This Victorian station was opened by the Stockton and Darlington Railway as the terminus of their line from Redcar on 17 August 1861 (although the ornate station building wasn't finished until the following year). Eleven years later, the North Eastern Railway opened a line towards Brotton (the Whitby Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway) from the town, but this diverged from the original route some 440 yards (400 m) west of the 1861 station in order to avoid excessively steep gradients further east. This meant the passenger trains from the town to Loftus, North Yorkshire and Whitby that started in 1875 had to reverse into and out of the terminus before regaining the correct direction at Saltburn West Junction. This line is still in operation today to serve a steelworks at Skinningrove and the Boulby potash mine, although passenger trains ceased in 1951.
In its heyday, the station had four platforms and a sizeable number of carriage sidings to handle the large quantities of excursion trains that ran there - these included services from as far away as Leeds and Blackpool. There was also a short siding extension (approximately 300 yards (270 m)) from the main station to another platform at the rear of the railway-owned Zetland Hotel (opened in 1863) where passengers in first class carriages could disembark directly into their accommodation.
A 1974 remodelling scheme saw the station reduced in size, with the two main platforms and signal box being taken out of use along with most of the sidings and one of the two running lines from West Junction. Today both of the two surviving excursion bay platforms are used for scheduled services but neither the main station building nor the Zetland Hotel is in rail-related use - the former having been converted into a photographic studio, cafe and various other retail outlets and the latter into luxury flats.