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British Industrial History

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Whitby and Pickering Railway

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With the success of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (which had a number of Whitby backers) attention switched to the possibility of a railway from Whitby to either Stockton or Pickering, many pamphlets being issued for or against the various proposal; copies of some of them can be found in the library of the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society.

Finally in 1832 it was decided to ask George Stephenson to report on the rival routes. Stephenson's report was in favour of a horse worked railway to Pickering and his conclusion was accepted at a meeting held in Whitby on 14 September 1832. A committee was formed to start things moving and the Whitby & Pickering Railway bill received the royal assent on 6 May 1833.

The directors of the Whitby and Pickering Railway Company (W&P) mainly came from Whitby or the immediate area and represented a fair cross section of the business community, including bankers, solicitors, shipbuilders and ship owners. The shareholders came from a wider area, some from as far away as London but those from the immediate area predominated.

There was always an intention to link the W&P to York and beyond; a meeting held in York in 1834 to further the proposed railway from York to Leeds was attended by a W&P delegation accompanied by their Engineer, George Stephenson, to lobby for a link to Pickering. This meeting may have been the occasion of the first meeting of those two great railway giants George Stephenson and George Hudson and borne fruit in many other directions, even though the York to Leeds line did not appear for some years.

The Whitby & Pickering Railway (W&P), was one of the first railways in Yorkshire, when it opening throughout in 1836 as a single track horse worked railway.It was opened from Whitby to Grosmont on May 15th, 1835 and thence to Pickering on May 26th, 1836. Except fro a self-acting incline north of Goathland, it was worked by horses until 1847, when the road was remodelled and made suitable for locomotive traction.[1]

The railway's Engineer (George Stephenson) solved the problem of ascending from the valley of the Murk Esk at Beckhole to the high moors at Goathland by means of a 1,500 yard long rope worked incline at an average gradient of 1 in 15. He crossed Fen Bog, near the summit of the line, using the same method (hurdles and fascines) that he had previously used to cross Chat Moss on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

The track consisted of wrought iron fish-bellied rails in 15ft lengths with five 'bellies' to each length. Cast Iron chair supported the rail between each 'belly', special double chairs supported the joints between lengths of rail. The chairs were fastened to locally quarried stone blocks using iron pins. A length of original track is displayed at Pickering Station.

The W&P obtained materials by tender and suppliers were from many parts of the country; the rails, chairs and pins (which were in short supply at the time, partly due to heavy demand) were obtained from a number of well-known suppliers including:

These supplies largely travelled by water. The surviving W&P minute books (in the National Archives) show that those from the Midlands travelled by narrow boat to Gainsborough, where they were transshipped to coasters for forwarding to Whitby, others travelled by boat to Malton (on the Derwent Navigation) and were then forwarded to Pickering by ox-cart.

Although the W&P had been promoted for its goods carrying capabilities (including coal, stone, timber and limestone), it was intended to carry passengers from the start and three coaches were obtained from Beeston and Melling of Manchester which were basically Stage coaches adopted for use on a railway, in addition a number of cheaper open ‘market coaches’ were obtained, probably locally. The first class coaches were named Premier and Transit.

The W&P was never a particularly well off company and the directors were anxious to start carrying passengers and goods at the earliest opportunity. So on Monday 8 June 1835 the line between Whitby and the Tunnel Inn (now Grosmont) was opened, and the Companies First Class Coach 'Premier' left Whitby at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, returning about 8 o'clock. They subsequently ran two return journeys per day (except on Sundays).

In early July 1835, for Ruswarp Fair the company provided a special coach that ran sixteen trips during the day (presumably from Whitby), this proved very popular some passengers travelling repeatedly because of the novelty.

With the opening of the whole line on 26 May 1836 the W&P operated a regular passenger service, which connected at Pickering with the stagecoach to York and thus the rest of the developing railway network. This connection was of practical use; there is a recorded instance of a ship from the Baltic docking at Whitby and its captain finding orders awaiting him to proceed to Liverpool. He took the W&P coach to Pickering connecting to York where he boarded a train for Manchester (connecting by coach over the incomplete part of the Leeds and Manchester Railway) and completed his journey to Liverpool by train – the whole journey only took hours, whereas it could have taken many days only a few years earlier.

With the absorption of the W&P into the York and North Midland Railway in 1845 and thus into George Hudson's growing empire, the railway was rebuilt as a double track steam worked railway and connected to the Y&NM's York to Scarborough line then being built at Rillington junction. Through rail journeys became possible from Whitby to the industrial districts of the West Riding, Hull, Manchester, Liverpool and to the capital, London, amongst many other destinations. In the opposite direction Whitby became accessible for day-trippers and holidaymakers. To encourage this traffic George Hudson formed a company to develop the West cliff area of Whitby, building roads and some hotels before work stopped at Hudson's downfall in 1849. With a connected national rail network the Royal Mail soon started using the railways to carry the mails. The first train from York to Whitby each morning was the mail train, a train that continued running for the best part of one hundred and twenty years.

The York and North Midland Railway was one of the three railways that formed the North Eastern Railway in 1854.

In 1923 the North Eastern Railway was absorbed into the London and North Eastern Railway as part of the grouping of the railways

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1924/10/31