Station Name: BELMONT JUNCTION

[Source: Alan Young]


Date opened: 15.4.1844
Location:

Immediately north of the former railway bridge over the A690, close to junction 62 of the A1(M).

Company on opening: Newcastle & Darlington Junction Railway
Date closed to passengers:

1.4.1857

Date closed completely: 1.4.1857
Company on closing:

North Eastern Railway

Present state: Demolished
County: Durham
OS Grid Ref: NZ309448
Date of visit: 22.6.2011

Notes: The station opened as Belmont to serve as the junction between the main line from Gateshead to Darlington and the branch to Durham, whose station was on Gilesgate. From 1852 the station was known as Belmont Junction. The single-storey station building, stone-built with a series of gables facing the tracks, was located in the ‘V’ of the junction, and a subsidiary building stood on the ‘up’ (east side) line. The OS 1856 map does not indicate that the station had platforms. A sandstone water tower , designed by G T Andrews and described as a ‘gas house’ on the OS 1856 map, stood immediately south of the main building. This stately two-storey edifice presented only its upper floor at the track level, which was on an embankment and was accompanied by a carefully detailed chimney, perched like a memorial column on a tall pedestal.

In June 1849 eight main line trains called on weekdays in each direction, and six on Sundays. On the branch to Durham there were 16 departures and 17 arrivals on weekdays, with ten departures and arrivals on Sundays.

Belmont Junction station ceased to have a purpose when the North Eastern Railway’s Bishop Auckland branch was opened from Leamside, on which the present-day Durham station is found. On 1 April 1857, coinciding with the opening of the Bishop Auckland branch, the Belmont – Durham (Gilesgate) line and Belmont Junction station closed; whilst Gilesgate was retained for over a century as Durham’s goods station, Belmont Junction closed to all traffic.

Despite its early demise traces of the station at Belmont Junction remained until the 1970s. A building stood on the site of the old up main line platform, possibly a section of an old passenger building. The water tower also survived; it was to have been dismantled for reconstruction as an exhibit in the Beamish Open-Air Museum, but regrettably it was demolished in error.



BRIEF HISTORY OF 'THE OLD MAIN LINE'
The ‘Old Main Line’ was the name frequently given to the railway between Ferryhill and Pelaw in County Durham which, from 1850 until 1872 formed part of the ‘East Coast’ route from London (Kings Cross) to Newcastle. Prior to 1850 trains ran via Brockley Whins, prior to the opening of the Washington – Pelaw line, and until 1848 terminated at Gateshead rather than Newcastle. From 1872 the present East Coast main line route was used, with diversions in 1906 when the opening of King Edward Bridge removed the need to travel via Gateshead (West) and at Newton Hall Junction, north of Durham, where the curvature of the tracks was reduced in the late 1960s. The evolution of the ‘Old Main Line’ was far from straightforward.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century waggonways were already in existence to move coal from the mines in south-east Northumberland and north-eastern County Durham to tidal water for export. It stands to reason that passengers will have been carried unofficially on such lines, but the first recorded passenger transport by rail in north-east Durham was in 1834 on the Pontop & South Shields route. Originally opened as the Stanhope & Tyne Railroad, it was not established by parliamentary Act but was built on the ‘wayleave’ system under a Deed of Settlement dated 3 February 1834, perhaps to conceal the ambitious nature of the scheme, which was 33¾ miles in length. Under this arrangement the company was to pay a toll, based on the amount of traffic carried, to each landowner through whose property the railway passed.

The south-western end of the line was in Weardale, on the moors just south of Stanhope. Here limestone was quarried, and there were deposits of coal available at intervals between Consett and South Shields. In July 1832 building of the line began, and progress was rapid. Although much of the terrain it crossed was moorland at high altitude, few earthworks were constructed or excavated, and some steep slopes on the south-western section of the route were negotiated with inclines; indeed more than half was worked by inclined planes, either self-acting or with a winding engine, and a few near-level stretches were worked by horses. Locomotives were used only at the eastern end. Much of the line remained unfenced until it closed in the 1960s. The route from Stanhope lime-kilns to Annfield was opened on 15 May 1834, and the eastern section onward to South Shields on 10 September 1834. The engineer T E Harrison surveyed the route; he was to become one of the most influential personnel of the NER.

