Larpool viaduct at Ruswarp
Walking the line
By Carole Green
When, as a railwayman in the 1960s, Frank Dean decided to put his amateur film-making skills to good use, he could never have imagined his films would become an important part of history...
Frank Dean joined British Rail at the end of World War II and by the late 1950s was working in the Chief Signal Engineers drawing office in Hudson House in York.
As an amateur film-maker he decided to walk many of the lines earmarked for closure by Richard Beeching. It became something of a labour of love for him and his wife, Heather.
He explains how he came to film the railway lines, in particular the very picturesque Scarborough to Whitby line:
“In the spring of 1960 I found myself scheduled to go on what they called the 'officers special'. This was the annual inspection by the assistant signal engineer of all the proposals for maintenance and renewal of equipment.
"We had a special train, we called it the 'glass carriage'. We went all round the York and Leeds region taking several days. One of the more exciting journeys was the Scarborough to Whitby Railway."
“Over lunch, the name of Richard Beeching was mentioned sometime before it became public knowledge. As a very junior member of the group I kept quiet, but took a great interest in what was being said. I gathered from these conversations there were proposals for wholesale closures of some of the branch lines in Yorkshire.
Robin Hood's Bay
“I’d had a cine-camera since the early 1950s and not done a lot with it. I thought, 'I can make a film about all these Yorkshire branch lines'. So my wife, Heather, and I set out to just do that. We had line-side permits to walk anywhere on the track in England and this was very useful.”
Frank and Heather spent most of their free-time walking dozens of the branch lines earmarked for closure. They filmed a remarkable record of the railways in the days before Beeching wielded his 'axe'.
As well as the Scarborough to Whitby line, they filmed many others including Malton to Whitby, the Ingleton branch line, Middlesbrough to Whitby and Church Fenton to Harrogate. Frank says he had no idea of the historic significance of what he was doing, it was just a hobby.
The Yorkshire Film Archive heard about Frank’s remarkable collection and the films are now in their archive where they will be kept for future generations.
The Station Café at Cloughton
The Scarborough to Whitby Railway closed in March 1965 and was one of the most scenic lines in the country with spectacular views of the East Coast. Frank says; "the view of Robin Hood's Bay as you came out of the northern exit of Ravenscar tunnel was magical, especially on a sunny day."
The wonderful scenery and views of the old Scarborough to Whitby line can still be enjoyed by those using a more sedate mode of transport!
Most of the old railway line is now a cycle track, including the spectacular Larpool viaduct at Ruswarp near Whitby, which took the line across the River Esk. Many of the old railway buildings have found a new lease of life as houses, holiday homes and in the case of the old station at Cloughton, a café.
last updated: 23/10/2008 at 11:27
History of the Scarborough to Whitby railway
1872 - The first sod was cut
1878 - There were financial difficulties and construction was halted. The final cost of building the line was £649.813
1879 - Construction re-started
1885 - The line opened on 16th July and was operated by The North Eastern Railway
1898 - The North Eastern Railway purchased the line for £261.633
1953 - Scalby station closed
1965 - The line closed on 6th March 1965 under the cuts recommended by Dr Beeching