A MONTH ago, we looked back to the days when Danby Wiske, an agricultural village about four miles north-west of Northallerton, had its own mainline railway station – although we were struggling to really understand why.

In its heyday, it was quite a busy place – ten trains a day called there with another two able to halt there if passengers requested a stop. It had its own siding where agricultural goods trains – milk churns, cereal sacks and livestock – pulled up.

Although the mainline between York and Darlington had opened in 1841, Danby Wiske’s station didn’t appear until 40 years later. It opened on Monday, December 1, 1884, the D&S devoting a paragraph to it the following Saturday. It cost £361 6s 4d to build and was designed by the North Eastern Railway’s architect William Bell, who was working on Darlington’s Bank Top at the time.

But it arrived just as the “race to the north” was hotting up – the east coast and west coast railways were competing with one another to travel the fastest between London and Edinburgh. Such speed required all sorts of new technology. One of the breakthroughs concerned the way locomotives, which guzzled several thousand gallons of water while covering 100 miles, replenished their water supply while on the run.

Six shallow troughs, each 600 or more yards long, were installed between the rails on the east coast mainline – one of these troughs was at Wiske Moor, just south of the new station. The trough was filled with water from a lineside tank, and as the engine, travelling at 60mph, approached, the driver lowered a scoop into the trough, and the train’s forward motion sent the water rushing up into the tank.

It was an extremely wet operation, with water spraying all over the place. Windows in the carriages had to be shut otherwise passengers would get an inadvertent shower.

It was also quite a labour intensive operation. The lineside tank was filled from a natural source, but the water had chemicals added to it to keep it clean and to stop it frothing, and to prevent the tank from rusting.

In winter, a lengthsman had to keep a fire burning to prevent the water from freezing; in autumn, he was employed keeping fallen leaves from clogging up the troughs; in a dry summer, he had to make sure there was always water for the engines to pick up.

And then he had make sure the oil lamps, which marked the start and end of the trough, were burning to inform the men on the footplate to lower and raise the scoop.

Locations for the troughs were carefully selected. They had to be on a long, straight stretch of line at the bottom of a slight natural dip. Because trains were travelling fast, they couldn’t be near mainline stations like Darlington and Northallerton, and because of the water spray, they had to be in remote locations.

So was Danby Wiske station – which was demolished shortly after its closure in 1958 – built partly to service the water trough at Wiske Moor?

GEOFF SOLOMON, the D&S’ correspondent in the village, got in touch with a fascinating historical snippet. Today, the A167 heads straight north out of Northallerton across the fields where, on August 22, 1138, 12,000 Scottish soldiers were killed during the Battle of the Standard.

Originally, though, the Great North Road was the lane to Danby Wiske which took a tight 90 degree turn on its journey towards Great Smeaton. It is said that during the Napoleonic Wars, French PoWs built the current A167 to speed up the passage of military supplies.

The French prisoners also did remedial work a little further north at Lovesome Hill, diverting the A167 away from the hamlet and digging out a cutting to make the journey easy and flat.

Geoff has a 1698 map of the Great North Road on which the hamlet is called Lowsey Hill – which could have been pronounced “lousy”. “Some estate agent will have decided that Lowsey Hill did not sell houses,” says Geoff, and so the name was changed to the more romantic-sounding Lovesome Hill.