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

 

Kinderland: Did You Know…?

This is the fifth in a series of posts summarising some of the lesser known, and sometimes unexpected facts behind Scarborough’s former attractions. The others include the following:

Scarborough Aquarium: Did You Know…?

Gala Land: Did You Know…?

The Hispaniola: Did You Know…?

Scarborough Zoo: Did You Know…?

This post is about Kinderland, the children’s activity park that operated on Burniston Road, Scarborough between 1985 and 2007. To read more about it, please see the links on the Places page.

Did you know that…

1) Kinderland is a German word

Kinder translates as ‘children’ and land means ‘country’ in German. Indeed a number of childrens’ attractions in Germany, past and present, been named Kinderland, as have attractions elsewhere – even in the US. Founder Dudley Wallis was reportedly discouraged from using a German name for his play park, but did so nonetheless.

Above: Camp Kinderland in the US has a long history (source)

One of the more famous uses of the Kinderland name includes Camp Kinderland – a camp based in Tolland, Massachusetts, and originally founded by a Jewish organisation based in New York. It was formed in 1923 as an escape for children living in the grim tenement buildings of the city, and was the feature of a recent documentary – Commie Camp.

2) The park was inspired by its German equivalent(s)

However, it was not the famous Camp Kinderland that inspired Dudley Wallis, but in fact a park in Munich, Germany – also called Kinderland.

Above: Munich Airport has a Kinderland, but this is too modern to be Wallis’ inspiration (source)

After his holiday camp (the Wallis Holiday Camp at nearby Cayton Bay) closed, Dudley Wallis was able to spend more time relaxing – this included watching television, and it was a feature on a German camp (called Kinderland) that formed part of his early inspiration for the park.

I sat around with nothing specific to do in the morning

Dudley Wallis on his television habit (source)

As mentioned above, the best known Kinderland in Munich now seems to be a play area at the city’s main airport. Perhaps Wallis meant the Kinderland resort in Bavaria?

Above: Kinderland Bavaria – outdoor play in Germany (source)

The Kinderland Company operates a range of leisure parks, holiday accommodation sites and attractions in Bavaria. Perhaps it was an early version of this organisation that Dudley Wallis saw on television? Either way, Kinderland(s) across the world seem to feature holidays, play and often the great outdoors. Scarborough’s Kinderland was no different, and certainly had a holiday camp feel to it, with the timber huts, neat fences and tidy landscaped grounds, surrounded by trees and greenery.

3) The park was not initially welcomed

As mentioned in this post – many in Scarborough did not want Kinderland, fearing a rowdy amusement park brimming with slot machines, lights and loud music. Yet Dudley Wallis did not want any of these things either – Kinderland boasted a distinct lack of slot machines, music and anything garish or obtrusive. His adventure playground was very much in keeping with its surroundings – it encouraged exercise, games and good old-fashioned outdoor play for children, whilst also providing a cafe and plenty of seating areas for parents.

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Above: Kinderland postcard (from the author’s collection)

Interestingly, following resistance to the park in the 1980s, Scarborough fought to keep Kinderland when it faced closure in the early 2000s, and the attraction also won an award in the late 1980s.

4) Money struggles began early on

Dudley Wallis’ dream took £700,000 to realise – the land had to be converted, the playground built, the materials bought and then there was the staff the run it. Although Kinderland enjoyed a successful opening weekend and became a popular draw for coach trippers, visitors tailed off, and whilst the park remained well-liked and attended, custom was insufficient to meet the costs, and as early as 1989 losses were reported.

5) There were Muddlebugs

One of Kinderland’s most popular attractions was its fleet of pedal cars – humorously named Muddlebugs. Notoriously difficult but enjoyable to operate, the cars required the rider to co-ordinate pedalling with hand operated steering around a carefully marked ‘racing track’. With their bulbous wheels and wonky gears these vehicles were far from Grand Prix material, but there were often queues for a ride and children are certainly competitive mini-racers!

Above: Muddlebugs similar to those used at Kinderland (source)

Of course Muddlebugs were never specific to Kinderland, and can still be found at selected children’s leisure parks, both in the UK and abroad. When the park closed, many of its rides and structures were put up for sale, so parts of the attraction could still be entertaining children somewhere to this day. Perhaps.

6) The indoor ball pool contained 50,000 plastic balls

Housed inside a large wooden hut was an extensive indoor play area featuring plastic tunnels, slides, firemen’s poles, and a ball pool. Known as ‘the swimming pool’, it was popular with visitors, many of whom reportedly mentioned in their letters of appreciation to the park’s founder Dudley Wallis.

Above: Postcard depicting the ball pool – top right (from the author’s collection)

Shoes were left outside the play area, so that worn socks could navigate brightly coloured tunnels, stumbling past padded beams and netting, which separated the different parts of the indoor complex.

