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Engineers began constructing wooden railways in the mines of central Europe during the early 16th century. The first wooden railway in England was built at Wollaton in 1604. The original idea was to use the horse-drawn wooden railway to transport coal from Wollaton Colliery to the population of Nottingham. Soon afterwards similar railways were built in Shropshire and Northumberland.
Where possible, wagonways were laid out so that loaded wagons could travel downhill to a river or harbour. Horses were then used to take the empty wagons up the hill. In 1758 Parliament decided that colliery owners would have to seek permission before they built a wagonway. Later that year, Charles Brandling, became the first to have an Act of Parliament passed when he asked for permission to build a wagonway between his Middleton Colliery and Leeds.
Christopher Blackett, the owner of Wylam Colliery, had a five mile wooden wagonway that took coal to the River Tyne. In 1804 Blackett employed Richard Trevithick to build a locomotive that would replace the use of horse-drawn coal wagons. However, the Wylam locomotive weighed five tons, it was too heavy for Blackett's wooden wagonway.
Beamish is best known for being the home of the Living Museum of the North. It was the brainchild of a Yorkshireman, Frank Atkinson, formerly the Director of the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle, who began collecting artefacts related to the social and industrial history of North East England. His collections resulted in the foundation of a museum at Beamish Hall in 1970 that eventually developed into Beamish Open Air Museum.
Beamish Museum. Photo © David Simpson
The project to build such a museum was first conceived by Atkinson in 1958 and in the early days some artefacts were stored in the huts of the former Brancepeth Army camp near Durham City.
From 1970 the North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish was financed by a joint committee of local authorities from across the North East region and continues to be so today. Features preserved at the museum come from across the entire region from Teesside to Northumberland.
From 1970 to 1972 displays were confined to the hall but the open-air aspects of the museum became increasingly accessible after that time and the museum now covers an area of more than 300 acres.
Beamish Hall is no longer part of the museum and has been a hotel since the year 2000. Many of the buildings, features, artefacts and costumed staff of the museum recreate life in the North East of England as it was around 1913 with an additional area of the site at Pockerley focusing on 1820 and a new area currently under development will focus on the 1950s.
Buildings at Beamish include the Home Farm of about 1800. This farm stood on the site long before the museum and was originally the stables associated with Beamish Hall.
The museum town has been constructed from the re-erection of dismantled buildings brought from across the region including a terraced street – Ravensworth Terrace from Bensham in Gateshead, a masonic hall from Sunderland, a co-operative store from Annfield Plain and a public house called the Sun Inn from Bishop Auckland. Other buildings in the town include a print works and stationers, dentistry and a brewery with stables and real horses.
The Town, Beamish Museum. Photo © John Simpson
The museum’s railway station called Beamish Station is in truth Rowley Station brought here from the tiny settlement of Rowley near Consett and dates from 1867. Other features at the museum include a bandstand from Saltwell Park in Gateshead, a railway signal box from Carr House East near Consett and a goods shed from Alnwick.
In the coal mine area of the museum is the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel of 1854 that actually came from the real Beamish village (Pit Hill) that lies just outside the museum grounds while the museum school came from the nearby village of East Stanley.
The museum’s row of pit cottages come from a street in Hetton-le-Hole. This was Francis Street and in their original setting were back to back with with another colliery row in which lived a coal mining ancestor of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
However, the nearby drift mine at the museum called Mahogany drift was here long before the museum opened. The Mahogany Drift was one of many mines that existed in the Beamish area. The colliery buildings in the museum are also from the locality. The winding gear and colliery building are from the Beamish Number 2 pit and dominate the colliery area of the museum.
Farming old style at Beamish Museum. Photo © John Simpson
The eastern part of the museum has an 1825 theme and includes a recreated colliery wagonway called the ‘Pockerley Wagonway’ with a working replica of George Stephenson’s Locomotion Number One and another early steam locomotive called ‘a steam elephant’.
The nearby farm called Pockerley Manor also has an 1825 theme, but this farm was here long before the museum opened. It is part-medieval stone house and replaced an earlier fortified manor house of Norman origin that stood here. Pockerley has an intriguing Old English name that derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Pocca’, its name means ‘clearing of the hobgoblin’. This part of the museum is also home to the medieval church of St Helen which was moved here piece by piece from Eston near Middlesbrough and rebuilt on the site.
The individual parts of the museum are all linked together by means of real electric tramcars or an open top bus.
Burradon and Northumberland Past
I often walk along the southern banks of the River Blyth from the site of the old Bates colliery to Furnace Bridge at Bebside. At low tide on the other side of bank are the visible, but incomplete, remains of wooden poles sticking out of the mud. One set is near the mouth of the Sleekburn, the other near the A189 road bridge. The anaerobic conditions, being submerged for long periods, have no doubt aided their preservation.
|Remains of a Linear Wooden Structure at Mouth of Sleekburn|
|Wooden Structure River Blyth North Bank Opposite Kitty Brewster|
A first guess would be that they supported some kind of jetty. But what was their exact purpose? During which period were they used? And what did they look like when operational?
I looked first at the Ordnance Survey mapping of the 1850-60s which indicated the lines of wagonways terminating at the wooden structures. Clearly the structures were jetties, or staithes, for the unloading of cargo onto boats. The wagonways were already labelled as disused on the 1st edition mapping.
|1st Ed OS Map c1860 Showing Old Wagonways Marked in Yellow (click to enlarge)|
The line of the two wagonways lead to what is labelled as Bedlington Colliery. The wagonway then extends from Bedlington Pit first North and then West towards Netherton.
The wagonway that terminates near the A189 (Spine Road) road bridge heads in north-westerly direction, for a few hundred metres, before turning sharply northwards at the terraced housing of Puddlers Row, which no longer exists.
|Greenwood's Map of Northumberland 1828|
Greenwood's 1828 map of Northumberland does not indicate that there was a wagonway from Bedlington Pit to the mouth of the Sleekburn. In fact, the Bedlington pit labelled on the 1st edition Odnance Survey map of c.1860 was Bedlington A Pit, which according to the Durham Mining Museum website was opened in 1838. The Sleekburn wagonway must therefore post-date 1838. It was clearly a short-lived utility only finding useful service during the 1840-50s. Wagonways were the early railways that carried horse-drawn wagons. The rails were constructed from wood.
A major mineral railway line is shown on the 1860 mapping running roughly North to South and passing the Bedlington A Pit. The line is still in use today. The construction of this line would have made the transport of coal easier, quicker and less expensive than shipping via the River Blyth. The Sleekburn wagonway would have been quickly rendered obsolete.
