The North Bay Miniature Railway

Scarborough’s North Bay Railway is one of the town’s most enduring and well-loved attractions.  Passengers can board the train at either Northstead Manor Gardens (the stop, however is called ‘Peasholm‘, after nearby Peasholm Park) or Scalby Mills, and take a scenic ride through park, along the seafront and back again.

North Bay Railway

Above: The North Bay Railway (source)

The railway opened in 1931, as part of the brand new Northstead Manor Gardens (Pleasure Gardens), which would eventually include a water chute, open air theatre and boating lake. The gardens were the brainchild of Harry W Smith, a prolific engineer who designed many of the town’s most successful tourist attractions. However, the miniature railway proposals met with a mixed reception from locals, gaining the nickname ‘the Borough Engineer’s Toy’.

Northstead Manor Gardens

Above: From the early development of Northstead Manor Gardens at Hodgson’s Slack (source)

At 2pm, Saturday May 23, 1931, the railway began taking passengers. As with all of Scarborough’s opening ceremonies of this era, the occasion was a grand one, with the presentation of artefacts to the driver (see below). Neptune was the name of the original locomotive, and Alderman Whitehead, presiding over the occasion, made the following solemn decree:

“On behalf of the National Union of Drivers, Engineers and others, I have to present you, the first driver of the North Bay Railway Engine, with your insignia of office, your oil can and your ‘sweat rag’.”

Neptune is the oldest engine, having begun its service in 1931. Triton and Robin Hood followed only a year after, and in 1933, Poseidon. The first two locomotives are still owned by Scarborough Council (then the Scarborough Corporation), with the remaining two owned by the operators (North Bay Railway Company), to whom Triton and Neptune are leased.

North Bay Railway

Above: The train setting off from Peasholm station (source)

A number of companies were involved with the construction of the trains and carriages, including Robert Hudson Ltd (Leeds), Hudswell Clark, Slingsby and Armstrong and subsequent additions and restorative work completed by Rail Restorations North East Limited, of Shildon. The original carriages have undergone much restoration to ensure their survival to the present day. Furthermore, the Patent Enamel Company provided the station boards whilst advertising boards and posters were provided by LNER (London and North Eastern Railway).

North Bay Railway

Above: Passengers enjoy the picturesque Manor Gardens (source)

However, after only a year of operation disaster struck. In 1932, 10 July, a collision occurred at the now disused Beach station, overlooking the North Bay.

Driver Herbert Carr, only 25, lost his life, and numerous passengers were injured. Thankfully when a similar accident occurred in 1948, everyone survived and injuries were minimal.

On July 6, 1940, the attraction closed until Easter 1945. WWII no doubt led many to fear a repeat of the bombardment that occurred during WWI, and securing coastal defences took priority over the running of the railway. Interestingly enough, the small tunnel in Manor Gardens gained a new function – as a place for the Royal Naval School of Music to store their musical instruments whilst operating from the nearby Norbreck Hotel.

North Bay Railway

Above: The tunnel at Northstead Manor Gardens (source)

The railway was acquired from Scarborough Council in 2007 by the North Bay Railway Company, who also now operate the Water Chute, Boating Lake, Sky Trail and more. Thanks to their continuing hard work, the miniature railway still delights passengers today, and aspiring train drivers can even book a session at the controls.

North Bay Railway

Above: The train and the water chute in the background (source)

There are plenty of stories to be told about the railway – any memories are very welcome, as are corrections, additional details and so on.

Please comment below or get in touch via the Facebook Page.

Sources

North Bay Railway’s website

A short history of the North Bay Railway

In-depth history of the attraction here

Scarborough Civic Society

Materials held at the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library

 

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After Monkey Island: The Scalby Mills Site

*If you haven’t yet answered the short Stories From Scarborough questionnaire yet, please do so by clicking here*

Now onto Scalby Mills…

If it was possible to travel one hundred years into the past, then Scalby Mills – located just beyond the North Sands in Scarborough – would look very different indeed.

scalbymills3

Above: Scalby Mills – undated (from the author’s collection)

It may not be immediately obvious in the above picture, but if you look to the left of the image you will notice an ascending part of a small hill which is now the flat car park of the Sea Life Centre. Known as Monkey Island, this bizarre hunk of rock was presumably once part of Scalby Beck river bank, having been separated by the process of erosion. The unusual name has invited many attempts at explanation – the most popular of which involves a monkey, brought to Scarborough by a sailor from foreign climes, that made its escape via the island (although technically it is not really a true island).

There is an excellent photograph of the landmark available here, taken in 1960, shortly before it was destroyed.

Over the years Monkey Island became the site of cricket and football matches, picnics and wartime defence (in the form of a machine gun bunker during WWII). However, when local fairground entrepreneur Albert Corrigan (his brother Jimmy acquired, amongst other things, the former Turkish Baths on Scarborough Foreshore – now Coney Island Amusements) set his heart on building an amusements site at Scalby Mills, Monkey Island became an unwelcome obstacle.

monkeyisle

Above: Monkey Island can be seen in the distant centre of the above image (from the author’s collection)

By the 1960s, Scarborough’s North Side was teeming with attractions – the North Bay Bathing Pool had been going strong for thirty years, and Peasholm Park for even longer. Northstead Manor Gardens offered a boating lake, outdoor theatre, water chute and miniature railway, and the end of the decade would also bring Scarborough Marineland and Zoo to the vicinity. Clearly visitors were spending more and more time in what was once the more remote and uncultivated part of Scarborough, and the miniature railway already took passengers towards the Scalby Mills area.

