OF all the spectacular railways that once criss-crossed our region, the coastal line from Middlesbrough to Whitby doesn’t get as much attention as, say, the line from Barnard Castle over the Pennines which crossed over the most extraordinary viaducts anywhere in the world.

But the coastal route looks to have been an absolute must-ride, judging by these fabulous pictures of Sandsend sent in by Mike Crawley, via his daughter Emma.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sandsend viaduct at the bottom of Lythe Bank, courtesy of Mike CrawleySandsend viaduct at the bottom of Lythe Bank, courtesy of Mike Crawley

Mike remembered that he got them in a sale some years ago after seeing our Seaside Special a couple of weeks ago.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sandsend viaductThe Sandsend viaduct over the beck: its footprints across the beck can still be seen

Sandsend is a couple of miles north of Whitby and it is actually two settlements, Sandyford and East Row, which are built where two becks disgorge themselves into the sea.

Read more fascinating local history stories in our Looking Back section

Two becks required two tubular steel viaducts, and so when the line opened on December 3, 1883 there was one at the foot of Lythe Bank, known as Sandsend (268ft long, 63ft high and eight spans) and another at East Row (528ft long, 30ft high, eight spans).

Darlington and Stockton Times: East Row viaductHeading south over East Row with Sandsend in the distance

Below: Heading north over East Row in 1955 with Whitby in the distance

Darlington and Stockton Times: East Row viaduct in 1956 with Whitby in the distance

This line made the most of its glorious beachside situation by pioneering “camping coaches”. These were old coaches that were converted into tourist accommodation and rolled into position near suitable stations – from 1933, there were two at Sandsend and three at East Row.

When looking at these pictures, it is tempting to think about how wonderful, and economically beneficial, it would be if the lines hadn’t been ripped up.

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However, even though the camping coaches were popular, the line from Whitby to Loftus was making a loss when it was shut in 1958 long before the dreaded Beeching Axe of the mid-1960s. The line near Sandsend made its way along the cliffs, which were extremely prone to landslides, and then through two tunnels (Kettleness, at 308ft long, and Sandsend, at 1,652ft long) which were very expensive to maintain.

And by the very nature of the fact that the viaducts offered such splendid sea views tells us that they were dreadfully exposed to the salty sea air and, apparently, when they came down, they were found to be badly corroded.

Thanks to Mike and Emma for sending the pictures in, and to Ken Inman who has sent in a copy of his railway carriage print of Sandsend (below).

Darlington and Stockton Times: Ken Inman's railway carriage print of Sandsend

Railway carriage prints were produced by the railway companies from the 1920s to the 1950s in a distinctive letterbox shape to go beneath the luggage racks in carriages. Just like the railway posters featured in Memories 642, they were works of art, often produced by leading artists or photographers.

There were more than 1,500 railway carriage prints produced by all the companies in the country, so there are plenty to collect.

  • If you can tell us anymore about the Sandsend pictures, or railway carriage art, we’d love to hear from you. Email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk