Engineers’ triangle – railway roundhouses

Nearest and dearest didn’t look too thrilled at my suggestion that we go down Cinder Lane to look at the Engineers’ Triangle and some rusty old shovels.

Actually I didn’t mention the rusty old shovels, as details were unknown until today.

But it did seem necessary to take up the opportunity being offered to wander around the Engineers’ Triangle, as it’s not a place we the public get to wander around normally, and it sounded like somewhere everyone should go at least once. Particularly those of us from a railway family. Have I mentioned that before? ;)

Remains of railway roundhouse

Railway roundhouse remains

The foundations of 19th century roundhouses, used to service locomotives, have recently been uncovered in the area between the railway lines, close to the station. (A roughly triangular area, hence the name.)

It appears that at least one of the roundhouses was demolished as recently as the 1960s and that there are plenty of people who remember them.

View of roundhouse

The site has been opened to the public today and tomorrow (27th and 28th April).

There were three of these structures, buildings once, now just foundations/patterns of brick and stone, their shape perhaps clearest from an aerial view, but I didn’t have a plane to hand.

Plan/drawing of 'York Engine Stable'

Best to focus perhaps on the interesting details in the exhibition tent. Including this handsome plan/drawing, presumably of the original structures, titled ‘YORK ENGINE STABLE’. Which reminds me that we called the locomotive an ‘iron horse’ – it too needed its ’stable’.

Photo - York roundhouse exhibition

There wasn’t a caption on the photo above, so I’m not sure if it’s a record of one of the roundhouses here, or a roundhouse, elsewhere. Lovely though, isn’t it.
(Update: it is the interior of the larger 1864 North Eastern Railway roundhouse – see information added by Ed, in the comments below.)

The display included the plans for the site’s development, and a sizeable collection of artefacts discovered on site during the recent excavation. Including the rusty old shovels mentioned above.


My photos of shovels weren’t particularly impressive, so instead here’s a photo of a rusty old sign.
(The rusty old shovels, plus some other (big) photos have since been added to a set on

I love the idea of some unknown, anonymous workman chucking an old shovel in a corner and it now being displayed with a label attached, as part of an exhibition. Would he be laughing at me studiously studying these rusty bits of metal? Probably.

I thought of my great-great-great grandfather, working on the Permanent Way when the railways first cut their way through from York to Scarborough, and my great-grandfather who arrived, via that railway system, here in York as a railway porter, working on York station, a stone’s throw away. And all the other ordinary blokes doing their work, keeping things running.


Nice that visitors were encouraged to add explanatory notes to the assembled objects, some of which hadn’t been identified as yet. It wasn’t clear which were visitor contributions – all of them? – on post-it notes. I couldn’t add anything, having no useful knowledge. I recognised a brick. Adding a post-it saying ‘this is an old brick’ didn’t seem like a useful contribution.

This note above, on the other hand, offered interesting information (can be enlarged, as can the others).

There are more photos from the site in my set on – York South (Engineers’ Triangle).

More information

There’s a clear map of the location of the Engineers’ Triangle (also known as York South) on the Rail UK site, plus a photo of the buildings before demolition, and more info on the buildings at the Loco Sheds site.

See also: Foundations for North Eastern Railway roundhouses unearthed

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  1. Came across this photo whilst looking for something else (often the case).

  2. YorkStories

    Thanks David, isn’t that a great aerial view – including the roundhouses at bottom right. The two remaining ones which were demolished not long after this was taken.

    As an aside, it’s irritating and quite shocking that the necessary funding and expertise hasn’t been found to update and upgrade, where you found this photo and others. It would appear to be impossible to link to the photo with a caption included, so the photos are adrift from their accompanying info. So much effort and time clearly went into compiling this resource, which appears to have been forgotten. Makes me wonder if the same will happen to the council’s ‘York Stories’ project. Perhaps putting effort into better presentation of these ‘York Stories’ would have been more helpful.

