Cleveland Railway Embankment – Guisborough

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Building work in Guisborough briefly revealed stonework from the original route of the Cleveland Railway which opened in 1861 as a freight line for the local ironstone mines, the original route continued west over a wooden viaduct and skirted the southern edge of the Eston hills.

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In 1865 the Cleveland Railway, Middlesbrough and Guisborough Railway and Stockton and Darlington Railway were all taken over by the North Eastern Railway, the route quickly became redundant and closed in 1873 after only 12 years of use.

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By mid-March the location was lost forever, although this old photo from Guisborough History Notes shows the same abutment

19 thoughts on “Cleveland Railway Embankment – Guisborough

  1. Does any have a definitive answer of where the Cleveland ran after leaving the blackett Hutton site.
    I’ve heard about it running on a wooden viaduct but can’t confirm the
    Cheers
    Russ Pigott

  2. I gather (although I’m open to correction) that it ran roughly a few hundred yards south of Whiby Lane, into Spa Wood, along and across the still existing stone viaduct paralllling the road and then crossed what is the present day A171 on the level on its alignment eastwards to Boosbeck.

  3. Back of what was he sewage farm then along the northern side of the A171 (where you can see abutments and embanking behind the Cross Keys and where farm roads cross to go further up the hills, then a sharp turn to the S near Flatts Lane, over Normanby Top past the old brickworks then down to the wharf on the Tees opposite what was Bells Ironworks

  4. The section of the Cleveland Railway (west) that Russ is asking about was closed by the North Eastern Railway following its takeover of the Stockton & Darlington Railway company (which had bought out the Middlesbrough & Guisborough Railway Co in 1857), in 1863 and of the Cleveland Railway company in 1865, as this western section duplicated the more direct and easier ex-S&D route via Nunthorpe. The western part of the CR ran from what became known as Belmont Junction on the continuing eastern extension of the Cleveland Railway which went to Brotton and Carlin How and which from here on would become part of the network (the ‘high line’), following the building by the NER of the 400 yard link with the former S & D’s line at Hutton Junction [roughly where Enfield Chase crosses now] and this then enabled the closure of the western section of the CR after only 12 years’ service as well as rendering Guisborough station as a dead end terminus on a short branch for the rest of its career.

    The line ran in a northwesterly then westerly direction across the West End – which in the mid 1800s was still open country and not yet built up – by way of an iron bridge over the Guisborough Station branch the stone abutments of which have just been destroyed along with the embankment, under the ‘Cleveland Gate’ development.
    It then ran, by way of four timber viaducts and embanking, across Morgan Drive/Rectory Lane/Stump Cross/West End/Park Lane/the site later occupied by the shirt factory now Roseberry Mount, and behind the site now being developed as ‘Foxdale’, before continuing on via The Triangle and Woodhouse Roundabout sites in a westerly direction. Then behind the cottages at Sandswath Bridge on Old Middlesbrough Road, where there was a small depot serving Woodhouse Farm and where a stone built culvert still existed in good condition in 1993 and probably still does, carrying the line over the Sandswath Beck. All traces of the CR in Guisborough itself have long disappeared with a century of residential development, and the piece of embankment and the remains of the bridge over what was Sparrow Lane are the last to go. [Still visible on Google Earth].
    The timber viaducts were another reason the NER preferred the former S&D route as this and the CR east of Guisborough were double track whereas the viaducts and the CR line west were single track only and not in particularly good condition.

    The route of the line then continued west to Windle Hill where there is a tree filled cutting and where what was then the main road crossed the line by a stone overbridge – hence the name ‘Windlebridge’; the line then continued as outlined by David and the remains can be seen to the north of the A171. With the gradual increase in road traffic the bridge was taken away in the late 40s or early 50s to allow the road to be improved and resume its original course, and remove a dangerous blind double bend caused by the bridge. The dual carriageway A171 was built on the course of the Cleveland Railway between here and Sandswath Beck in the early 90s; prior to this the track bed could still be made out in the trees but now no trace remains although Windle Hill cutting can be seen from the A171 on the right as you approach the next roundabout, as a small belt of trees.

