Remains of the Spurn Head railway

Pictures of some surviving bits of the former military railway along Spurn Point in East Yorkshire.

[Rails crossing the concrete road]
Picture taken 2005-06-05.

[Looking along the route of the railway]
Looking towards Kilnsea, with the route into the site of the loco and railcar shed to the right. December 2002.

[Rails in the car park]
Track at the site of the entrance to the loco and railcar shed. December 2002.

[Rails crossing the concrete road]
There are two or three places on Spurn where rails can still be seen set into the later concrete road. Photo © Andrew Stacey, who has some good photographs of Holderness on his website. Picture taken 2002-03-27.

[Rails crossing the concrete road]
Track and some anti-tank blocks. Picture taken 2005-06-05.

[Rails crossing the concrete road]
Picture taken 2005-06-05.

[Rails crossing the concrete road]
Picture taken 2005-06-05.


The railway

Some pictures of the Spurn sail bogies on Mike Munro’s website. Some more details of their use.

Preserved 0-4-0ST Lord Mayor worked on the Spurn Head railway during World War I.


The Industrial Railway Society book The Spurn Head Railway (IRS Record 67) by KE Hartley (1976) covers the history of the line. There have been at least two editions, but it is quite hard to find.

Sailing the Rails – A New History of Spurn and its Military Railway by Howard Frost is a more recent 80-page book with delightful photography highlighting the story of a four-mile railway along the sand dunes of Spurn. Between 1915 and 1951 it linked two military forts and provided a lifeline to the mainland, for one of the most isolated lifeboat communities in the country according to the East Riding Council. I’ve got a copy of the book, and it is excellent. It is far more than simply an update of the previous volumes, and as well as the railway matters has more on the social history of Spurn and Kilnsea. If anyone is interested in the line or the area it is well worth acquiring a copy from the Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire Branch(!), even if you have one of the previous ones. There are a lot more pictures, and more details of military matters. My only complaint is that the text has too many “!” for my personal taste…

The September 1978 issue of Railway Modeller magazine had a plan for a model railway layout based on Spurn.


Background information about Spurn.

Aerial photos of East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, with some views of Spurn.

Not far from Spurn is the Kilnsea sound mirror, one of a number of acoustic mirrors along the coast.

4 thoughts on “Remains of the Spurn Head railway

  1. Dear Andrew Graham,
    Came across your website in my search for details of the Spurn Railway.
    You mention Howard Frost’s book and I wonder if you can tell me where I may obtain a copy.

    I write a column for THE COUNTRYMAN and a reader has asked us some questions about this unusual line.
    I would be grateful for your help.

    Thank you if you can assist.

    John Vince.

    PS I liked your presentation.

  2. Fascinating. I have family who were posted here during the 1920s and heard them talk about the railway. My Grandfather was in the army and was there with his wife and 3 small children. Grim I should think.

  3. On my last visit to Kilnsea/Spurn about two weeks ago, I bought a copy of the book Sailing The Rails by Howard Frost from the visitor centre near the entrance to Spurn (The Warren), it was on special offer for £6. I can highly recommend it.

  4. Dear Andrew
    I was born in 1942. My mother was living in London at that time and my father who was in the Royal artillery was stationed at Spurn Head. She fell pregnant after the Blitz and was too nervous to live in London so she found accommodation with the boson of the lifeboat who lived in a small community at Spurn Head. The land was known as a “Spit of Yorkshire”.

    The single line railway which linked a small community at Spurn Head with the village of Kilnsea was nicknamed the “doodlebug”. Probably because of the noise it made. I remember the carriages as being open and I read an article some years back that said that at one time it consisted of an old passenger carriage and a steam locomotive called the Kenyon. Later I believe they used a converted motorcar.

    I visited from New Zealand about 1990 and saw the railway lines much as they are shown in the photographs. The small group of houses which numbered about five have all gone but the foot pring is still there. I have a photograph of the houses copied from an article. There is a small postwar village slightly closer to Kilnsea.

    The old lifeboat which I remember was clinker built has been replaced by a much more modern vessel. However, the lifeboat house which is at the tip of the spit was still there. I remember fishing off the end when the tide was in with what was probalby a some string and a bent nail.

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