    Sorry, been wanting to mention that for ages. Anyway, the accompanying caption to the photo David kindly posted the link to above, reads:

    “This 1956 aerial view shows the Holgate carriage and wagon works. In the foreground is the main railway line from York to London, being crossed by Holgate Bridge which looks rather like a piece of meccano. Wandering northwards on the right side is the extensive goods yard and on its left are the many, and long, sheds of the carriage works. In the centre is the horseshoe shaped St Paul’s Square with its gardened interior. To the top of the picture Holgate windmill can still be seen in the middle of a housing estate.” (Photo copyright: York & County Press)

    Alternatively, go to, go through the weird clunky double-entry entry to the extremely dated interface, and enter the search term ‘railway aerial view’, for this and some other interesting photos.

    And then email York Libraries/the council and ask them to invest in this valuable but neglected digital archive …

  3. I agree, Imagine York is a good resource but difficult to navigate. You can’t even hit the “back button” without an error message. And whilst the majority of the narrative is correct, there are a few things that aren’t quite right.

    As for the council’s York Stories my own view is that their website is absolutely awful. I dread to think what it has cost but it has very low levels of accessibility and usability and not a fraction of the inventiveness or intuitiveness of your own site. It seems they are struggling to get any contributions at all (no wonder) and the domain name suffix 2012 means it is entirely ephemeral anyway. (And like the rest of York800, I find it all a bit strained.)

    So as far as the competing website goes you have nothing to worry about, but then I always knew that would be the case anyway.

  4. Had another look at the other York Stories site and, since I first viewed, they have added a switch to a more basic site to make it more accessible/usable. But, like I say, even before it launched I had a feeling it wouldn’t be as attractive as your own site, despite all the council funding and the confident design team. At the bottom line, it exists because York800 is rather vainglorious and people have been paid public money to produce the York Stories 2012 website as part of that. I don’t think there was any malice intended in selecting the name, but there wasn’t any consideration for you either, and they could easily have found a different name if they had been a bit more mindful. At least the whole thing is time barred.

  5. YorkStories

    Thank you David, for your support of this website.

    The ‘York Stories Turf Wars 2012′ (as I like to call the situation, in jest) have certainly been interesting.

    Can I come back to this issue later, perhaps. I need to focus on another ‘railway heritage’ page which is currently half-formed …

  6. I should have added that I have nothing against anyone who submits a story on the council website as they are doing so in good faith and if anything it would be nice to see more of them. And I suppose that York Stories is just a play on words of “Your Stories” and so the choice of name is understandable.

  7. Hi, the photograph you are unsure about is the interior of the larger 1864 North Eastern Railway roundhouse, designed by NER architect Thomas Prosser (who also designed the current York Station in 1871 (its construction was finished in 1877)), and taken in 1952 when it was used for stabling station pilot engines. The roof has been damaged by bombing and then general neglect, and as you know from the aerial shots it was removed shortly afterwards.

    If you were there on the Friday, I was one of the two people running around on the roundhouse remains, shouting myself hoarse over the sound of passing trains.

  8. YorkStories

    Thanks Ed, for clarifying this. I’ve added a note by the relevant photo above.

    I think I missed you running around the roundhouses!

    It was really good being able to see it all, thanks to everyone involved in the open days.

  9. Engine shed rooves were always in poor shape because the mixture of steam and coal fire flue gases is highly corrosive and wooden rooves had to be replaced regularly. In the late fifties with the end of steam in mind BR stopped maintaining the buildings (in general, not just York south) and so many lost their roof like this.

  10. As your Great Grandfather was a Porter on York station, there’s a fair chance he knew my Grandfather who was also a porter in the 1920’s – 1940’s. His surname was Horsley. When clearing some old tins full of buttons last month at my late mum’s home, I discovered his old uniform buttons from GNER days and dutifully took them to The National Rail Museum who told me that they didn’t want them and they would be thrown away. It’s a sad day when a National Heritage centre discards our National Heritage.

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