185 Years of Railways in York – an illustrated talk by Frank Paterson

This presentation is based on a talk given in 2023 by Frank Paterson General Manager of the Eatern Region of British Rail from 1978 to 1985 and now President of the Friends of the Railway Museum

The Founding Fathers of the Railways

Edward Pearse owned a woollen mill in Darlington. He was a visionary seeing the potential of rail travel from the very start. He becam a Director of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and a founding Director of the Stephenson Locomotive Company. He introduced Stephenson to George Hudson and became a Director of the Great North of England Railway connecting Darlingto to Newcastle and York and then Newcastle to Berwick.

He was particularly skilled at surveying routes and in 1825, with George Stephenson, he created the world’s first passenger line from Sockton to Darlington.

George Hudson was another visionary. Chariman of the York and North Midland Railway from 1836 to 1849 and later became known as the Railway King. He financially controlled over 33% of all UK railways built between 1840 and 1849.
George Stephenson is known as the father of steam railways He was responsible for the Tainhill Rocket trials in 1829, the first intercity railway from Manchester to Liverpool in 1830, The North Yorks Moors horse drawn railway, and, in 1835, he surveyed the York and North Midland extension to Scarborough. His son, Robert supervised the construction.

The Railways arrive in York

On 29th May 1839 a temporary platform was constructed outside the city walls for the Yorkshire and North Midland passenger train on a link from the Leeds to Selby Line via Altofts Junction near Gascoine Wood. Euston station in London could now be reached via Normanton, Sheffield, Derby and Birmingham in 10 hours.

Principal Routes Serving York

This is a map of the principal lines serving York by 1879. The first, key routes are the Great North Eastern going North to Newcastle and the York and North Midland heading south to Derby. Both terminated at York and long distance joiurneys required numerous changes between different company lines.

Breaching the Walls

The GNE and YNM shared line ran through the first arch ever built through York’s historic walls. This required an Act of Parliament, demonstration the power of the railway lobby.

In 1841 a station, designed by G.T.Andrews, was opened inside the walls. On 4th January the first Yorkshire and North Midland Railway train left for London. On 30th March the first Great North Eastern train left for Darlington.

The Old Station

There were two platforms with four lines ending in engine release turntables as trains went out the same way they came in. There were First and Second Class waiting and refreshment rooms. It would appear the First Class was much more spacious and had exclusive access to the Bar.

The top floor contained the Y&NM Boardroom and an office for Mr Close, the Company Secretary.

Still standing, this water tank was built in1839 adjacent to original YNMR locomotive round house

Scarborough Bridge

The first train to Scarborough ran on 7th July 1845 – with branches to Market Weighton in 1847 and Beverley in 1865. The bridge support design was based on one in Chester which then failed so metal ties were added. These can still be seen, though the bridge itself was replaced in 1874.

The Old Station 1845

The YNB was the York Newcastle and Berwick Railway .         

The YNM was the York and North Midland Railway.

York’s Railways before 1860

This drawing by Nathaniel Whittock was created before the construction of Lendal Bridge in 1863. It shows the Scarborough Bridge, the Old Station with the Scarborough platforms and the Station Hotel, built in 1853. The marshalling yards and the coal drop at North Street lie outside the walls.

Barkers Tower before the Lendal Bridge

Note the ferry, and the water pumping station across the river.

The Postern by Barkers Tower on North Street

Designed by G T Andrews in 1840 to allow passage of coal from the GNE depot to industries along the River Ouse.  GNE Board decision 7th April, approved by City Surveyor 5th May. Contract agreed 6th June !

The Sack Warehouse

A third arch breached the walls in1878 to allow freight in to the “Sack Warehouse”. Sacks were hired out to farmers for their produce.

Lendal Bridge and the Scarborough Platforms

Lendal Bridge opened in 1863 and the platforms for Scarborough line were located just inside the walls.

The Entrance to the Scarborough Platforms

Now the location of the War Memorial but these pillars were originally located at the junction of Lendal Bridge and Rougier Street. They can be seen in the previous photograph.


In 1906 this site became the new Headquarters of the NER Railway

Now a rather grander Hotel.    

York’s Railway Network in 1865

Increasing traffic created  congestion outside the walls and it was decided to re-route the line and build a new station outside the walls. The proposed route is shown by the dotted line. New bridges were needed at Leeman Road and Holgalte Road.

Note the roundhouse engine sheds.

