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Travel North - 51: Pickering Round Trip, a Look Back Into the Town's Railway Past

Passage through time...

Lee Davies sees off a train for Grosmont - the Gresley carriage here (restored to running order by the LNER Carriage Association) is a reminder of earlier LNER years

Lee Davies sees off a train for Grosmont - the Gresley carriage here (restored to running order by the LNER Carriage Association) is a reminder of earlier LNER years

Pickering railways, 1914 map shows the routes south from the station. To the west was Helmsley; south was Rillington Junction for Malton and York; east was the Forge Valley line to Seamer and Scarborough

Pickering railways, 1914 map shows the routes south from the station. To the west was Helmsley; south was Rillington Junction for Malton and York; east was the Forge Valley line to Seamer and Scarborough

NER Class O, LNER/BR Class G5 0-4-4 tank locomotive 67273 allocated to Malton shed (50F) in 1950-59 approaches Pickering Station from the north

NER Class O, LNER/BR Class G5 0-4-4 tank locomotive 67273 allocated to Malton shed (50F) in 1950-59 approaches Pickering Station from the north

August 1833 - Tender notice for contractors to bid on the first section of the Whitby & Pickering Railway.

August 1833 - Tender notice for contractors to bid on the first section of the Whitby & Pickering Railway.

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...

The view north to Pickering's G T Andrews designed station with the overall roof that was taken down in 1952 and replaced with awnings. The overall roof was replaced 2011 by the NYMR to Andrews' original drawings

The view north to Pickering's G T Andrews designed station with the overall roof that was taken down in 1952 and replaced with awnings. The overall roof was replaced 2011 by the NYMR to Andrews' original drawings

A section of  original W&PR 'fish-belly' rail found at Pickering Station - this has been embedded within the station wall by the southern end of the rails at Pickering Station

A section of original W&PR 'fish-belly' rail found at Pickering Station - this has been embedded within the station wall by the southern end of the rails at Pickering Station

Mill Lane Junction, with Class G5 0-4-4 tank engine 67273 of Malton shed (50F)  bound for Gilling before 1953. The crossing keeper's cottage on the right is still there, a short way from a pair of railwaymen's cottages (left behind photographer)

Mill Lane Junction, with Class G5 0-4-4 tank engine 67273 of Malton shed (50F) bound for Gilling before 1953. The crossing keeper's cottage on the right is still there, a short way from a pair of railwaymen's cottages (left behind photographer)

Looking south at Mill Lane Jct., with the Forge Valley line lifted just past the junction. The line to Rillington Jct. is ahead (February, 1965)

Looking south at Mill Lane Jct., with the Forge Valley line lifted just past the junction. The line to Rillington Jct. is ahead (February, 1965)

The view south from Pickering Station - display board at the south end of the station shows the scenery as it was before closure early in 1965

The view south from Pickering Station - display board at the south end of the station shows the scenery as it was before closure early in 1965

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.

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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 ha