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Travel North - 54: Whitby & Pickering Railway, 1. Trials and Tribulations of Enterprise

Updated on April 19, 2019
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Travel back in time with Alan to the 'Railway Mania' that gripped Britain, when entrepreneurs and engineers got together to forge alliances

Trials And Tribulations Of Enterprise

Whitby Harbour, 1833, the scene of new enterprise on land also saw the demolition of the old harbour lift bridge by Messrs Craven who had the contract for a new one
Whitby Harbour, 1833, the scene of new enterprise on land also saw the demolition of the old harbour lift bridge by Messrs Craven who had the contract for a new one | Source
George Stephenson had been invited to give his insights on the prospects of a railway from Whitby to Pickering. His optimistic report was accepted enthusiastically by the town's dignitaries... He also chanced upon...
George Stephenson had been invited to give his insights on the prospects of a railway from Whitby to Pickering. His optimistic report was accepted enthusiastically by the town's dignitaries... He also chanced upon... | Source
George Hudson had visited Whitby to inspect his inheritance. A new future lay ahead for the two men who - despite a nearly two decade age difference - would form a firm friendship
George Hudson had visited Whitby to inspect his inheritance. A new future lay ahead for the two men who - despite a nearly two decade age difference - would form a firm friendship | Source

These days the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) is seen as a success story...

A venture that can trace its ancestry back well over a century-and-a-half. The NYMR as it is now is a 'Phoenix' that rose from the ashes of British Railways' closure early in 1965, a policy of closure pursued by a Transport Minister set on pillorying the railways in order to promote road haulage. Ernest Marples, the 'go-getter' appointed by fated PM Harold MacMillan - 'Supermac' - in the mid-1960s in turn appointed Dr Richard Beeching the then Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I) to cast his analytical eye over the sad economics of a chronically wasteful national railway system, British Railways, and 'cut away the dead wood'.

With its low passenger and goods carrying statistics the Whitby-Pickering branch between Grosmont and Pickering (along with the Whitby-Scarborough line) looked a prime target for Beeching's axe. And so it was, early in 1065 the branch ceased to operate. We now know the outcome of that story, that led to the re-opening of the line initially to a point south of Goathland known as Fen Bog, although at the time it was far from clear-cut. The perseverance of the society led to its establishment as a trust and an official opening in 1973 by the Duchess of Kent. The NYMR became a byword for success - fraught with difficulty even until fairly recently with the vagaries of the weather and the holidaying trends of the British public. Other preserved or re-opened railways have sought to emulate their fortunes.

However it was a close-run thing, that there was a Whitby & Pickering Railway to operate in the first place.

In 1834 the old coastal haven of Whitby witnessed an historical meeting. George Hudson arrived in the town, having inherited an uncle's wealth and property, to inspect aforementioned property as part of his legacy. He chanced on George Stephenson, on a visit regarding railway matters. In spite of an age difference of nineteen years they formed a friendship. The 'Railway Mania' was as yet in the future when a horse tramway was mooted in place of a planned canal from Whitby by way of Grosmont and Goathland to Pickering. The project would seem relatively insignificant to 'Owd George', who could count the Stockton & Darlington (S&DR) and Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) to his railway engineering credit. It had taken over forty years of cautious council talks before George Stephenson came onto the scene. The canal idea had been put forward as early as 1793, to extend from the tidal reach of the River Esk at Ruswarp to link with Pickering at an estimated £60,000. The scheme was not altogether abandoned until 1831, although five years would pass before a railway was embarked upon, to follow the alignment the canal was planned for. Its backers were influenced by the imminent renewal of the Act for a turnpike (fee-paid road) between the towns and the success of the S&DR for which Whitby's better-off inhabitants and traders had subscribed £8,500.

A provisional committee was formed after a meeting at the Angel Inn in Whitby, and George Stephenson was invited to give his opinion on building a simple line, on which horsepower only would be used. Stephenson declared optimistically that such a venture would pay for itself and amply reimburse the investors.

He put forward that the line would cost around £2,000 per mile, set against the foreseen sales of coal from County Durham to the north, of about £6,000 a year. Further estimated annual income of £7,200 would be gained if as a counter-weight working the railway carried lime for the reclamation of the 'barren tract' of Newton Dale beside the proposed route. The line would see an improvement of trade in Whitby's harbour, enabling Baltic and North American timber imports to reach Pickering and other inland townships for a significantly reduced cost, along with other important merchandise hitherto moved over poorly maintained moorland roads. Additionally the movement of freestone from Eskdale and hardwoods and agricultural products from the Pickering district would find new markets. The cost of whinstone from Egton Bridge and Goathland could reach the London markets at reduced cost.

