Slingsby Railway: A History

The following information about the railway that ran through Slingsby and Fryton up until the mid-1960s can be found on the excellent Disused Stations website; a superb resource for finding information on disused railway routes and stations located around the UK.

The website also has plenty of information about other nearby ‘disused stations’ up and down the line from Slingsby including Barton-Le-Street, Amotherby, Hovingham Spa, Ampleforth and Helmsley.

Another railway history related website worth visiting looks at the Castle Howard Station located not far from Slingsby. The website can be found HERE

Further reading on Slingsby Railway can be found in the excellent series of articles by Charles Allenby, originally printed in Slingsby’s the Triangle newsletter – Slingsby Railway TicketsLast trains through Slingsby and End of the Line.

Slingsby Railway Station in 1905

Station Name: SLINGSBY

Date opened: June 1853

Location: East side of Railway Street

Company on opening: York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway

Date closed to passengers: 1.1.1931

Date closed completely: 10.8.1964

Company on closing: London & North Eastern Railway

Present state: The main station building is still extant although it has been altered. The single-storey extension at the east end of the building has had another floor added and the single storey at the west end of the building has been extended outwards. The low platform is still extant although the trackbed has been infilled up to platform level. Beyond the station building, the site has been cleared and redeveloped.

County: North Yorkshire

OS Grid Ref: SE699795

The station was built by local landowner the Earl of Carlisle and is the only station on the Thirsk and Malton line to be built of stone. The main station building, which incorporated the stationmaster’s house, was extended in 1897, 1904 and 1914 with single-storey extensions at both ends of the building. The station building included general and ladies waiting rooms and a combined stationmaster and booking office.

The station has a single platform on the ‘up’ side of the line with a two-storey brick built stationmaster’s house which incorporated the station offices. Slingsby was one of five stations on the line that had a two-level platform when built the platform was very low but in 1865 the North Eastern Railway settled on a standard height platform 2′ 6″ above rail level.

Slingsby railway station in the early part of the 20th century – looking east along the line where Slingsby’s Caravan and Camping club site is now located

The section of the platform in front of the station building remained at its original height to accommodate the existing windows which would have had their sills at platform level and the door; the remainder of the platform was raised to the new standard height.

There was a modest-sized goods yard mainly on the upside with four sidings. One siding served the coal drops which were sited behind the platform, a second siding passed through the brick-built goods warehouse. a smaller timber warehouse was sited at the to the east of the station building. In 1858 a second three storey brick goods warehouse was built at the request of a local corn merchant, there was a loading dock at the west end of this warehouse.

The fourth siding was on the downside and parallel to the mainline and served another short loading dock adjacent to the level crossing. This siding also originally formed a passing loop but this was taken out of use at an early date but was reinstated and lengthened in 1943 for unloading ammunition onto a specially constructed area of hard standing alongside. Having lost its passenger service at the end of 1930 the station remained open for freight traffic.

The station saw regular passenger use until 27th July 1964 with a range of excursion trains using the station, these included shopping, ramblers and football excursions, Sunday school outings to Scarborough and the usual enthusiasts’ specials. The last ramblers excursion ran to Kirbymoorside on 3rd May 1964 and the last passenger train was one of the Sunday school excursions and the station finally closed to all traffic on 10th August 1964


Slingsby Station around 1910 looking up the line to the east

In 1845 three schemes were proposed to bring railways into the Vale of Pickering, the successful scheme was the Newcastle & Darlington Junction Railway, a 23-mile two-track line between Thirsk and Malton running from a junction with the Great North of England Railway three miles south of Thirsk to a junction with the York – Scarborough line at Norton from where a half-mile branch would run into a terminus at Malton; the proposed line included a 5-mile branch from Gilling to Helmsley. The line received Parliamentary approval on 18th June 1846 but construction was delayed for some years while the company settled on its exact route.

