was an essential precaution owing to the frequency of accidents. As well as the wreckage at the incline bottom there were disasters nearer the top and along the way down.
On Greenhow Moor at Incline Top were sidings and a number of railway buildings, including the drum house, workshops and four cottages. One building still stands, although the drum house was demolished in 1941 to avoid it being used as a navigation marker by German bomber crews. Large masonry blocks can still be seen around the site. The incline - minus railway tracks - has been used by the Forestry Commission as a trackway for lowering lumber, since closure by the railway also opened to the public as a footpath.
During the development of the incline in February, 1860 a dispute took place over payment of wages. Mr T Towns the contractor's agent was set upon by sixty labourers, "knocked onto the floor, bleeding and shouting 'Murder!'"
From Incline Top the course of the original branch to Rosedale Bank Top never drops below 1,000 ft. a.s.l. over the eleven miles, keeping to the moortop, avoiding the steep-sided dale-heads of Bransdale and Farndale over reverse curves. Easy gradients were maintained, expensive viaducts and bridging made unnecessary by following the contours, thus enabling the tracklaying gangs. Cuttings and embankments abound, some of these being sizeable at dale-heads.
The first section of around four miles to a point above Esklets in Westerdale is a falling gradient. Not far from Incline Top the line crossed the watershed of the moors and entered a shallow cutting which tended to be a snow trap. A hut built here housed shovels and other snow clearing equipment. Another half mile took the track to Blowath - marked on most maps incorrectly as 'Bloworth' ('wath' is a dialect word from the Norse for a shallow ford). This was a crossing on the rough, unmade road near the Lion Inn that led from Hutton-le-Hole and Kirkbymoorside on the Scarborough-Helmsley road in one direction to Castleton and Westerdale in the other over Rudland Rigg (another Norse-derived dialect word, meaning 'ridge'). There was a siding used by farmers as well as the miller of Bransdale. One crossing gate still stood in 1967 but the crossing keepers' cottages went with closure of the branch. This isolated road is little used although it was a popular short cut for farmers with horse-drawn vehicles on the undulating route to Stokesley market. Yet even.on a busy day the crossing keeper was never hard-pushed.
For about four miles from near Blowath Slack to the Esklets path the trackbed has become part of the notorious Lyke Wake Walk route, a forty mile hike across the moors along the southern rim of Eskdale. Two wide loops with cuttings and embankments took the line east around the head of Farndale (famous for its display of wild daffodils in springtime), soon passing the seven mile marker from Battersby. At the head of Westerdale the track crossed a long embankment over the Esklets col (a saddle in the ridge between two higher points) and began a mile-long southward climb over High Blakey Moor with its numerious old shallow coal workings. Just short of the eight mile post stood a brick-built water tower fed by two small reservoirs that were fed in turn by gílls (springs) on the moor nearby. Another wide loop avoids the rocks of Blakey Gill. With a shallow dip the line reached Blakey Junction, just past the tenth milepost. Here was a three-quarter mile spur that led southward along the rim of Farndale to serve Blakey Mines that were worked from 1873-1895.
At Blakey Junction on a narrow section of Blakey Rigg at 1,200 ft a.s.l was a settlement of seven railwaymen's cottages known as Little Blakey. This was where the Castleton-Hutton-le-Hole road crossed over the railway as an overbridge (one of the bridge parapets is still visible)., the only one on the branch. This cutting was also a well-known snow-trap. Road improvements made since 1954 have made the road much more popular as a short-cut between Ryedale and Eskdale. The railwaymen's cottages were largely demolished, although one remained in use until 1955. A siding at Blakey junction was another used by farmers to forward their produce and receive supplies.
Blakey Junction to Bank Top (Rosedale West)
From Blakey Junction the Rosedale East branch forked northward and skirted the horseshoe-shaped dalehead. Turning right at the junction a long downward gradient over four miles stopped short of the Rosedale Abbey to Hutton-le-Hole road at Bank Top around 1,000 feet a.s.l. The Bank Top branch was opened officially on 27th March, 1861. A special train of open wagons brought the railway's directors, engineers, and contractors Messrs. Cail & Towns to where the workforce enjoyed "English beef, bread and ale".