Such an optimistic report could only have been received as enthusiastically at the meeting in the Angel Inn, Whitby on 12th September, 1832. A share register was opened and by the end of the month £30,000 was subscribed. The supporters felt confident enough of their cause to apply for an Act of Parliament - obtained without opposition on 6th May, 1833. Several interesting features were contained in the Act, such as the provision for the use of 'L'-shaped plate rails as well as a remarkable catalogue of tolls, materials to mend roads were to be levied at 'tuppence' (two pence) per ton per mile. Coal, lime, iron, bricks, potatoes and kelp at 'thruppence' (three pence); corn, flour, coke, cast iron, steel, timber and hay four pence; malt, meat, groceries, wool, fruit and vegetables at five pence; all other items were levied at a 'tanner' (six pence). Passengers would pay tuppence a mile and a surcharge of a 'bob' (shilling) per ton on on goods taken uphill to Goathland, but not downward on the incline from/to Beck Hole. Lawyers would have been in their element with this early legislation, as interestingly one section of the Act allowed the passage of locomotives whilst another forbade it.

A detailed survey of the route next went ahead.

From the site of an earlier shipyard in Whitby the route crossed the River Esk nine times before it reached Grosmont. A tunnel here took the route through the dale that led south to Goathland across the Murk Esk several times ('Dark Esk' on account of the rock silt and ironstone traces in its waters). Past Beck Hole the intention was to align the route past a waterfall, known locally as Mallyan Spout, and Wheeldale Lodge before taking the southward heading through a lengthy tunnel. The idea was forsaken in favour of a rope-worked incline to Goathland. The summit was reached at Fen Bog near the entrance to Newton Dale at an elevation of 500 feet above sea level, before taking a meandering route to Pickering via Levisham.

The contract was let in August, 1833, the first sod ceremonially cut on 10th September by Robert Campion, the appointed chairman of the railway company.

From early beginnings...

Whitby & Pickering Railway, the proposed route via Beck Hole and incline to Goathland
Whitby & Pickering Railway, the proposed route via Beck Hole and incline to Goathland
Local newspaper advertisements for travel on the Whitby & Pickering Railway
Local newspaper advertisements for travel on the Whitby & Pickering Railway
Grosmont - the first real obstruction saw contractors tackle the horse tunnel
Grosmont - the first real obstruction saw contractors tackle the horse tunnel
"Hailing the coach", from Tomlinson North Eastern Railway. Author was a youth when the W&PR began to operate - the scene is probably set at Levisham, with heights on either side of the line
"Hailing the coach", from Tomlinson North Eastern Railway. Author was a youth when the W&PR began to operate - the scene is probably set at Levisham, with heights on either side of the line | Source

Construction started at a rapid rate, considering the nature of the terrain and the lack of mechanical aids.

At Grosmont the tunnel mouth featured handsome castellations, 14 feet high and 10 feet wide.

Beyond here another major engineering feature was the inclined plane between Beck Hole and Goathland. At the head of the incline was the summit, beyond which was Fen Bog, a 20 foot deep obstacle left by the Ice Age when the ice receded (and left a long lake in Eskdale to the north).

Difficulties in traversing the treacherous Fen Bog were overcome under direction from George Stephenson, by 'pile-driving' great balks of Baltic pine with hammers said to weigh 141 lbs (pounds). Sheaves of heather bound in sheep fleeces, whole trees and hurdles bedecked with cut moss were invested in securing a firm trackbed foundation. Newton Dale itself provided the same natural challenge, said to present the whle way a succession of the most difficult terrain over which a railway had yet been built. The whole length was formed over broken and boggy ground on moorland stream beds, through mounds of stone left when the ice melted, and earth that had fallen away from cliffs and hillocks along the route.

The trackbed was laid with fish-belly rails 15 feet long and weighing 40 lbs to the yard. The rails rested in cast iron chairs set on stone blocks 24 inches square of at least 200 lbs. An interesting feature, never satisfactorily explained, was that the blocks were not laid at a right-angle to the rails but diagonally, to present the shareholders with a bill of £105,000 or £4,000 per mile.

