The 40th anniversary of the Selby Diversion inauguration

Forty years ago, in the summer of 1980, on 29 July, nearly two hundred people attended an auspicious inauguration ceremony at Hambleton near Selby to commemorate building the first new railway in Britain for 125mph (200kmph) operation, British Rail’s Selby Diversion.

Photo British Rail

The new 23km double-track railway was to divert the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between Temple Hirst south of Selby and Colton near York to avoid sterilising extensive coal reserves that lay beneath the original ECML and were planned to be extracted by the Selby Mine to fuel power stations in the locality. The trinity of the National Coal Board (NCB), British Rail and the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) could then work together to deliver the national policy for energy with the NCB producing the fuel, British Rail providing a conveyor belt of trains from the mine to the power stations and the CEGB delivering the power.


The inauguration ceremony, hosted by British Rail Eastern Region’s General Manager at the time, Frank Paterson (now our President of the FNRM), was themed on the industries working together. The Chairmen of the three industries, the Chairman of the principal contractor building the railway, A Monk & Company Limited and the General Manager signed a commemorative scroll for the occasion. The scroll was placed and secured in a stainless-steel casket along with a copy of the Act of Parliament authorising construction of the railway, 1980 coins of the realm, the event guest list and small token objects representing the four undertakings (company badges). The casket was ceremoniously carried and buried in a chamber cast in the base of a commemorative stone.

Photo British Rail

Photo British Rail


The main feature of the event was the four Chairmen, assisted by an apprentice representing each organisation, pulling the commemorative stone into its final position on the base. The four apprentices, Paul Wakefield (A Monk & Co.), Colin Parrish (CEGB), Paul Ward (NCB) and Garry Atkinson (BR), ensured the chiefs had the appropriate bump cap (hard hat) and rope in preparation for the task.

Photo British Rail


In this photograph the industry Chairmen, A Monk’s W Stanley Whittingham and CEGB’s Glyn England on the left and NCB’s Sir Derek Ezra and BRB’s Sir Peter Parker on the right, await General Manager Frank Paterson waving the green flag that will signal “the off” for them to pull the commemorative stone into position. British Rail Eastern Region’s Chief Civil Engineer Brian Davis who was responsible for and directed the design and contract supervision of the new railway watches on behind the main group. Thanks largely to his professionalism the project was completed on 3 October 1983, a day before the originally planned completion date and within budget.

Photo British Rail

The commemorative stone and plaques. Photo British Rail

With the commemorative stone in place the Bishop of Selby, the Right Reverend M H St John Maddox dedicated the engineering works and the new high-speed railway that was to come, after which refreshments and a buffet luncheon were available for all attendees.


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By Hugh Fenwick

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