The wagonway near the Spine Road bridge was presumably also rendered obsolete by the new railway. But it had a longer history. So when was this wagonway constructed and why?
The Sites and Monuments record, as published on the www.KeystothePast.info website, indicates that the wagonway was shown on a map dating from 1787 running from a pit called Bedlington to the north bank of the River Blyth. It also appears on a map of the Hirst Head Estate dated 1837.
Not having been able to see the map I do not know where the pit would be. Presumably though it was somewhere on the wagonway route as indicated on Greenwood's 1828 map and a small-scale primitive venture. Possibly it was at the site of what was to become Bedlington A pit.
The River Blyth is where the wagonway terminates at this point. At the lowest point of the tide the river is reduced to no more than a trickle. Greenwoods map indicates that in 1828 this location was actually a fording point on the river. Mapping also indicated that the wagonway ran through a small tunnel before emerging out onto the river bank. The Sites and Monuments record also indicated that the tunnel still exists and was recently consolidated.
A site visit revealed that an interpretation display board had been erected by the local authority at the mouth of the boarded up tunnel, which is also inaccessible due to the overgrown vegetation. This is what it revealed:
|Overlooking the Tunnel onto the line of the Wagonway looking towards the River|
Even at high tide the larger sea-worthy vessels would have been unable to navigate this far upstream to the jetties. We can speculate that the reason the owners of Bedlington A pit went to the expense of constructing a wagonway to the mouth of the Sleekburn, further downstream, was that the water was deeper for longer periods, allowing for longer operation times. A nearby block of terraced housing named Keelman's Row is shown on the 1st Edition OS mapping and could be a clue as to how the transport system worked. There was also a Keelman's Row much further downstream in Blyth.
Keelmen formed a large and well-known section of the population of Newcastle in the 18th century. This is from Wikipedia:
The use of keel boats on the Blyth is not well documented elsewhere either. Clearly there was only a small fraction of the amount of keelmen working on the Blyth as compared to the Tyne. The harbour at Blyth was not developed until the 1850s. Prior to this time the amount of ships able to use the harbour was limited.
A closer study of the jetty, or staithes, structure indicates some remains of a feature, attached to the main structure by way of a swivel, which indicates a more sophisticated mechanism than is obvious at first glance. It is possible that the staithes may have been improved and expanded when it also began to be used by the nearby ironworks.
Pelton to the south of Ouston traces its origins to Saxon times though the meaning of the name is disputed. It could mean ‘village with a pallisade’ or ‘village near the shovel-shaped hill’. It apparently refers to a shovel of triangular shape – if any of the local hills can be described as resembling such a shape.
Pelton village is situated on Pelton Lane which forms part of the front street. Called ‘Pelton Lonnin’ in times past, it links Pelton to the centre of Chester-le-Street. Historically Pelton Lane was commemorated in a North Country folk song called ‘Pelton Lonnin’. The words which were traditionally sung to children of the Pelton district were as follows with most of the lines repeated several times:
The swine come Jingling down Pelton Lonnin
There’s five black swine and never an odd ‘un
Three i’ the dyke and two in the lonnin
There’s five black swine and never an odd ‘un
Back in 1320 Pelton had belonged to the Burdon family and passed to the Redhughs, Whelpingtons and the Nevilles whose lands were forfeited in 1569. Collieries at Pelton Fell brought a growth in population in the nineteenth century but there was already a substantial mining population in the area in the eighteenth century.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism preached in the village of Pelton in 1743 and 1780. In 1743 he remarked:
“As I was preaching at Pelton, one of the old colliers, not much accustomed to things of this kind, in the middle of the sermon, began shouting ‘amain’, for mere satisfaction and joy of heart. But their usual token of approbation (which somewhat surprised me at first) was clapping me on the back.”
History of Railways in Northumberland
The waggonway appears to have run from Bigges Main Colliery to staiths on the Tyne.
Daily Mail - Wooden waggonway built more than 200 years ago discovered near former colliery is 'oldest example of standard gauge railway ever found'.
See the location on Google Street View and www-old-maps.co.uk 430000,565700 (click "Switch Print Extent Off")
Plessey Wooden Waggonway ran from pits near Plessey Checks NZ2479 to Blyth NZ3181. It opened in the late 1600s and closed in 1813. The A192 road follows the route for a few miles.
Maps of Blyth -
Geograph NZ3181 - British History - Microsoft Virtual Earth - Wikimapia - Google Maps
Northumberland Communities - Blyth
Old Maps showing "Plessay Old Wagonway" on the 1:10,560 map of 1865, coordinates 431500_580800.
Blyth Hospital was built on the Station site, coordinates 431000_581600.
Wylam Wooden Waggonway opened in 1748. It later had iron rails before closing in 1867. William Hedley built locomotives to haul coal from Wylam NZ1164 to the staiths at Lemington NZ1864. Puffing Billy of 1813 is at the Science Museum in London. Wylam Dilly of 1814 is at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.
The course of the Tyne has since been altered to avoid the long loop at Lemington. Most of the Wylam Waggonway route was used by the Scotswood, Newburn and Wylam Railway in 1875. George Stephenson's Cottage stands by the route near Wylam.
Northumberland Communities - Wylam
Killingworth Waggonway - C.R.Warn in his book Waggonways and Early Railways of Northumberland states that a wooden waggonway opened in 1764 from Killingworth Moor to Willington Quay.
Ordnance Survey shows an iron waggonway from Killingworth Old Pit NZ2870 to Killingworth Drops NZ3166 on the River Tyne. This waggonway reached Burradon Colliery NZ2772. George Stephenson's Dial Cottage NZ2770 was in Paradise Row near Killingworth Colliery at West Moor.
Kitty's Drift was a tunnel of about 3 miles running from East Kenton to Scotswood. The north-eastern end of the tunnel has not been shown on this website, but could be in square NZ2267. Christopher Bedlington opened it in 1796 both to drain the mines and transport coal to the Tyne. The subterraneous tunnel is shown on the 1812 map by Robert Galloway. It ran to the west of the Montague Main waggonway.
The Cyclopaedia of 1819 by Abraham Rees gives an account of visitors travelling in empty coal waggons down the tunnel. Coal was later diverted to the Kenton and Coxlodge waggonway which opened in 1808.
Shilbottle Colliery Railway opened in 1809 from Shilbottle Colliery NU1808 to Alnwick NU1912. It is shown on the 1828 map by Greenwood. The northern end of this route is still known as Waggon Way Road. There was also a tramway from Longdyke Pit NU2010 to Alnwick and a railway from Grange Pit NU2107 to the ECML NU2308.