May 15th, 1835 saw the directors take a trial run in the first class carriage 'Premier', as the work had progressed from Whitby to Whinstone Dyke south of Grosmont's short tunnel (the only tunnel on the line as it turned out). Aside from its flanged wheels the vehicle showed no signs of technical progress from the stage coaches that crossed the moors on the way north to Darlington. By 8th June it rn regularly except on Sundays from Whitby to the Tunnel Inn (still there and doing swift business during the season). Fares were 15/3d (fifteen shillings and three pence) inside, 1 shilling 'topside'. In the first three months 6,000 fares had been taken on the two daily trips, Monday to Friday, three on Saturdays. A second class coach entered service on 18th July, and provided a service for market people at 6d (sixpence). The company announced the availability of the coaches for (Sunday) hire by parties, and for 6d per person they could travel to Beck Hole by hiring an additional flanged-wheel coach. The line became the third in Yorkshire to carry passengers, preceded by the Newport (Middlesbrough) extension of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) opened 27th December, 1830, and the Leeds & Selby Railway on 22nd September, 1834. A coach also ran from Pickering to Raindale.

Something like 10,000 tons of stone traffic was carried in the first twelve months from mid-1835, from the Whitby Stone Company's quarries at Lease Rigg near Grosmont. The wagons were let down to the W&PR by a self-acting incline, to be shipped from Whitby to London. Additionally goods traffic would run before the official opening of the line on 26th May, 1836.

The day turned out to be one of the most colourful events in Whitby's history. Church bells started to peal from dawn, and by 7.30 am a large crowd had gathered outside the Angel Inn, from where the Whitby Brass Band led a procession to the station - sited near where the gas works was later built - and passengers were seated in carriages festooned with banners that bore the company crest. The horses were meanwhile led to the ringing of a bell. The guard and coachman of each vehicle wore a green card on his hat, that let everyone know which coach he rode on. The bell rang again for the horses to be hitched to their respective vehicles before the wheeled cavalcade set off at a brisk pace. Speed was regulated by the guards' flags - white for 'go', red for 'slow down' and blue for 'stop'. Red was not yet associated with 'danger'.

"Every part of the line where the public could have access to it", commented Thomas Clark, first railway treasurer, "or where a view of the railway could be obtained, was crowded with spectators to witness the departure of the carriages; many flags were exhibited, and the most hearty cheers were given and returned by the bystanders and passengers in the coaches".

After a stop at the Tunnel Inn the passengers expressed some anxiety about the ascent from Beck Hole. A contemporary account noted however that, "on the signal being given these carriages loaded with passengers glided up the steep ascent with a pleasing, rapid and easy pace". At the line summit the horses were detached, the carriages coupled together and ran down through Newton Dale by gravity at speeds of up to 30 mph. Fresh horses were attached again when the coaches glided to a halt on the level stretch of the line at Blansby Bank, four miles north of Pickering. Arrival at the market town was delayed ninety minutes due to the coach 'Lady Hilda' having to be abandoned after three derailments.

The crowd of 7,000 - some from as far afield as York and Scarborough - showed no signs of impatience and cheered as one when the carriages were sighted. Cannon fire punctuated the five bands' music, adding to the cacophony and a procession of three hundred left the station - sited some yards back across the road from the present one - for a dinner at the 'Black Swan', still there on the market place around the corner. As one observed, "the party sat down to a most excellent dejeuner a la fourchette (knife an fork tea in local language) for which during the preceding fortnight most formidable preparations in the way of 'good eatables' had been made".

.

Along the way...

