Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Eastern - Whitby review 1

3/10/08 Middlesbrough to Whitby

Cost of ticket £16.00 (Tyne/Tees Day Ranger)

Dept Middlesbrough: 10.38   Arrive Whitby: 12.05

Journey time:  1 hour 27 mins

Distance:  35 miles     Weather: Rainy/cloudy

Train type: Class 142 Pacer 2-car DMU (single track all the way)

Railway company: Northern

Frequency of trains: one every two hours

We leave Middlesbrough station on time from platform 1, the train having been stabled just outside the station to the west. We pass Middlesbrough's Riverside stadium on left as we turn off the Saltburn line and go southeastwards. Most of the land is wasteland, with some factories, though on right we pass a golf course. Then we pass bigger houses on right and a hospital before coming to a stop at Marton station, which has a single platform with not even a shelter. As we leave, there are fields on the left from the Ormesby Hall estate and quite many trees on the right as part of Stewart Park. We then go over A174 as the train strains to go uphill at a slow 40 mph. We then slow again and stop at Gypsy Lane station, which has a dark blue bus shelter. The train then takes the strain again as we continue to go uphill. The track becomes double as we pull into Nunthorpe station, which has two platforms. There is a large red brick station building and a signal box, where our driver pauses to get the token, before we go back onto single track once more. We pass some new houses on the right, and then we are out into the countryside. We see our first sight of North Yorkshire moors on the right with a rather jagged peak, which we pass close by on the left. The fields have had wheat in them and several bales are still lying there. We curve to the right now and speed up to about 50 mph. It is starting to get more hilly now with steeper slopes and cattle grazing on both sides. We go into our first cutting of the day and then emerge at Great Ayton station, a small hamlet, with a brick shelter on its single platform. Five people actually get on. We go on into a low cutting and slow down almost to a stop as we go through a small wood. We start climbing again and speed up to about 50 mph on non-welded rails, which makes for a bumpy ride. We are on an embankment now and getting closer to the hills ahead of us. We curve to the right now as we descend slightly, going south. We are joined by a single track on the left from Whitby as we pull into Battersby station where we reverse. It has a single platform with a turquoise coloured shelter. The driver gets out and comes to other end of the train and then we go back out of the station and start going north with the moors on our right now. We start to climb again, curving to the right and pass a field of sweet corn on the right. Then we come into a cutting before stopping at Kildale station, which has a single platform just beyond the cutting. It has a blue metal shelter and is busy today as several Network rail workmen are working on the footbridge over the station. Again it's another hamlet and we are immediately into open fields again. There are plenty of trees on the steeper slopes now and these thicken up to be woods. Sheep are grazing on the left and I see a couple of pheasants on the right as we speed up again. There is much gorse in the fields now as we come onto the moors proper. The slopes aren't as high as the Lake District but there is similar scenery without the mountains. In fact this is the highest that we go - 582 feet above sea level. We start descending now and then stop at Commondale station, which has a red brick shelter and only a couple of houses. No one gets on or off. There is a stream below us on the right, which is actually the early stages of the river Esk, which we will cross many times before we reach Whitby. It is still a very barren landscape, but as we start to descend we pass more sheep on both sides and then come to a stop at Castleton Moor station. There are a lot more houses here, which you can see on the slope on the right and five passengers are actually waiting to get on. It has a nice stationmaster's house made of the local Yorkshire stone, though it is now a private dwelling. For the first time I see some horses in the field to my right and we are reach 40 mph, before we have to stop again at Danby station. This village also has a few houses in and around the station. There is another large station building here, which is also a private house, plus there is a nice wooden turquoise shed for a shelter, which contains a public telephone.  Four ramblers get on here, a sign of this line's usefulness to walkers. It now starts pouring down as the hills get further apart and the stream starts to become wider and meanders more across a flood plain. The line seems more level now and we are going at a steady 40 mph. The sun comes out and there is blue sky for the first time today. We go into another cutting and then stop at Leaholm station, which again has some houses on a hill overlooking the station. It has another large privately owned station house and there are the remains of the opposite platform to be seen opposite. The scenery looks quite pleasant now the sun is out and it is very green. We still have the river next to us on the right, but every now and then it cuts below us and onto the other side of the track. We slow once more as we come into Glaisdale station. The track is double here, with two platforms and two station buildings. Plus there is a turquoise wooden shelter and a boarded up signal box. We are scheduled to stop here for three minutes, though not for a train in the opposite direction. We cross over the river Esk again, which is now fast flowing with rocks and rapids. We cross a large cantilever bridge as we go through more woods and across another bridge. We get a nice view along the valley on the right, before entering another cutting. We then stop at Egton station, which has the same design of station house and this time there is a glass shelter painted in turquoise here. There is also a nice row of terraced railway cottages on left. We pass fields once again, though it is still quite hilly, with cows grazing on the left, but we are starting to descend now. We enter another cutting and then slow as we cross the river Esk again and come into Grosmont station, which is connected to the North York Moors line on a separate platform. No steam trains are to be seen today, but there are plenty of old carriages stored here. We continue through a wooded valley, crossing the river Esk four times more, before coming out into a wider valley. There are two more crossings and we pass a large house on the hill on the right. We then go under the A169 and then reach Sleights station. No one gets on or off. It has a lovely yellow brick station building, spoilt by a small shelter next to it. There are quite a few houses on the slope on the left, many with bright orange roofs. The hills start to fade now as we continue to go east towards Whitby. There are still plenty of sheep to be seen and the river straightens out now. A few industrial units appear and plenty of houses as we cross the Esk once more and arrive at Ruswarp station, our final station before Whitby. It has a newish looking platform with no shelter. There is a long red brick viaduct on the right, which we go under as we hug the left hand bank of the Esk. This used to carry the railway line from Scarborough to Whitby but was closed in 1968. There is another modern road bridge to pass under and lots of houses on the opposite bank indicate we are nearing Whitby. We then pull into the station which two platforms but just a single track. It has been nicely preserved with palm trees in the middle. Much of the station building has been converted into different uses including an Indian Restaurant, a picture frame shop and a cafe.  Sadly there aren't any toilets in the station and as I cross the road outside the station I see some, but they want 40p for my custom! I find some free ones further down by the docks.

Summary: Although this line is used quite frequently by tourists, such as walkers and railway enthusiasts, there doesn't seem to be many locals using it. Perhaps some stations are not needed, given the size of their populations and more should be done to encourage more tourists to visit such a beautiful line. Also, put in a second track at Whitby station, as I'm sure more excursion trains would use this route if it had the capacity.   MC