Travel North - 51: Pickering Round Trip, a Look Back Into the Town's Railway Past
Passage through time...
Along Pickering way between the wars
Think of yourself on a train in the 1930s - although it might well be immediately post-WWII, up to Coronation Year, 1953 - on a heading for Whitby to the north-east.
You'll have left the bay platform at Malton behind a Class G5 0-4-4 tank locomotive, or you might even be in a through coach from King's Cross Station in London (one of a few detached at York to work forward to the Yorkshire coast). Rillington, Low Marishes and Marishes Road are behind you in the broad Vale of Pickering. The scenery ahead looks promising as you close on the North Yorkshire Moors. You rock slightly as your old corridor carriage rumbles over the level crossing from the Marishes side to the Kirkby Misperton side of the A169 Malton-Pickering road.
Shortly afterwards you feel the rumble as the train passes through a junction. The dull clatter indicates you have negotiated the junction with the Forge Valley branch from Seamer by Thornton Dale - which unknown to you close to passengers in June, 1950. Very shortly more rumbling and clattering brings the train over the junction with the Gilling Branch - the link to Helmsley by Kirkbymoorside to close to passengers January, 1953. Cottages roll by on the left, and then on the right where a level crossing raises the clatter a few decibels, followed immediately by a trailing crossover which has been preceded by a home signal over a distant. Mill Lane signal cabin stands opposite the last cottages just by a set of facing points. These lead to the 'Up' road and are followed by another trailing crossover to a third road that leads forward to the small gas works and a slight incline with coal drops and a wagon turntable. Hungate Lane signal cabin lies beyond this complex beyond another level crossing. In the opposite direction the track curves parallel with the Gilling westbound curve.
To the right here a 'Christmas tree' of a signal post guards the southbound route and sports two subsidiary arms and a main post with an arm for Malton traffic. Soon there would be a smaller arm to guard the single line to Rillington Junction as the 'Up main was used from 1946 for wagon storage. The single line over the 'Down' line was worked under staff and ticket regulations in post-WWII years.
Opposite the coal drops stands Pickering's sub-shed (under Malton), a single road affair of about the length of two pre-WWI tender engines with a forked siding to its right. We roll over Hungate Lane level crossing past a goods shed on the left, some sidings that lead to and past it, and further sidings to the right with a 'kickback' that leads back to Hungate Lane on the opposite side. (Hungate cabin is to be downgraded to 'gate cabin' status). At the back, not far from the through running lines, is the old gas works (that will be opened in later years as a cafe).
Bridge Street signal cabin rolls by next at a very sedate rate (both this and Hungate cabin are to be demolished in 1970) leading into the 'Down' platform end at Pickering Station. A short spur leads off right into a loading dock short of the station itself. The station stands on a reverse curve, with the main buildings on the east ('Up') side. An overall roof spans the tracks, destined to be taken down in 1952 and replaced with awnings. This station, along with Malton and other stations on the York-Scarborough line as well as Whitby Town Station was designed by George Hudson's friend George Townsend Andrews with low arched roof-lines and tall chimney stacks (similar to the crossing keepers' cottages in the area). The 'Down' platform extends over Pickering Beck on the west side of the station. (Close to this an LNER water crane from Skelton Yard, York will be sited in 1976, later to be moved along the carriage workshop wall. It's worth noting that the 'E' of the LNER on the water column was cast the wrong way round in 1942).
We pass a fixed distant signal sited on a post below a calling-on arm and a starter signal arm past the platform end. On the opposite side the water tower (where the NYMR car park is now) is passed, and a three-road set of sidings is connected to the running lines by means of a trailing crossover from the 'Up' line across the 'Down'. We rumble along on a wide 'S' curve out of Pickering and on the half-way mark on the curve pass High Mill signal cabin just past the turntable that will disappear in 1959 when the engine shed also closes. Coming out of this 'S' bend we rumble over a set of trailing crossovers, one on the left which connects the siding that runs parallel with the running lines from the water tower, and one on the right from the 'Up' line. Another fixed distant below an advance starter rolls by on the left with a forked siding just beyond.
