Main Image: Esk Valley Lineside Hut in 1969. Photo by Paul Jameson provided by Nick Carter.

Article 1 - Lineside Hut Restoration Project Phase 1

Article 2 - The Rail Motors – a history in brief by Paul Jameson

As you travel along, keep an eye out for the lineside huts scattered throughout your journey from Pickering to Grosmont. Some are old huts made from sleepers (6 of those are still present); some are concrete huts (another 6) which were ordered from catalogues and made in the LNER concrete works in York from the 1930s; and we have two remaining ‘wriggly tin’ huts – one in Goathland and one in Grosmont which in the 1960s would have housed the petrol driven rail motors1.

When the railways were maintained entirely by hand the lineside huts (also called ‘Platelayer Huts’ or ‘PWay Huts’) could be found at regular intervals across all railways – in most every mile or two.  Essentially the lineside huts were a place of sanctuary - to rest, have lunch, brew the kettle and warm through. They were also occasional tool stores for the men working on the line -  the platelayers, gangers and inspectors.

There was no road transport to lineside locations in those days nor a handy van to retreat to for lunch. Most staff would have travelled by train to the nearest station and walked or got dropped off to their work location by train.

Men would check in with their team in the huts and be given the tasks for the day working on the PWay2. Amongst the long list of jobs, the youngest member would often be sent back to the hut before lunch in time to put on the stove and kettle and warm through any lunch.

Inside, each lineside hut had a stove (the chimneys are still evident on the concrete huts) and whilst some people tell tales of first-class railway seats ‘borrowed’ for seating and old carpet from the carriages salvaged for flooring, most were earth or slab floors with plank seats and benches to rest on. Not particularly comfortable but better than a cold, wet or snowy rock outside!

No1 Hut near Newbridge in the 1960s. No longer there. Photo provided by Nick Carter.

Lineside Hut Restoration Project Phase 1

In the winter of 2021 we were very pleased to receive news from the North York Moors National Park, that we had received funding via the S106 monies from the Woodsmith Polyhalite mine to restore 3 of our huts via the, ‘Restoration of Degraded Heritage Assets in the National Park through the Landscape and Ecology Compensation Contribution’.

We do not wish to restore the huts in their entirety but instead preserve them for the future and bring them to life again – both as a museum piece and as active shelter for lineside conservation teams. We have also added bat, bird and bug boxes to them, making them an active part of the habitats around them (the remnant robin nests inside show they are already pretty popular!).

Two of the concrete huts – one in the North near the Esk Valley Cottages and one in the South at Kingthorpe nearer Pickering, have both been treated to some TLC. By summer 2022 they will be cleaned out, have restored window frames, new doors and a restored roof and coping stones.

The Rail Motor Hut at Goathland has also been restored. The foundations were weak which had lopsided the hut and the corrugated sheets had eroded. It now has a new frame and the sides, back and roof have been restored. It will look very different to what you may remember – old photos show it an LNER ‘stone’ colour and rather than the black it had become the NYMR team at Kirby Misperton have returned it to its original colour. It looks very smart.

This is not the first time volunteers have sought to preserve the lineside huts. Paul Jameson’s article from 1969 tells a great story about relocation and restoration on the NYMR.3

The concrete hut at Kingthorpe in need of some TLC. 2021. Photo by Kerry Fieldhouse.

The Goathland Rail Motor Hut in 2021. Photo by Kerry Fieldhouse.

The team at NYMR Kirby Misperton who have brought the Rail Motor Hut back to life. 2022. Photo by Kerry Fieldhouse.

The restored Rail Motor Hut. Note the patched sides to restore as much of the original sheeting as possible and the original stone LNER colour. Photo by Kerry Fieldhouse.

The project to restore the huts has been an adventure and we hope you will notice the difference in those we have worked on so far. Thank you to the National Park and Anglo American for the funding and many thanks to the NYMR Heritage Committee, S&T team, PWay team, Lineside Conservation team, Kirby Misperton team and individuals such as John Ives, John Addyman, Kelvin Whitwell, Nick Carter and Paul Jameson for bringing it all to life.

Associated Documents   

2 The annual task list for Gangers as laid out in the LNER Railway Magazine January 1934, copy provided by John Addyman. (Click image for detail)

3 1969 article in the NYMR Membership Matters written and provided by Paul Jameson. (Click image for detail)

The Rail Motors – a history in brief by Paul Jameson

A profusion of Permanent Way huts (lineside huts) existed on the NYMR at the time of its closure by British Railways. Many were sited near stations or signalboxes and used for storage. Others were remote but every mile or so there was a Permanent Way hut with facilities for platelayers trolleys.

The platelayers trolleys had been introduced by the LNER in the 1930s with many more supplied during the 1950s. They were an economical and easy means of taking the platelayers, with some basic equipment and a few tools, to wherever they needed to work. Most of these trolleys were made by Wickham of Ware and offered rudimentary weather protection when travelling. They were powered by a petrol engine noted for high levels of noise, vibration and temperamentality.

The trolleys were kept in special huts made from corrugated iron sited in convenient locations next to stations. The platelayers would arrive at the station for work and, when permitted by the signalman, remove the trolley from the hut by pushing it along old rails laid on their sides into the hut. To put the trolley on to the track, a turntable was carried. This consisted of a central supporting frame which was placed onto the centre of a sleeper, a main cross member which slotted into the support frame and two rails which slotted in turn into the main cross member. Once the turntable was assembled, the trolley was pushed onto it and the brake applied. Two men could then lift the back end of the trolley slightly and turn it round through 90 degrees, let off the brake and carefully roll the trolley onto the track.

Then it was a matter of starting the engine (easier said than done!) and travelling to the nearest Permanent Way hut to the site of the day’s work. On arrival at the hut, the turntable would be used again to place the trolley on one of the refuges by the hut. On the then double track NYMR, there were two refuges for each hut, one for the down line and the other for the up line. The trolley was always backed onto the refuge. This was because there was an instrument at the back of the trolley with a short lead on it which was plugged into a connection mounted on a short post at the rear of the refuge. These connections were not unlike, and may have been identical with, the connections between carriages used for switching the lights on or off. It was plugging in this connection which proved to the signalman that the trolley was safely off the line so that normal traffic could resume. 

Little remains of trolley refuges on the NYMR today although some concrete posts used for the connection into the signalling system and odd concrete platforms (mostly covered now with vegetation) remain.

Two railmotors with trailers and early volunteers, Goathland 1969. Photo by Paul Jameson (with a folding camera from the 1930s).