Northumberland Communities - Shilbottle
Whitley Waggonway opened in 1811 from pits near Whitley Bay NZ3571 and ran to North Shields NZ3668. Most of the route was used by the Blyth and Tyne Railway in 1860.
Backworth Waggonway opened in 1818 and ran from Backworth A Pit NZ3071 to Whitehill Point NZ3566 on the River Tyne. The waggonway was extended to Backworth B Pit NZ2972 and West Cramlington Colliery NZ2675.
Cramlington Waggonway ran from Cramlington Colliery (1825) NZ2876 to Cramlington Staiths NZ3366 on the River Tyne. There were branches to Amelia Pit NZ2778, Hartford Colliery NZ2679, Nelson Colliery NZ2677 and Dudley Colliery NZ2573.
Northumberland Communities - Cramlington
Seaton Burn Waggonway began in 1826 as the Brunton and Shields Railway, running from Brunton NZ2270 via Wideopen NZ2472, Hillhead Engine NZ2872 and Shiremoor Engine NZ3170 to Staiths NZ3366 on the River Tyne. It was extended from Wideopen Colliery to Seaton Burn Colliery NZ2374 in 1837, crossing the Great North Road near Six Mile Bridge. In the 20th century there were branches to Brenkley Colliery NZ2274, Mill Hill Pit NZ2172, Havannah Drift Mine NZ2171 and Weetslade Colliery Lizzie Pit NZ2572.
Netherton Waggonway opened in 1828 from Netherton NZ2381 to Morpeth NZ2085. It later linked Howard Pit, Frances Pit and Nethertonhall Colliery to Bedlington. 1828 map by Greenwood shows early railways around Bedlington Iron Works NZ2782. The eastern end of Netherton Waggonway is shown. Netherton is now spelled Nedderton.
Northumberland Communities - Nedderton
Walbottle Waggonway (or Wallbottle) - An iron waggonway ran from North Walbottle Colliery NZ1868 to Coronation Pit NZ1767, Blucher Pit NZ1766 and Lemington Staiths NZ1864. Another branch ran from Duke Pit NZ1666 to Lemington Staiths.
Coxlodge Waggonway - Also known as the Gosforth and Kenton Waggonway. This ran from Coxlodge Colliery Jubilee Pit NZ2368 and Regent Pit NZ2468 to Coxlodge Staiths NZ3065 at Wallsend on the River Tyne. Most of the route was used by Tyneside Tramways and Tramroads from 1901 to 1930. This company operated double-deck electric trams until 1930 and then buses from 1930 until 1975.
Fawdon Waggonway - Pre-Ordnance Survey maps show waggonways converging on an engine at NZ2169 (later Bell House). The first edition 1864 Ordnance Survey map shows West Brunton Engine NZ2271 on Fawdon Old Waggonway and Middle Brunton Engine NZ2370. The 1920s Ordnance Survey map shows a new Fawdon Waggonway running to Coxlodge Colliery Jubilee Pit NZ2368.
George and Robert Stephenson
Stephenson's Engine Works opened in 1823 on Forth Banks, Newcastle upon Tyne, where Locomotion and Rocket were built.
www.robertstephensontrust.com and Photographs of Newcastle, Stephenson Works
Microsoft Bing Maps aerial photograph of Forth Banks.
British History 1:2500 scale, 1861 map of Stephenson's Engine Works on South Street.
Newcastle and Carlisle Railway (N&CR)
The first section was opened in 1835 between Blaydon and Hexham. Carlisle to Blenkinsopp Colliery opened in 1836. Haydon Bridge to Hexham also opened in 1836. Blenkinsopp Colliery to Haydon Bridge opened in 1838. In 1837 the line was extended from Blaydon to Redheugh. In 1839 it made a connection at Redheugh with the Brandling Junction Railway. Also in 1839 the line crossed the River Tyne from Blaydon to Scotswood and then ran via Elswick to a temporary station in Newcastle. By 1839 the line was open between Carlisle and Newcastle. In 1851 it gained access to Newcastle Central Station. Scotswood Railway Bridge caught fire in 1860. A temporary bridge was replaced by the existing iron bridge in 1871. The N&CR was taken over by the NER in 1862.
British History 1:2500 scale, 1861 map of Newcastle Central Station. Numerous small turntables can be seen between the platforms. The station was built over the course of Newcastle Town Wall.
Route via Newcastle Central Station, Elswick, Scotswood, Blaydon, Ryton, Wylam, Prudhoe, Eltringham (later Mickley Station), Stocksfield, Ridingmill, Farnley Tunnel, Corbridge, Hexham, Border Counties Junction, Warden Bridge, Fourstones, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, Whitchester Tunnel, Haltwhistle, Blenkinsopp Colliery, Greenhead, Hadrian's Wall, Rosehill (later Gilsland Station), Low Row, Naworth, Milton (later Brampton Junction Station), Middle Gelt Bridge, Cowran Cutting, How Mill, Heads Nook, Wetheral, Scotby, Carlisle London Road Station NY4154
Carlisle Citadel Station NY4055 from 1864
Lord Carlisle's Brampton Railway ran from Milton to Kirkhouse Iron Foundry, Hallbank Gate (Hallbankgate), Clowsgill Lime Works, Black Sike Coal Pit, Howgill Mines, Tindalefell Spelter Works, Midgeholme Colliery NY6458 (Cumberland/Northumberland border), Haltonlee Gate and Lambley Colliery. The line joined the Alston Branch at Lambley Station NY6758.
1836 Milton branch to Brampton Town.
1852 N&CR Alston Branch with stations at Haltwhistle, Featherstone, Coanwood, Lambley, Slaggyford and Alston.
www.south-tynedale-railway.org.uk - South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society
www.cumbria-railways.co.uk/brampton_railway.html - Brampton Railway description and map. A wooden waggonway carried coal to Brampton Staith in the 1700s.
Newcastle and North Shields Railway (N&NSR) opened in 1839 from Carliol Square NZ2564 in Newcastle via Ouseburn Viaduct NZ2664, Heaton, Wallsend, Willington Viaduct NZ3166 and Percy Main to North Shields NZ3568. The laminated wood viaducts were rebuilt in iron to the same design. Carliol Square Station was bypassed with the opening of the viaduct from Manors to Newcastle Central Station. The N&NSR route from Manors to Heaton Junction is still part of the ECML. The N&NSR route from Walkergate to North Shields is used by the Tyne and Wear Metro.
Old Maps - British History 1:2500 scale, 1861 map of Carliol Square terminus.
Microsoft Virtual Earth - "Birds Eye View" of the Ouseburn Viaducts. The northerly viaduct is the Newcastle and North Shields Railway, now the East Coast Main Line (ECML). The middle viaduct is the Tyne and Wear Metro, built in the late 1970s.
