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Esk Valley line

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Esk Valley Line
OwnerNational Rail
TypeNational Rail
Operator(s)Northern Trains
Rolling stock
OpenedFrom 1835
Line length30 miles (48 km)[1]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Esk Valley line
Guisborough Junction
James Cook
Gypsy Lane
Great Ayton
Battersby South Junction
Battersby North Junction
Castleton Moor
Grosmont North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Whitby West Cliff
Whitby North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Prospect Hill Junction
Bog Hall Junction

The Esk Valley Line is a railway line located in the north of England, covering a total distance of around 30 miles (48 km), running from Middlesbrough to Whitby. The line follows the course of the River Esk for much of its eastern half.

The Esk Valley Line was designated as a community rail line in July 2005, being one of seven intended pilots for the Department for Transport's Community Rail Development Strategy.


As of the December 2019 timetable change, Northern Trains run an hourly service between Middlesbrough and Nunthorpe, with 6 trains (4 trains on Sundays) per day continuing to Whitby.

Additional trains weekdays and Saturdays run on the Esk Valley Line from Middlesbrough to Castleton Moor (departing from Middlesbrough at 12:56), and Battersby (departing from Middlesbrough at 17:00).[2]

Predominantly, rolling stock on the Esk Valley Line consists of Class 156 and Class 158 diesel multiple units, both of which were introduced in to service in the late 1980s.

The Class 156 and 158 units operating on the Esk Valley Line are currently in the process of being refurbished, with upgrades including free WiFi, power sockets, on-board passenger information displays, and an interior refresh.[3][4]

Class 142 'Pacer' trains served the line, until the turn of the new decade, when they were withdrawn from passenger service.[5] Class 144 'Pacer' trains were also used frequently on the line, until around 2005.

The Esk Valley Line is one of the most rural railway lines in England, with the main purpose of linking Whitby and the North York Moors with Middlesbrough.

Connections with heritage services running on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway are available at both Grosmont and Whitby.[6]

The route serves the following stations: Middlesbrough, James Cook University Hospital, Marton, Gypsy Lane, Nunthorpe, Great Ayton, Battersby, Kildale, Commondale, Castleton Moor, Danby, Lealholm, Glaisdale, Egton, Grosmont, Sleights, Ruswarp and Whitby.


The pre-Beeching railway network across the North York Moors.
The pre-Beeching railway network across the North York Moors.
A steam locomotive approaching the station at Sleights.
A steam locomotive approaching the station at Sleights.

The Esk Valley Line was once part of a significantly larger network, most of which was closed during the era of the Beeching cuts. Today's route is formed from four separate former railway lines:

Whitby Town to Grosmont

The first section of line opened between Whitby Town and Grosmont in 1835, with the line being further extended to Pickering in the following year.

It was originally worked by horses, before being converted in 1845, in order to be able to accommodate steam locomotives, following a takeover by the York & North Midland Railway. In 1854, the line became a part of the North Eastern Railway.

The section between Grosmont and Pickering was closed under the Beeching cuts in 1965, but was one of the first to be taken into private hands as a heritage line, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

From Whitby Town, a single track branched up a steep incline to Prospect Hill Junction, from which trains could reach Whitby West Cliff.

At West Cliff, trains would journey north along the coastal Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway towards Staithes and Loftus, and south across the Larpool Viaduct towards Scarborough.

The Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway was closed in the 1950s. However, the northern section of the line was retained, with services still operating between Middlesbrough and Saltburn.

Between Saltburn and Boulby, the line is also still operational, but as a goods route for potash and rock salt from Boulby Mine.

Following the closure of the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway, additional services began to operate along the Esk Valley Line. In the summer of 1957, the line served just 6 trains per day. By the summer of 1958, there were 15 (with 6 continuing to Scarborough).[7]

Grosmont to Battersby

The second line ran east from Picton, where it met the Northallerton to Eaglescliffe Line. It was constructed by the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway, which was subsequently absorbed into the North Eastern Railway in 1858.

The line was built in stages, opening to mineral traffic as far as Battersby on 6 April 1858, and to passenger traffic from Stokesley to Castleton Moor on 1 April 1861. The section between Grosmont and Castleton Moor was the last section of the line to be opened, with service commencing on 2 October 1865.

The section between Battersby and Picton closed to passengers in 1954.[8]

From Battersby, goods trains also ran south to Ingleby where a cable pulley system raised wagons up a steep incline, and across the North York Moors to iron ore workings at Rosedale and Farndale.

Between Glaisdale and Lealholm, work was begun by the railway engineer John Waddell on a branch across the North York Moors, to make the most of the iron ore in the area. Originally intended to meet the line from Guisborough, which branched off the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway near Boulby, a collapse in the price of iron ore meant the line was never finished.

At various points along the route, you can see the remains of vast earthworks forming unfinished embankments and cuttings. The line was to have one station at Stonegate, and nearby a tunnel dug using the "cut and cover" method. The only bridge completed on the line is at Rake Farm, between Lealholm and Glaisdale, at the route's junction with the Esk Valley Line.

The line is still known today as "Paddy Waddell's Railway", due to the number of Irish navvies used in its construction.

Today, Battersby serves just only one railway line, but it still takes the shape of a "Y" junction, with trains pulling into a station that is now effectively a terminus. The old line towards Picton continues on through the station, and disappears around a bend before ending. The driver has to change ends to drive towards either Middlesbrough or Whitby.