W&PR bridge abutments on the original route from Grosmont to Beck Hole - the route is a National Park walkway and affords some pleasant views. A diversionary route can be taken by the energetic and sure-footed
W&PR bridge abutments on the original route from Grosmont to Beck Hole - the route is a National Park walkway and affords some pleasant views. A diversionary route can be taken by the energetic and sure-footed | Source
Somewhere to rest your bones on a warm day following the old W&PR trackbed? Try the Birch Hall Inn near the foot of the old incline, reached by a footpath that links the walk with the village
Somewhere to rest your bones on a warm day following the old W&PR trackbed? Try the Birch Hall Inn near the foot of the old incline, reached by a footpath that links the walk with the village | Source
Left your pint in the serving hatch? It's still there, look (honest folk around here)!.
Left your pint in the serving hatch? It's still there, look (honest folk around here)!. | Source
Plaque at Beck Hole marks the site of the original station, removed early in the 20th Century, at the foot pf the Goathland incline
Plaque at Beck Hole marks the site of the original station, removed early in the 20th Century, at the foot pf the Goathland incline | Source
This view of the incline shows how steep it was. The station was about where the house stands on the right - I imagine the bench is for those who run out of puff at an early stage. I've climbed it at least once and it's a challenge all right.
This view of the incline shows how steep it was. The station was about where the house stands on the right - I imagine the bench is for those who run out of puff at an early stage. I've climbed it at least once and it's a challenge all right. | Source

The odd ways of running a railway that puzzled the first passengers did much to warrant present-day interest in the W&PR

The most outstanding feature of the line then was the 1,500 yard-long incline, with a gut-wrenching gradient of 1:10 and looking like a grand avenue cut through woodland. You can get a feeling of the gradient by walking it even now.

Ascending coaches were hauled in just under five minutes after being attached to a thick (5.75 inches) hemp cable wound around a 10 foot diameter horizontal revolving drum at Bank Top (Incline Top) Station near the village of Goathland. It took time for trains to be put back together, and in winter many passengers kept warm by the quick dash around the corner to the village inn (now Goathland Hotel, featured as the 'Aidensfield Arms' in the TV series 'Heartbeat') for warm food and drink. In summer the landlord had a tent put up to sell cold refreshment to rail travellers. Descending/braking power came in the shape of a four ton water tank on wheels, topped up from two nearby reservoirs. At Beck Hole the water was emptied into the Murk Esk while a white flag or handkerchief was hung out for a nearby farmer to have his team of horses ready to haul the tank back to Incline Top. This rough-and-ready system was later replaced by a stationary steam engine, a van fitted with brake blocks that pressed on the rails before being attached to trains. Charles Dickens commented on travelling "by a quaint old railway along part of which the passengers were hauled by rope".

Despite the way the line was operated, its achievements were noteworthy. Whitby Harbour Commissioners felt obliged by the dramatic increase in trade to make some improvements to the port. Pickering would feel the effects of this transport revolution when cargoes of goods from London began to take only three days for delivery. Limestone was moved from Pickering to four large kilns built at Grosmont, and two firms were set up to bring sea-borne coal from Whitby to Pickering. Aside from Lease Rigg, stone was taken from other quarries in the Goathland district, drawn either to Incline Top or Beck Hole stations by teams of oxen. Along with stone from Portland, this stone has been reported as being used in the construction of Somerset House and Covent Garden. The W&PR also brought about the Cleveland ironstone industry, as in 1836 a partner of the Tyne Iron company recognised an outcrop of stone at Grosmont. With its convenient access to Whitby Harbour this was worked by the Whitby Stone Company.

Passengers

From when operations began passenger traffic burgeoned. In July 1836 3,903 passengers were carried, and by the next month the total had reached 4,200. During a six month period in 1837 the numbers of passengers over the line rose by 8,000 on the previous half year. However, despite these optimistic figures the railway came into financial difficulties. From the start underestimation of construction and operating costs was the root cause of the Board's worries. A meeting held near the end of 1836 was informed of the debt being £13,000. On 5th May, 1837 an Act was called for to raise further £30,000 capital. A later calculation revealed that a shipment of just 120 tons of ironstone from Grosmont to Whitby called for twenty horses in the charge of ten men - hardly economic. Despite this parlous state of affairs the W&PR was stuck in a mire of isolation, coaches rattling along the track, seemingly undisturbed by external events southward beyond Pickering or westward beyond Grosmont. As early as 1834 George Stephenson had surveyed two other potential routes from Pickering - one by way of Malton, the other by Easingwold on the eastern flank of the Vale of York south-east of Thirsk - but nothing came of them.

Beyond Pickering - what?