Microsoft Virtual Earth - "Birds Eye View" of Willington Viaduct, now used by the Tyne and Wear Metro.
The Newcastle and Berwick Railway opened in 1847 the extension from North Shields to Tynemouth old station NZ3669.
Old Maps - British History maps of Tynemouth.
Blyth and Tyne Railway (B&TR) began in 1840 as a waggonway from Seghill Colliery to Northumberland Dock on the River Tyne. It was built so that Seghill Colliery could avoid using the Cramlington Waggonway.
1840 Seghill Colliery NZ2874 to Northumberland Dock NZ3366 on the River Tyne.
1846 Seghill to Hartley NZ3176.
1846 Hartley to Newsham NZ3079 and Cowpen Colliery NZ2980.
1846 Cowpen Colliery Junction to Blyth NZ3181.
1846 Hartley to Dairy House NZ3275 on the Avenue Branch, with a private line to Seaton Sluice.
1847 The name Blyth and Tyne was first used.
1857 Newsham to Bebside and Bedlington NZ2782, using an 1850 line.
1857 Bedlington to Choppington NZ2583, Hepscott NZ2284 and Morpeth NZ2085.
1859 Bedlington to North Seaton NZ2786, with a private railway to North Seaton Colliery.
1860 Dairy House Junction to Monkseaton NZ3472, Cullercoats NZ3570 and North Shields NZ3669 on the Avenue Branch. The Whitley Waggonway route was used at the southern end.
1864 Monkseaton to Backworth NZ3071, Benton NZ2768, South Gosforth NZ2567 and Newcastle NZ2564.
The terminus in Newcastle was at New Bridge Street. The New Bridge was built in 1812 over Pandon Dene as part of the road to North Shields. Pandon Burn was later arched over and Pandon Dene filled in. New Bridge Terminus was built on the reclaimed land. In 1909 the NER continued the line southwards to link with the ECML at Manors. This completed the loop into Newcastle Central Station.
The NER opened a reinforced-concrete goods warehouse in 1907 at New Bridge Street. This was bombed in World War 2, the contents burning for days. The skeleton of this warehouse stood for decades until replaced by a Warner Cinema. The site is now part of Northumbria University.
The A167 Central Motorway roundabout now occupies the site of New Bridge Terminus. North of Jesmond the B&TR route via South Gosforth is used by the Tyne and Wear Metro. B&TR Jesmond Station is now a restaurant.
Old Maps - British History - Microsoft Virtual Earth maps of New Bridge Street.
1828 map by Greenwood shows the Inclined Plane from Cramlington Colliery and Seghill Colliery. Also shown is a waggonway to Seaton Sluice.
1828 map by Greenwood shows early railways around Bedlington Iron Works NZ2782. John Birkinshaw made the wrought iron rails at Bedlington Iron Works for the Stockton and Darlington Railway of 1825. These rails retained the fish-bellied shape of the earlier cast iron rails, but were about 5 metres long.
www.ntsra.org.uk - the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association museum is at Middle Engine Lane NZ3269. Steam trains run to Percy Main NZ3367.
Northumberland Communities - Blyth
Victoria Tunnel opened in 1842 from Spital Tongues Colliery NZ2365 to Ouseburn NZ2664 on the River Tyne. It was soon closed for coal traffic but became an air-raid shelter during WWII 1939 to 1945. It still runs beneath the Barras Bridge area of Newcastle.
British History 1:2500 scale 1872 map and Old Maps - maps of Spital Tongues Colliery.
British History 1:2500 scale 1872 map of Barras Bridge. At one time the Great North Road crossed Pandon Burn here on a bridge.
British History 1:2500 scale 1884 map of Spital Tongues Staiths and Victoria Tunnel entrance near Glasshouse Bridge, Ouseburn.
www.victoriatunnel.info by Phil Thirkell.
Wikipedia page about the Victoria Tunnel.
Newcastle and Berwick Railway (N&BR) opened in 1847 from Tweedmouth, joining the Newcastle and North Shields Railway at Heaton Junction. The N&BR also opened the extension from North Shields to Tynemouth old station NZ3669. In the same year (1847) the N&BR was taken over by the Newcastle and Darlington Junction Railway, which soon became part of the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway.
The High Level Bridge opened in 1849 over the River Tyne, joining Gateshead and Newcastle. Newcastle Central Station was linked to Manors on the former Newcastle and North Shields Railway. The Royal Border Bridge opened in 1850, crossing the River Tweed into Berwick Station.
In 1854 the YN&BR became part of the North Eastern Railway (NER). The route is now part of the ECML. There were derailments at the sharp curve south of Morpeth Station in 1969 and 1984.
Route via Berwick upon Tweed, Royal Border Bridge, Tweedmouth, Scremerston, Goswick, Beal, Smeafield, Belford, Lucker Water Troughs, Lucker, Newham, Chathill, Fallodon, Christonbank, Little Mill, Longhoughton, Lesbury Viaduct, Alnmouth, Warkworth, Acklington, Amble Junction, Chevington, Widdrington, Longhirst, Pegswood, Morpeth, Netherton (later Stannington Station), Plessey Viaduct, Plessey, Cramlington, Annitsford, Killingworth, Benton (later Forest Hall Station), Benton Quarry Junction and Heaton Junction
www.senrug.co.uk - South East Northumberland Rail User Group - Morpeth Station.
York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway (YN&BR)
1849 Amble Branch ran from Amble Junction NZ2298 north of Chevington on the ECML to Broomhill Station NU2401 and Amble Station NU2604. The passenger service did not start until 1879. There was extensive opencast mining in the area around the former RAF Acklington. Heavy opencast vehicles used private roads which followed the airfield perimeter track and part of the Amble Branch.
1849 Tweedmouth to Sprouston via Velvethall, Norham, Twizell, Cornhill (renamed Coldstream Station 1873), Wark (renamed Sunilaws Station), England/Scotland border NT7937, Carham, Sprouston Station NT7635
The North British Railway continued the line in 1851 from Sprouston to Kelso Station NT7333 (Maxwellheugh, Maxwell Heugh)
1850 Alnwick Branch ran from Alnwick Station NU1912 to Alnmouth Junction Station NU2311, which was originally called Bilton Junction.
www.avrs.co.uk - the Aln Valley Railway Society plans to reopen the route.
