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Sunday, 27 May 2018

North Bay Railway (Scarborough)

In a nutshell

Gauge:         20"(508 mm)

Length:       78 mile (1.4 km)

Opened:     1931


North Bay Railway
North Yorkshire,
YO12 6PF

Tel:         01723 368791

Date of visit:     22 July 2017


Key Facts

  • The railway was planned as an integral part of the development of Northstead Park (formerly known as Hodgson's Slack)
  • The line was originally intended to be 18" gauge and then 15" gauge, the gauge promoted by Sir Arthur Heywood and Wenman Bassett Lowke as the 'Minimum Gauge' (see A short Chronology of the Minimum Gauge). Eeventually, Hudswell Clarke won the contract to supply the locomotives to a gauge of 20".
  • The plan for the original railway was a circular route but this was later modified into the present terminus to terminus route along the cliffs
  • At Scalby Mills, there was originally a balloon loop for reversing the locomotives, which included a short tunnel into the cliffs. This was replaced by a Y junction in 1962 and ultimately by the existing turntable in 1988.
  • The only time the railway has ceased running was between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War.
  • The decision to use steam outline diesel locomotives instead of live steam locomotives was motivated by reduced operating and maintenance costs.
  • Neptune was the first locomotive to run on the railway and is still running today.
  • The original locomotives use torque converters to transfer power from the diesel engine to the driving wheels to provide a very smooth transmission and is akin to driving a steam locomotive with a single regulator and no gears. The torque converters have now been replaced by hydraulic pumps and motors.
  • The railway has four steam outline diesel locomotives - 1931 Neptune 4-6-2 (built in 1931), 1932 Triton 4-6-2 (built in 1932), 1933 Poseidon 4-6-2 (built in 1933) and 570 Robin Hood 4-6-4T (built 1932).
  • The coaching stock was originally built by Robert Hudson in Leeds. The bodies were replaced in the 1960s and again in 1991, 1998 and 2007.
  • The railway is open daily from April to October and then some weekends and school holidays during the winter (January excepted).


Map by Svitapeneela at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

My Impressions

On arriving at Peasholm station, the first thing which struck me was the size of the locomotives. As the gauge is wider than most miniature railways (ie 20" v 7¼" - 15"), the locomotives are proportionately larger.

Having paid for my ticket, I watched my loco (1931, Neptune) running around her train .....

..... making use of the balloon loop which circles the engine sheds and enables the loco to reverse direction without the need for a turntable. I am not aware of any other railways which use this clever approach, but I am willing to be corrected.

After coupling-up, within a few minutes we were off, skirting the boating lake .......

.... and passing beneath the rails of the water chute.

After passing the outdoor concert arena, we reached the cliffs and the passing loop at the former Beach Station where we passed another train travelling in the opposite direction.

Travelling on shelf cut into the cliff face ......

....... we reached Scalby Mills Station, where our loco was turned on the turntable......

...... and ran round our train ....

... ready for the return journey.

We, once more, made our way back along the cliffs to Beach Station ......

.... where we passed the returning train and the drivers exchanged tokens.

We then retraced our steps into Northstead Park .....

.... and returned to Peasholm Station.

I now took the opportunity to walk beside the line, watching the train depart .....

..... and the boat on the water chute splashing into the lake, ......

 ...... before being hauled back up again.

I gained a good view of trains as they passed by on the opposite side of the lake.

 At Beach Station, I watched loco 1932, Triton ......

...... passing Neptune.

 There are plenty of good vantage points for watching the trains pass by on the cliffs above the beach.

As they had two trains in service (which I believe they do on most operational days), the services are very regular .......

...... and so the wait is not long between trains.

And, of course, there are always the attractions of the beach, itself.

What a fine little railway this is! Although the locomotives are not steam powered, they are distinctive and interesting in their own right. Their heritage is undeniable and their size and the quality of their construction gives them poise and elegance as they ply their trade back and forth through the park and across the cliff face.

I spent a good 2-3 hours travelling on and watching the various train manoeuvres - being particularly fascinated by the balloon reversing loop at Peasholm Station. The staff were attentive and keen to discuss the railway and its locos. The railway gauge of 20" makes it fairly unique in the UK, Shipley Glen Tramway and the railway at Woburn being the only others (to my knowledge). A very interesting railway with an interesting history and heritage.

There is a cafe adjacent to the station at Peasholm and plenty of other eateries within a short walk of the park. The ticket office sells a few mementoes and a guide to the railway which elaborates on the history and operation of the railway outlined above.


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