This 'fork' faced the independently owned long neck of a siding that belonged to Pickering Lime Quarry and Kilns, which we leave behind on our way over New Bridge crossing. Away from the running lines the quarry kickback siding faces us on the curve with one or two unladen wagons idling in the afternoon shadows. Some miles up the dale is Pickering Sand Quarry with its narrow gauge 23.5 inch line that disappears into the undergrowth.
At New Bridge signal cabin the fireman takes the tablet in its hooped pouch (on the later NYMR this will be replaced by a green long-section staff for the long uphill curvy run to Goathland, or the red short-section staff which will take them to the next station, Levisham). The 'Bobby' (early signalmen were railway policemen, the name stuck) has to stretch his arm upward for the fireman to grasp the hoop which will hold a pouch with its dark brown disc or tablet, taken from the Tyers apparatus. Suddenly we are in the widening dale. The Newton road passes steeply to our left along the front of a short row of cottages, and sharp left around the northern side of the quarry on a 1-in-4 'S' bend. To the right the road follows the line a little way beyond the point where the track converge, leaving a short spur where the 'Up' line should be as a reminder of the First World War when the 'Up' road was lifted to be taken by ship to France in 1917, and now languishes in the rusting hold of a merchant ship at the bottom of the English Channel (torpedoed by a 'U'- Boat).
Steepening dale sides follow us down to Newtondale and Pickering is now just a recent memory. Your thoughts take you into the early evening, beyond Goathland, Grosmont and lower Eskdale... on to Whitby Town station with its uninterrupted vew of the ruined abbey on the east cliff above the harbour (near where Dracula came ashore in Bram Stoker's book, originally meant as a play).
Along the rails...
Whitby & Pickering Railway, Pickering area
The initial railway into Pickering was the Whitby & Pickering Railway (W&PR), that was extended southward from Grosmont by 1836. George Stephenson's line reached Grosmont a year earlier, and at Pickering crossed Park Street to a warehouse. Remain of the shell of this building are hidden by more recent developments. Local industries prospered with the coming of the line (limestone and related quarrying), lowering transport costs of both outgoing and incoming mineral traffic from Whitby where coal had been unladen from coastal vessels at the quayside close to the railway.
The W&PR was absorbed into the York & North Midland Railway (Y&NMR) on 30th June, 1845. A new station was designed by George Townsend Andrews, a friend of George Hudson who had drawn up the plans for much of Hudson's railway development. In 1854 the N&NMR joined with the Leeds Northern and York, Newcastle & Berwick railways to form the North Eastern Railway (NER). The NER raised platform levels according to parliamentary legislation, and lengthened them to take the newer bogie coaches.
British Railways removed the overall roof in 1952, at around the same time as that on Whitby Town station due to the cost of maintenance and repair at a time of post-WWII austerity in Britain. Awnings replaced the roof. Subsequently, according to planned economies recommended by Dr Richard Beeching to Ernest Marples of the Ministry of Transport during Harold MacMillan's government, the branch was closed between Grosmont and Rillington Junction in January, 1965. Freight services were also suspended, apart from the connection to New Bridge Quarry north of Pickering until a last shipment left in 1966. The line was saved from being lifted throughout by a fledgling North Yorkshire Moors Railway and (re-)opened officially by the Duchess of Kent early in 1973.
The W&PR was linked from Pickering to Rillington Junction in 1845 by the York & North Midland Railway to connect with Malton and York. Passenger services from Malton to Whitby could be considered of secondary main line importance, the line being double-track. However from 1946 the branch was worked as a single line with the 'Down' line used for wagon storage. Track south of Pickering was lifted around the turn of 1969 into 1970. Reinstatement by the NYMR Board was considered but has been shelved due to cost and the necessary involvement of the national rail system; therefore the NYMR would not have a free hand in the running of the line.
