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Minutes of the 372nd

 meeting held at 10.00 in Stokesley Town Hall on Tuesday19th February 2019:  

Speaker Tony Daniels: ‘Your next station stop is Stokesley’

Tony Daniels was a research chemist with ICI in Cheshire who moved to the North East in 1987. Following early retirement in the 1990s, he gained a degree in History and become active in U3A, becoming Chairman. He gave a talk to Stokesley Probus 3 years ago, entitled ‘Some Cartoons are Funny’. This time he gave a presentation of interest to everybody, but articularly to the railway buffs, looking at the passenger railway through Stokesley and a picture gallery of Then and Now.

In 1854, two schemes were proposed, one by the Stockton and Cleveland Union Railway and the second by the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Railway. The first was rejected by the House of Commons, but a first Act of Parliament for a line from Picton to Battersby received Royal Assent on 10th July 1854. This was primarily for passengers, but a second Act of Parliament was passed in July 1855 for the construction of a branch from Potto to Whorlton for the transport of ironstone from the mines. Work progressed well and the lines opened in March 1857. Stations were also constructed at Trenholme Bar and Sexhow for the farming communities and at Stokesley. In 1858 a third Act was passed to replace the narrow tramway to Rosedale with a standard gauge railway. This Act also authorised the takeover by the North Eastern Railway, which continued the construction of the Esk Valley Railway. The link to Nunthorpe was opened in stages to 1865. The railway proved very popular with local people as it offered the possibility of travel to Whitby in a reasonable time.

During World War II, one of the lines from Picton to Stokesley was converted to a wagon  store. By the early 1950s, passenger numbers had fallen with the increase in use of cars and motor cycles. The last train left Whitby for Stokesley on 12th June 1954. The line from Battersby to Stokesley remained in use for goods traffic until 1965. In 1991, the Esk Valley line services were cut from 7 to 4 each way, but since then the service has been stable following the establishment of the Esk Valley Railway Development Company, a Community Rail Partnership, in 2003.

In part 2 of his talk, Tony showed a mixture of 19th century OS maps, satellite pictures and photographs illustrating the route and the stations when the line was in use and now. He showed a photograph of an A4 Pacific locomotive hauling a passenger train through Picton as well as pictures of local trains pulled by tank engines. The station platforms there have now gone as has the big signal box. but the old railway bridge still exists. The photograph showed a narrow A19 crossing the railway at an old gated crossing.  

In 1958, Trenholme Bar station was closed and the later widening of the A19 destroyed all the station buildings. A picture of Potto station in 1967 showed it in a very dilapidated condition, but by 2007, the station building had been restored by Mike Whitlock and is now a very desirable residence. The Sexhow station building has also been restored and is nowknown as ‘The Sleepers’. Tony showed photographs of it in 1905, in the 1950s and after restoration in 2007.

A ‘steam special’ ran to Stokesley in September 1963. A photograph taken in 1965 showed a vandalised signal box, but this had been restored in a picture taken in 2007. In 1958, the line from Battersby to Picton was closed and since then trains have had to reverse at Battersby on the Esk Valley line.

In reply to questions, Tony said there had never been any tunnels on the line. Trains may have been slow initially, but they were very much more convenient than the horse and cart.

He recommended a book on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Railway by Peter Maynard, published by the North East Railway Association – ISBN 978 1 873513 98 9.