    This section of the line now buried under the dual carriageway was also the site of a short lived double railway junction up to the mid 20s, whereby a connection put in by the NER in 1873 from Chaloner Junction just west of Pinchingthorpe on their line to Guisborough and onwards, over Blind Lane, to link with the CR’s branch which left at this location to go up to Chaloner ironstone mine near Mount Pleasant cottages on Wilton Lane (before that became served by the more direct tramway link around the north side of the Eston Hills from 1916 on) and this ran in a north easterly direction and used a very short W-E stretch of the otherwise now closed CR’s route. The Chaloner branch almost immediately bears off again NE along the existing length of embankment (which has a dwelling on it), and crossing what is now Old Middlesbrough Road by a level crossing and onward across the field in a shallow cutting, long filled in. The line was latterly used for transport of stores to the mine and was useful as a spare outlet in case of need, but it was out of use by the late 20s.

    There is a 1:10,000 map of the whole area in the Guisborough Museum behind Sunnyfield House and this shows all the railways, tramways etc and the ironstone mines served and it also shows the route taken by the Cleveland Railway together with the positions of the timber viaducts, west towards Flatts Lane and beyond. There are also photos and models of Guisborough station and, new for 2017, Hutton Gate station; the museum opens for the season on Saturday April 1 2017 and thereafter Thursdays and Saturdays all days 10am till 4pm. Additionally I am preparing a more detailed account of the history of the CR and an update on what can still be seen, this will be kept in the museum in due course.

    Hope this helps and makes some sense…

    • That’s an excellent account Andrew, i must try a make a point of visiting the museum but as i live 200 miles away in Norfolk visits to Guisborough are not that regular
      You do wonder if by the fact that west of Guisborough the CR seems to have been built on the cheap that what eventually happened was planned all along
      I’d heard about a timber viaduct in the West end area but had no idea there were four
      Presumably there must have been a CR Signalbox in Guisborough where the double track commenced
      I remember the bridge abutments being in quite reasonable condition as a child in the early 70s , they seemed be wide enough for double track so maybe the junction was where the present Morgan drive is?
      Cheers
      Russ

      • Correction – Windy Hill not Windle Hill – the bridge would originally have been known as ‘Windy Hill Bridge’ after the rising ground the line cuts through, and the name will have been colloquialised to ‘Windlebridge’. It was also known as ‘Scugdale Bridge’.

        The junction was actually on the High Line itself just east of the now filled in metal bridge over Sparrow Lane, this was Belmont Junction which came into existence only after the NER constructed the 400yd link between the two lines, prior to that both companies’ lines had been completely independant of each other. The Cleveland Railway at this point had been built to double width going in the easterly direction, but only laid with single track up to 1871-72 when the section from Carlin How to Belmont Junction was doubled following recommendations by the Peases who owned Lingdale and Loftus mines. The west section via the bridge over the town spur and onward was not doubled as by this time it had more or less fallen out of use in favour of the route via Hutton Gate and Nunthorpe, and the timber viaducts were only of single width. I have not seen any reference to a signal box at Belmont Junction although there was a cabin of sorts on the north side which may have been either a small s/b or more likely a lineside hut; in the early 90s when I was doing research for the first railways exhibition at the museum, I found a lot of bricks buried in the undergrowth at the spot where it stood, and they are probably still there in among the brambles and bushes.

