|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD
© SEPTEMBER 1966
SANDSTONE FROM SAINTOFT
ALAN THORNTON JONES
Until October 1961, General Refractories Ltd. operated a two foot gauge tramway system at their Newbridge Works, near Pickering in North Yorkshire. Originally built in 1919 by the Pickering Sand Co. Ltd., the tramway ran for a distance of 2½ miles and served sand quarries (now abandoned) at the northern edge of Gundale Wood, and at Saintoft. Two quarries at Saintoft (one now disused) were served by separate branches from a junction just north of Queens Plantation, though it is doubtful whether both quarries were worked simultaneously. The Gundale workings on the other hand were less extensive since only that sandstone which lay in the immediate path of the tramway was removed.
At first most of the sandstone was sold uncrushed, but towards the middle of the nineteen-twenties the Company decided to use some of the mineral for manufacturing bricks and a works was erected at Newbridge. In its early days the output of bricks was fairly constant, but a gradual decline towards the years of the depression showed that such a project had not been profitable. One assumption which holds some justification is that sand bricks, being somewhat soft and prone to early weathering, were recognised by prospective purchasers to be a poor investment and, because there were many rival brick manufacturers in the area who produced better bricks (with a clay content), the Pickering Sand Co. Ltd. was to a considerable extent affected and by 1932 production had ceased. The brickmaking part of the works was dismantled, except for the tipping dock and crushing plant which are still in use today.
Locomotives have been used on the tramway ever since quarrying began, and the first example is thought to have been built up by a local firm of general and agricultural engineers, the North and East Riding Engineering Co. Ltd. It is said to have been extremely primitive in construction, having a complete lack of weather protection, and was powered by a single cylinder Alpha petrol engine which caused excessive vibration at all speeds, resulting in a very uncomfortable ride. Nevertheless it proved quite successful, a fact which no doubt satisfied the company even if not the unfortunate driver, since it was retained for over fifteen years.
By 1928 it had become apparent that a single locomotive was not sufficient to cope with the ever increasing output of sandstone, and therefore a second locomotive, this time steam powered, and named FORWARD, was purchased. This locomotive, built in 1919 by Kerr, Stuart & Co. Ltd., was originally one of a batch of twelve 2ft 0in gauge ‘Wren’ type 0−4−0 saddletanks with 6in by 9in cylinders and 1ft 8in wheels (see RECORD 5/6), ordered by the Ministry of Munitions in August 1918. As works number 4016, she was despatched new from Stoke on 4th February 1919 to the Scottish Aircraft Repair Depot at Renfrew at a cost of £795. (There is some doubt as from where FORWARD was obtained; one version gives "Air Ministry, London". However, Kerr Stuart records show that at some period 4016 was at "Ilford", but whether with the Air Ministry or possibly the Ilford Gas Company - where sister engine 4020 worked - is not known. Also, the name FORWARD suggests perhaps, an association with Thos. W. Ward Ltd. - Hon. Eds.) Under Pickering Sand ownership FORWARD enjoyed regular use but because of her poor condition was not retained for long. In the 1932 trade depression, when General Refractories Ltd. gained overall control of Newbridge Works, she was withdrawn from service and, after lying outside derelict for several months, scrapped onsite; the metal was sold to H. Dale of Kirkbymoorside although he did not do the actual scrapping.
Ruston 175410 at
Newbridge on 6th
September 1961. (A. T. Jones)
The junction near Saintoft in September 1961. The section to
was latterly disused. (R. A. Hodge)
Ruston 170373 emerges from the shadows of Wailes Hagg Wood on
1961 with a load of sandstone from Saintoft. (A. T. Jones)
In 1936 a small 18/21 h.p. 4−wheel diesel locomotive, works number 175410, was purchased new from Ruston & Hornsby Ltd., Lincoln, and was followed three years later by a similar but smaller machine, works number 193975. During or immediately after the Second World War, however, the latter was sold to the Billing Gravel Co. Ltd. in Northamptonshire and replaced by a further Ruston diesel, this time of 16/20 h.p., built in 1934 and works number 170373. It was purchased second-hand from Hargreaves & Jones Ltd. of Chelford in Cheshire, and arrived at Newbridge without a cab although one was subsequently fitted. At the turn of the half century a fourth and final Ruston diesel locomotive was acquired from an associated company, the Meltham Silica Firebrick Co. Ltd., near Huddersfield. Built in 1936 as works number 175988, this locomotive was larger than the previous three, having three cylinders instead of two and a horsepower rating of 27/32.
Normally, between eighty and a hundred tons of sandstone were conveyed down the tramway daily, necessitating two locomotives in regular use. As there were no passing places on the tramway only one locomotive at a time was able to complete a full journey - Saintoft to Newbridge (full), Newbridge to Saintoft (empty) - during which time the second train was being filled up at the quarry. Some seven tubs would arrive at Newbridge at roughly hourly intervals throughout the day.
On 13th October 1961 when, after much uncertainty, locomotive haulage finally ceased, quarrying was suspended until the tramway had been lifted and a suitable roadway constructed over a similar route. One of the locomotives was used to assist in the actual dismantling which was completed in twelve days. Most of the track was brought down to Newbridge and stacked with some sort of neatness outside the works but the many tubs, some of which had not been used for several years, were dumped all around the immediate vicinity. On 29th October 1961 the scene could well have been described as one of gradual metallic decay. The three locomotives awaiting disposal stood together on the tipping dock and all rail access to them had been lifted.
A visit to Newbridge in October 1963 revealed that one of the Rustons (170373) had departed a few months previously to the Firm’s Batts Works at Wolsingham in County Durham; it was not, however, to be used as a locomotive. Although everything else has remained the same it is unlikely to do so for much longer as the scrap merchants are on their way to remove the final traces of this interesting tramway.
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"BRISTOL. - A locomotive has been tried with success on the tramway lines. The makers are Messrs. Fox, Walker and Co., who are supplying the engine to a company at Rouen. On the Bristol tramways some of the gradients are very steep, and the locomotive ascended them, drawing a loaded car, with comparative ease."
("Iron, Friday, 8th December 1877.) (K.P.P.)