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Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway

Whitby, Redcar &
Middlesbrough Union Railway
993 yd
908 m
Boulby Mine
308 yd
282 m
1652 yd
1511 m
Whitby West Cliff
Whitby Town

The Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway (WRMU) was a railway line in North Yorkshire, England, built between 1871 - 1883, running from Loftus on the Yorkshire coast to the Esk at Whitby, and connecting Middlesbrough via previously built lines in Cleveland to Whitby.

The railway is also known as the Whitby-Loftus Line.

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 in May 1958, a short section to Boulby Potash Mine re-opened in the 1970s.



Whitby had been connected by Whitby and Pickering Railway since the 1830s. 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.

Loftus to WhitbyEdit

Blocked Kettleness tunnel, 2005

The extension of the line from Loftus to Whitby was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1866, with the majority of construction carried out under John Dickson between 1871 and 1873. 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. 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. Many bridges were defective and piers out of vertical. The original tunnels were out of line so that when boring was done from either end they did not meet in the centre.[1] 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.[2]

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.

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 £1,350,000 in 2018)[3] of structural maintenance (over five years) required on tunnels and viaducts particularly between Sandsend and Kettleness.[4][5] With dwindling passengers after the war years, the route was only popular during summer weekends and closed on 5 May 1958. Whitby West Cliff station remained open for another three years, serving trains from Whitby to Scarborough until it closed on 12 June 1961, after which Scarborough trains had to reverse at Prospect Hill Junction where the line from Whitby Town met those from Scarborough and Loftus.

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

Map of route and surrounding railways

The railway todayEdit

In the 1970s the northern section of the line was revived after ICI developed Boulby potash mine next to the former route, north of the village of Boulby in Redcar and Cleveland. This section of the line remains open as a freight line, but the stations remain closed. 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).[6]


  1. ^ Hoole, Ken (1971), Railways in Cleveland, Dalesman, ISBN 0-85206-131-5
  2. ^ Suggitt, G. (2005). Lost Railways of North & East Yorkshire: Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-918-3
  3. ^ 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 27 January 2019.
  4. ^ Williams 2012, pp. 121, 125–6.
  5. ^ Williams 2010, Chapter 4, pp. 110–2.
  6. ^ "The case for expanding the rail network" (PDF). Campaign for Better Transport. p. 42. Retrieved 22 April 2019.


Further readingEdit

  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (March 2013), "The Whitby – Loftus line: "a more spectacular example of a loss-making branch would be hard to find." Is this really the case?", Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society (216): 33–46
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (November 2013), "The Viaducts and Tunnels of the Whitby-Loftus Line", Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society (218): 33–47
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (March 2014), "A Difficult Year in the History of the Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway", Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society (219): 32–41
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (November 2014), "Closing a line before Beeching: the end of the Whitby-Loftus line", Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society (221): 149–58
  • Mell, Ken, "Loftus Station",
  • Historic England. "Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway (29448)". PastScape. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  • Forrest, William Robertson Lidderdale (1897). Tudsberry, J.H.T (ed.). "Strengthening the East Row and Upgang Viaducts on the Whitby and Loftus Railway". Minutes of the Proceedings. 130 (1897): 234. doi:10.1680/imotp.1897.19267.
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (November 2015). "The importance of fieldwork in researching railway history". Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society (224): 377–387.
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (Summer 2016). "The Suez Specials". The Gresley Observer. The Gresley Society (169): 19–27.
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (Summer 2017). "How the Coast Line could have been saved". The Gresley Observer. The Gresley Society (172): 32–33.
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (November 2018). "The costs of working a failing branch line: a financial study of the Whitby – Loftus line, 1910–1933". Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society (233): 351–62.
  • Williams, Michael Aufrère (2019). The Whitby-Loftus Line. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0-85361-542-2. Locomotion Papers 244.

External linksEdit