York’s Railway Network after 1877

The new station and main line routing, the Harrogate line, Challoners Whin and the Scarborough line with the Foss Islands line linking to the Derwent Valley Light Railway

Henry Tennant

Henry Tennant was the  Company Accountant of the North Eastern Railway from 1854 to 1871. He rose to General Manager from 1871 to 1891. He was responsible for relocating the station outside the city walls.

The New Station Portico 1877

Carriage entrance designed initially by Thomas Prosser and from 1874 then William Bell, the North East Railway Architects.

The New Station 1877

When built in 1877 York’s new trainshed with its unique glazed roof, was the largest station in the world– originally with 13 platforms joined by underpasses.  The  footbridge was added in 1900  together with the additional platforms outside the trainshed .  In  1909 the platforms were extended and in 1938 island platforms added.

The Station Hotel 1878

Architect William Peachey designed the hotel with Scarborough brick and Tadcaster Stone. It had  banqueting rooms and suites and 100 bedrooms with a further 27 added in 1900.

Goods Depot 1878

The Goods Depot incorporated a weighbridge and stables.

The Goods Depot incorporated a weighbridge and stables

A – Holgate Villa ; B – Stores; C – Pattern Maker’ D – Paint Shop; E – Cylinder Shop; F – Boiler House

G – Machine Shop; H – Fitters Shop; I – Machine Shop; J – Offices; K – Foundry; L – Store

M – Coppersmiths; N – Smiths Shop; O – Brass Finishers; P – Railway Institute; Q – Boiler House

R – Erection Shop No 2; S – Erection Shop No 1; T – Boiler Shop

In 1877 Henry Tennant bought the Railway Tavern and turned it into the (teetotal) Railway Institute. The Holgate Wagon Works occupying 17 acres with 4.5 acres of buildings operated from1867 to 1965.

York’s Railway Infrastructure mid 1950s

•1  South end York Station  •2. Queen Street  •3 Erecting shops •4.Y&NM Loco works

•5. Holgate Villa Offices •6. Holgate Bridgem •7 York South  Loco sheds  •9 Carriage Works 

•10 Wagon works •18 Civil Engineers  •19 Coaling plant •20 Goods Yard

 Locomotive Workshops 

Steam Hammers

The Wheel Shop

Railway York’s biggest employer

Teak Carriage Construction Works

BREL’s Last Build

The carriage works was privatised and this was BREL’s last build before closure in 2002. A New assembly line but in the old building.


York’s Railway Infrastructure 2023

Siemens Trans-Pennine Rolling Stock Maintenance Depot – Clifton Sidings


The Waterwrorks Signal Box

These long arm levers were later replaced.

Challoners Whin

Made redundant by the Selby Diversion in 1983 (see more elsewhere on the websiter). The land to the left now hosts a Tesco superstore and the Askham Bar Park and Ride

Holgate Bridge

Holgate Bridge was built in the 1860s to accommodate additional tracks. The platform on the right, for Knavesmire race-goers, was demolished in 1964

Scarborough Branch Junction

The locomotive water pump and signal boxes were demolished in 1974

Network Rail’s Integrated Electronic Control Centre IECC

The IECC provides the entire signalling function for the East Coast Main Line using TRUST Train Running Suystem and ATR Alutomatic train Reporting

The Foss Islands Branch

The Foss Island Branch linked the Scarborough line with the Rowntree factory, the power stations along the River Foss, the Barbican Cattle Market at Fishergate and the Derwent Valley Light Railway.

The Rowntree Factory Train

Each day a train would deliver Rowntree products to depots across the country. 50% of the prouct

Rowntrees Factory Siding

Power Station Cooling Tower near the River Foss

The Tower now demolished and the inner ring road now runs alongside the Foss. The bridge remains.

Foss Island Retail Park site

Morrisons car Park and Halfords now occupy the site

The Railway Laundry

A six-roller ironing machine in operation at the LNER laundry. The laundry handled the linen belonging to the company’s coaches such as table cloths, serviettes and towels.

The NER Railway Laundry -the coal drop

The Foss Islands Brach Line

The chimney and cooling tower visible on the right

York Cattle Market

Closed 1976


High Speed train HST Inter City125

Selby Diversion

East Coast Main Line Electrification

LNER Flying Scotsman 1923

40 Years of LNER traction at York 1980

1938  – A4  Pacific   Mallard – holder of the world steam record

1962 – English Electric Deltic –  expresse trains

1978 – BR Derby designed & built Inter City 125 – 1985 diesel world record 147mph. Newcastle to Kings Cross non stop 264 miles  in 2h19m37s an average of 122mph

A site for homes offices, public spaces and culture. Equal in size to all of York within the mediaeval walls

See also the presentation by Hugh Fenwick on the Selby Diversion