The branch to Helmsley and on to Gilling (and Sun Beck and Pilmoor junctions beyond) was built by the NER in stages. From Gilling, Helmsley was reached 9th October, 1871. Helmsley to Kirkbymoorside was in place and operated by 1st January, 1874. Onward to Mill Lane Junction, Pickering, the line was open 1st April, 1875. Kirkbymoorside was originally named Kirkby Moorside, renamed in 1948. British Railways withdrew passenger services on the branch in 1953, well before Beeching, and goods services no longer ran on the branch after 1964. As the tracks were lifted between Pickering and Sinnington in 1953, the pick-up goods trains from York by way of Gilling and Helmsley terminated at Kirkbymoorside.
Originally the western connection was foreseen as entering Pickering from the north. The route alignment would have veered northward from Kirkbymoorside. The more northerly route would have brought problems and a very expensive tunnel would have had to be built between Aislaby and Sinnington. The NER's profits had been squeezed at the time and shareholders pressed for economies. The change of route partly utilised existing track to the south-west of Pickering, resulting in the desired economy.
The Forge Valley branch connected Pickering with Scarborough by way of Seamer Junction, opened 1st May, 1882. Again economies were made before Dr Beeching's time, the branch closing in 1950, although Thornton Dale was still linked to Pickering for goods services until 1963 to serve Slaters' Quarry. Track was finally lifted 1964.
Signalling Installations (north-south):
New Bridge signal cabin is located south-west of the level crossing on the Levisham-Pickering section and Yatts Road. It was installed primarily to control the crossing gates and control access to/from New Bridge Quarries and Park Lane Lime Works. It was opened around 1876 and closed with the branch by British Railways in 1965. The NYMR re-opened it in 1978 first as a gate cabin. By 1986 it was a full block post, issuing staff and ticket and controlling the line into and out of Pickering;
High Mill signal cabin to the south-west of the Pickering-High Mill level crossing. Its prime function was to control the level crossing gates, although access to the sidings and turntable west of the Grosmont-Pickering line were also the responsibilities of its operators. It was opened at some time before 1895 and closed with the Pickering Malton section, to be demolished 1970 when track was lifted between Pickering and Rillington Junction;
Bridge Street signal cabin to the south-west of the Pickering-Rillington line and Bridge Street. Another gate cabin, it also controlled access to the station loading dock north of the crossing. Opened 1876 it was closed and demolished with High Mill s.c;
Hungate Lane signal cabin was located north-west of the crossing of the Rillington section over Hungate Lane. With control of the crossing as well as through services it had to close the gates for shunting operations to the north of the crossing (now the site of a supermarket car park). Opened by 1874 it was closed and demolished with the previous pair of cabins;
Mill Lane signal cabin was located north-west of the Pickering-Rillington Jct. line and Mill Lane. South-east of this crossing is a gate-house built by the Y&NMR, used to control Mill Lane's crossing gates. Opened between 1874-1909 it was closed and demolished with the Rillington section.
Haygate Lane gatehouses - to the north-west of the level crossing sites are two more gatehouses. One was built by the Y&NMR for Rillington-Pickering, the other by the NER for the Forge Valley branch. The gate cabins closed with the lines they guarded.
Eastgate level crossing (on the A169 Malton Road). Where the Forge Valley branch crossed the Malton road there was both a signal cabin and a gatehouse. The signal cabin would have been to control the junction where the single track Forge Valley line was doubled before reaching the Rillington-Pickering line at Mill Lane Junction. There are no obvious traces of the signal cabin. A residential property occupies the site of the gatehouse on the same alignment.
At the Helmsley Branch, Mill Lane crossing was a gatehouse, along with other railway workers' homes to the south-east of the crossing site. The buildings are still there although now in use as non-railway residences and significantly altered - yet still recognisable in the basic building style.
Goslip Bridge signal cabin was built primarily to control the junction where the single track Helmsley branch was doubled before meeting the Pickering-Rillington Jct. line at Mill Lane Jct. It is likely it was opened by 1875 and closed 1906. Later maps or diagrams show the single track from Helmsley carried on to Mill Lane Jct. The doubling of the track may have had its advantages, but singling was cheaper for the sake of operation.