Battersby to Nunthorpe

The section of the Esk Valley Line between Battersby and Nunthorpe is the youngest section of the route. The line was constructed in 1864, with the aim of connecting the Picton to Grosmont line with the Middlesbrough to Guisborough line.

The line leaves Battersby heading east with the route towards Grosmont, before making a sharp turn north, to reach the now former line towards Guisborough at Nunthorpe Junction.

Nunthorpe to Middlesbrough

The Esk Valley Line, near the Berwick Hills area of Middlesbrough.
The Esk Valley Line, near the Berwick Hills area of Middlesbrough.
A local train running from Darlington to Saltburn, seen at Guisborough Junction in 1954
A local train running from Darlington to Saltburn, seen at Guisborough Junction in 1954

This section of line was constructed by the Middlesbrough & Guisborough Railway in 1854, to serve the town of Guisborough, and the area around the Eston Hills.

A line was constructed heading south from Middlesbrough, and through Nunthorpe, from where it curved east to Guisborough, and then on towards the coast to join the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway. It also served a number of quarries in the area.

Despite its close proximity to the Picton to Battersby line, it was another 10 years before a link was built between the two. The line from Nunthorpe Junction to Guisborough closed in 1964, with only the section from Middlesbrough to Battersby remaining.

A new station, James Cook, opened on this section of the line in May 2014. It was built to serve the nearby James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.[9]

Signalling and infrastructure

The Esk Valley Line still uses a physical token system, modified so that train drivers operate the token instruments themselves. This system of working is known as No Signalman Token Remote, and is used on other routes such as the Heart of Wales Line, and the Tarka Line.

Cabinets at Whitby, Glaisdale and Battersby, and a signalman at Nunthorpe pass on key tokens to train drivers as authority to occupy specific line sections, ensuring that only one train can run on a section at a time.

Until the mid-1980s, the line from Whitby to Sleights had two tracks, but these were removed along with the passing loop at Castleton Moor. Trains can still pass at Glaisdale and Battersby, however Glaisdale is now the only station along the single track section that still regularly uses both platforms for "up" and "down" line trains.

Between Nunthorpe and Guisborough Junction, the railway has been single track since 26 January 1986, although the station at Nunthorpe still retains its passing loop with separate "up" and "down" platforms. This section is worked from the panel box at Middlesbrough, and uses track circuit block working.[10]

Steam operations

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway operates heritage steam trains between Whitby and Grosmont.

To allow through running of trains directly from the North Yorkshire Moors Line, an intermediate token instrument was provided at Grosmont in March 2007. This allows a token for the Glaisdale to Whitby section to be obtained, or returned, at Grosmont.

Previously, for steam services to Whitby to operate along the Esk Valley Line from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a signalman had to drive to Glaisdale in order to pick up, or return, a token key.


Between 2005 (when the Community Rail Partnership was formed) and May 2018, passenger numbers have increased steadily, by up to 50%. Northern and the Community Rail Partnership have predicted further increases in passenger numbers, following the addition of new services in December 2019.[11]

Note: James Cook opened on 18 May 2014.[12]


A proposed park and ride station, located between Nunthorpe and Great Ayton, has been suggested by a joint project of local councils. The Roseberry Parkway station would aim to serve over 70,000 people, and seek to encourage car drivers out of their cars to alleviate the gridlock on the roads leading into Middlesbrough.

The project aims to increase services into Middlesbrough to half-hourly, and double the number of trains on the Esk Valley Line to Whitby.[13]

Following the December 2019 timetable change, Northern has introduced two new additional return trips on the line on weekdays and Saturdays. The first of which operates in the morning, to allow commuting from Whitby to Middlesbrough, with the second providing a later evening service.[14]


  1. ^ "Delivering a better railway for a better Britain: Route Specifications 2019 London North Eastern and East Midlands" (PDF). Network Rail. April 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Timetables | Northern". Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Northern launches North East's first fully refurbished train". Northern News. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Northern's refurbished trains – creating jobs and boosting the economy". Northern News. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Northern retires first Pacer train". Northern News. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  6. ^ "North York Moors Historical Railway Trust - NYMR". North York Moors Historical Railway Trust - NYMR. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  7. ^ "British Summer Timetables". Railway Magazine. Vol. 104 no. 686. June 1958. p. 382.
  8. ^ Body, p.120
  9. ^ "James Cook". Esk Valley Railway Development Company. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  10. ^ Network Rail LNE Route Sectional Appendix, Module LN8
  11. ^ Gleeson, Janet (1 June 2018). "Dramatic increase in passengers on rural line". Darlington & Stockton Times (22–2018). p. 24. ISSN 2516-5348.
  12. ^ "Middlesbrough James Cook Hospital railway station opens". BBC Tees News. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  13. ^ Brown, Mike (20 August 2019). "Plans for brand new railway station and park and ride". Gazette Live. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  14. ^ Northern Timetable 5 - Middlesbrough to Whitby (Esk Valley Railway) 15 December 2019 - 16 May 2020 Northern, retrieved 21 November 2019


  • Body, G. (1988), PSL Field Guides – Railways of the Eastern Region Volume 2, Patrick Stephens Ltd, Wellingborough, ISBN 1-85260-072-1

Further reading

  • Hunt, John (9–22 April 1997). "The Esk Valley - a rattling good ride!". RAIL. No. 302. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 34–38. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • Hunt, John (23 April – 6 May 1997). "A bright future for the Esk Valley". RAIL. No. 303. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 58–63. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

External links

This page was last edited on 4 October 2020, at 21:58
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