The Railway Institute

The Railway Institute 2008

By the 1880’s the North Eastern Railway Company was York’s biggest employer.   Inspired by Victorian values of instruction and self-improvement, the company built the Railway Institute on the site of the Railway Tavern in 1889. 

Removing the tavern itself was an important motive as the men of the locomotive and wagon works on Queen Street were known to be tempted by ‘the demon drink’ even before arriving at their workbenches.

The Institute had a well-stocked library and a reading room with various periodicals and newspapers.  The dining hall could seat 400 and there was also a smoke and games room for cards and billiards, as well as three classrooms.

Sports at the Institute

By the 1920’s the educational role of the Institute had significantly decreased and there was a greater demand for physical activities.  In 1926 the redundant carriage-building shops on the Queen Street site were converted into a superb gymnasium.  Boxing was a very popular pastime and the Institute section hosted many public events and produce several national amateur champions.

A badminton court was also marked out in the gymnasium in 1926 and the game quickly became one of the most popular activities.  Today there are nine courts in regular use by members and the wider community.  The excellent facilities still attract national and county competitions throughout the year.

In 1920 the York Railway Institute Golf Club was formed and the members created a 9 hole golf course on 57 acres on land owned by the Freemen of York at Hob Moor.  Membership was restricted to 200 ‘railway employees’ and 25  ‘outside members’.  By 1939 membership had grown to nearly 400.  During WWII much of the course was used for grazing cattle which, not surprisingly, made it unfit for golf.  In 1946 the YRI council negotiated a lease for an 89 acre site adjacent to Askham Bog at Pikehills  and a 10 hole course was created .  By 1981 the course had expanded to 18 holes , membership had reached 800 and the YRI  bought  the site.


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