The routes to the branches
At the lineside...
Where the Lidl store has been built across the main Scarborough-Helmsley road (A170) was the site of the coal drops. A wagon turntable was also located here, unusually for a small market town. This is the sort of feature you were more likely to come across in, say, Leeds, York or Northallerton. This wagon turntable enabled access to Windle Bone Mill, the local source of fertilizer until it was closed down in the 1950s.
The locomotive shed is still there to be seen, although access is restricted. It was extended by the NER in 1875 on its site south of Hungate. In 1927 Class Y3 0-4-0 Sentinel shunter No.81 was allocated to Pickering, although it was transferred away to Tyne Dock in 1942. Under British Railways' management Pickering was classed as a sub-shed to Malton (50F). In 1955 between Malton and Pickering twelve ex-NER/LNER locomotives were allocated: four Class J39 0-6-0, four Class J27 0-6-0 and four Class G5 0-4-4 tank engines. Four years later the number had gone up to thirteen, although the allocation was different due to regional railway boundary changes: two ex-LMS 2MT 2-6-2 'Mickey Mouse' tank engines, three Class J39, four Class J27, two Class A8 4-6-2 tank engines (rebuilds from Raven 4-4-4 tank class), and two British Railways' Class 3MT 2-6-2 tank engines. By 1955 the Gilling-Driffield lines which crossed the York-Scarborough route east of Malton had lost their passenger services. However goods and minerals were still being conveyed. Pickering's shed was closed in 1959. Its two engines, Class D49/2 ('Hunt' class, rebuilds of the 'Shires') "The Staintondale" and Class Y3 went to Malton. In turn Malton's shed closed in 1963 with the last eight engines being transferred to York (50A) and former Lancashire & Yorkshire/LMS shed Goole (50D).
The NER installed a 42'-0" turntable next to the shed for locomotives in 1870. Th turntable was later relocated north of the station, possibly after the opening of the Helmsley link. The locomotives could be turned without having to pass through three sets of gated crossings. When in 1959 Pickering's shed closed the turntable was removed, to be replaced by a larger diameter one when the NYMR took over the station. This turntable - one of several - came from the former York North (50A) shed.
Goslip Bridge over the former Helmsley branch is still in situ near the camp site (caravans and tents).
Facilities in Pickering's heyday
The Railway Clearing House (RCH) handbook of railway stations of 1904 gives Pickering's facilities as follows:
- Goods Station;
- Passengers and Parcels (main station premises);
- Furniture vans, Carriages, Portable engines and wheeled machinery;
- Livestock dock;
- Horseboxes & Prize Cattle vans;
- Passenger rail carriages;
- 5 ton Goods crane
Traffic receipts & Tonnages
In 1885 47,434 passengers were booked with receipts of £4,161. Heads of livestock in and out numbered 17,582, Minerals in and out (tons) totalled: 9,271, Goods forwarded (tons): 4,095, Goods received (tons): 6597. Expenses totalled £1,645. With fluctuations over the following quarter century the figures for 1910 showed a general increase with only passenger numbers and mineral figures showing a dip, although passenger receipts had increased: passengers booked: 44,898, receipts £4,861, Heads of livestock were up to 18,612, Mineral tonnage in/out amounted to 9257 tons (14 tons adrift from 1885), Goods forwarded tonnage had increased to 7791, Goods received 11,616 tons. Against that expenses had increased to £2,169
The nature of passenger receipts changed over the years with the increased purchase of return tickets as well as season tickets. In 1922 passenger numbers had dropped again to 40,784 with the increase in competition from bus services. Coaching receipts included horses and dogs being conveyed (horse boxes were attached behind the engine, ahead of the passenger carriages) as well as parcels in the brake van compartments.
The increase in expenses came about with the pay bill with extra staff wages across the board in the NER region. The increase in goods received may have been due to new business starting with raw materials being bought in for processing.