The carriage of minerals was the priority of the Stanhope & Tyne, and no attempt was made to serve centres of population which would generate passenger traffic. Nevertheless there were requests for passengers to be conveyed so they were permitted to ride free-of-charge on top of the coal wagons. Soon a wagon was attached specifically for passenger use, and shortly afterwards a separate locomotive-hauled passenger coach was provided fortnightly on pay days. Finally, on 16 April 1835, a full passenger service was instated between Durham Turnpike (one mile north of Chester-le-Street) and South Shields, possibly calling from the start at Vigo and Washington. At South Shields a nearby inn sold tickets, and passengers boarded the train in sidings. Part of this route, from Washington to Brockley Whins, was to become a section of the original ‘Old Main Line’. The isolated stretch of passenger railway between Durham Turnpike and South Shields was joined by the Brandling Junction Railway from Gateshead to Brockley Whins, three miles south-west of South Shields, opening to minerals on 30 August 1838 and passengers on 5 September 1839; and the Durham Junction Railway, stretching north from an obscure terminus at Rainton Meadow (with horse-bus connection to Durham) to Washington opened for mineral traffic on 24 August 1838 and passengers on 9 March 1840.

Unfortunately the cost of running the Stanhope & Tyne proved unsustainable. In the moorlands wayleaves cost about £25 per mile per year, but at the eastern end the figures were £300 or more. The outgoings on wayleaves alone amounted to £5,600. Plans for a dock (where Tyne Dock was later opened) were abandoned. Traffic did not develop to the expected levels and the wayleaves proved to be financially crippling. By the close of 1840 the railway company was £440,000 in debt, and it was wound up on 5 February 1841. The following year the Pontop & South Shields Railway obtained an Act to take over the northern end of its track which had hosted the passenger service. The Derwent Iron Company took control of the section south-west of Carr House to bring limestone from Stanhope to its furnaces at Consett. This section later passed into the hands of the S&D.



The Brandling Junction Railway (BJ) originated as a private venture by brothers R W and J Brandling to connect Gateshead, South Shields and Monkwearmouth. The brothers obtained an Act to buy or purchase leases for the land over which their lines would pass, but they chose to proceed by the wayleave system. A company came into being on 7 September 1835 to acquire the assets of the Brandling Railway, and as the Brandling Junction Railway Company it was incorporated by Act of Parliament on 7 June 1836. The Stanhope & Tyne also sponsored a Gateshead, South Shields & Monkwearmouth Railway, but discussions with the BJR resulted in the abandonment of the plan. The BJR opened in three sections. The first was from the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway’s Redheugh in Gateshead, adjacent to the River Tyne, which ascended at 1:23 through Greenes Field to Oakwellgate; this was operated by a stationary engine. A self-acting incline from Gateshead Quayside was opened with it on the same day, 15 January 1839. The route from South Shields to Monkwearmouth opened on 19 June 1839, followed by the connecting lines between Gateshead and Cleadon Lane (later East Boldon) and between Brockley Whins and Green Lane (north-east of Brockley Whins) on 5 September 1839. A chord known as the Newton Garths branch opened on 9 September 1839 between East Boldon and West Boldon junctions, immediately south-east of Pontop Crossing, but this was not used by passenger trains. On 9 March 1840 the west-to-north link between the BJ and S&T opened at Pontop Crossing which enabled through services between the several termini at Gateshead, South Shields, Monkwearmouth and the Durham Junction Railway’s Rainton Meadows to operate. However services from the south had, at first, to reverse from just north of Pontop Crossing to reach Brockley Whins in a complex operation (described on the Brockley Whins page).

