The NYMR Learning & Archives Department give you a fascinating story about Goathland Station:

It can be hard to imagine that the beautiful and tranquil Goathland Station was once a hive of noisy and heavy industrial activity.

Behind the tank house, there once stood a stone crushing plant that must have roared loudly as rocks from the whinstone mines on the moorland above were either transported directly into waiting railway wagons or crushed into small pieces for aggregate.

Copyright John Addyman 1979

“At some stage a tramway was built from these workings to a crushing plant - known locally as “The Cracker” - located on the east (up) side of the 1865 railway at Goathland Station” BST Simpson wrote in his typed memoir “Notes on Whinstone Mines” held in the NYMR Archive.

“It was during a brief stay in Goathland (as a child) that one day, with a friend who lived there, we climbed up the steep path from the station behind the up platform and siding. I was already “train mad” by then, and after the steep bit of the path, but short of the tramway, I heard a guard’s whistle and wanted to run back to the station, by that point entirely out of sight. The friend said “No, look it’s this little train which is whistling.” And I turned round and saw five or six little trucks without visible means of propulsion trundling through the heather on invisible rails, a man perched on the buffers of the final truck blowing the said guard’s whistle to warn people (or sheep?) off the track. Shortly afterwards, not along the track but diagonally across the heather, two galloping horses thundered up. I was utterly fascinated by these and utterly unafraid and impatient of my mother’s anxiety on my behalf. They were running freely and unattended, the wagons of course having come down by gravity in the charge of the brakeman, as I subsequently learnt.”

“….the total line was worked for the most part in two sections, each with one horse (or two horses coupled together) in steam. One (lot) worked the empties from the Cracker to the tunnel mouth, and left them in the loop, then coupled on to the laden ones on the other track which were pulled along the level to the reservoir, where they were uncoupled and as I have shewn found their own way back to the Cracker at what time the train ran down by gravity. The tunnel had a very low roof and in fact only quite small ponies could be used in it. On occasion at least larger horses were used outside the tunnel. Horse propulsion was necessary in the tunnel in both directions, the track being nominally level, though a drainage channel ran in a prepared gutter along the eastern side.”

Image: NYMR Archive

Both the Goathland Whinstone Mine and the “Cracker” closed in 1951 and the plant lay abandoned until the NYMR Preservation Society began their work on the old site. Then, on this day, 26 October 1969, the group returned the old pelton wheel that they had both unearthed and then restored, into service. The electricity generated by this hard-working water turbine was used to power the Volunteers’ sleeping carriage.

‘In the early days of the NYMR the pelton wheel was used with a belt connected to a dynamo to provide power for lighting, remembers David Torbet, S&T New Works Manager. “This was upgraded to a tractor to drive the belt. The starter for the tractor involved hand winding.’

Image: Nick Beilby

The stone crushing plant was built some ten years after Goathland Station’s opening in 1865 and operated from separate railway tracks running alongside the plant. It provided an outlet for the extensive quarries at Sil Howe where whinstone (a hard, volcanic rock crushed and used for paving blocks for paving streets) was being mined. As demand and production grew, a narrow-gauge railway was laid across the moor to the plant, which enabled an efficient route for processing and transportation. By 1926 seven thousand tons of whinstone were being transported from Goathland.

Initially the power used for the crusher was generated by a stationary steam engine and remained in service until 1900 when the boiler needed repairing. Instead, it was replaced with a waterwheel which was considered more cost effective to run.

A constant supply of water would have been needed for such an operation and so a new reservoir was constructed above the crushing plant, filled with water running out from the mines.

It became apparent however that the waterwheel wasn’t powerful enough for the demands of the job and was replaced by the pelton wheel in 1936. Supplied by Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon of Kendal, the water turbine was used for driving the crushing operation and hauling railway wagons up the quarry sidings.

By the time of closure in 1951, it has been suggested that the reservoir could only supply sufficient enough water to run the pelton wheel for just two and a half hours per day. When operations shut down, the wheel was buried and lay forgotten until the NYMR made their discovery.

The restoration of the pelton wheel and return to service at this time was thanks to the skills and experience of NYMR’s volunteers together with a piece of good fortune.

"One key factor was that parts were still available for the Pelton Wheel from the manufacturer (and probably still are today!)" says Goathland Station Master, John Bruce who himself began volunteering with NYMR a month after the pelton wheel was reinstated in 1969.

The pelton wheel’s return to service was short-lived - it was put to good use for three or four years, charging the batteries on a sleeping car which was the original volunteer accommodation, but was then replaced with a mains supply.

"The pelton wheel is still in situ," comments John Bruce, "but needs some work to replace a valve, but the key issue is there is a fracture in the water pipe from the reservoir which has resulted in the supply being permanently drained to prevent flooding form the leak."

Now the story of the “Cracker” will become part of the Goathland Station Trail. The history of Goathland Whinstone Mine and its relation to the railway and to the community of Goathland will all form part of new schools’ activity sessions, exploring Goathland and Grosmont’s role in the Industrial Revolution.  It is now, with the arrival of the railway, the iron mines, the whinstone mines and the “Cracker” that we begin to see the movement of people into the once isolated Esk Valley as employment opportunities change… census records show the houses at Green End in Goathland being occupied by whinstone miners and quarriers, stone cutters and railway labourers. Whilst some of these roles went to local men who might previously have worked locally in agriculture, we also find families travelling from across the country – from Norfolk, Gloucestershire and even Scotland, to name but a few – in search of work in these new industries.