Working Timetable overview
In 1861 the only services were (York) Malton-Whitby, Up services on weekdays beginning with a passenger working at 06.45 to Rillington (to change for Seamer for Scarborough/Filey/Bridlington).
The last service in the evening was the 20.05 Whitby-York goods. In the interim eight trains, goods, passengers and coal, had passed going north/south through Pickering
On Sundays two Up passenger services ran from Whitby through Pickering, the first again at 06.45 to Rillington, the later service to York connecting with the 18.30 from Scarborough at Rillington.
Down services through Pickering began 07.42 for Whitby (through train from York). The last was 20.12 (from York to Whitby). Between these times a number of goods workings, a coal working and an express passenger working to Whitby passed through Pickering. In total there were only four passenger trains including the express.
On Sundays Down services started York-Whitby 07.35 with the last 19.35 Rillington-Whitby, both passenger.
By 1909 the services were more involved with the addition of passenger and goods workings from Gilling and Helmsley to the west, and Thornton Dale and Seamer towards Scarborough on the Forge Valley branch. Only Malton-Whitby had a Sunday service, leaving 06.10 from Malton, stopping 06.32 at Pickering and arriving 07.36 at Whitby. In the other direction a passenger working left Whitby 18.00, stopped 18.59 at Pickering and arrived 19.20 at Malton.
There were five passenger trains either way on weekdays between Scarborough and Pickering. One goods working from Malton to Whitby stopped at New Bridge. One pick-up goods train started from Kirkbymoorside at 13.00 and ran via Pickering to Gallows Close goods depot at Scarborough for a 17.05 arrival. Helmsley services saw three passenger workings from York to Pickering, one ran Pilmoor via Gilling to Pickering and an empty stock working ran Helmsley-Pickering.
Each time a train ran into Pickering from Rillington, Kirkbymoorside or Thornton Dale the crossing gates closed at three points, likewise each time an engine left its shed and each time wagons were shunted into/out of the coal depot. You can imagine the road traffic backing up at busy times if that was now! However in 1861-1909 and even to 1922 road traffic levels were a lot lower. There are no train services from east, south or west and there are only two unmanned level crossings (not operated by a signalman), with low traffic levels. In the Pickering area there is only New Bridge crossing before Levisham several miles away, and Grosmont at the northern end of the line.
...reopened the line in 1972, at first to a temporary terminus at High Mill, although trains ran into and out of Pickering Station by 1975. The main carriage and wagon maintenance shed was built in the mid-1980s, a paint shop added in the mid-1990s and the Atkins building for wood related work opened 2008.
In 1990 the Up (east side) platform was extended to allow longer trains to leave Pickering, in 2010 the Reussner Learning Centre and Visitor Centre opened on Platform 2 (Down platform), in 2011 the station's overall roof was reinstated.
Pickering Station, North Yorkshire
Pickering's original W&PR station lay across the road where the Station Hotel is. The present station was built by the York & North Midland Ra
North of Pickering on the route to Levisham
Quarrying and processing activities north out of Pickering
A large amount of mineral traffic was generated by building and limestone quarrying and processing to the north of Pickering. Equally extensive traffic was provided by incoming coal for the kilns and outgoing processed limestone for building and agriculture.
Opened 1865, Park Lane Lime Works lay north of New Bridge crossing. At first it was linked to the branch into Pickering by a northward connection. Later this would become a siding that connected southward to around where the NYMR's Permanent Way yard is sited now. An industrial railway took the works' output to an abutment where it was loaded onto standard gauge wagons. An NER document dated 1898 lists sidings, Park Lane Lime Works indicated as being used by Ord & Maddison Ltd. The quarries closed 1915, its sidings disused by 1924.
