The impact of railways on transport, adventure and business cannot be over-estimated. Railways drastically improved travel and reduced travel time across the country. They allowed people to travel further than ever before for business, transporting goods, and for leisure, holidays and daytrips to the coast.
In this display we are highlighting some of the records we hold at the County Record Office for Railways.
A group of schoolboys pictured with the Mayor and Mayoress of Harrogate, Mr and Mrs R.C. Hamilton, on the front of a steam locomotive in Harrogate Station, c.1935 [LS24-19]
The LNER 234 ‘Yorkshire’ was built in 1927. It was the first Gresley D49 to be completed and designed for intermediate express duties. It became the model for one of Hornby’s original ‘No.2 Special locomotive’ range of model trains in 1929.
Charles Henry Simpson is recorded as ticket collector in Harrogate on the Censuses for 1891-1921, a railway porter in Ilkley in 1881, a farm servant in Weeton (Otley) in 1871, and a scholar in 1861 in Weeton, where he was born in 1854.
Charles’ cap shows NER (North Eastern Railway) which operated from 1854 (the year Charles was born) until 1922 when it became part of London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).
Charles Henry Simpson, Ticket Collector at Harrogate Railway Station, c.1920 [PC10-229]
It’s “Railway Time”
The success of railways changed the way we tell the time forever. Before the railways, towns across the country calculated midday based on the position of the sun. This would mean the time in different towns would be slightly different.
This became more noticeable as steam trains greatly reduced travel times and made creating railway timetables increasingly difficult. A single ‘standard time’ was first adopted across the country by Great Western Railway in 1840.
By 1848 almost all railway companies adopted the standard time, and the term “Railway Time” was born.
L: Facsimile of printed timetable for Stockton & Darlington Railway Coaches, 1837 [ZBM]
R: Craven Weekly Pioneer railway timetable, 1866 [PR/BNS 17/1/7]
L: British Railways Guide to Yorkshire, c.1950s [Z.1238] R: North Eastern Railway poster, 1894 [Z.879]
Railway records at the County Record Office
At the Record Office, we hold a range of records for railways from plans of lines and buildings to company rules, timetables, and photographs.
Records accumulated and used by the railway companies themselves are held as part of our National Government collections (NG/RY). These records consist mainly of railway line and station plans between 1847-1975.
L: Northallerton Station alterations 1911-1912 [NG/RY]
R: Book of Reference for Gilling, Helmsley and Pickering Branch Railway, 1865 [QDP(M) 151]
Our other main collection of railway records is in the North Riding Quarter Sessions records of public undertakings. These include a range of acts and orders, accounts, maps and plans, verdicts for railways, as well as navigations and rivers, turnpikes, docks, and other public undertakings.
Plan of Whitby to Pickering Line, 1832 [QDP(M)19]
The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in 1825 and was the first railway to use steam locomotives for freight and passenger services. The Whitby to Pickering line opened in 1832 and was the first steam passenger railway wholly within the North Riding of Yorkshire. The plan and section above show the route, which was surveyed under the direction of George Stephenson. George and Robert Stephenson (Robert Stephenson and Company) also designed ‘Locomotion No.1’ for the Stockton and Darlington Railway (now preserved at National Railway Museum, Shildon) and the ‘Rocket’ (National Railway Museum, York).
An early engraving of Scarborough railway station, which was opened in 1845, taken from a tradesman’s billhead [SC115010]
L: LNER Poster, c.1920s [ZW] R: Railwaymen Magazine, 1975 [ZQZ 3/1/3]
Certificate of affiliation of the Thirsk branch of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants [ZQZ 1/1/1894]
National Union of Railwaymen membership flier [ZQZ 1/8/2]
Famous sisters… ‘Seagull’ and ‘Mallard’
LNER Class A4 4902 ‘Seagull’ (renumbered 60033 ‘Seagull’ by British Railways) and 4468 ‘Mallard’ were built by the Doncaster Works. They entered service in 1938 and ran on the London to Edinburgh line.
‘Seagull’ thunders by the village of Pilmoor on the East Coast railway line [BU04942A]
In 1948, the newly formed British Railways decided to test locomotives from the ‘Big Four’ pre-Nationalisation companies to find the best for speed, power and efficiency. ‘Seagull’ was one of three Gresley A4 locomotives chosen to represent the LNER, along with its famous sister ‘Mallard’.
On 3 July 1938, ‘Mallard’ set the world speed record for a steam locomotive at 126mph on a stretch of the East Coast Main Line between Peterborough and Grantham.
Despite ‘Mallard’s’ world record, ‘Seagull’ outperformed ‘Mallard’ in the 1948 ‘Locomotive Exchange Trails’ but did not perform as well as the Great Western Railway (GWR) locomotives during the tests on the GWR line between London and Devonshire.
‘Seagull’ was withdrawn from service in 1962 and broken up for scrap. ‘Mallard’ is now housed at the National Railway Museum, York.
Rail-life… in miniature!
Scarborough North Bay Railway opened in May 1931, running between Peasholm Station and Scalby Mills in Scarborough.
The locomotive ‘Neptune’, photographed in 1931, is a diesel hydraulic with a steam locomotive outline. ‘Neptune’, with its Brunswick Green livery, still operates on the line today, more than 90 years after its first journey. The 20-inch gauge railway is one of England’s oldest miniature railways.
Miniature Railway, Scarborough North Bay Railway, 1931 [SC022320 & SC022322]
Thirsk Rail Disaster, 1892: A signalman’s story
In the early hours of 2 November 1892, 3 miles north of Thirsk and during thick fog, 10 people were killed and many injured in a crash involving an express passenger train and a goods train.
The goods train, travelling from Middlesbrough to Starbeck, had been stopped by signals at Manor House. The signalman at Manor House cabin had forgotten that the goods train was stopped and gave the ‘line clear’ signal.
“About 4 o’clock… the 10.30pm Express passenger train from Edinbro’ dashed at full speed into a goods train which was standing on the line…”Extract from Coroner’s report, 1892 [C3/1/1]
The day before the crash the daughter of James Holmes, the signalman, had been taken ill and died. James Holmes had been awake looking after his wife and daughter, Rose, and walked miles to try to raise the local doctor. He reported to the Stationmaster that he was unable to work the shift on the next night, but due to the lack of a support signalman, he was forced to work his shift. He was also expecting his mother, who he had messaged to come and look after his wife, to arrive by train earlier in his shift and had walked to Otterington on two occasions in the hope of meeting her. While at Otterington he had told the signalman there that he was already exhausted.
James Holmes was charged with manslaughter and found guilty. However, he was given an absolute discharge in sympathy for his personal tragedy. The railway company was strongly criticised for its treatment of James Holmes.
Railwayman’s Almanack, including details of the Thirsk Disaster, 1893 [Z.1344]
We hold Coroner’s Inquest papers for those who died as a result of the Thirsk Rail Disaster, with eyewitness statements, including those of James Holmes, as well as the large Railway Almanack poster, 1893.
Illustrated map of Yorkshire, produced by British Railways, 1949 [Z.1408]