From the outset, the success of the line was linked with the Malton & Driffield Railway which gained its act on 26th June 1846. The two lines would form a continuous route between Driffield and Thirsk forming part of a new ‘mainline’ between Hull and the northeast. During this period there was little enthusiasm for the Thirsk and Malton line and eventually, the time limit for building the line imposed by the 1846 Act was allowed to lapse. Following near bankruptcy, work on the Malton to Driffield line eventually started despite the lack of progress on the Thirsk and Malton line and it was suggested that the MDR should take over construction but, instead, a writ was served on the York Newcastle & Berwick Railway to force them to comply with an earlier agreement to start work on the line. A new Thirsk & Malton Railway Bill was put before parliament and work finally started on 1st October 1851.

There were numerous changes to the original plans and a more modest route was eventually selected running from a northeast curve at Pilmoor, six miles south of Thirsk to Scarborough Road Junction at Malton where trains would run over the Malton to Driffield line, metals into Malton, removing the need for a separate terminus. In order to reduce costs, the Helmsley branch was also dropped and the line was downgraded to single track even though sufficient land for a double track line has been purchased; this ensured that it would never become a trunk route.

Slingsby Station around 1905 looking west up the line

Progress on the two lines was now rapid and they were both completed in 1853 with a Board of Trade inspection taking place on 10th May which required improvements to the timber bridge over the River Derwent at Malton. Before these improvements were implemented there was a joint official opening on 19th May. The first train carrying shareholders and invited guests ran from Pilmoor through Malton to Driffield and then back to Malton.

The Work on the Malton & Driffield line started immediately but was halted the following year as work had not started on the Thirsk and Malton line. The Newcastle & Darlington Railway merged with the Great North of England Railway in 1847 to become the York & Newcastle Railway and this, in turn, became part of the York Newcastle and Berwick Railway in 1848. During this period there was little enthusiasm for the Thirsk and Malton line and eventually, the time limit for building the line imposed by the 1846 Act was allowed to lapse.

The additional work was completed by 26th May but the exact date of the first public train is uncertain. The goods service had started on 21st May and a shareholders meeting reported that the line opened to passengers on 1st June although a more likely date was 21st June although some stations were still unfinished.

Railway timetable dated July 1922 featuring weekday stops at Slingsby Station

The York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway merged with the Leeds Northern Railway on 31st July 1854 to form the North Eastern Railway. The MDR also applied to join the new company which it did on 28th October 1854. The line’s initial passenger services were between Thirsk and Malton and in 1856 there was one train shuttling to and fro three times a day with one daily pick-up goods train and from 1860 a daily mineral train. Intermediate stations were provided at Coxwold, Ampleforth, Gilling, Hovingham, Slingsby, Barton-le-Street and Amotherby an eighth station at Husthwaite Gate at the west end of the line opened in 1856. Two of the 1845 schemes for the western part of the vale included branches to Helmsley & Kirkbymoorside on its northern edge but these were not built.

In 1862 the Ryedale Railway was promoted from Hovingham on the Thirsk and Malton line to Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside and Pickering but this was dropped following a lack of co-operation from the North Eastern Railway although the route was similar to the line later built by the NER. That company’s original Act for the branch in 1866 was designed to oppose a rival scheme through Helmsley that would have linked Leeds to Teesside. Once that was defeated, the North Eastern Railway proceeded slowly, even trying to back out of the project in 1868. However, by 1871 it had opened a southern curve at Pilmoor and the new branch between Gilling and Helmsley opened to passengers on 9th October 1871.

This was extended to Kirby Moorside (the town is called Kirkbymoorside) on 1st January 1874 and finally through to Pickering on 1st April 1875; additional stations were provided at Nunnington, Nawton and Sinnington. Apart from the pick-up goods, the main freight traffic handled by the two-line was coal, animal feed and timber which was the main commodity handled by several stations. A large amount of limestone was also transported from the quarries on the Malton & Driffield line bound for the blast furnaces at South Bank and Redcar. There were numerous improvements to the line in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but by the turn of the century traffic was already in decline and after World War One both goods and passenger traffic suffered following the rapid development of road transport with passenger numbers halving between 1904 – 1927. In 1885, 115,965 passengers booked tickets from stations on the Thirsk & Malton line and its Pickering branch, by 1938 there were only 27,451 and by 1929 the four stations between Malton & Gilling earned only £538 in passenger revenue.