7) The site was formerly used as allotments

Kinderland, like Atlantis, Marvel’s, Manor Gardens and Peasholm Park, was once part of the epic Northstead Estate, which was eventually sold to the Scarborough Corporation during the early twentieth century. However, whilst much of the area was converted into entertainment spaces, the Kinderland site avoided this fate until the 1980s, although the water chute and boating lake long pre-dated it, being part of the original Northstead Manor Gardens, which were constructed in the 1930s.

Above: The miniature railway passes the boating lake – top right – at Northstead Manor Gardens (source)

Not far from the army barracks on Burniston Road, the Kinderland site was used for more leisurely activities, namely the growing of plants by local residents. Before that, the area was part of a network of fields and farmland, possibly used for crops or grazing livestock.

Currently the site remains in limbo – Kinderland is gone (although the water chute and boating lake continue to survive), and the overgrown site lies empty, awaiting redevelopment according to the most recent reports. Several sources mention proposed holiday chateaus – maybe Kinderland will continue to entertain children in the distant future, or perhaps its days as ‘the children’s world’ are gone forever.

Sources

For further sources see other Kinderland posts and also this article from the July 1985 Glasgow Herald.

Scarborough, Sandcastles and Stories

This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring artistic responses to former Scarborough attractions.

For the others please see the following links:

The Making of a Chairlift

Back to Childhood

A Third Hispaniola?

The humble sandcastle is emblematic of the traditional British seaside holiday. And yet, when I visited Scarborough as a child, it was not my brothers and I who were the main sandcastle builders, but my mum.

1993

Above: No sandcastles for me – apparently I liked to draw random circles in the sand (from the author’s personal collection)

Sidenote: Can you spot the Marvel’s chairlifts in the background?

My mum’s sandcastles were elaborate affairs – a huge mountain of sand was surrounded by a fortress of small castles, and crowned with a singular form on the top. This uppermost castle usually ended up with a flag of some kind piercing its roof, and a deep moat around the outside was filled with seawater. The outer walls and entry road were painstakingly patted into place. On every seaside visit this formula was repeated to a high degree of accuracy.

But what, you might ask, has this got to do with any of the former seaside attractions investigated here?

Well, firstly, sand is part of the language of the seaside, and all of the attractions are inevitably tied to Scarborough’s status as a seaside resort. I wanted to find a way to reference more general themes  of the project. Childhood is another example – playing with sand is something many of us did as kids, whether that be at the seaside or in a sandpit.

Above: Playing with sand is more commonly a childhood pursuit (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Secondly, I wanted to find a material that would effectively represent the decay of the chosen attractions. Sand is malleable, but also incredibly fragile. One of the things I love about sandcastles is that, when the day ends, the sea washes them away, and the beach is smoothed out, like a fresh canvas for a new morning.

Above: A metaphor for the fading memories of former attractions? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

When I visited the Marvel’s site last week, I was struck by how swiftly Nature had erased many traces of the amusement park’s existence. I like the idea that no matter what we build, Nature always reclaims the land back eventually. Whilst there is a sadness to be found in the dereliction, and in some cases, redevelopment of old attractions, there is also a sense of rebirth and recovery. After all, building an attraction arguably violates the natural world, and when it fades away, plants, trees and animals return.

Enough philosophy for now.

More about the sandcastles!

Above: Experimenting with sand (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I began by simply experimenting with the sand, and the bucket and spade (bought from the seafront at Scarborough of course!). I also used various props to reference former attractions – such as the cardboard water chute sign above and chocolate coin wrappers as stand-ins for the Hispaniola doubloons.

Above: Signs and symbols (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Below: Burying Kinderland (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I enjoyed the lines, shapes and texture of the sand, and the process of constructing, destroying and reconstructing castles – repetitive gestures that mimicked both my mum’s methodical building processes and the ongoing history of development, redevelopment and dereliction that has characterised many of Scarborough’s attraction sites.

Above: The Marvel’s site has witnessed multiple redevelopments; and dereliction (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Following initial experiments I developed the idea further by creating crumbling sandcastle memorials to each attraction, complete with a handmade flag featuring a fragmented image of said attraction.

Above: A Marvel’s memorial? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Below: A tribute to Waterscene? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The strength of these sculptures lies in their temporary existence. In moments the sand starts to turn to dust, and slowly but surely the primitive structures cave in. They never last for a long time, like, say, a grand old painting in an art gallery. In a way they are like the memories I’m exploring – fragile, temporary and always changing.

Above: The crumbling memories of long lost attractions (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I plan to develop this idea further once I arrive in Scarborough, possibly on the North Bay – mainly because this is nearest to the majority of the attractions I’m researching, but also because this is the beach I always played on as a child – more often than the louder, busier South Bay.

Making sandcastle memorials with real Scarborough sand would be so much more meaningful – perhaps I could even hold a memorial service for all the long lost attractions. Perhaps.

The Historic Water Chute

One of Kinderland’s best loved features was the Water Chute.

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Above: The Kinderland Water Chute (from the author’s personal collection)

Passengers boarded this boat-shaped vessel and were swiftly transported, via tracks, down to the nearby boating lake in Northstead Manor Gardens.

