Station Name: BENTON (2nd)

[Source: Alan Young]

Date opened: 1.3.1871

West of bridge over Station Road

Company on opening: Blyth & Tyne Railway
Date closed to passengers: Temporary closure from 23.1.1978 until 11.8.1980
Date closed completely: Still open
Company on closing:

British Rail (Eastern Region) temporary closure

Present state: Station building (up platform) and waiting shed (down platform) in situ
County: Northumberland
OS Grid Ref: NZ277689
Date of visit:

Frequently 1960-80, 1998 & 6.11.2011

Note: The Blyth & Tyne route from Backworth to Newcastle (New Bridge Street) opened on 27 June 1864, with a station provided at the village of Longbenton; most sources call this station Benton, although it was Long Benton in Blyth & Tyne timetables. There was already a station known as Benton on the North Eastern Railway’s East Coast main line.

The second Blyth & Tyne Benton station opened at its present site on 1 March 1871, almost midway between the earlier B&T Benton station and the B&T Forest Hall station; it replaced both of these stations, which closed on that date. In 1874, when the NER absorbed the B&T, Benton station on the East Coast main line was renamed Forest Hall, the name which it retained
until it closed in 1958.

The Ordnance Survey map published in1859 showed what would become ‘Station Road’ as a country lane with no buildings close to the site where Benton (2nd) was to open. The nearest building of note was Long Benton parish church, now dedicated to St Bartholomew (St Andrew’s until 1791). The map of 1897 shows only a few large houses nearby, but by 1916 urban development, with terraced, detached, and semi-detached of various qualities surrounded the station.

Benton station was provided with a main building on the up (south-east) platform brick-built and showing Gothic influence, not unlike that provided over a decade earlier at North Seaton. It had two wings, the north-eastern being single-storey, whilst the reminder, including the stationmaster’s accommodation, had two storeys. The north-eastern wing had a bay window projecting onto the platform. The station was entered through a wooden extension to the north-eastern wing, where the booking facilities and an office were located. An enclosed verandah stretched between the two wings, providing a waiting room, and it was overlooked by first-floor windows. A porters’ office was also in this section of the building. At the south-west end of the building was a flat-roofed extension containing a lavatory, and beside it was a small wooden shed.

The north-east platform had a delightful brick-built waiting shed, with a hipped slate roof embellished with cresting, and with elaborate finials at both ends. Like the verandah opposite it was fronted by timber and glass. A standard NER iron footbridge, at the north-east end of the station, connected the platforms. A short distance north-east of the down platform, and beyond the Station Road bridge, was a tall signal box built with double overhangs because of the constricted site.

A 3-ton crane and two goods sidings, entered from the west, were provided behind the up platform. These facilities were closed on 14 August 1967.

In summer 1896 Benton had a service of about a dozen trains each way between Newcastle Central and New Bridge Street via the Coast on weekdays, and nine on Sundays. Trains ran at irregular intervals on weekdays, and surprisingly there was no clear concentration of services at morning and evening rush hours. The first departure for Newcastle direct (New
Bridge Street) was as late as 7:56am, and there was no earlier train to Newcastle from any station on the line from the coast. Perhaps this reflected the social class of the areas served, with managers and clerks as the customers – who would start work later than workers of lower status. Travelling to or from the northern reaches of the former B&T, eight further trains on weekdays, nine on Saturdays, and four on Sundays called at Benton; the first departure to Newcastle direct was at 8:46 am.

The irregular and infrequent steam trains were replaced, from 29 March 1904, by frequent third-rail electric trains between Newcastle (New Bridge Street) and Benton. The new service was extended in stages via Tynemouth to reach Newcastle Central three months later. Steam trains to and from Newbiggin and Morpeth via Hartley continued to call at Benton. The regular-interval electric service in 1904 was:

30-minute intervals: Newcastle Central – Monkseaton – New Bridge Street
30-minute intervals: Newcastle Central – Monkseaton (did not serve Benton)
30-minute intervals: New Bridge Street – Benton
30-minute intervals: Newcastle Central – Riverside – Tynemouth (did not serve Benton)

The Coast Circle route from Newcastle Central to Jesmond, with Manors (North) replacing New Bridge Street, was opened on 1 January 1909, but until 1917 the new link was used only by Newcastle Central – Benton trains. The summer 1920 timetable shows trains every half hour throughout the day on weekdays, with a more intensive rush hour service, and an hourly service on Sundays. By the late-1930s this had increased in frequency to 20-minute intervals on weekdays and half-hourly on Sundays.