Initially most trains ran from Pickering to Gilling where passengers could transfer to the Thirsk & Malton line but there were soon through trains to York using the southbound Pilmoor Curve to Bishophouse Junction, but these only ran from the Pickering branch covering the westernmost 12 miles of the Thirsk & Malton line. By 1895, there were four such trains daily and the line between Gilling and Malton was already the ‘poor relation’. Its trains to Thirsk ended by 1914 and nine years later it was only a feeder for the York—Pickering service and even this function ended on 30th December 1930, when the four stations between Gilling and Malton closed to passengers to save costs. The final train consisted of one coach that carried four passengers; the stations remained open for goods traffic. WW2 brought an increase in both passenger and goods traffic to the remaining section of the line but this dropped off quickly after the war as road transport continued to make inroads into the rapidly declining passenger and freight receipts.

Ampleforth Station closed in June 1950 and in 1952 there were rumours that the York – Pickering service was under threat as the line was running at a loss with many passengers being lost to the more convenient bus services. Closure was announced for 2nd February 1953 with the last train running two days earlier. With the exception of Sinnington the remaining stations remained open for freight traffic and special passenger excursions from the west. The line between Kirbymoorside and Pickering was closed completely and the track was lifted shortly afterwards.

The final passenger excursion from Slingsby Station – 27th July 1964

The only passenger trains after 1953 were special excursions including Ramblers’ Excursions to Kirbymoorside from West Yorkshire, the last of which, quaintly titled ‘Special Ramblers’ Daffodil and Primrose Diesel Excursion’, ran on 3rd May 1964. In the early 1960’s there were also special trains out from the area, chiefly from Helmsley as far as Largs, London and King’s Lynn and more modest Sunday school outings to Scarborough. The last of these ran on 27th July 1964, and two weeks later the line closed altogether. The line also had two quite different ‘main line’ workings. The boys’ boarding school of Ampleforth College is situated between Ampleforth and Gilling stations. In 1895 the NER built a 3′ horse drawn tramway from Gilling Station to the college mainly for freight traffic as the college produced its own gas requiring 500 tons of coal a year. Special open wagons were also provided to carry pupils. In 1923 the college went over to electric lighting and the gas works closed and the tramway was taken out of use.

From the 1930’s up to 1964 there were two special ‘school trains’ at the beginning and end of each term, usually to and from London King’s Cross and Leeds or Liverpool, with one to summer camp at the end of July. Between 1932-1939 and 1947-1962 the line also saw summer Saturday holiday trains to and from Scarborough. The LNER began these to avoid the congestion at York, running two trains in each direction, despite the need for a double reversal at Malton. This was achieved by the Malton pilot engine pulling the train, with its loco at the other end, between Scarborough Road Junction and Malton station. Filey Holiday Camp trains avoided this for three summers after 1947 as they carried on to the Malton & Driffield line, a rare case of the two lines being used together for passenger workings. In summer 1959 there were four scheduled Saturday workings to and from Scarborough, but these did not run after 1962. There was a plan in 1960 to convert the Pilmoor – Gilling section of the line into a light railway but this came to nothing

The northbound junction with the East Coast Main Line was not replaced after an accident in March 1963 and so the Thirsk & Malton line lost its last through passenger trains. Goods traffic ended on 7th August 1964 and the line was completely closed from the 10th August with the exception of the 3 ½ mile section of line between Amotherby – Malton which remained open until 17th October to honour an existing long term freight contract.

Track lifting started at Kirbymoorside on 29th March 1965 and was completed on the 9th August. Demolition of the viaduct over the River Derwent started on 22nd August and the bridge over the York – Scarborough railway was removed on 19th September 1965, the final nail in the coffin of the Thirsk & Malton Railway and the railways of Ryedale.