George Hudson became worried that the W&PR would be left out on a limb, and because of this could cease to be a success. As Chairman of the York & North Midland Railway (Y&NMR) in 1840 he cajoled the shareholders of the company to release £500 of profits to survey possible alternatives from York to Scarborough and Pickering. The directors of the W&PR had originally considered amalgamation northward with the S&DR, and now opted for the more achievable and less challenging link to the Y&NMR when it obtained its Act for the lines on 4th July, 1844. The purchase price of £80,000 was agreed - £25,000 less than the cost of construction - but by then the prospects for the W&PR on its own had sunk to a new lw. During the nine months it paid a paltry £1 19s 6d in passenger duty to the Exchequer (HM Treasury), the lowest of any railway in the country, representing an income of only £1 a week in passenger receipts. Things were about to improve, however, when an Act was endorsed on 30th June, 1845, that authorised the Y&NMR to buy the line in its entirety and rebuild it suitable for locomotive haulage. Heavier rails were laid, the line doubled to take increased levels of traffic, a stone bridge built across the steep-sided Murk Esk behind Grosmont, a twin bore tunnel to replace the single bore for horse-drawn traffic at Grosmont again, and five iron bridges built eastward across the Esk to Whitby.

Deviations were laid in southward beyond the Grosmont tunnel to ease the curves, and new station buildings were built under the auspices of George Hudson's friend , the railway architect George Townsend Andrews at intermediate stations and crossings. The dangerous hemp rope was replaced by a steel hawser for as long as the incline continued in use. After 7th July, 1845 steam motive power was seen at the furthest southern end of the line, with the Y&NMR's line from Rillington Junction being extended to Pickering. By August, 1846 steam could be seen as far north as Raindale, although whole line steam operation to Whitby would not be witnessed until 1st July, 1847 in the form of a 2-2-0 tender locomotive. Locomotive sheds were erected at Beck Hole, as through working was near impossible due to the incline.

The line began to prosper with the extension of quarrying around Goathland and more importantly the growth of Cleveland's iron industry saw iron works built at Beck Hole in 1859, with housing for 180 workers. However, due to disasters such as the collapse of mining and furnace output production was halted after a mere two years. Grosmont's iron works proved more successful. Opened around 1863 they continued to blast until 1891. At the height of productivity they provided employment for four standard gauge shunters and crews, including a vertical boilered locomotive. By this time the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway had extended beyond Glaisdale to the west, and traffic was possible from that direction through the works to the Whitby side via an embankment over the road to Egton Bridge.

Yet even rebuilt the railway kept some sharp curves. A common joke went about, that driver and guard on a train could shake hands at some points of the route - even that churns of milk from Whitby contained butter on arrival at Pickering! Curves at Fen Bog were the cause of a derailment on 6th August, 1859 when a whole train plunged into the bog, brought about by the hot sun buckling the rails. Driver and fireman were pulled out by passengers from what could have been a sticky end.

This was the first of three serious mishaps that befell the line. On 12th October, 1861 the incline cable unravelled and broke on drawing a mineral train from the Grosmont direction to Incline Top. The guard leapt to safety but the wagons hurtled down the gradient at speed and smashed into a goods train that had just arrived from Whitby. Luckily there were no fatalities... this time.

Unlike when on 10th February, 1864 the last passenger train for Whitby had been lowered about 150 yards from Goathland when the cable snapped. On this frosty night guard Joseph Sedman bravely stayed in his van, hoping to steady the downward speed of the coaches. The rails were too icy for the brakes to grip properly and the coaches overturned at the bottom, killing two salesmen and injuring thirteen other passengers. The irony was that measures were in hand at the time of the runaways, to end what had become a dangerous bottleneck as well as the cause of at least one very smelly incident. This was the fish train, laden with freshly landed herrings, that left the rails and left a definite fishy odour in the air for weeks afterward.

Transport - of people and freight

Seen at the Old School Coffee Shop near Grosmont Station, a picture of one of the first/second class horse-drawn carriages
Seen at the Old School Coffee Shop near Grosmont Station, a picture of one of the first/second class horse-drawn carriages | Source
Similar transport for 3rd Class passengers would be seen on the W&PR
Similar transport for 3rd Class passengers would be seen on the W&PR | Source
Teams of Shire horses would be seen hauling freight on the W&PR - an expensive proposition in the long run, with the need for wagon drivers and large teams of horses
Teams of Shire horses would be seen hauling freight on the W&PR - an expensive proposition in the long run, with the need for wagon drivers and large teams of horses
A wagonway like this would be the scene in freight yards, where coal and stone was moved on the line in chaldron wagons
A wagonway like this would be the scene in freight yards, where coal and stone was moved on the line in chaldron wagons

Deviation and onward...

