Brandsby Light Railway

The motor transport service from Brandsby to Easingwold which ran from 1905, despite its critics had proved proved very popular, and by 1910 had enabled the Easingwold railway to payi a dividend of 4% – high for a railway company at that time. Hugh had discussions with the North Eastern Railway about a proposal for a Light Railway to run from Brandsby, through Crayke and Stillington to Haxby where it would connect with their network, a distance of approximately just over 9 miles. Hugh set about getting together a committee of promotors and in 1911 the NER sought a Light Railway Order and the necessary Parliamentary permission was given.

A full surveyors plan and lists of landowners concerned was lodged with the North Riding County Council, by the Town Clerk on 28th November 1911.

Brandsby Light Railway plan – Sheet 1. The Railway passes through Sutton-in-the-Forest, despite earlier objections to the motor service.
Brandsby Light Railway Plan – sheet 2. The railway terminates where it meets the Stillington Road, just outside Brandsby.

In July 1913 the Yorkshire Post reported that as a result of negotiations between the promotors of Brandsby Light Railway and the Development Commissioners, the Treasury had agreed to make a grant of £20,000 towards the cost of construction of the proposed line.

The promoters had argued that the proposed line would produce a large saving in wear and tear on the county roads and reduce heavy traffic on the main York and Helmsley roads. They were applying to the North Riding County Council for a loan of £5,000 towards the capital. The authorized capital of the line was £40,000.

However, there was some delay in implementing the Development Fund grant as this was the first grant of this kind which the Commissioners had made, and before creating a precedent, they were anxious to obtain data on the results obtainable by road motor tractions as compared with light railways, before creating a precedent. (Yorkshire Post, 18th July 1913).

On 23rd September 1913, a letter from the solicitor representing the promotors, H.W. Badger of York, laid out the plans made at a meeting of the promotors for raising a further £20,000 locally; this would be done through a series of public meetings organised by the promoters. Individual promotors were also asked to use any influence they had with the North Riding County Council Highways Committee with respect to the grant which had been applied for. No information as to how the promotors got on with raising pledges of money is currently available, but there is no reason to suppose that this was not forthcoming.

However, the Development Commissioners dragged their feet, possibly at least partly on account of the war, and on 8th February 1919, the Yorkshire Post reported that the Ministry of Transport was only then setting up a committee to look into the relative merits of road transport and light railways. It was not expected that anything would be advanced on any of the light railway schemes in the area, including the Brandsby Light Rail, until their recommendations were known. Brandsby Light Railway was among the purely agricultural lines being contemplated and was non-profit-making, but nevertheless, despite a favourable report from the Board of Agriculture experts, the Commissioners answer remained delayed until the Commissioners had decided on their policy with regard to motor services versus light railways.

At this date, the promotors were renewing their application and were still hopeful of satisfactory results, as the line was to develop the agricultural resources of the area.

So it seems that though the war undoubtedly caused a damaging delay, the decision not to go ahead with funding the development of light railways, appears to have come from the Development Commissioners in the Treasury, though I have not found confirmation of this decision.

Had this railway been built, it would undoubtedly have had great benefits for Brandsby and the surrounding districts, but the scheme of Hugh’s was never implemented.

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