Ashington Coal Company Railway ran from Ashington Colliery NZ2688 with branches to Linton Colliery NZ2691, Ellington Colliery NZ2891, Lynemouth Colliery NZ2990 and Woodhorn Colliery NZ2888. This extensive network ran passenger trains for mineworkers. A mineral railway was built in the 1980s from the Ashington Colliery network to the ECML. Ellington Colliery was the last deep mine in the North East Coalfield, closing in February 2005.
www.experiencewoodhorn.com - Woodhorn Colliery Museum.
North Sunderland Railway - 1898 private railway from Chathill Station NU1827 to Seahouses NU2132
Whittle Colliery Waggonway ran from the ECML NU2205 to Whittle Colliery NU1706 which was to the east of the Great North Road, near Newton on the Moor. Whittle Colliery and Shilbottle Colliery supplied coal to the Cooperative Wholesale Society (CWS).
North Eastern Railway in Northumberland (NER)
1868 Allendale Branch from Border Counties Junction on the old Newcastle and Carlisle Railway. Stations at Elrington, Langley, Staward and Catton Road (later Allendale Station)
1870 Quayside Branch ran from the ECML east of Manors Station NZ2564 through a steep curving tunnel down to Newcastle Quayside. Two electric locomotives were later built using overhead and third rail power supply.
1878 Tweedmouth Dock line.
1879 Riverside Branch line branched off the ECML between the Ouseburn Viaduct and Heaton Station to Byker Platform NZ265648. The tunnel still runs under shops on Shields Road in Byker NZ266647. Stations were at St.Peter's NZ275636, St.Anthony's NZ284631, Walker NZ295642, Carville NZ303662, Point Pleasant NZ314664, Willington Quay NZ323665 and Percy Main NZ337673. This line was later electrified using the third-rail system.
1882 Coast Line via Monkseaton, Whitley Bay, Cullercoats and Tynemouth Station NZ3669. A junction was made with the N&BR line near to the original Tynemouth Station.
1887 Alnwick and Cornhill Branch via Coldstream, Mindrum, Kirknewton, Akeld, Wooler, Ilderton, Wooperton, Hedgeley (Powburn), Glanton, Whittingham, Hillhead Tunnel, Edlingham, Alnwick Station NU1912
Coldstream Station NT8639 was in Cornhill, Northumberland, England
In 1948 the track between Wooler and Ilderton was damaged by flooding. It was not economic to repair the gap and from then until closure the line was worked as two separate sections.
1904 Electrification of the Coast Line to Newcastle in response to the success of electric tramways. Junctions at Benton NZ2869 joined the N&BR line to the B&TR line. This allowed an express electric service from Monkseaton to Newcastle via the ECML.
1905 Ponteland Branch via South Gosforth, West Gosforth (now Regent Centre Metro Station), Coxlodge (now Fawdon Metro Station), Kenton (now Bankfoot Metro Station), Callerton and Ponteland Station NZ1672
This line reopened as the Tyne and Wear Metro, with the terminus at Newcastle Airport NZ1871.
1906 King Edward VII Bridge NZ2463 between Newcastle and Gateshead. This avoided reversing at Newcastle Central station for trains running between Edinburgh and London Kings Cross.
1909 Manors Station link NZ2564 joining the Blyth and Tyne line to the Newcastle and North Shields line. This completed the North Tyneside Loop, allowing electric trains to run from Newcastle via Jesmond, South Gosforth, Benton, Whitley Bay, North Shields and Wallsend to Newcastle.
1913 Darras Hall light railway from Ponteland Station NZ1672 to Darras Hall Station NZ1571
1914 Seaton Sluice Branch via Monkseaton, Brierdene and Collywell Bay Station NZ3376. This unopened branch was dismantled for the War Effort 1914 to 1918 and was not rebuilt.
1915 Monkseaton Station built on a new site.
1923 NER becomes part of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).
1928 - Tyne Commission Quay opened on the riverward side of Albert Edward Dock.
There was an LNER rail link to Newcastle Central Station. Port of Tyne
North British Railway (NBR)
1862 Border Counties Section joining the NBR Waverley Route from Carlisle to Edinburgh.
Route via Riccarton Junction Station NY5397, Saughtree, Dawstonburn Viaduct, Deadwater, England/Scotland Border, Kielder, Kielder Viaduct, Plashetts, Falstone, Thorneyburn, Tarset, Bellingham, Redesmouth Junction, Wark, Barrasford, Chollerton, Chollerford, Hadrian's Wall, Wall, River Tyne Viaduct and Border Counties Junction NY9265. North British services from Hawick then ran via the N&CR line to Newcastle.
(Chollerford to Border Counties Junction opened 1858 as the Border Counties Railway).
Old Maps - maps of Plashetts, now submerged under Kielder Water
www.wrha.org.uk - Waverley Route Heritage Association. Track is being laid between Whitrope Tunnel and Riccarton Junction Station.
1862 Wansbeck Valley Railway ran from Reedsmouth Junction to Morpeth. NBR trains reversed into the Blyth and Tyne Railway Morpeth Station. This was an attempt by the NBR to gain access to Newcastle, using the B&TR lines. In 1871 new junctions allowed NBR and B&TR trains to run into the NER Morpeth Station. The B&TR Morpeth Station then became a goods shed.
(Also known as the Wanney Line or Wannie Line). Route via Morpeth Station NZ2085, Meldon, Angerton, Middleton, Scots Gap, Knowesgate, Woodburn, Broomhope Siding and Redesmouth Junction Station NY8681
1870 Northumberland Central Railway via Rothbury Station NU0601, Brinkburn, Lee Siding, Fontburn, Ewesley, Longwitton and Scots Gap Station NZ0386
Scotswood, Newburn and Wylam Railway opened the line along the North bank of the River Tyne in 1875, following most of the route of the Wylam Waggonway. There were stations at Wylam NZ1164, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Newburn, Lemington and Scotswood NZ2063. Wylam Railway Bridge NZ1164 opened in 1876 across the River Tyne, joining the SN&WR to the Newcastle and Carlisle line. The SN&WR was taken over by the NER in 1883.
Kirkheaton Colliery Waggonway - This was an isolated coalfield with pits at Kirkheaton NZ0478, Ingoe NZ0374, Fenwick NZ0572, Muckleridge NZ0473, Todridge NZ0072 and Boghall NZ0477. The mineral railway opened in 1927 and ran from Belsay Colliery NZ0476 to Darras Hall NZ1571 where it joined the Darras Hall Light Railway to Ponteland NZ1672.
Rural Branch Lines of Northumberland by C R Warn.
Published by Frank Graham 1975, ISBN 0859130772
Contains a page about the Kirkheaton Colliery Waggonway.