On 11th July, 1861 the North Eastern Railway - formed seven years earlier through the amalgamation of the Y&NMR with two other northern railway companies* - acquired an Act to build a deviation four and a half miles in length from south of the tunnel at Grosmont to make a connection with the original route north of Fen Bog.

Construction was not easy, at over £50,000 with two farmsteads flattened and rebuilt nearby, seven bridges built over the Murk Esk - one an impressive structure on twin stone pillars, another skewed - and most demanding was a half mile cutting. Huge boulders had to be blasted away, 'erratics' left by the Ice Age. Subsequent rock falls became so frequent watchmen were needed to patrol that stretch of the line between 10 pm and 6 am. These technical problems brought about a strained seventeen months between the incline fatalities and the circumvention of the incline by an easier incline grade of 1:49 on 1st July, 1865.

The abandonment of the halts at Beck Hole and Incline Top was offset by a new station built three miles south of Grosmont on the new alignment below Goathland, where the moor road turned sharp right, then sharp left again before crossing a new stone bridge and climbing steeply away towards the Pickering-Whitby road on a bend. The new station was named Goathland Mill, soon a hive of activity when the landowners, the Duchy of Lancaster, permitted the building of a tramway from the station yard to stone quarries at Silhowe, one of the highest points in the vicinity. This tramway was worked partly by horses and by gravity. after around thirty years' quarrying whinstone mining took over.

Whitby's earlier isolation was further curtailed when a railway along the Esk - originally put forward as far back as 1820 - came into being in 1865, when the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway extended its branch from Castleton east to Grosmont. It joined branches already in existence to link up with Middlesbrough by way of Ingleby Junction, later renamed Battersby Junction (and then plain Battersby), and Great Ayton as well as through Picton Junction to link up with Stockton-on-Tees.

Ten years on Pickering found itself at the meeting point between three railway routes. Aside from the line that linked Pickering with York via Malton, there were now also the Forge Valley branch east to Scarborough and west to Kirkbymoorside, Helmsley and Gilling. An outlet at Sun Beck near Gilling would join the East Coast Main Line - as the former York Newcastle & Berwick Railway route became part of - at the short-lived Pilmoor station. From Gilling the line followed the western contours of Ryedale to Malton over a reverse junction from the Market Weighton branch.

Bigger fish...

York & North Midland Railway competed with the Midland Railway and Great Northern Railway south of York. Northward was the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway, to the west was the Leeds & Thirsk (later Leeds Northern) until amalgamation formed the NER
York & North Midland Railway competed with the Midland Railway and Great Northern Railway south of York. Northward was the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway, to the west was the Leeds & Thirsk (later Leeds Northern) until amalgamation formed the NER | Source

Change in the air...

The rails of the initial route left unintentionally in place became a tourist haunt. Temporary structures helped re-open Beck Hole's abandoned station on 1st July, 1908. Only the outbreak of war in August, 1914 brought operations on this lucrative route to a close on 21st September that year. It would never re-open.

Another victim of wartime stringency was the four mile section of railway between New Bridge level crossing and Levisham Station. The double track here became singled as the second stretch of track was lifted and loaded onto a ship bound for the Western Front in France for use by the Royal Engineers. The ship was torpedoed and the rails never replaced.

Following WWI there was little change, but for the sizeable North Eastern Railway being absorbed into the newly formed London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923. The 'Grouping' would herald numerous changes, not least in the form of motive power from other areas and new classes being introduced by a new motive power supremo. One such new class of locomotive, designed by Chief Mechanical Engineer (Herbert) Nigel Gresley was the Darlington-built D49 'Shire'. A later derivation would be the D49/2 'Hunt', named after hunt packs in the LNER area. Several were allocated to Whitby, Scarborough and Malton. Freight locomotives of the erstwhile Hull & Barnsley Railway (amalgamated with the NER in 1922) were drafted into the area as Gresley's 'horses for courses' policy, which drew the ex Great Central Railway class A5 4-6-2 tank in large numbers to the hilly coastal and inland routes. A result of this influx would be the rebuilding of NER Locomotive Superintendent Vincent Raven's side tank class H1 4-4-4 to a more useful 4-6-2 with smaller radius coupled wheels that improved adhesion on the tough gradients.

