Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway

The Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway (WRMU), a.k.a. the Whitby–Loftus Line, was a railway line in North Yorkshire, England, built between 1871 and 1886, running from Loftus on the Yorkshire coast to the Esk at Whitby, and connecting Middlesbrough to Whitby along the coast.

Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway
Sealed tunnel of dismantled railway - geograph.org.uk - 470447.jpg
Other name(s)Whitby – Loftus Railway
StatusPartially closed
LocaleNorth Yorkshire, England
TypeHeavy rail
Opened3 December 1883 (1883-12-03)
Closed5 May 1958 (1958-05-05)
Line length16 miles 66 chains (27.1 km)
Number of tracks1 (with passing loops)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

For much of its journey the line hugged the cliffs, and had a troubled build due to the proximity to the sea and poor quality of the construction on many of its original bridges and viaducts. The line was closed to passengers in May 1958, but the northern section to Boulby Potash Mine re-opened in the 1970s.



Whitby had been connected to the national rail system by the Whitby and Pickering Railway since the 1830s.[1] Loftus was connected to the rail system by the 1870s via an extension of the Cleveland Railway: both the Cleveland Railway and the Middlesbrough and Guisborough Railway were constructed in the 1860s connecting Middlesbrough to Guisborough.[2][3]

Loftus to WhitbyEdit

The 16 miles 66 chains (27.1 km) extension of the line from Loftus to Whitby Town railway station, was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1866, with the majority of construction carried out under John Dickson between 1871 and 1886.[4] Due to a lack of funds and problems with the contractor work was suspended on the route until the NER took up the lease in 1875.[5] John Waddell won the contract, and the line was scheduled to open on 13 July 1881, but due to the extra work required to bring it up to standard, it was a further two and a half years before the line was opened on 3 December 1883.[6][7] Many bridges were defective and piers did not sit vertically correct. The original tunnels were out of line so that when boring was done from either end they did not meet in the centre.[8] Part of the proposed line was dangerously close to the cliff edge and was abandoned by the NER which took a route further inland through Sandsend and Kettleness tunnels.[9] The line had gradients, heavily engineered sections (bridges, tunnels), and sea-frets to contend with, and as such, line speeds were imposed. Even so, it was quicker to travel on the railway from Middlesbrough and Stockton to Scarborough than by road.[10] The line was single track throughout, but all stations, bar Sandsend, had passing loops.[11]

Map of route and surrounding railways

The section ran from Whitby to Loftus, where it joined the NER Middlesbrough – Loftus route head on. From the beginning the line was run by the NER, which held the lease and ran services to Whitby along the Esk Valley Line and the Malton – Whitby Line. The NER took over the line fully in 1889.[12]

British Railways published a proposal to close the line in September 1957; the line's operating costs exceeded its revenue generation, closure would result in a yearly saving of £10,950 operating costs and avoid £57,000 (equivalent to £1,460,000 in 2021)[13] of structural maintenance (over five years) required on tunnels and viaducts particularly between Sandsend and Kettleness.[14][15] With dwindling passengers after the war years, the route was only popular during summer weekends and closed on 5 May 1958.[16] Whitby West Cliff station remained open for another three years, serving trains from Whitby to Scarborough until it closed on 12 June 1961,[17] after which Scarborough trains had to reverse at Prospect Hill Junction where the line from Whitby Town met those from Scarborough and Loftus.[18]

In 1960, work began to dismantle the line, viaducts were sold for scrap metal and concrete was used in the construction of sea defences.[19]

The railway todayEdit

In 1973, a 4.5 miles (7.2 km) section of the line at the northern end, was re-opened after (Cleveland Potash) developed Boulby potash mine next to the former route, north of the village of Boulby in Redcar and Cleveland.[20] This section of the line remains open as a freight line, but the stations remain closed.[21] The dismantled section south of Boulby is now a footpath.

In January 2019, Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line between Saltburn and Loftus which was listed as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments).[22]


  1. ^ Bairstow 2008, p. 13.
  2. ^ Suggitt, Gordon (2005). Lost railways of North and East Yorkshire. Newbury: Countryside Books. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-85306-918-5.
  3. ^ Bairstow 2008, p. 111.
  4. ^ Hoole 1983, pp. 56–57.
  5. ^ Williams 2019, p. 39.
  6. ^ "Disused Stations: Staithes Station". disused-stations.org.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  7. ^ Forrest, W. R. L. (January 1897). "Strengthening the East Row and Upgang Viaducts on the Whitby and Loftus Railway". Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. 130 (1897): 234. doi:10.1680/imotp.1897.19267.
  8. ^ Hoole, Ken (1971), Railways in Cleveland, Dalesman, ISBN 0-85206-131-5
  9. ^ Suggitt, Gordon (2005). Lost railways of North and East Yorkshire. Newbury: Countryside Books. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-85306-918-5.
  10. ^ Williams 2019, p. 30.
  11. ^ Chapman, Stephen (2007). Cleveland & Whitby. Todmorden: Bellcode Books. p. 8. ISBN 9781871233-18-6.
  12. ^ Williams 2019, p. 93.
  13. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  14. ^ Williams 2012, pp. 121, 125–6.
  15. ^ Williams 2010, Chapter 4, pp. 110–2.
  16. ^ Chapman, Stephen (2007). Cleveland & Whitby. Todmorden: Bellcode Books. p. 16. ISBN 9781871233-18-6.
  17. ^ Hoole, K. (1985). Railway stations of the North East. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 91. ISBN 0-7153-8527-5.
  18. ^ Bairstow 2008, p. 85.
  19. ^ Williams 2019, p. 151.
  20. ^ Kershaw, Ronald (23 July 1973). "Britain's first potash mine ready for production soon". The Times. No. 58841. p. 16. ISSN 0140-0460.
  21. ^ Kelman, Leanne (2020). Railway track diagrams, books 2 - Eastern (5 ed.). Frome: Trackmaps. 48. ISBN 978-1-9996271-3-3.
  22. ^ "The case for expanding the rail network" (PDF). Campaign for Better Transport. p. 42. Retrieved 22 April 2019.


Further readingEdit