        The bridge abutments that took the CR over Sparrow Lane look to have been designed with double track in mind but this was never done. They were still substantially complete in the 70s but over time since then all the stone disappeared ‘recycled’ for building until only the bare earthworks remained; the abuts for the bridge over the town spur fared somewhat better on account of their being completely overgrown, they survived right up to last month when the whole piece of embankment et al was levelled to flush with the high line embankment in the space of a week as if it had never existed. From the bridge over the town spur (60ft long x 10ft wide x 14ft high) the single line on a falling gradient ran straight on to the first of the four timber trestle structures. This was 196yds long and crossed the valley now occupied by Morgan Drive, of the un-named beck that runs down to the Chapel Beck between the 1957-built foundry building (demolished 2016 and currently being replaced by a M&S food hall) and Morgan Drive trading estate/Sainsburys; it then led onto a +/- 30yd length of embankment which stood where the petrol station is now, then crossed Rectory Lane and the Chapel Beck valley/Stump Cross/West End/Hutton Lane by a 594yd timber viaduct in a NW direction curving round to a W direction on to short earthworks where West End Avenue is and the piece of higher ground here – then another timber viaduct of 286yds to take the line over the lower ground including Park Lane. Then more earthworks set into the south side of the high ground upon which the Woodhouse Road estate stands and more or less behind the shirt factory, then the final timber viaduct of 242yds which brought the railway on to the only other piece of embankment which is marked on most older maps along with the bit at the other end, (behind the small field now being developed for ‘Foxdale’ housing), to take it onward west to Woodhouse Depot, Scugdale Junction with the Chaloner Pit branch, Windy Hill cutting and westward past the garden centre and the Cross Keys. Hard to imagine now and no traces left in the town area thanks to the temporary nature of the constructions and all the residential development since; this western part of the CR lasted barely 12 years 1861-73, never provided a passenger service, included an inclined plane down to Flatts Lane and was superseded very quickly whereas the Belmont Jcn – Carlin How section eventually became part of the much missed coast route to Whitby and Scarborough. Brotton to Carlin How is of course still in use for Skinningrove and Boulby Potash traffic.
        On the whole I don’t think the CR’s western section was any worse built than the eastern section – only the timber viaducts had an inevitably limited shelf life due to the materials they were made of, and after all traffic ceased in 1873 they quickly deteriorated and would have been ‘recycled’ to other uses – but the stone structures like Windy Hill Bridge and the culvert over Sandswath Beck were/are very sturdy indeed. The private line’s failing was that it was built too late and superseded early because it followed an impractical route compared with the alternative via Hutton Gate, Nunthorpe and Middlesbrough and I think the promotors including Admiral Chaloner knew in their heart of hearts that the western part had little chance of becoming a viable rail route long term given the much better competition and the inclined plane – but the eastern part could not have been any greater success than it has.

        Cheers

        Andrew

        • I’m​ learning something here Andrew, I’d always thought that when the link was put in between the CR and the M&G that the CR was abandoned and access to the various mine branches was via the link from Pinchinthorpe
          I also knew the gradient on the CR near Flatt’s lane was steep but i didn’t realise it was rope worked, i presume this was self acting. I’ve never explored that section so i don’t know what is left.
          On a slightly different subject but still CR related did the Tockets branch run on a formation similar to the current bypass?
          Have you thought about writing a book on the CR or even a backtrack article as your knowledge of the CR is second to none
          Cheers
          Russ

          • The western bit was abandoned after the connection was put in, as it simply duplicated the much better M&G route and the NER saw no point in keeping it as it would have needed upgrading particularly the viaducts which were in poor condition by now. The eastern part became the main line which also gave access to the alternative route to the Tees which had just been opened via Saltburn, all under NER ownership, so East Cleveland ironstone had two reliable outlets as it was. Access to the Chaloner Pit was maintained via the 1873 link from Pinchinthorpe; after the CR passed into its ownership in 1865 the NER used part of the CR’s formation, where the dual carriageway runs now, and re-engineered as necessary and relaid the two junctions after the CR’s rails were lifted, with plain track to maintain a better but staggered double bend access to the existing CR branch up to the mine and this is shown on the 1895 map; this very short length became the last part of the old CR west of Guisborough to be in use and the connection lasted until 1919 when all but a short siding terminating just north of Blind Lane was lifted. NB the Cleveland line is not shown on OS mapping other than as an abandoned track bed, as it was not in operation long enough to be surveyed as such, likewise the timber viaducts disappeared without trace and only a few pieces of earthwork appear on the 1928 County series plans.

            There is nothing recognisable left of the rope worked incline as most of it disappeared when the Normanby brickworks was established, which along with the nearby Ormesby brickworks was rail served from a three way junction on what became the Eston branch where that crossed Flatts Lane (the third leg off the junction ran to the coal depot at the top of Cleveland Street, Normanby). Any other remains in the woods at the top have effectively gone whilst everything at the bottom has been obliterated and landscaped, all becoming part of the popular Flatts Lane Woodland Countryside Park amenity. The CR branch from the Eston line is now a path/cyclepath which provides off-road access under the Parkway from Normanby.

