Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,367 pages of information and 245,906 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway

From Graces Guide

The Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway (WRMU) was a short lived mineral railway line, running along the North east coast of England from the River Tees at Middlesbrough to the Esk at Whitby, where it met the Scarborough and Whitby Railway line and the Whitby-Pickering railway (now part of the Esk Valley Line). For much of its journey it hugged the cliffs. The aim of the promoters was a low-construction cost; the line had a troubled build due to the proximity to the sea and poor build quality of the construction on many of the original bridges and viaducts.

It was essentially created from two separate sections of railway - from Middlesbrough to Loftus and from Loftus to Whitby (West Cliff).

The Loftus to Middlesbrough section has a complex heritage in itself, being built in stages by the Cleveland Railway, the Middlesbrough and Guisborough Railway and the NER. The first section north of Loftus as far as Priescroft Junction, near Brotton was part of a route built to serve the rapidly developing Ironstone industry. The line ran via Nunthorpe (over what is now part of the Esk Valley Line), through Guisborough and on to Loftus with branches to various ironworks and mines along the way. North of this came the Saltburn Extension, opened to goods in 1872, and to passengers in 1875. Originally it had no stations, as its main purpose was for goods traffic, although North Skelton opened in 1902.

The line was authorised by an act of parliament in 1866; the engineer was Julian Horn Tolme; a majority of the construction was by John Dickson[1] from 1871 to 1873. Due to a lack of funds and problems with the original contractor work was suspended on the route until the North Eastern Railway took up the lease in 1875. John Waddell won the contract, and the line was scheduled to open on 13th July 1881, but due to the extra work required to bring it up to standard, it was two and a half years before the line was finally opened on the 3rd December 1883. Many of the bridges were defective and piers out of vertical. Even the original tunnels were so out of line with each other that when boring was done from each end they would not have met in the centre. Part of the proposed line was so dangerously close to the cliff edge that the NER abandoned it and took a route further inland through Sandsend and Kettleness tunnels. The completed section ran from Whitby to Loftus, where it met the NER Middlesbrough-Loftus route head on. From the beginning the line was run by the North Eastern Railway who held the lease and who were at that time also running services to Whitby along what is now the Esk Valley Line. The NER took over the line in 1899.

By 1958, British Railways claimed that £58,000 worth of maintenance was required to keep the line open (mainly on repairs to the viaducts). With dwindling passengers since the war years, the route was now only popular during summer weekends. The line closed on the 5th May 1958. Only Whitby West Cliff station remained open for another seven years, serving trains from Whitby to Scarborough until it too finally closed on the 6th March 1965. In 1960 work began to dismantle the line, viaducts were sold for scrap metal and concrete was used in the construction of the local sea defences. In the 1970s the northern section of the line was revived after ICI decided to sink Boulby mine for Potash, conveniently located next to the former route, just north of the village of Boulby in Redcar and Cleveland.

Trestle Viaducts

In 1873 The Engineer decribed a series of viaducts constructed to the designs of John Dixon by J. H. Tolme, on the line forming the connecting link between the North - Eastern system at Whitby and its southern extension to Lofthouse, in the Cleveland district. Its course was intersected by many deep ravines, and the bridge at Sta1thes had a length of nearly 700ft., and a height of 150ft. The viaduct over Newholme Beck had a maximum height of about 80ft. Pairs of lattice girders were surmounted by cross iron joists, supporting a timber platform 14ft. wide, on which the single line of rails was laid. It was, however, in the design of his piers that Mr. Dixon brought his experience to bear with the greatest success. 'Mr. Dixon constructs his piers of wrought iron plates, and fills them with cement concrete, which keeps the external skin in shape and dispenses with all internal stiffening. Wrought iron, we know, is more to be relied on than cast, and in localities to which the cost of transport is heavy the diminution of weight forms an important item. It is maintained by some that it is more liable to rust than is cast iron. On this point we are not so sure; but we regard this objection - if there be anything in it - as of little weight. A coat of paint or tar every few years, at a cost of a shilling or two a ton of iron, will effectually preserve it, and few items in the maintenance of a railway are 80 infinitesimal in their incidence as this. But to revert to these piers, the dead weight of a 60ft. span should not exceed 26 tons, and it woold not be practicable, with the heaviest of our railway stock, to cram 100 tona of moving load upon one, so that if for argument sake we take a maximum of 130 tons, and regard the compressive co-efficient of iron as five tons per sectional inch, we would require but 26in. of area in a pier; two 4in. bars would carry the whole load. A moment's consideration of this fact will show wh at an extravagant proportion of the iron generally used is employed to keep the rest in position and form. Mr. Brunlees has probably done as much as any of our engineers in the construction of economical bridges, and the piers of his viaducts on the San Paulo Railway are monuments of his success ; but on comparing his piers at from 50ft. to 150ft. high with similar piers on Mr. Dixon's system, the latter will be found to have the advantage in weight of iron many times over. ...'[2]

See here for an excellent account of Dixon's iron trestle bridges.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Northern Echo 19 September 1973
  2. The Engineer 1873/03/14