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Scarborough and Whitby Railway

Scarborough and Whitby Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Scarborough & Whitby Railway was a railway line from Scarborough to Whitby in North Yorkshire, England. The line followed a difficult but scenic route along the North Yorkshire coast.

The line opened in 1885. It closed in 1965 (see Beeching Axe).


  • History 1
    • Background 1.1
    • Construction and acquisition, 1872–1898 1.2
    • Operation, 1898–1965 1.3
    • Post-closure 1.4
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
    • Sources 3.1
    • Literature 3.2
  • External links 4



Before the line's construction, several schemes had been proposed that would have resulted in a line between Scarborough and Whitby: the Scarborough, Whitby, Stockton-on-Tees and Newcastle and North Junction Railway, from Stockton-on-Tees, via Guisborough to Whitby and then Scarborough was registered in 1845.[1][2][note 1] Another scheme, the Scarborough, Whitby and Staithes Railway, would connect to the Cleveland Railway near Skinningrove, connecting the towns of the Yorkshire coast, and of North Yorkshire; the line was opposed by the North Eastern Railway (NER), who were improving the Esk Valley Line, the line failed to be given assent in the 1864 session of Parliament.[4][note 2]

There were other lines promoted to connect along the north coast of Yorkshire between Scarborough and Whitby, including the Scarborough and Whitby Railway Company which issued a prospectus in late 1864.[5] The company placed a bill in parliament, aiming to raise £275,000 capital plus £91,600 in loans,[6] the bill was not opposed in parliament,[7] and was passed at the third reading in April 1865.[8] The line was to be 19¼ miles long, and pass Scalby, Burniston, Cloughton, Stainton-dale, Robin Hood's Bay and Hawsker between Scarborough and Whitby.[9] The line sanctioned by the 1865 act was not built due to lack of finance.[10][note 3]

In October 1865 the NER opened a line between Castleton and Grosmont completing a route between Scarborough, Whitby and the ports of the north-east via the North York Moors,[11] it had also completed improvement works in July, allowing express trains to travel between the two coastal towns in one and a half hours.[11] The NER ran twice-daily express trains over this route, but the service was not profitable, and was withdrawn.[10]

Construction and acquisition, 1872–1898

Efforts to construct a line restarted in 1870; a new route was proposed,[12] initial estimates of the cost of the line were approximately £100,000.[12][13] During the same period the Whitby Loftus line was being developed, which with the proposed line would complete the north-south link in the eastern part of the north of the country.[14]

The engineer, Mr. Birch proposed a line starting at Larpool Hall near Whitby, with a 1 in 40 gradient to a station at Hawsker, then stations at Bay Town (Robin Hood's Bay), near Fyling Hall, at Hayburn Wyke, then a station serving Cloughton and Burniston, then Scoresby, before terminating near West Parade in Scarborough. A branch line was proposed, from the start at Crowdy Hill in Whitby connecting to the river Esk, where a wharf would be built.[14]

An act allowing construction of the new line was passed on 29 June 1871.[15][note 3]

Construction of the line began on 4 May 1872.[17] The 20.5-mile (33.0 km) line was engineered by Sir Charles Fox and Son, and cost approximately £27,000 per mile. Included in the construction was a large 13-arch brick viaduct over the river Esk near Whitby (see Larpool Viaduct).[18]

The company needed further acts allowing it to raise extra capital for, and to extend the timescale of the construction, and to make connections with lines in Whitby and Scarborough.[19][20][21] In 1878/9 shortage of funds led to the possibility of the scheme being abandoned.[22]

The line was opened on 16 July 1885. The NER operated the line until 1898, when the company acquired the railway for £261,633, less than half its capital cost.[18]

Operation, 1898–1965

The line passed into the hands of the London and North Eastern Railway at the 1923 Grouping. At the southern end of the route, the goods yard at Gallows Close (north of Falsgrave tunnel) was expanded for use as a carriage yard in the busy summer months, with excursions routed via the overspill station at Scarborough Londesborough Road sent there for storage between turns. This practice continued after nationalisation of the railway system in 1948.

During its operational lifetime the Scarborough and Whitby line became notoriously impracticable and difficult to work. The junction layouts at both ends of the line (Prospect Hill in Whitby and Falsgrave in Scarborough) meant that trains had to reverse direction in order to gain access to the route. These movements, particularly in the days of steam, were time-consuming and disrupted the movement of other trains. This problem was especially acute at Scarborough, where Central station was extremely busy during the summer months. The route itself was steeply graded in both directions (1 in 39 being the steepest) and its location along the coast meant that the rails were often slippery due to rain and sea mists. This made driving conditions in bad weather extremely difficult and great skill was needed from the engine crews to prevent trains from stalling on the climbs.