Most importantly, along with Scarborough, Whitby gained in importance as a commercial and tourist hub. Whitby was recovering from the collapse of a successful jet extraction industry when help came in the shape of 'Wakes Weeks' traffic from the industrial West Riding - Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield amongst others - to bring newcomers who would crowd Whitby's boarding houses during the summer months. Whole mills and factories closed for a fortnight at a time and West Riding city streets emptied briefly.

There were some day-trippers from the West Riding and closer to home. Industrial Teesside was brought closer by the opening of lines from Stockton and now also from Middlesbrough by way of Guisborough and Loftus near the coast. Tours came to Whitby for lunch, on to Scarborough for tea-time and home by way of Seamer and Malton. Eight coach trains packed with passengers enjoyed a Saturday off with feasting and scenery. The next break in Whitby's fortunes came when war was declared - yet again - although a post-War honeymoon brought by 'Holidays with pay' in the aftermath of social change would be short-lived with the advent of car ownership. Competition came also from nationally owned bus company coach trips and road transport hauliers took on the railways' goods services with direct deliveries.

When in the late 1960s holidaymakers forsook seaside holidays for cut-price flights abroad Whitby's halcyon days seemed well and truly over. The changes also bit into seaside holiday tradesmen's pockets. However all was not as dark as it looked. Nationalisation of the railways had brought a new influx of locomotive and passenger rolling stock as well as goods and freight vehicles. Ex-London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMSR) Fairburn, Fowler and Stanier tank locomotives were allocated to seaside motive power depots, and Class 5 ('Black Five') as well as Patriot and Jubilee 4-6-0 tender classes brought a new influx of workers from the West Riding in an 'Indian summer' for the railways. It was still quicker to leave the car at home and let someone else do the driving... until the package holiday scene bit into trade, as i've indicated.

Innovations in local services included Monday Market specials from Pickering to Summit signal cabin to enable the womenfolk of Newton Dale to join in the hubbub of the outside world. A working timetable showed the trains as stopping at 'Farworth' (Farwath), 'Roundale' (Raindale?), Bridge No. 60 and Newton Dale to set down railwaymen's families. Railwaymen who lived around here devised their own way to 'post' letters. A sapling willow or hazel was bent into a bow shape, into which a slit was cut where envelopes were pushed in. The bow was held up - in the same way as signalmen's tokens or staffs - for engine crews to slip their arms in and gather up the 'mail' to hand to the guard at Pickering for onward processing.

Whitby had changed since the two Georges first met. There was a new station...

Whitby Town station lost its overall roof in the early 1950s - it looked similar to the one at Pickering,  both designed by George Hudson's friend and architect George Townsend Andrews
Whitby Town station lost its overall roof in the early 1950s - it looked similar to the one at Pickering, both designed by George Hudson's friend and architect George Townsend Andrews | Source
A Metro Cammell diesel multiple unit - d.m.u - leaves Whitby Town station in the late 1950s (the cab front still bore the original 'speed whiskers', replaced by a yellow warning panel in the 1960s)
A Metro Cammell diesel multiple unit - d.m.u - leaves Whitby Town station in the late 1950s (the cab front still bore the original 'speed whiskers', replaced by a yellow warning panel in the 1960s) | Source
On the last day of operation for both the Whitby & Scarborough and Grosmont-Pickering services, K1 62005 stands at Whitby Town Station whilst K4 3442 'The Great Marquess' waits at the station throat to take the Whitby Moors Tour on to York
On the last day of operation for both the Whitby & Scarborough and Grosmont-Pickering services, K1 62005 stands at Whitby Town Station whilst K4 3442 'The Great Marquess' waits at the station throat to take the Whitby Moors Tour on to York | Source

Closures... and re-emergence of one 'player' in the Whitby area...

The first closures in the Whitby area came in the 1950s with the closure of the Forge Valley line, and the link west to Kirkbymoorside.

On the night of one of the worst storms to hit Britain, 31st January, 1953 saw the last train that linked Pickering to Kirkbymoorside for services to Helmsley and beyond. The Forge Valley link to Scarborough had already fallen victim to the 'axe' two years and six months earlier on 5th June, 1950. A 'breather' temporarily stayed execution of the Pickering-Grosmont line from 1958 (the year Whitby lost its link to Teesside along the coast from West Cliff station). Although the diesel multiple units, or d,m.u's, were packed in the summer from May to September, and during term time on two services daily, there were noticeably empty trains the rest of the year.- as were they also from Whitby to Scarborough via Robin hood's Bay.

