Nearing the end of rails to Ripon
Last train - Ripon to Melmerby
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The line from Harrogate to Northallerton closed to passenger traffic in March 1967 - a Beeching cut. Beyond Melmerby, a few miles north of Ripon, the line closed completely*. However, the section from Harrogate (or, to be more precise, Starbeck) to Melmerby remained in use for freight. A daily trip working shunted the yard at Ripon, then worked on to Melmerby, where there was an MoD depot. The depot closed at the end of 1968 - so that the trip on 31st December, to collect the last wagons, would be the last working along that stretch of line. I made my way down to the station with a school friend, and my newly-acquired 35mm camera, to have a look at the last train and perhaps take some photographs. The freight, headed by a pair of then-new class 20s, had already arrived. We took a photo of the locomotives standing outside the goods shed - I seem to recall the crew were taking a break. The crew were intrigued by our interest, and asked us if we wanted to come up into the cab and take a ride  - we didn't need
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
much persuasion. Neither did I when asked if I wanted to have a go at driving. (I did have to be reminded, a mile or two along the line, that there was a 30mph speed limit on the line these days...) I wondered, as we took the junction a little short of the former main line junction at Melmerby, whether we would have to leave the train when it entered the depot. No problem - it was closing anyway. The regular driver had taken over again for our entry into the depot, though I was allowed to drive it back again to Ripon. So there it is - my claim to fame! The locomotive depicted is, I believe, a Thomas Hill "Vanguard" rebuild of a 1942 Fowler, MoD No 244 or 245. If it's the former, it still exists, preserved at Haig Colliery museum. The freight service to Ripon lasted a few more months, then it too ended, and a year or two later the track was lifted. The fine iron viaduct over the Ure is no more - instead, the Ripon bypass uses the former railway route to skirt the City. *The route was temporarily reopened after the July 1967 derailment at Thirsk, which involved the class 50 prototype, in a Deltic bodyshell, "DP2".
31 December 1968
8305 and another cl. 20 The 20s head toward the main line at Ripon Near Hutton Conyers Approaching the MoD junction at Melmerby Entry to the Depot The "pilot" at the depot Demolition train at Littlethorpe, 1970 The trackless viaduct over the Ure at Ripon The trackless viaduct over the Ure at Ripon