The Durham Junction Railway (DJ) was authorised by an Act of 16 June 1834. It became an important link in the chain of railways forming the ‘Old Main Line’, the original intention was merely to redirect to the Tyne coal from the pits in the Houghton-le-Spring area, and from pits served by the Hartlepool Railway. Even these modest ambitions were not realised as its southern terminus was to be at Rainton Meadows, two miles short of Moorsley, its intended destination, and the Houghton-le-Spring branch, authorised by an Act of 1837, was never constructed. Nevertheless a ‘Station Road’ was partly constructed in Houghton – the triumph of hope over reality – which was to be one of the largest population centres in the North-East never to have the benefit of a passenger station.

The DJ’s crowning glory was the stately stone viaduct over the River Wear between Penshaw and Washington, and based upon the Roman bridge at Alcántara, Spain. The last stone was laid on the day of Queen Victoria’s coronation, 28 June 1838, thus it was named Victoria Bridge (or Viaduct). The engineer T E Harrison constructed four main arches, those at each end of 100ft span and the two central arches of 160ft and 144ft; the total length was 811ft and the height above water level was 135ft. In 1843 the DJ became part of the portfolio of the ambitious George Hudson (the ‘Railway King’) as part of his plan for an integrated east-coast route. The Act of 23 May 1844 which confirmed his purchase of the line also made provision for the project of bridging the Tyne.

At Washington the DJ connected with the Stanhope & Tyne whose metals were used as far as Brockley Whins. Here the BJ line was joined, and the passenger service between Rainton Meadows and Gateshead took this route from its inception on 9 March 1840. The S&T owned over half of the DJ shares and also worked the services. As noted above a reversal was necessary at Brockley Whins, and this inconvenience was compounded by congestion caused by the DJ and S&T/P&SS trains sharing the line between Washington and Brockley Whins. To allow more efficient operation powers were sought to construct a direct curve and to widen the line between Washington and Brockley Whins: an Act of 23 May 1844 authorised these projects. The curve was on a difficult site intersected by the River Don and was constructed on a wooden viaduct which stood until 1940. The viaduct was used by main line trains until 1 October 1850 when the more direct route between Washington and Pelaw via Usworth was opened.

For the next stage in the evolution of the ‘Old Main Line’ through County Durham it is necessary to return to the 1830s. The Great North of England Railway obtained its Act for a route from Redheugh Quay at Gateshead to Croft (south of Darlington) on 4 July 1836. After opening from York to Darlington the GNE decided, for financial reasons, not to construct the route onward to Gateshead, and on 5 October 1841 agreed to relinquish the powers to Robert Davies, James Richardson and John Hotham, who acted on behalf of the embryo Newcastle & Darlington Junction Railway. The N&DJ agreed to apply for powers to finish the line and pay all costs. The N&DJ was incorporated on 18 June 1842, and on 11 April 1843 the northern part of the GNE was transferred by Act of Parliament to the N&DJ. Work proceeded swiftly, and the line opened throughout on 15 April 1844 to mineral traffic and to passengers on 19 June. The short section between Belmont Junction (where the Durham branch left the main line) to join the Durham Junction line at Rainton Crossing was the last to be completed. There was now a direct railway link from London to the Tyne: on 18 June 1844, the day before the route opened to regular passenger traffic, a special train made history when it ran from London (Euston Square) to Gateshead in 9h 21m, including stops totalling 70 minutes. At the time of opening the N&DJ did not actually own the line beyond Washington, but had a station at Gateshead, reached via the P&SS and BJ railways: although only authorised by the Act of 23 May 1844 the station was illustrated by an engraving in a Gateshead newspaper four weeks later.



The early days of the N&DJ were difficult owing to strained relations with the GNE. For details see K Hoole’s Regional History vol 4.