Bastles were built as fortified farmhouses to protect against raids by the Border Reivers. Livestock were kept on the ground floor. The family lived above. The walls are up to 1 metre thick. Some bastles have been modernised with living accomodation on the ground floor. Modern Ordnance Survey maps of Northumberland incorrectly describe them as Castles.
Bastions and Belligerents by John F Dodds, 1999
Keepdate Publishing, ISBN 1899506454
Instead, they stumbled across the 25-metre stretch of wooden rails, an early contributor to the mining industry which transformed the North East.
The waggonway is made up of a heavy duty 'main way' with two sets of rails laid on top of each other to preserve their longevity, with a loop from the main line descending into a dip.
That depression would have been filled with water where coal wagons' wooden rails were rested to stop them drying out and cracking. In the middle of the loop is a stone elevation where the horse pulling the waggon would have stood.
Pioneering: The waggonways helped the North East develop and were the precursor to Britain's train network
Breakthrough: Standard-gauge railways ended up being used for steam trains around the world
A waggonway from the former mining town of Tanfield in County Durham
'The wooden waggonway uncovered by the excavation is the direct ancestor of the modern standard-gauge railway,' Mr Carlton said.
With horses and carts eventually replaced by steam trains, railways quickly became the fastest form of transportation the world had ever seen and facilitated the creation of the modern world.
In Newcastle and the surrounding areas, the railways allowed coal to be transported around Britain, leading to the rapid growth of the region.
Mr Carlton added: 'The coal industry was so vitally important for the North East, and there are so few signs of it left now.'
The archaeologists' find is remarkably well-preserved - Mr Williams said: 'It looks as if it has just been covered up and left yesterday.'
The discovery has revealed features which were previously known only from drawings and the notebooks of engineers such as John Buddle, who lived near the dig site.
Work: The dig on the former site of the Neptune shipyard comes as it is redeveloped for new construction
Preserved: The wooden rails have not rotted because they have been kept from biodegrading under the ground
'We have drawings describing what has been found by the dig but this is the real thing,' said local historian Les Turnbull. 'It is tremendous to be able to see these features rather than just looking at them in historic drawings and notebooks.
'Because the line is standard railway gauge, it is tremendously important as the earliest example in the world and this is of international significance. The waggonway complex is at the forefront of late 18th-century engineering.'
Mr Turnbull, who has written a book on waggonways, claimed that the discovery was more important than any Roman find could be.
'One of the gifts of the North East to world history is the development of the railways,' he said. 'Coal and the railways are Tyneside's heritage and this waggonway was part of that, because without the waggonways the coalfields would not have developed.'
In the late 18th century, hundreds of waggons ran from collieries to wharves on the Tyne, where coal would be loaded onto brigs for transport to London and abroad.
The excavated remains were part of the Willington waggonway, which took in collieries at Willington Quay and Bigges Main on the edge of Wallsend.
In 1801 the Killingworth waggonway, for which George Stephenson's first locomotives were built, joined the Willington line.
Stephenson and his son Robert went on to build locomotives at their works in South Street in Newcastle to the Willington gauge, which was 4ft 8½in wide - this became the standard width for railways throughout Britain and much of the world.
COAL FROM NEWCASTLE: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE WAGGONWAY
A waggonway was a timber track used for transporting coal in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
They were an ingenious solution to a problem facing coal barons in Northumberland and Durham - namely, how to efficiently get coal from pit-head to port.
The alternative, slower, option was via pack-horse or ox cart.
A waggonway was a timber track used for transporting coal in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
Where possible, the waggonway would slope gently downhill so that the waggons could roll under their own weight.
The driver sitting on the back would control the brake while the horse trotted behind on a tether.
After the contents were emptied, the horse would pull the empty cart back up the slope.
The rails on the Newcastle waggonway were made of wood, four or five inches thick and five or six inches broad.
Although the use of wood as a travelling surface was not new - Neolithic man had used it for carrying trackways across bogs - it was the use of the flanged wheel, which made all the difference, allowing the wagon to move snugly on the track.
By 1810, the wooden waggonways began to be phased out, replaced by iron.
Over the years, the wooden networks fell into disrepair.
In 2000, North Tyneside Council successfully bid for £2million worth of funding to transform more than 30 miles of routes as part of the Government's Liveability Fund.
The former haulage routes were made into a welcoming and accessible community leisure, travel and learning resource.
Woodern Wagonway - History
You may remember the remains of a section of a wooden waggonway were discovered underneath the former Neptune Shipyard not far from Segedunum Roman Fort in the summer of 2013. Before being redeveloped, the site was investigated by archaeologists due to its close proximity to Segedunum and therefore the potential for Roman remains in the area. The unexpected discovery of the rare and substantial remains of an early railway instead was a very welcome surprise. Constructed in 1785, the section of waggonway was identified as part of the route of the Willington Waggonway by local historian and author Les Turnbull. The Willington Waggonway was the collective name for a series of waggonways which were used by horse-drawn waggons to transport coal from collieries at Willington Quay and Bigges Main on the edge of Wallsend to the Tyne for shipment.
The excavated remains of the Willington Waggonway. Photograph © The Archaeological Practice Ltd.
During the 18 th century, the North East emerged as the centre of mining technology and earned a place on the world stage because of the skills of its engineers and miners. The site is considered to be internationally significant for the archaeological record in terms of the development of railway technology. Only one other wooden waggonway has previously been professionally excavated and recorded in Tyne and Wear, that at Fencehouses on Wearside in 1995. However, no recovery of the remains were carried out and the extent of their survival is unknown. The discovery of a section of the Willington Waggonway presents a rare opportunity to study the substantial and well-preserved remains of one of Tyneside’s wooden waggonways.
Excavation Plan. Image © The Archaeological Practice Ltd.
The excavation at the Neptune shipyard unearthed the most complete and best-preserved section of early wooden railway to have been found anywhere in the world. It also included the only ‘wash hole’ for cleaning and wetting waggon wheels to have ever been professionally excavated and recorded. We knew that wash holes existed through documentary sources, but none had been discovered previously. This gives us an amazing opportunity to learn about their construction and how they were used by the large volume of traffic on the waggonway.
Excavated Wash Hole. Photograph © The Archaeological Practice Ltd.
Re-used ships’ timbers also appear to have been used in the construction or the maintenance of the waggonway. If these timbers originate from types of vessels which no longer survive then there is also the potential to learn about their construction.
Re-used ship timber. Photograph © The Archaeological Practice Ltd.
Peg in piece of re-used ship timber. Photograph © The Archaeological Practice Ltd.