In the LNER era, whilst electric lamps were installed at every other station on the Coast Circle, Benton continued to be lit by gas. The lamp standards were of a most unusual elaborate style not usually associated with railway stations. LNER running-in boards of a style believed to be unique to the Coast Circle incorporating the company’s early diamond logo were fitted. In January 1948 the station became part of the nationalised British Railways North Eastern Region, and in the early/mid 1950s half-flanged tangerine totem name signs were installed; no other Coast Circle station received them at this time, perhaps because they had serviceable LNER nameplates fitted to the electric lighting. However, continuing to be out-of-step with the other stations, the gas lamps and totems were replaced in about 1961, with fluorescent strip lamps bearing the station name on the diffusers, mounted on concrete posts. Shortly before this, vitreous enamel BR(NE) nameboards had replaced the LNER signs.

In January 1967 the North Eastern Region was abolished, and Benton was transferred to the Eastern Region. Early in the 1970s the other Coast Circle stations had tall vandal-proof lamps installed, with black-and-white ‘corporate identity’ signage, but Benton did not.

The familiar 1937 electric multiple units were eventually condemned as ‘life expired’ by British Rail, and phased out over a two-year period to be replaced with diesel multiple units; the final EMU ran on 17 June 1967. The diesel units provided a slower service, and the longstanding 20-minute frequency of trains was reduced to half-hourly intervals; an express service each hour did not call at the station. However the new Tynerider branded services introduced in October 1970 – the same old DMUs with jolly orange transfers added to them! - restored the 20-minute interval service, and even included trains in the early hours of the morning to return night-time revellers to their homes. Royal Assent was given in 1973 for conversion of the route to light rail ‘Metro’ operation, and the more frequent service continued until the direct trains between Newcastle Central and West Monkseaton were withdrawn on 23 January 1978 for Metro engineering work to take place.

With the exception of South Gosforth, the buildings at the stations from West Jesmond to Tynemouth, reopened as Metro ‘halts’, were treated sympathetically. Benton retained its main building, but the wooden building at the north-eastern end was replaced with a brick structure, and the timber-and-glass frontage of the verandah was removed. The
matching frontage of the waiting shed on the opposite platform was also removed. The NER footbridge gave way to a much less appealing structure; having only step-access this was replaced in 2011 with an ‘accessible’ bridge including ramps and lifts. A new structure has also been added at the north-east end of the down platform with ticket-issuing facilities.

BRIEF HISTORY OF BLYTH & TYNE RAILWAY (Newcastle [New Bridge Street] – Jesmond – Benton – Backworth)
The southern end of the Blyth & Tyne Railway has a complicated history. Until 1861 there was a single route from Blyth and Seghill onward through Prospect Hill to Percy Main, with a terminus adjacent to the NER station. However in that year a new branch was opened, following the route of the former Whitley Waggonway, extending from Hartley to Tynemouth. It should be noted that this included the stretch to what is now Monkseaton, which was to be known as the ‘Avenue Branch’, and that the line beyond to Tynemouth was half a mile inland of the present day Monkseaton – Tynemouth Metro line.

At the Tynemouth end the original terminus was quickly replaced with a new one on a short branch which curved south eastwards, and that in turn closed when its branch was extended to a third terminus, which adjoined the 1847 Tynemouth terminus of what had been the Newcastle & North Shields Railway.

In 1864 the Blyth & Tyne reached Newcastle, with a terminus at New Bridge Street. This was achieved by diverting trains onto a new line just south of Holywell, then through Backworth, Benton, and Jesmond. At Backworth a new line was opened to join the 1861 Whitley (Monkseaton) to Tynemouth route. Trains could now travel on the B&T from Newcastle (New Bridge Street) to Tynemouth, making the Holywell – Prospect Hill – Percy Main route, and the ‘Avenue Branch’ between Hartley and Whitley (Monkseaton) redundant. These two lines closed in June 1864 on the day when the Newcastle – Tynemouth service was inaugurated.

In 1874 the B&T was absorbed by the NER, and the opportunity was taken to reorganise the railway routes in the Monkseaton / Whitley / Tynemouth area. With the growth of housing and holidaymaking on the coast the ‘inland’ route from Monkseaton to North Shields was superseded in 1882 by one within sight of the sea, and the two formerly competing termini at Tynemouth
were replaced with a splendid new through station. This created the coastal section of the familiar Coast Circle and Metro route, although there were to be realignments at Whitley Bay in 1910 and Monkseaton in 1915 where new, larger stations were built.

In response to the growth and electrification of street tram networks on North Tyneside the Coast Circle route via both Wallsend and Carville was electrified in 1904 on the third rail system, and the irregular and infrequent steam service was replaced with a frequent interval service. For almost six decades the basic pattern was three trains per hour in each direction, with extras in the rush hour.

In 1963 the Reshaping of British Railways (‘Beeching’) report made no reference to the main Coast Circle line, but the Riverside Branch, via Carville, was recommended for closure (which was eventually implemented in 1973). However on a visit to Tyneside shortly after the report’s publication Beeching made it clear that the Coast Circle line was a likely candidate for closure. In the mid 1960s the ageing electric multiple units, dating from 1937, were being allowed a few more minutes to complete their journeys, and the decision was made to replace them with diesel multiple units cascaded from other areas rather than with newer electric stock. In June 1967, shortly after the line became part of British Rail’s Eastern Region – the North Eastern having been abolished - the last EMUs ran, and the third rails were removed.