The original ‘East Coast’ main line of 1844 therefore ran from Ferryhill to Gateshead via Shincliffe, Leamside, Penshaw, Washington, Brockley Whins and Pelaw. The Gateshead terminus was at Oakwellgate, which had opened on 5 September 1839. On 2 September 1844 Oakwellgate closed, and the service was diverted to the Greenesfield terminus, which had opened on 19 June 1844. This terminus, in turn, gave way to a new through station which would eventually be known as Gateshead East, when the main line was extended to Newcastle Central, crossing the River Tyne on a temporary bridge (opened 1 November 1848) then on the High Level Bridge, which opened on 30 August 1850. From 1 October 1850 the new, shorter route via Usworth was used between Washington and Pelaw, avoiding Brockley Whins. This ‘Old Main Line’ or ‘Leamside’ route was used until 15 January 1872 when through express services were diverted to the route via Durham.

The ‘Old Main Line’ continued life as an important freight route and retained its stopping passenger service between Leamside and Ferryhill into LNER days. This service - latterly amounting to four up and five down trains on weekdays and one up on a Sunday, calling at the intermediate stations of Shincliffe and Sherburn Colliery – was to have been withdrawn in 1939 but closure was deferred until June 1941. Thereafter the Leamside – Ferryhill line was used for passenger trains diverted from the main line via Durham and for freight traffic. In 1991 British Rail mothballed the line, but owing to dumping of rubbish on the lines, removal of rails at level-crossings, theft of 2½ miles of track near Penshaw in 2003, and effects of overall neglect Network Rail decided to close the line entirely and the rails were removed by April 2013. Concrete sleepers recovered from the route are understood to be destined for re-use on the Waverley Route currently under construction between Edinburgh, Galashiels and Tweedbank.

The Durham diversion was, like the development of the Leamside route, a result of evolution rather than one direct action.

BRIEF HISTORY OF 'THE NEW MAIN LINE'
Access to Gateshead from the south was via Leamside until 1872, when the present-day East Coast main line superseded it. However much earlier, in July 1846, the York & Newcastle Railway announced its intention to promote a Bill for a line following a route via the Team valley from Gateshead (and ultimately Newcastle). On 30 June 1848 the Y&N – by now the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway – obtained an Act authorising construction. The proposed route was from Gateshead via Team Valley to Newton Hall, where a branch to Durham and Bishop Auckland continued southwards, while the main line curved eastwards for about a mile then turned south to join the main line near Belmont Junction. However in 1849 the work was postponed owing to the downfall of George Hudson.



The NER in 1862 revived the project, but the line authorised was only between Gateshead and Newton Hall on the Bishop Auckland branch north of Durham, which had opened from Leamside in 1857. The section eastwards from Newton Hall had been constructed as part of the Bishop Auckland branch, but there was no west-to-south curve near Leamside to allow through running from the north onto the old main line via Shincliffe. Consequently the new line could be used only as an alternative route to Durham and the south via Bishop Auckland; and at first there were only four stopping trains in each direction between Newcastle and Durham. The Team Valley route opened on 1 December 1868, and it became part of the ‘new’ East Coast main line on 15 January 1872 when the line between Relly Mill Junction (one mile south of Durham) and Tursdale Junction (one mile north of Ferryhill) was completed.

Sources and bibliography:

Bradshaw from Chris Totty NER working timetable from Alan Young.
Route maps drawn by Alan Young.

To see other stations on the Old Main Line click on the station name: Felling 2nd, Felling 3rd , Felling 1st, Pelaw 1st, Pelaw 3rd, Pelaw 4th , Pelaw 2nd, Usworth, Washington 2nd, Washington 1st, Penshaw 1st, Penshaw 2nd, Fencehouses, Rainton, Rainton Meadows (on branch), Leamside 1st, Leamside 2nd, Durham Gilesgate (on branch), Sherburn Colliery, Shincliffe & Ferryhill

See also Coxhoe (branch from Ferryhill)

See also: Springwell, Brockley Whins (1st site), Brockley Whins (2nd site)
& Boldon (route prior to 1850)

See also Sunderland and Durham (via Leamside):
Durham (still open), Frankland, Cox Green, South Hylton , Hylton, Pallion 1st, Pallion 2nd , Millfield 2nd, Millfield 1st, Millfield 3rd , Sunderland Fawcett Street (on branch) & Sunderland Central (Still open)