The knives were out when PM Harold MacMillan's Transport Minster Ernest Marples appointed I.C.I chairman Dr Richard Beeching to 'wield the axe on the deadwood' of Britain's unprofitable railways. The shock came for Whitby when the announcements were made on the service cuts. Proposals that threatened to push Whitby's fortunes back nearly a century and a half to what they were before the two Georges met. Although the coastal service to Scarborough and inland route to Pickering felt the axe the Whitby-Battersby-Middlesbrough link was given a stay of execution.

The route south from Grosmont looked set to wither on the vine - however...

See also

TRAVEL NORTH - 13: RE-OPENED RAILWAYS - Halcyon Days... and

TRAVEL NORTH - 54: A BREATH OF NEW LIFE, NYMR Re-opens Grosmont-Pickering Link .

Pickering in the last years of British Railways' ownership...

Early to mid-1950s: Class G5 67273 0-4-4 tank locomotive, allocated to Malton m.p.d (50F)  takes a short passenger working (possibly homeward bound shuttle service) southward out of Pickering Station
Early to mid-1950s: Class G5 67273 0-4-4 tank locomotive, allocated to Malton m.p.d (50F) takes a short passenger working (possibly homeward bound shuttle service) southward out of Pickering Station | Source
Around the same time, Pickering Station retained its overall roof until the early 1950s, when it was replaced by canopies over up and (partly) down platforms. The overall roof has since been replaced here by the NYMR.
Around the same time, Pickering Station retained its overall roof until the early 1950s, when it was replaced by canopies over up and (partly) down platforms. The overall roof has since been replaced here by the NYMR. | Source
In the latter days of British Railways there were never this many on the platforms at Pickering, although this is better than the state British Railways left the station in 1965. This is 2010, the year before the overall roof was restored (6.4.2011).
In the latter days of British Railways there were never this many on the platforms at Pickering, although this is better than the state British Railways left the station in 1965. This is 2010, the year before the overall roof was restored (6.4.2011). | Source

© 2018 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

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

      She didn't need to use the line to get to school then, Liz. Still, it's as exciting in its way to stay in Whitby. I stayed one night on West Cliff - where Bram Stoker stayed when he first wrote 'Dracula' as a play before changing to book format - when I walked the route of the Whitby & Scarborough Railway (1888-1965). Unfortunately Larpool Viaduct wasn't walkable then, so I had to go round the harbour, over the bridge and up the Sleights road to join the route before Hawsker. Had to come off it there because it's private property. Rejoined and walked through R H Bay station, round to Fyling Thorpe and past the site of the brickworks to Ravenscar ('Peak'), on past Hayburn Wyke (no sign of the platforms) and Staintondale where the station clock sat on the curved platform, otherwise not much change but age. On to Cloughton - closed to public - and Scalby, where the station's been demolished. Finally into Scarborough, where Gallows Close sidings were. Falsgrave Tunnel's impassible, so up to street level and on to the Central Hotel where I was staying for a get-together (the co-owner was a girl who was on the commercial art course with me. She came from near Richmond and travelled by train from Darlington-York, York-Scarborough on George Hudson's line (former York & North Midland Railway).

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      11 months ago from UK

      My mother came from York, but was sent as a boarder to a school in Whitby.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

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

      Where did your Ma travel from to Whitby, or did she live in Whitby? The Esk Valley line was kept open (despite Beeching) because there were no direct bus services from most of the villages down to Castleton (and that line is covered in another series on the erstwhile North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway: TRAVEL NORTH - 46-47; then 48-49: THE MINE LINE takes you onto the Rosedale Railway from Battersby. Before them comes a trio of pages on TRAVEL NORTH - 38-40: GUISBOROUGH CIRCULAR. My own local system was the Cleveland Railway that ran from Cargo Fleet to Normanby where it split for Eston (going west) and Upsall (going south and east), leading up to Barnaby Moor and is covered in TRAVEL NORTH - WALK THE MOOR, that tells of the ironstone mining around Eston-Guisborough.

      Enjoy

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      11 months ago from UK

      My mother went to school in Whitby and I have a recollection of being taken on the North Yorks Moors railway as a child, when visiting my grandfather.

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