Manor Gardens

Above: The former Kinderland boating lake – the Water Chute tracks are just on the left behind the trees (source)

The descent ended with a huge splash, and the ride was completely free for Kinderland ticket holders.

Kinderland

Above: Another view of the Water Chute (source)

Although the Water Chute was acquired by Kinderland when the activity park opened in 1985 – the chute itself had existed since 1932, operating independently for over 50 years.

The Historic Water Chute

Above: An early postcard featuring the Water Chute (source)

The earliest water chutes were developed during the early twentieth century, and by the 1920s were making their way into fairs and parks across the UK.

southport water chute

Above: An early Water Chute in Southport (from the author’s collection)

Blackpool, Southport, Southend-on-Sea all had one, and North Yorkshire was no exception, with chutes opening in both Hull and Scarborough. The design is often attributed to Charles Wicksteed, who founded Wicksteed Park in Kettering. This park also, unsurprisingly, features a Water Chute – one of the first to be built and one of only a few still in operation today.

Wicksteed

Above: The Water Chute at Wicksteed Park – very similar to the one in Scarborough (source)

Below: Charles Wicksteed (source)

Wicksteed

In 1928 construction of the Water Chute in Northstead Manor Gardens (also known as Scarborough Pleasure Park) began, taking four years to complete and eventually opening alongside the nearby Open Air Theatre in 1932.

Pleasure Park

Above: Water Chute (centre), Open Air Theatre (background) and the miniature railway on the left (source)

One year earlier, the miniature railway had transported its first passengers past the Water Chute site, then under construction.

BBC

Above: The early days of the North Bay Railway (source)

Northstead Manor Gardens, which also featured a boating lake, was built on Hobson’s Slack – the geography of the area was ideal for an amphitheatre. The Open Air Theatre has been recently redeveloped following its closure between 1986 and 2010. It has since hosted a range of big name acts including Status Quo and JLS.

Theatre

Above: The new Open Air Theatre (source)

The Water Chute has also benefited from recent regeneration in the Manor Gardens area. Having suffered vandalism and disrepair following the closure of former operator Kinderland in 2007, the attraction was restored and reopened in 2008 with funding from The Sands redevelopment project. It is now owned by North Bay Railway.

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Above: North Bay Railway logo (source)

Whilst advances in engineering and design have since produced ever more complex and thrilling water rides, there is still something to be said for the simple pleasure of the original Water Chute experience. Indeed, its endurance as an attraction (for over 80 years!) is testament to this fact.

Have you taken a ride on the Water Chute? Do you remember it being part of Kinderland? Are there any mistakes in this post? Please comment below.

Sources

North Bay Railway

UK Rides Info

National Fairground Archive

Wicksteed Park

The Blue Waters of Atlantis

Atlantis started out as the North Bay Bathing Pool, an outdoor swimming pool that originally opened in July 1938, only minutes away from the North Bay in Scarborough.

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Above: The original North Bay Bathing Pool (from the author’s personal collection)

In 1984 the site was redeveloped and rebranded as Waterscene, and a £500,000 investment gave the pool the (then) longest water chute in the world. Like nearby Marvel’s, which also opened in 1984, the new development was pioneered by businessman Don Robinson, director of Kunick.

Waterscene

Above: Waterscene postcard (source)

The opening was reputedly a grand affair, with Fred Pontin (of Pontins Holiday Camps fame) unveiling a plaque. The pool was apparently the first large scale waterpark in Europe.

Fred Pontin

Above: Fred Pontin (source)

In 1987 the site was sold to Kirkpool Ltd, headed by Tommy Hanson. The name changed to Water Splash World before being resold to Edencorpleisure in the following year. The lease was then bought by Scarborough Council in 1992. The site didn’t became known as Atlantis until 1995.

Water Splash World

Above: Water Splash World (source)

Atlantis, like Water Splash World, was arguably more of a rebranding of the original Waterscene attraction.

Unfortunately my only encounter with Atlantis (and its predecessor Water Splash World) came from the outside. We used to pass it on the way to Peasholme Park, Manor Gardens and Kinderland, and I remember how blue it always looked. I was jealous of the children who got to ride the long winding slides and splash around in the outdoor pool. Even though I never went inside, I’m still curious to know about what it was like, and it remains a vivid part of my Scarborough memories.

The reputation of Atlantis was severely undermined by the death of a swimmer in 2001, and following years of financial difficulties, closed in 2007. The site was later redeveloped into the Military Adventure Park, which continues to operate today.

This blog post is only a short introduction to Atlantis and its history, based on limited sources – more details will be added as the research progresses.

See any mistakes in this post? Want to share any additional information or memories? Please comment below – all contributions are very welcome!

Below are some further sources:

28 Days Later features images of Atlantis and its demolition.
Scarborough Hotel and Tourist Information Blog has a short article about the site.
This video shows Atlantis during its heyday, and this video features the original bathing pool (1950s).
Various articles about the site and its predecessors are available online from Scarborough News.