            The short lived Tocketts branch line was built on spec in 1875 and left the CR’s Chaloner Pit branch from a junction just west of Howlbeck Mill Farm, and crossed Wilton Lane by a substantial timber trestle viaduct before running east along the opposite (north) side of the Howlbeck valley to the bypass, below Howlbeck Farm, in a series of shallow cuttings and embankments which can still be seen today from the bypass, to Redcar Road which was crossed by another substantial timber trestle which took the line across the valley and to the south side of the same valley opposite Tocketts Bridge Farm to the mine site in Tocketts Dump Wood. This bit has been heavily altered and is now covered by extensive conifer planting. Nothing workable was found at the mine site so the railway carried very little traffic and had an even shorter life than the western half of the CR, and similarly did not exist long enough to be mapped.

            Most of my knowledge comes from various publications by the likes of Ken Hoole, The Cleveland Industrial Archaeology Society and especially research by the late and badly missed Grace Dixon, who prepared an account of the lines’ history for inclusion in the aforementioned 1992-3 exhibition in the museum, which I am currently amending and updating as to what can still be seen, as part of a subsection to the existing displays, since in the intervening 25 years much has changed and much has disappeared, and continues to do so. Other good sources of info are Forgotten Railways of North East England by Ken Hoole, and The Ironstone Railways Of Cleveland and Rosedale by TE Rounthwaite, (Cleveland Ironstone series), originally published in The Railway Observer – and the Cleveland Ironstone series of booklets themselves.

            I might consider writing an article but probably this format is more accessable to interested people worldwide – if I can secure relevant permissions to use previously published material, most of which already tells the history well – in order to pull everything together and bring the story right up to date.

            Cheers

            Andrew

  5. Evening Andrew, putting all the relevant CR information together in one place would be superb.
    Two more timber viaducts, Guisborough must have been like North America in the late 19th century! Strange they weren’t used on any of the more successful local branches
    Obviously removing the incline made the operation easier ,do i take it that when the NER took over this also did away with ferry over the Tees to port Clarence? And stone could be worked directly to the Bells ironworks.
    Is there anywhere on the net with an accurate map of branches in the Guisborough area, i have virtually all the Cleveland ironstone series but these do not show the railway in relation to the landscape.
    On a slightly different note do i take it that the Guisborough town branch is being built over? I thought the council were in favour of a reinstatement of rail to Guisborough in one form or another
    Keep up the good work
    Cheers
    Russ

    • Timber was often the material of choice for what were likely to be temporary structures, they could be quickly put up and taken down and re used. If they were used on longer term routes, their operational lives tended not to be long and they eventually had to be replaced as in the case of Brunel’s timber viaducts on the west country main line.

      Once the NER closed the CR, there would have been no further use for the incline or the ferry, stone was worked to all iron works by the NER who would charge each iron company individually for carriage – this saved the companies the worry of organising and providing their own transport. The two brickworks were served as required by a stub from Flatts Lane Junction on the remaining CR Eston branch mini network, which remained in goods use until closure in October 1966.

      As regards a comprehensive map on the web, if you enter ‘Cleveland Ironstone Mines map’ it will bring up a couple of decent ones – they tend not to be OS based as this usually involves copyright considerations.

      Yes the Guisborough town branch is getting built on, almost as far as Enfield Chase, it’s a Guisborough Estates wheeze to put in a mixed use residential and office development ‘Cleveland Gate Office Park’; Avant Homes are currently doing the groundworks for around 144 3 and 4 bed homes on a development entitled ‘Newton Wood’, according to the blurb, and this is occupying all the open space and ancient medieval fields between the CR high line, the rugby club and up to and including the M&G trackbed, bounded by an industrial unit belonging to the foundry and the former Focus DIY store which is now Aldi and Iceland. All the railway remains and everything else have been bulldozed including Belmont Junction, the CR bridge remnant over Sparrow Lane plus Sparrow Lane itself plus the embankment plus the stone abutments of the CR bridge over the M&G line, plus the remains of the bridge taking Sparrow Lane over said line, plus the trackbed of same, inclusive, pretty much up to the un-named beck mentioned in a previous despatch, where the footpath up from Rectory Lane meets the railway. And this was a couple of weeks ago so I quite expect even more horrors to have been inflicted by now. All the more reason to keep the history alive.