Perhaps most significantly, the excavated remains of the Willington Waggonway is the earliest railway that has been discovered which was built to what became the international ‘standard’ gauge, defined as 4’ 8 1/2” or 1435mm. The later Killingworth Waggonway, which was used by George Stephenson during his development of the steam locomotive, used part of the Willington Waggonway to reach the river Tyne. The gauge of the Willington Waggonway (based on the earlier Benton Way) therefore set the gauge for the Killingworth Waggonway and ultimately the rest of the world. Today approximately 55% of railways in the world are standard gauge.
Studying and analysing such a significant and well preserved early railway will allow us to contribute new information to the archaeological record as well as increase our understanding of the technology and innovations of the time.
What’s happened in the last 3 years?
Thanks to the Arts Council England PRISM (The Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material) fund, TWAM was able to rescue wooden and stone components within a zone 6 metres in length across the width of the waggonway. Representative and significant components were also collected from other locations on the site.
Timbers in storage prior to conservation. Photograph © The Archaeological Practice Ltd.
Samples of the timbers were analysed at the conservation laboratories of the York Archaeological Trust, providing a baseline assessment of the condition of the timbers in general and of their treatment needs. Based on the results, the timbers required consolidation with Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) wax followed by freeze-drying, a process which can take between 24 and 36 months.
Last summer, TWAM secured funding from the Arts Council England Designation Development Fund which will allow us to research, carry out scientific analysis and explore how the waggonway may be displayed in the future. We also intend to create a scale model, develop a publication as well as run both family friendly and specialist events. The project is now underway and will conclude at the end of March 2018.
The timbers will return to the North East in February 2017 to their new home in the Regional Museum Store at Beamish where the stone components are currently stored. Our hope is that this project will be a step towards full scale reconstruction and public display in the future.
Keep an eye out for regular blog posts on the progress of the project as we uncover the secrets of the Willington Waggonway!
Reconstruction drawing of the excavated section of waggonway in use. Image © The Archaeological Practice Ltd.
The Willington Waggonway Research Programme is funded by the Designation Development Fund, Arts Council England.
Wesen Railway Ticket Center
Wagon ways (or 'train ways') are thought to have developed in Germany in the 1550s to facilitate the transport of ore tubs to and from mines, utilising primitive wooden rails. Such an operation was illustrated in 1556 by Georgius Agricola.
The technology spread across Europe and had certainly arrived in Britain by the early 1600s. The Wollaton Wagonway was probably the earliest British installation, completed in 1604, and recorded as running from Strelley to Wollaton near Nottingham. Another early wagonway is noted at Broseley in Shropshire from 1605 onwards. Huntingdon Beaumont (who was concerned with mining at Strelley) also laid down broad wooden rails near Newcastle upon Tyne, on which a single horse could haul fifty or sixty bushels (130 kg) of coal.
On 26 July 1803, Jessop opened the Surrey Iron Railway in south London - arguably, the world's first public railway, albeit a horse-drawn one. It was not a railway in the modern sense of the word
On 25 March 1807. Mumbles Train",
as it came to be known, is as heart breaking as it is fascinating. Considering its myriad achievements and world records, it's incongruous that the railway isn't more famous. It is disgraceful also that the railway was abruptly dismantled in 1960 (at that time electric tram powered) - 153 years after those historic first steps in 1807. To the commuter age and the world of transport that we take for granted today, this was an innovation equivalent to any. The world's first - and the longest surviving railway until 1960 - is a worthy candidate of the history books.
1603/4 - Between October 1603 and the end of September 1604, Huntingdon Beaumont, partner of the landowner Sir Percival Willoughby, built the first recorded above ground early railway/wagonway. It was approximately two miles in length, running from mines at Strelley to Wollaton in Nottinghamshire, England. It is known as the Wollaton Wagonway. Beaumont built three further wagonways shortly after, near Blyth in Northumberland related to the coal and salt trade. Shortly after the Wollaton Wagonway was built other wagonways are recorded at Broseley near Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. Further waggonways emerged in the English North East.
Horse drawn railway coach, late 18th century
Revolution of Trains
The scenario of the trains completely changed with the introduction of the first stationary steam engine by Thomas Savery in the 17th Century. It is a great step in the history of trains. The functioning of the steam engine is quite less which can’t be used as a train engine. It nearly took 60 years for the transformation of the steam engine into a powerful train.
After a long time, the power of the steam engine is converted into circular motion in the year 1763 by taking the designs of Thomas Newcomen, Thomas Savery and James Watt who invented crankshaft. Most of the inventors started using steam engine into every invention like boats, cars and power trains of all the types and sizes. The concept of the steam engine allowed the motion to take place.
Check out the Palace on Wheels route
2: The Waggonways Arrive
“imployit the maist pairt of his youth in uncuth nations in searching and learning the knawledge for making and practizeing of ingynis and workis for the commodious and aisle transporting of coillis betix the colpotis, sey and salt panes of this realm”
So reads the records of the Privy Council of Scotland of 1606, relating to the granting of a patent to one Thomas Tulloch to build around Inveresk a conveyance for taking coals from the collieries down to the salt pans on the Firth of Forth, provided that it was “ane work and ingyne nocht known in this kingdom at na time of before”. The description by the Privy Council clearly describes an early form of railway – the waggonway, of which there were none in Scotland, and the first in England had appeared at Woolaton, Nottinghamshire, two years previously. Such waggonways had began to appear on the continent, of which there is a surviving woodcut of one such working in Lorraine. Tulloch may have visited these works, hence the reference to “uncuth nations”. This equally however have been a sideswipe at the English.
Whether Thomas Tulloch built his early waggonway is unknown. If it were built however, the location and route would certainly make a great deal of sense. The monks of Newbattle, near Dalkeith, had mined coal from around the year 900 and transported it by road to Prestonpans on the Firth of Forth, where they would barter it for salt, which would then be transported back to Newbattle Abbey. Prestonpans takes it’s very name from the salt pans which were a huge industry in the area, and which supplied a great deal of Scotland, while the road which the monks of Newbattle followed is to this day called Salters Road, which narrowly bypasses Inveresk. Prestonpans equally was the location of the salt pans referred to by the Privy Council. If Tulloch’s conveyance was built, then that means that Edinburgh had a means for conveying coal and salt nearby, which many European capitals did not yet have. If it were built, sadly there are no vestiges of it remaining today.
Equally there are no remains of what may have been another early waggonway, which was recorded to have been built around Stacks, near Bo’ness, in 1646. Of the third example however there is absolutely no doubt, for the trackbed of it ramains to this day.
