Fyling Hall in HD

Our school is fairly unique in having such amazing views, being nestled in the woods down from the moors, overlooking the jagged coast and sea.  One of my favourite features of its surroundings is the Cinder Track, the old railway line, connecting Scarborough to Whitby (and beyond). We think of ‘Fyling Hall‘ as being the buildings clustered around Main House (that building was initially named Park Hill Hall) but did you know that Fyling Hall once had its own train station on the railway line?

Walking south on the Cinder Track from the Robin Hood’s Bay side you’ll marvel at the tunnel of trees that beautifully enclose the path. These trees are of course ‘new’ – having grown up in the last 55 years. When the railway was here you’d be on an open embankment, clear of all undergrowth, branches and tree trunks. After a slight descent you’d come to, on the right, a small white house, the Stationmaster’s house (unchanged, but now a private residence). From here on you’d be hard rushed to know that there ever was a train station here so let me be your guide.

On your left is a fence post. It’s hard to see, now being totally overgrown with creepers. If you continue from this point you’d be following the service track, a dead-end line that ran behind the station and ended with a storage shed. Instead, just after the fence post, move to your left. You’re now on the proper track bed again. You can see the platform rising up on your right and once you get your bearings you’ll see the distinctive diagonally slatted fence of the North Yorkshire railways. The platform brickwork is in surprisingly good condition. 

Half way down you’ll notice a gap in the broken fencing. This is where the station buildings stood. The platform hardly seems wide enough but if you examine the footprint of the building’s foundations you can see it jutted out beyond the platform on the other side (the Cinder Track side).

You can’t continue on the track bed for very long, at the end of the platform it comes to an abrupt stop and drops away to the road below. Of course there would have been a bridge here. The steps to the right are the same as they were there before. The bridge was a short iron bridge, it and the stone embankment either side have been removed. It seems all iron bridges were removed with the line (probably for their recycle value) leaving us (fortunately) with all the amazing stone and brick built bridges.

Work begins circa 1872.

The Scarborough to Whitby line began being built in 1872 was opened a decade later. Just think all of those massively high embankments all the way to Ravenscar were built by men with just shovels (and donkeys). Fyling Hall station was a winner of ‘best kept station’ on the line for many many years until it became an unmanned halt in 1958. The line was closed in 1965, the buildings removed. In the late 1970s, the white gate blocking the service line fell away and the new ‘Cinder Track’ path followed that more direct route to the road than weaving along the platform side and the remains of Fyling Hall Station slipped into obscurity as nature took over.

I was fascinated to see what the station looked like in its heyday. I found various low quality photos around the internet and a short film in the Yorkshire Film Archive detailing life in ‘Fylingdales’. I used an artificial intelligence online system called Gigapixel AI from Topazlabs to ‘upscale’ the images and add detail and clarity. You might think such a thing is impossible. Especially if you’ve ever had to re-size small photos in Photoshop. This is different. Machine Learning has come on so far in recent years that it will take your breath away. It’s like giving a low quality photo to an artist and saying ‘paint me a picture of this’. The artist won’t re-create the flaws in the image, they’ll know it’s a steam engine so will paint a steam engine. That’s a bit like what the AI system is doing. It’s learnt from hundreds of millions of images what things are supposed to look like from different angles. 

I then colourised the images. Again I used an AI system for some and hand coloured them in Photoshop. You can see the results here. I also took frames from the Fylingdales film and upscaled them too. Its the same kind of technology that Peter Jackson used in his film about the First World War They Shall Not Now Old. When you see the past in colour it somehow ceases to be the past.

This one is my favourite. Note the white gate closing off the service track and the path of the Cinder Track today.

I admit I have a sense of anemoia for the railway – that’s the sense of wistful nostalgia for a time that I clearly never knew. Would it be better if the railway was still here? It’s a complicated debate. Maybe somewhere out there in the multiverse there is an alternative world where Beeching’s cuts never came into force. Would we still love it in that world?

Perhaps it is true that you never know what you’ve got until you lose it. Would the railway have become just a thing that we take for granted like the woods, the moor, the jagged coast and the sea? At least let’s not take them for granted and enjoy it all in High Definition.

Sadly the photographers for all these images are unknown.

Fyling Hall station in the early 1960s
The same view as it is today

by Ayd Instone, Head of Enrichment and Extra-curricular