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Above: The miniature railway already travelled to Scalby Mills (from the author’s collection)

Sensing the potential for a lucrative investment, Corrigan eventually secured rights to develop Monkey Island and the land nearby into an amusements site. The destruction of the landmark would provide a large, level area on which to develop a comprehensive complex, and a new station for the miniature railway could also be built – making it the ideal way in which to travel to this exciting new attraction, which opened in 1963.

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Above: Passengers travel to the brand new site (from the author’s collection)

The complex was extensive, and included a cafe, slot machines, paddling pool, fairground rides and later, an impressive Astro Slide, not unlike the one at nearby Scarborough Zoo (although it is unclear whether this Astro Slide arrived later, when the zoo became Marvel’s Amusement Park; it was also considerably smaller than the Scalby Mills equivalent).

astro

Above: The impressive Astro Slide at Scalby Mills (from the author’s collection)

The Scalby Mills Amusements enjoyed just under thirty years of business, but eventually closed in 1990, to make way for the Sea Life Centre that still stands on the site today. Once again the area was redeveloped, as was the Scalby Mills station for the miniature railway. There is even pirate-themed miniature golf for visitors, and the aquarium – with its distinctive, pyramid-esque architecture – is an ideal destination for rainy days (or otherwise) – the Sea Life Centre is still going strong and there is no sign of its success abating.

sealife

Above: The white pyramids of the Sea Life Centre (from the author’s collection)

Albert Corrigan died in 2008, and whilst the Corrigan name is still well known in Scarborough (the family have established various attractions in the town), the same cannot be said for Monkey Island. For many of us it is difficult to imagine the shoreline as it was – old pictures show a hill that looks out of place and strange. Even more intriguing is the question of the monkey who supposedly escaped there. Where did he or she arrive from? And where did the creature go?

You can see dozens more excellent photographs of the Scalby Mills Amusement site by visiting this link.

Do you remember Monkey Island? Or Scalby Mills Amusements? What was it like? Please share your stories!

Sources

Maritime Heritage Centre: Monkey Island

Postcards of Scarborough

Showman Albert Corrigan Dies

All other information sourced from old newspaper clippings at the Scarborough Room (Scarborough Library) and the Doris and Cyril Prescott Collection.

Have You Ever Been To…?

After requests from several readers, Stories From Scarborough is aiming to add some new attractions to its growing list. In order to do this effectively, the project needs your help!

Have you ever been to, or do you know anything about the following former attractions:

1) The Corner Cafe

Scarborough’s Corner Cafe opened on June 5th, 1925. It was opened by the then Mayoress. Located on the corner between Peasholm Gap and the North Sands, there couldn’t be a more suitable place for a cafe during the busy summer season.

cornercafe2

Above: The early days of the Corner Cafe (from the author’s collection)

In 1967 it hit the news courtesy of an incredible miniature railway exhibition that consisted of 100 trains, an entire mile of track, 8000 tiny people (models naturally!) and a whole array of landscapes based on real and imaginary places. Designed by Mr Bertram Otto it cost £6000 to build and attracted 100,000 visitors over the first summer season on display. Following this success the cafe became a popular club venue, hosting live music and entertainment. Singers, acrobats and folk groups all joined the bill, and the venue had a reputation for showcasing local talent as well as bigger names. It was demolished in 2007 and replaced with apartments and shops, although the cafe itself closed a number of years earlier.

2) Scalby Mills Amusements

In 1963 local amusements king Albert Corrigan engineered the Scalby Mills Development – which involved the creation of various family-friendly attractions, including a cafe, paddling pool and astroslide. The complex was built at the far end of Scarborough’s North Sands.

Above: Entertainment for all at Scalby Mills (source)

This attraction required the land to be levelled, and in the process Scarborough lost local landmark Monkey Island, and the North Bay (Miniature) Railway terminus changed accordingly. However, the site was once again developed to make way for today’s Sea Life Centre, which opened in 1991, and remains a popular attraction to this day.

3) The World Of Holograms

Located upstairs in Corrigans Amusements (South Bay seafront), this bizarre attraction featured lighting and visual illusions.

Above: The World of Holograms in 1992, donated by Leonie (source)

Stories From Scarborough has thus far been unable to establish the dates of operation for this attraction, or indeed any substantial amount of information about it.

4) Peasholm Park Tree Walk

A popular summer evening event at Peasholm Park, the Tree Walk, or Tree Walk Wonderland as it was otherwise known opened in 1953 at the cost of £7,000.

It was the most amazing place to visit. On the island in Peasholm Park. Only able to visit at night. Had to pay to cross the bridge, high bridge walks amongst the trees and illuminated scenes, some moving. It was magical as a child. We were allowed to visit on our last night before going home, if we had been good.

A reader’s memory (source)

This attraction enjoyed great success, particularly in the 1960s and 70s, but eventually closed in 1990. It took visitors up onto the island at the centre of Peasholm Lake where they could view a number of illuminated displays. Even the waterfall had its own set of coloured lights.

Above: Some of the illuminations; from a distance (source)

5) The Madhouse

A wacky attraction on the seafront, on the South Side, where visitors could confront backwards escalators, wobbly floors and a whole range of hilarious obstacles. Its signage was red and yellow. The Madhouse caused controversy in 1981 by displaying a waxwork model of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe – according to the Scarborough News, this attracted many complaints. Dates of opening and closure have so far eluded Stories From Scarborough.

The inclusion of these attractions in the project will depend upon the availability of information and sources. This is where you, the readers can really help. No matter how vague or uncertain the memory, even if you recall a snippet or a single sentence, please send it in. Every lead is potentially helpful, especially given that many of these attractions are not very well documented.

The information on this page comes from readers and old newspaper articles in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.