New Bridge Quarries were located north and west.of New Bridge Crossing. With several sets of lime kilns - some closing in the 19th Century - the site was opened around 1864. A 23.5 inch narrow-gauge tramway on a stone-built embankment led from a quarry and lime kilns south-west of the main quarries to a loading dock beside a siding that was linked to the main quarry siding south of New Bridge Crossing. A siding left the main branch south of the signal cabin to lead northward and parallel to Yatts Road. In the 1898 NER document that listed the sidings three entries are listed: F W Chadwick, M Hesp and the Duchy of Lancaster (property of the reigning monarch), from which we can guess there was considerable traffic. A brickworks operated in the 1920s. The quarry still operates, its last rail operations in 1966 with subsequent traffic going by road. Additionally a sand quarry at Saintoft to the north-west of Pickering shared the rail link, reaching New Bridge by a 2 foot gauge tramway that closed in 1961.
Pickering Quarries were sited east of the branch, north of the castle and around the halfway mark between the station and New Bridge Crossing, The site included lime kilns and a siding (shown on Ordnance Survey maps as a tramway) led south to the branch. The 1898 NER document shows use by J Dobson, the junction with the branch was controlled by the Pickering Limestone Quarry signal cabin, closed possibly around 1898.
Mount Terrace Quarry was located east of the branch, a little north of the castle. A siding led south-west to the High Mill signal cabin, joining the branch just south of the cabin. The siding is not indicated on post-1912 O.S. maps, so it is safe to assume the quarry closed before then.
Windle Bone Mill to the south of the coal depot was linked to the south of Pickering Station by sidings used by A Robertson.
Pickering Gas Works, built by the Y&NMR in 1847 for station lighting was originally sited west of the line to Rillington between Hungate and Bridge Street. It was served by sidings south of Bridge Street crossing. Spare capacity was sold to the town. The NER sold the works to the Pickering Gas & Water Co. around 1877. The works were de-commissioned when the second site opened before 1892, as the building saw use after that as a grain warehouse. The second gas works was sited between Pickering Beck and the line to Rillington Jct., approximately on the level with the current recreation ground. It was built by the Pickering Gas Co. and linked by rail for coal supplies. The works closed after Pickering's gas supply was linked to the North Sea supply around 1961. When the NYMR assumed control of Pickering Station gas was still supplied for lighting.
A visitor attraction well worth coming to... and returning
Station Masters from 1921:
- J F Bowling, appointed 1921, ret. 1923;
- J R Stamp, appointed 1924, moved 1927 as SM to Ely (East Anglia);
- R B Temple, appointed 1928, moved as SM 1931 to Hatfield (Doncaster);
- E Tindall, appointed 1931, ret. 1947;
- M W Heseltine, appointed 1947, moved 1953 as SM to Keighley;
- L Hobson, moved 1959 from SM Pickering to SM Louth (Lincs);
- J D Stebbings, appointed 1959, moved to South Bank (Teesside) as Traffic Agent 1962;
- E Riggott, appointed 1962, may have been re-allocated 1965 when passenger services ended early 1965
Before Grouping in 1923 when the NER was merged with other east coast English and Scottish companies Station Masters would have transferred within the region, after which transfers were made further afield (Ely, ex-GER, Hatfield, ex-GNR). After Nationalisation in 1948 transfers could be made outside former LNER territory (Keighley was erstwhile LMSR territory, moved in the wake of mid-1950s British Railways' regional boundary changes to B.R. North Eastern Region).
Information from NYMR Archives
A concise guide to traffic and income on George Hudson's railway, planned in 1833, built by George Stephenson and opened throughout to Pickering by 1836. The background and historical information are a bonus in this survey. Before long a diversion was built south of Grosmont, to enable locomotive operated trains by way of Goathland instead of the rope worked incline from Beck Hole that proved hazardous. The rest is history, as they say. Let G W J Potter guide you through times of uncertainly and near bankruptcy until the North Eastern Railway stepped in and began a new era...
Further reading here on Hub-pages:
There are three other related pages about the railway route from Whitby to Pickering and the history of the line in the TRAVEL NORTH series you'd find on my profile page, and I'll save you the search by itemising them here:
13: RE-OPENED RAILWAYS, Halcyon Days...
53: WHITBY & PICKERING RAILWAY, Trials And Tribulations...
54: A BREATH OF NEW LIFE, (Early days of) The North York Moors Railway...
© 2017 Alan R Lancaster