Close to the eleventh milepost and erstwhile Sledge Shoe House - since demolished - a cottage housed a railwayman whose job was to monitor the water supply. At milepost twelve were sidings for Sheriff's Pit with its cluster of pit-head buildings. After passing Sheriff's Pit the line led in a loop around Thorgill Head. After another loop along the rim of Hobb Crag the railway came to Bank Top. The terminus of the branch here near milepost fourteen was a small settlement of railway employees who dwelt in sixteen cottages at 975 feet a.s.l., just below the locomotive depot. After closure of the mines one of the cottages became a Youth Hostel from 1933-1950. 'Willy' Wood, the last of the locomotive drivers died here in 1963. Four of the cottages were still occupied in 1964, although all were abandoned by the end of 1966. Some of the buildings have been re-occupied. The large two-road locomotive shed built 1861 and extended in 1863 was demolished 1937/38, the stone blocks used to build the village hall at Hutton-le-Hole. Sheerlegs (a wedge-shaped steel structure with vertical screw hook for raising locomotives by their buffer ends) were positioned at the southern end of the shed, a coaling stage and crane for loading coal onto tenders at the opposite end. Water for the tenders was taken from a reservoir behind Rosedale Chimney (near Chimney Bank Top), fed by a 'leat' cut a mile or more long through the peat from a gill (spring) on Shooting House Hill and Jewel Mere. The court leet (district or jurisdiction) of the manor of Spaunton fined I Hartas & Co. one shilling, a token gesture, for siting the reservoir at Little Blakey (Sledge Shoe House).
At Bank Top were sidings to the kilns for removal of calcine dust brought up by the incline tramway from West or Hollins' Mines, a half-mile south-east of here. There was a goods siding for local use as well as the long storage sidings that stretched to the Hutton road.
Rosedale Abbey, North Yorkshire
Once an abbey site, Rosedale became the epicentre of ironstone mining on the central North Yorkshire Moors with mines to east, west and north
A single track branch served the East Mines, opened to traffic 18th August, 1865 by the NER, although it may already have been in place from the previous owners. The route measuring four and three-quarter miles followed the contours of the dalehead on a long falling gradient before the track reached the dale floor a mile and three-quarters north-east of the mining settlement of Rosedale East. Much of the trackbed - now a designated footpath - can be seen from the road to Blakey Rigg and the Lion Inn. Entry to the branch from the Ingleby Incline direction was achieved by reversal at Blakey Junction.
The first mile-and-a-half of the route veers northward to Rosedale Head and passes within 300 years out of sight of the inn at 1,293 ft a.s.l.. Near the first milepost from the junction lie the ruins of a brick-built structure that once supported a water-tank fed by a small nearby reservoir. Just past here construction of the branch entailed complicated engineering work that included extensive cuttings,embankments and buttressing to bring the trackbed down to the level of the mine adits (entrances). The line swung around the dalehead to cross the infant River Seven and Reeking Gill by embankments over culverts to allow the water to flow freely and avoid unnecessary flooding. The line goes on south-eastward at the third milepost in a sharp loop around Nab Scar. A little before this loop was a siding that led from Nab Scar Quarries, which produced good building stone for a short time.
Beyond Nab Scar a spur led away above Hill Gill to run parallel and a little higher to mine buildings at High Baring, where it split into several sidings. The branch passed along Florence Terrace and the gangers' cottages known as 'Black Houses', from there near milepost four were the 'new' roasting or calcining kilns and loading docks at High Baring. Less than half a mile on the branch skirted the 'old' kilns to reach the end of the line at Rosedale Goods Depot, Low Baring, known as 'The Depots'. The line was double-track between the 'new' and 'old' kilns.
At the terminus was a long row of cottages, now demolished, a goods shed used in 1974 by a farmer, stone coal cells - still reasonably intact - and 'Depot Cottage' that was also still inhabited in 1974. Rosedale' goods depot was closed to traffic after the mines closed, in 1928. In the 1870s a 3ft gauge tramway from the 'old' kilns stretched eastward from the Depots for around a mile toward Bell Top overlooking North Dale through a level-quarried outcrop of ironstone.
Next: Rosedale - 2, 'Operating the branch', 'Life at the back of the Beyond' and 'Final Years'
Alan Thompson and Ken Groundwater take you on a pictorial round trip of closed and extant branch lines around Cleveland and North Yorkshire, showing the lie of the land over a period of time from early days to the present.