      Unfortunately the station branch has been gradually eroded ever since the line closed, starting with the health centre and car/coach parks, the Serco prefab building then the Belmont View Care Home building (Fountains Place), Rectory Lane extension, the council highways depot then the loss of Blackett Hutton and the new council offices, health centre and Focus DIY etc etc etc, so this is nothing new save yet another nail in the coffin for bringing rail services back into the town and all at odds with any stated council preferences. Along with all the new housing going up at the West End and either side of Stokesley Road (for every new house estimate an average of 2-3 cars – you do the maths) there is getting to be more and more justification for plugging Guisborough back into the rail network.
      And then the big question arises as to where it can go: not on its former route thanks to Sandwood Park having been built on it, nor through Hutton Gate station; maybe it can be taken round these but that isn’t very likely with it being National Park and Hutton Hall land – the only other way it could be done (on paper) is reinstate the M&G line from Nunthorpe East/Esk Valley Line junction and then re-use the NER link line from Chaloner Junction as far as the dual carriageway A171, and then bear eastwards alongside it to a simple terminus as near to Woodhouse Roundabout as possible. Much less environmental disruption to have the two transport links side by side. Doable and something for future generations to agonize over, but all this highlights the real folly of the Beeching Axe which is: not so much the line closures up and down the country but the giving up of the rights of way, so preventing straightforward reopenings where the need arises. Simples…

  6. Great comments and info you all – will they reopen the Scarborough to Whitby line to carry the potash from the new mine. NO they are building a tunnel under the North York Moors.
    It would be great to think they would reuse these old lines – most are still in place – some without access but after all the work and lives creating them it would be great to see them reused.
    It would be funny to see Bells mansion at Sandwood park demolished to reopen the Guisborough line.!

  7. Probably a lot easier, cheaper and less disruptive to build the tunnel with modern methods, than reinstate the railway, what with all the cost, legal faff and the perceived environmental upheaval that would ensue all of which would obviously not be the case if some sense had prevailed back in the 50s and these lines been mothballed as is the case today – sometimes – against possible future need. But that is called thinking ahead…

    Would be interesting to explore feasibility of grandfather rights stemming from the original Acts of Parliament under which lost routes were authorised, to enable them to legally take priority over other uses and be reinstated regardless of what might have subsequently have been built on them, on an ‘in the national interest’ basis – preferably as near to original route as practical rather than on it. In the case of the Guisborough line, either round Sandwood Park etc to the south, or as I suggested in the previous dispatch, heading towards the A171 on old lines and then accompanying it. This latter route would cause far less disruption and be less damaging, would re use previous rail trackbeds and serve Guisborough as well in its way as the original line did, and be as accessable and central given the amount of westward expansion currently taking place. This would of course require a sharp rethink of transport policy from the top down.

    Food for thought, but not holding breath…

  8. As the council’s deputy leader, I have always been committed ro arguing that guisborough should be back on the rail map. I did put a in a personal holding objection to the land disposal at the Cleveland Gate site in terms of rail access for an alternative future, but it was withdrawn as there is still space at the E side land bordering the new development.

    However, as we see from the Manchester Metrolink and the W Midlands tram line (largely based on the old GWR main line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton) blind adherence to old alignments is no longer a rule, with more flexible forms of shared street running becoming more common.

  9. Ah. Does this mean a strip of land is reserved between Sparrow Lane and Enfield Chase on the mortal remains of the M&G station branch, which is about the only place possible as everywhere else will be choc-a-bloc? If so, not sure what exactly could be done with it now: not a lot. I did think at one time part of what was the highways depot might do as a simple station site but probably not enough space left there any more either. If the old alignment were to be used again we still of course have the burning question of what happens past Aldenham Road going west: the only way would be to bypass everything with a well screened deviation on the south side, using a small part of the Codhill mineral branch and running into the original cutting which partly still exists, very overgrown, descending towards Pinchinthorpe on a 1 in 51 gradient. Then the very popular visitor centre would be in the way followed by both former station houses in residential use, so to be absolutely honest using the old route would be right out of the question now. However:::

    Cleveland CC did one brilliant job by creating the Branch Walkway and keeping the route west from being lost, and I believe more and more that that is the key; reinstating a single track on it and at the same time keeping the Walkway’s integrity, then my suggestion of using the old formation north from Chaloner Jcn – or a version of it since the bit between Blind Lane and the A173 is currently in equestrian use – and crossing the A173 by a level crossing and bringing the route round into the outskirts of Guisborough, tucked in with the dual carriageway as previously outlined above, with lots of planting and screening, is probably the most feasible, most practical, least damaging, most cost effective, easiest to construct and least disruptive way – and the only way – of putting the place back on the rail map, that I can think of.

