Last trains through Slingsby

The last official train at Slingsby station, the return Kirbymoorside (railway spelling) to Malton freight passed through mid-afternoon on Friday 7th Aug 1964. Formal complete closure of the remaining Husthwaite Gate – Gilling – Amotherby (excl) and Kirbymoorside – Gilling lines followed three days later on the 10th. The Amotherby – Malton (East) section remained open for B.A.T.A traffic until the 19th Oct.

Regular passenger services at Hovingham Spa (railway name), Slingsby, Barton-le-Street and Amotherby had ceased from 1st Jan 1931. However, an annual excursion to Scarborough continued to run, the last one being on the 27th July 1964, a fortnight before the official closure.

Diesel railcar excursion, a Sunday School outing to Scarborough on 27th July 1964. Porter-signalman Fred Wright can just be seen exchanging tokens with the secondman of the unit.

Diesel railcar excursion, a Sunday School outing to Scarborough on 27th July 1964. Porter-signalman Fred Wright can just be seen exchanging tokens with the secondman of the unit.

This day proved to be the busiest the Slingsby porter-signalman, Fred Wright, had experienced for many years, with no less than ten trains for him to deal with, in terms of carrying out his signalling duties and booking tickets for passengers wishing to make a journey on the line for the last time.

There were two excursion diesel multiple unit trains bound for Scarborough, returning in the evening, one from Helmsley calling only at Gilling, where it had to reverse in any case, and the other starting at Gilling calling at the four intermediate stations as described above, which all came under the Gilling Station Master’s jurisdiction.

Fred Wright at Slingsby would have started at about 6.30am in order to accept (by means of the Tyer’s No. 6 block instrument) from Amotherby the empty stock from Clifton (York) carriage sidings to Helmsley. This was followed 90 minutes later by the empty stock for Gilling from Neville Hill (Leeds) carriage sidings.

Things started to get busy for Fred. Having accepted from Hovingham Spa, and signalled the excursion from Helmsley through Slingsby at 8.38am, he then had to concentrate on the excursion from Gilling following immediately behind, including selling any tickets to last-minute passengers as well (most people would have brought tickets in advance). The standard excursion tickets were specially printed for the occasion.

Having departed Slingsby at 8.56am (four minutes late) Fred didn’t enjoy much respite as, once the excursion had cleared the Amotherby – Scarborough Road (Malton) signal box section, the Kirbymoorside freight was ready to come on to the branch, passing Slingsby at 9.42am. During that 46 minute gap Fred would no doubt have been counting the takings from his passengers and hoping that it would all balance.

Now there was a welcome gap for Fred as the ‘pick-up’ freight didn’t return until 1.56pm, and once it cleared Amotherby, after first doing some shunting there, sixteen minutes later, the signalling element of Fred’s job ceased until the return of the excursions.

Signalling was not particularly onerous at Slingsby. There was no actual signal box, the levers to operate the two signals, one for each direction, were enclosed in a cupboard on the platform. The connection to the sidings was operated by a ground frame released by inserting the Slingsby – Amotherby single line token. There was also the level crossing gates protecting the Ness road to close and open, and the two token machines in the office to operate.

Fred would have opened to Amotherby and Hovingham Spa at around 6.10pm. The return Helmsley excursion came first, passing Slingsby at 6.36pm, followed by the return Gilling excursion, stopping to set down Slingsby passengers at 7.42pm. This returned as empty stock at 8.17pm, and finally the empty stock from Helmsley passed through at 8.26pm, clearing Amotherby at 8.36pm, enabling Fred to book off duty at 8.46pm, having accrued some useful overtime! (Note that the times quoted are from the Scarborough Road signal box train register book in my possession).

So ended an unusual day for Slingsby station. Within a year the tracks had been torn up, and now over fifty two years later it is a but a memory.

Charles Allenby

Originally printed in the April/May 2017 issue of the Triangle Newsletter