Station still open as part of the Tyne & Wear metro


Despite being closed to passengers for about a century, buildings on both sides of the Old Main Line survived at Belmont Junction station in 1950. The signal box in the foreground was added after the station closed. Beyond the signal box is the station building, distinguished by several gables and a small awning. The water tower with its chimney is behind the main building. It is not known whether the building on the left (up side) was part of the original passenger station buildings. The branch to Durham Gilesgate, on the right, remained in use for goods traffic at the time of this photograph. This view is looking southwards.
Photo from JW Armstrong Trust


1856 1:2,500 OS map. Belmont Junction station shortly before its closure; the ‘Junction’ suffix had been added to the station name in 1852 but the Ordnance Survey seems unaware of this. No platforms are indicated, but the main building is shown between the diverging tracks of the main line and the Durham Gilesgate branch (left) and there is a siding from the Gilesgate branch for delivery of coals to the ‘gas house’- the structure with the tall chimney seen on some of the accompanying photographs. This description of the building is not accurate as the water tank was replenished from a natural spring or stream and the tall chimney was for the steam-powered pumping engine. The rural surroundings are evidence that Belmont was provided purely to act as an exchange point between the Durham branch and the main line, at the time when Gilesgate was the only station within Durham City. In 1857 a new route opened between Leamside, Durham (present station) and Bishop Auckland, whereupon the rebuilt Leamside station replaced Belmont as the exchange point for Durham, and the Gilesgate
branch closed to passengers.

1896 1:2,500 OS map. About forty years after Belmont Junction closed to passengers much of the station is shown to be standing. A signal box has been added in the angle where the Old Main Line and Durham Gilesgate branch meet. On the up side of the main line only a small structure is shown where a much larger building is seen on the 1856 map. Two blocks of semidetached cottages have appeared on railway land south of the junction, presumably for North Eastern Railway employees.

Belmont Junction station looking north in November 1966. The ‘down’ Old Main line platform and the station building formerly stood between the stately water tower and the signal box, to the left of the tracks. A building can still be seen on the site of the former ‘up’ platform.
Photo by JC Dean

Looking north-east from the Durham Gilesgate branch towards the signal box and junction with the Old Main Line at Belmont. On 5 November 1966, ten days before it was abandoned, the infestation of weeds indicates the declining use of the Gilesgate branch which since 1857 had been limited to goods use.
Photo by JC Dean


This angle, looking north-east, shows clearly the two-storey structure of the water tower at Belmont Junction station: November 1966.
Photo by JC Dean

A diverted southbound East Coast main line train hauled by a Deltic passes the site of Belmont Junction station in 1970. The building, seen to the right, would soon be removed; it is not known whether it was part of the ‘up’ passenger facilities when the station was in use.
Photo by IS Carr

These cottages, photographed in January 1988, were south-west of the down Old Main Line platform at Belmont Junction in the gap between that line and the Durham Gilesgate branch. They are understood to have been occupied formerly by a signalman and a pumping engine attendant and their families. They were demolished prior to the construction of the A690 dual carriageway and the site is now occupied by a park-and-ride car park for people visiting Durham.
Photo by Peter Barella from his Flickr photostream

Looking south-west along the route of the Durham Gilesgate branch where it diverged from the ‘Old Main Line’. Belmont Junction station was about 30yd from the position of the cameraman, and the signal box would have been in the foreground, to the right of the tracks. At the time of this photograph in June 2011 the tracks had been ‘mothballed’ for about twenty years.
Photo by Nick Catford

The triangle of land between the Durham line and the Old Main Line looking north in October 2013, The station buildings would have stood here.
Photo by Ali Ford

This October 2013 view is taken from a similar viewpoint to the June 2011 picture above, a year after the track was lifted. The Durham line diverged through the gap in the trees.
Photo by Ali Ford


 

 

 

[Source: Alan Young]




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