    Whether it be with light or heavy rail would depend on whatever happens in the future with the rest of the local network, but the subject of a Teesside Metro first surfaced in 1973 – I still have the cuttings from the Gazette – and it keeps reappearing every now and then whenever public transport is under the microscope. However while I don’t quite see Metrolink tram units street running in Westgate just yet(!), I can easily imagine one, or a modern(ish) diesel unit, parked opposite The Triangle with ‘Middlesbrough’ on the destination blind, and a 20 minute trip down to the Boro….

  10. Slight correction required as to the lengths of the CR trestle viaducts in Guisborough. I have been plotting the various lines on to a Google Earth overlay as an experiment, in yards, to see how accurate the given bridge lengths from my source are, and everything stacks up ok on the line’s route with a couple of exceptions: the first viaduct coming in from the west is correct at 242yds from its start point, but the next one that crossed over what is now Park Lane, given as 286yds, can only be at maximum 186yds long to fit right, whilst the next one which is given as 594yds can only be max 394yds to fit right. The section of embankment between Rectory Lane and the last viaduct before the crossing of the M&G station branch, [correctly given as 196yds], which was cleared to make way for Enfield Chase and for the petrol station and units on Morgan Drive, therefore comes in at 140yds which ties in with the remnant marked on the 1966 1:2500 survey plan, making the whole of this section roughly 3/4 mile long. Gradient from Chapel Beck (West End) to Belmont Junction was 1 in 100 and the designated clearance over roads for the timber structures was 15ft and 25ft span. Interestingly, the metal bridge over the station branch is given as 60ft/20yds with 14ft height which I take to be above rail level.

  11. I have never found a definitive answer to whether a powered or self-acting incline was provided for the CR in the vicinity of Flatts Lane. Certainly there are no obvious remains of such e.g. engine house remains or sidings. I did find mention of locomotive trials on Ormesby Incline but eventually realised it referred to the 1 in 44 up to Nunthorpe of the M&GR. At about 1 in 35 loco haulage of limited loads was perhaps possible even in 1861 (date of opening).
    Around this date it was expected that railways would be built with double track hence the construction of suitable bridges. However, the capital necessary was often slow in coming in so to get the line open and bring in revenue it was sometimes built and opened to traffic with single track and cheaply erected wooden viaducts, to be replaced with double tracks or permanent bridges as and when possible (or not as the case may be).
    With the development of the block system and electric telegraph the ability to operate trains safely on single track meant that some lines were never doubled as intended, and others built as single track from the start. Look at the routes of the Battersby to Grosmont line and the Loftus to Whitby – the former opened in 1865 and the latter commenced in 1871 – both intended to be double track but never subsequently modified. By contrast, the Scarborough and Whitby Railway, slightly later, was intended as single track because the availability of single line control by then allowed it together with the Board of Trade approval of it.
    Having said all this, it is of interest that Easington Tunnel was built by the WRMUR as single track and the famous photo by Sutcliffe of the Staithes-end seems to suggest that double track was to be built up to the portal where presumably a signal box would be needed. And the viaducts were single whereas other bridges were double. But then the WRMUR is a poor example as contractor and engineer made a complete mess of the work and were dismissed and it was left to the NER to sort it all out.

  12. Hi there. I am reading this for the first time and I am amazed! In another lifetime I spent hours, days, summer weeks playing and exploring all over the fields and hills around G’bro and have always been fascinated by the railway lines and ghosts thereof. Is there any way to get hold of any reading material, maps etc etc online? I live presently in Houston. I do intend to make a trip back to Guisborough some day soon (my dad’s ashes are scattered behind Highcliffe) but in the meantime I would love to get my hands on any stuff to read. Cheers!

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