The Yorks Building Company had been given lands seized by the crown in East Lothian after the Earl of Winton supported the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. In 1722 they opened what is today widely recognised as the first railway in Scotland, the Tranent Waggonway. Approximately 12 miles to the east of the centre of Edinburgh, this was a waggonway from the collieries around the East Lothian town of Tranent, down to the harbour of Port Seton, and which later incoporated a westwards branch to Prestonpans (the importance of salt in Scots history cannot be underestimated).
On a side note, for a waggonway which owed it’s existence to a Jacobite defeat, the Tranent Waggonway became the first railway in the world to be used in battle tactics and a Jacobite victory. Following his victories in the highlands, Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) had marched steadily south and taken Edinburgh by September 1745. The government sent troops under Sir John Cope to head the Jacobites off and deny them a route to England. They lined their guns up along the Tranent Waggonway on 20 September 1745, then retired for the evening. Lord Elcho, seeing this took a phalanx of Jacobite troops up to tree cover near Tranent. The following morning the Jacobites attacked without warning (Cope was apparently still asleep) from the front. As the government troops desparately tried to repel this assualt, Elcho and his highlanders came charging down the waggonway, attacking them on their left flank. The result was a complete rout, over in less than an hour, which saw Sir John Cope and many of his men flee the field. This is remembered to this day in the Scots song Hey, Johnnie Cope which has become a sort of unofficial anthem of East Lothian
Hey, Johnnie Cope are ye wauking yet?
And are your drums a-beating yet?
If ye were wauking, I wad wait,
Tae ging tae the coals in the morning.
The Tranent Waggonway should have been viable but eventually proved to be a financial disaster, eventually being sold off as scrap in 1778. The principle however galvanised others to start similar schemes.
Sir Archibald Hope of Craighall, owned lands around Pinkie, near Inveresk, and in 1815 opened a waggonway from his colliery at Pinkie down to Fisherrow Harbour, and eventually as far as salt pans at the Magdalene Bridge, right on the border between East Lothian and Midlothian. This waggonway appears to have been enormously successful and survived until 1841.
The waggonways were getting closer and closer to Edinburgh. While Robert Stevenson had been commissioned to survey a route for the ‘Edinburgh Railway’ in 1817 (see Chapter 1: Early Attempts), the following year saw him working on another project. Alexander Laing of Shawfair was the owner of Newton Colliery, near Millerhill, Midlothian. Laing and another colliery baron and landowner, Sir John Don Wauchope of Edmonstone, commissioned Robert Stevenson to survey a four mile route from Newton Colliery to LIttle France, on Sir John’s Edmonstone estate, and right by the Old Dalkeith Road.
The route Stevenson chose was agreed on and the waggonway appears to have been built very quickly – somewhat amazing given the steep inclines involved. The line ran uphill to the north from Newton, curving around where the later Monktonhall Colliery would later be built, apparently close to where Woolmet Colliery later stood, then taking a sharp left downhill to the foot of the Wisp, serving Edmonstone Colliery, and across the Edmonstone Estate to Little France. The line was built of malleable iron edge-rails (the rails being L shaped, as opposed to wheels being flanged), tied to freestone blocks and opened in August 1818, as reported in the Edinburgh Evening Courant:
MR ALEXANDER LAING begs leave to inform inhabitants of Edinburgh and neighbourhood that he has completed a Rail Road, fourmiles in length, from his Coal Works at Newton to Little France, at which he will, on Monday next COMMENCE SALES of the BEST JEWEL COAL and EDMONSTONE GREAT COAL., at reasonable prices. Little France is on the Dalkeith Road, only two miles from the southern vicinity, and three miles from the high street of Edinburgh, those who purchase their coals at the Little France depot will save over half the present carriage, and tear and wear of harness, &c. in proprotion he now solicits his friends and the public to make trial, when he flatters himself they will find the quality and price to be such as will merit a liberal share of their patronage.
NEWTON-HOUSE, August 20, 1818
The Edmonstone Waggonway rarely gets a mention in railway histories of Edinburgh, and yet it’s enormous success cannot be underestimated. Stevenson, Laing and Wauchope had brought coal traffic for the first time to within two miles of the southern boundary of the city (at this time around Pollock Halls to Salisbury Road) and three miles from the city centre, and it continued to be used for many years to come.
The lease on Edmonstone Colliery transferred to the Stenhouses of Whitehill in either 1824 or 1826. On the first attempt of the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway Company (EDR) to gain an Act of Parliament in 1825, John Don Wauchope was one of the objectors (but strangely enough to did not attend the hearing or send a representative to argue his case). After that Bill failed on it’s Third Reading, when the EDR submitted their second (and successful) Bill in 1826, it is rumoured that Stenhouse tried to have a clause inserted compensating him for the abandonment of the waggonway. Wauchope attempted to get the EDR to buy the line but was not successful, while James Jardine’s 1825 survey for the EDR showed a proposed junction with the Edmonstone Waggonway at Redrow.
Whatever the speculation, it is widely regarded that the Edmonstone Waggonway was abandoned after the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway opened in 1831.
In his excellent work, Early Railways of the Lothians, M J Worling makes the point that an 1899 map shows a coal yard at Pentecox, Little France, with a tramway to it marked “disused”. Could it then have survived another sixty years, maybe connected to other industrial lines?
This is not just perfectly possible, I would suggest that is exactly what happened, and I can give my own anecdotal evidence to support that claim. I grew up in the Moredun area, and just up the road from Little France. I recall during my childhood an ancient wall bordering the Burdiehouse Burn collapsed, revealing that it had been strengthened at one point with two long stretches of iron, one of which was L shaped – and the other of which I now know to have been a length of more modern ‘bullhead’ rail. Little France lies over a mile from the nearest railway, the Edinburgh suburban line, so it is highly unlikely a length of rail would have been transported that far for this purpose. It is far more likely that the wall was strengthened with one of the original rails from the waggonway, and a later one.
My second account dates from 2010, when I walked the last remnants of the Waggonway before it disappeared for good beneath modern road building works. As the trackbed reached the Niddrie Policies it had become eradicated, and there at my feet were the rotting remnants of a wooden sleeper. The waggonway was tied to freestone blocks, not laid on modern sleepers, so this remnant is a definite pointer to the upgrading of the line.
There was once a network of industrial colliery lines which emnated out from Niddrie Colliery and brickworks, taking in Woolmet Colliery, near Newton, and a coal depot right at the top of Edmonstone village, near Danderhall. These lines crossed the route of the Edmonstone Waggonway, and I therefore surmise that it was upgraded with bullhead rails laid to standard gauge on wooden sleepers, and thus incorporated into the local colliery railway network.
Sadly, we shall never now know, as the last remnants of the Edmonstone Waggonway disappeared forever with the building of the Edinburgh Bioquarter development and it’s feeder roads.