Services were dieselised at the beginning of the 1960s. This did much to resolve the reversal issues at Whitby and Scarborough but even these new trains were found to struggle with the gradients and services were often disrupted when weather and sea conditions were poor. Increasing road competition and a consequent drop in passenger usage outside of the peak summer seasons ultimately led to the route being proposed for closure in the 1963 Beeching Report along with both of the others serving Whitby. A public outcry followed, but this was not enough to keep the line open and it closed to all traffic in March 1965.[22] [23]


Map of route and surrounding railways

The track was subsequently lifted in 1968, although speculation about a potential potash mine near Hawsker meant that the track from there to Whitby remained in place until 1972.

The line is now used as a bridleway for cycles, pedestrians and horses, known as the "Scarborough to Whitby Rail Trail", or "Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track".[24][25]


  1. ^ At the same time [3]
  2. ^ The Cleveland Railway was acquired by the NER in 1865.
  3. ^ a b The company established by the 1865 act was abandoned after the passing of the 1871 act.[16]


  1. ^ Tuck, Henry (1847), "List of companies Provisionally registered during 1845", The railway shareholder's manual; or, Practical guide to all the railways in the world, completed, in progress, and projected... (8 ed.), Effingham Wilson, p. 370 
  2. ^ "Digest of Railway Occurrences", The British and foreign railway review 1 (1) (2 ed.), Effingham Wilson, 16 October 1845, p. 58, Scarborough, Whitby, Stockton-upon-tees, And Newcastle And North Junction Railway Company.— Arrangements have been made for the construction of a Railway, from Scarborough, through, or near Whitby, Gisborough, &c. to Stockton-on-Tees, and by means of other Railways, to complete the chain on the northern coast of Yorkshire. 
  3. ^ "Scarborough and Newcastle Junction", Bradshaw's Railway gazette (William James Adams (London), Bradshaw and Blacklock (London)) 2, 1846: 143 
  4. ^ Tomlinson 1915, pp. 611, 613.
  5. ^ "Yorkshire Coast Railway", The Railway news 2, December 1864, p. 161 
  6. ^ "Railway Bills in Parliament (28 Jan 1865)", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 3, June 1865, p. 75 
  7. ^ "Unopposed Bills (25 Mar 1865)", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 3, June 1865, p. 303 
  8. ^ "Third Readings (8 Apr 1865)", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 3, June 1865, p. 349 
  9. ^ "New Projects", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 3, June 1865, p. 618 
  10. ^ a b "The North Midland District (17 Sep 1870)", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 14, December 1870, p. 313 
  11. ^ a b Tomlinson 1915, p. 620.
  12. ^ a b "Scarborough and Whitby Railway (10 Sep 1870)", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 14, December 1870, p. 303 
  13. ^ "The Scarborough and Whitby Railway", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 14, December 1870, pp. 474–5 
  14. ^ a b "The Whitby and Scarborough Railway – Important Meeting at Whitby (12 Nov 1870)", The Railway News and joint-stock journal 14, December 1870, pp. 572–4 
  15. ^ "Scarborough and Whitby Railway Company (RAIL 596)". The National Archives. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "Proposed Abandonment of the Scarborough and Whitby Railway (authorised to be constructed by the Scarborough and Whitby Railway Act, 1865)" (PDF), London Gazette, 21 April 1876: 2575 
  17. ^ Tomlinson 1915, p. 659.
  18. ^ a b Tomlinson 1915, p. 696.
  19. ^ Scarborough and Whitby Railway Act, 1873: An act to authorise the Scarborough and Whitby Railway to extend their line to join the North Eastern Railway at Scarborough; and the Whitby, Redcar, and Middlesbrough Union Railway near Whitby; to alter the levels of their authorised lines near Whitby; to raise additional capital; and for other purposes, 26 May 1873 
  20. ^ Scarborough and Whitby Railway Act, 1880: An act to revive the powers and extend the period for the compulsory purchase of lands and for the construction of the railways authorised by the Scarborough and Whitby Railway Acts 1871 and 1873 and for other purposes, 12 August 1880 
  21. ^ Scarborough and Whitby Railway Act, 1884: An act for empowering the Scarborough and Whitby Railway Company to raise additional capital and for other purposes, 3 July 1884 
  22. ^ a b  
  23. ^  
  24. ^ "The Cinder Track". Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  25. ^ "Scarborough to Whitby- Rail Trail (20 miles)". www, Retrieved 18 August 2012. 




  • Lidster, J. Robin (1977), The Scarborough & Whitby Railway: A Photographic & Historical Survey, Hendon Publishing Company 
  • "The Scarborough and Whitby Railway Company : Prospectus" (PDF), Victoria Times (Centre for Digital Library Research, University of Strathclyde), 1884 , share prospectus

External links

  • Dean, Frank. "A Sentimental Journey (Whitby – Scarborough)". Yorkshire Film Archive.  Film documenting the line at the time of closure (1963–8)
  • "Station Name: Cloughton". Disused Stations. Brief History of the Scarborough & Whitby Railway. 
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