The service of three stopping trains per hour in each direction was replaced with a half-hourly service, plus one ‘express’ serving only the coastal stations, Wallsend and Manors; it is no surprise that custom was lost at the stations whose service was cut. However in October 1970 the tide turned, and the Eastern Region launched the vigorous Tynerider campaign to revitalise the line (including the Riverside branch) and the South Shields branch. Although the Riverside continued to have a sparse service at rush hours only, the Coast Circle’s 20-minutely service returned, with the new feature of trains in the early hours to bring revellers home from Newcastle city centre. Passenger numbers increased dramatically, and strengthened the case for further investment. The idea of incorporating the local railways into a rapid transit system was examined, and in 1973 Royal Assent was obtained to use the Coast Circle as the basis of such a network, which was to become the Tyne & Wear Metro.

The engineering work to bring about this transformation was ambitious, involving the driving of tunnels under central Newcastle and Gateshead and constructing a sixth bridge over the Tyne between these centres, so that the Metro could be separated from the ‘main line’ system. For some time between January 1978 and November 1982 all of the stations on the Coast Circle
(except Tynemouth) were closed for conversion work to be done: this included West Jesmond, South Gosforth, Longbenton, Benton, and West Monkseaton on the former B&T Newcastle route, thus their inclusion in the list of Disused Stations. Backworth closed in 1977 and Manors North in 1978 and were not to reopen on the new Metro line (although Manors underground station replaced Manors North, and Northumberland Park was opened in 2005 immediately south-west of the site of Backworth).

Almost all of the Newcastle – Backworth route remains as part of the Metro system. Only at the southern end has there been any significant change. A short distance north of the original Jesmond station the Metro route of 1980 curves to the south-west to enter the tunnel beneath central Newcastle and the new Jesmond station.

Click here for a list of sources and a Blyth & Tyne bibliography

Tickets from Michael Stewart except 7292 CJ Dean and 8444 Brian Johnson . Street map from Rod Davey. Totem from Richard Furness. Bradshaw from Chris Totty. Route map drawn by Alan Young.

To see other stations on the Blyth & Tyne Railway Newcastle - Backworth line click on the station name: Newcastle New Bridge Street, Manors North, Jesmond, West Jesmond*, Moor Edge, South Gosforth*, Longbenton*, Benton (1st site)*, Forest Hall, Benton Square and Backworth (2nd site).

* Station reopened as part of the Tyne & Wear metro. Three other Metro stations on this line are new sites and are not included. These are Palmersville, Northumberland Park and Ilford Road.

Taken between 1904 and 1908 this photograph, from the up platform at Benton, shows one of the original EMUs at the down platform. At this time New Bridge Street was the Newcastle terminus. The driver is in the cab as if to drive to New Bridge Street, although the train is signalled to proceed to Backworth; the unit has presumably ended its 'down' journey and is about to return to New Bridge Street. Signals carrying a cross indicate that they are not in use; these ones were installed to control access to Benton NW curve which did not open until 1940.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

1919 1:2,500 OS Map. Benton (2nd) station opened in 1871, replacing the station half-a-mile west. This map shows the buildings on both platforms, the NER footbridge and two goods sidings south of the up platform. The signal box is west of the up platform. This was to be replaced with a box east of the same platform, beyond the road bridge and close to Benton north-west curve. A limited amount of residential development is seen close to the station,

1940 1:2,500 OS Map. Residential development now encloses the station. Semi-detached housing would soon be added on the north side of Eastfield Road and a corner of Longbenton Estate would occupy the fields in the north-west of the map. The map erroneously omits the waiting shelter on the station’s north (down) platform. The signal box west of the platform has gone, and its replacement on the eastern edge of the map can be seen.

Benton station, looking north-east from the up platform c1905. A rake of 1904 electric stock stands at the down platform. Beyond it the signal box can be seen as well as the ‘splitting’ signal gantry, whose left end has been provided to carry signals for the north-west curve to the East Coast main line – which was not built until World War II. On the up platform sack and luggage trolleys are parked. The casement-style gas lamp will be noted.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

A train of 1904 electric stock waits at the up platform in Benton station at some date between 1904 and 1908. The destination blind reads New Bridge Street, the Newcastle terminus for trains on the ex-Blyth & Tyne line until 1 January 1909 when Manors (North) replaced it on the through line to Newcastle (Central). Platform ‘furniture’ includes the half-barrels of plants on this platform, the standard coiled serpent bench on the opposite platform, and casement-style gas lamps. Beyond the cast iron NER footbridge the splitting signals (right) control the route to Heaton via the south-west curve and East Coast main line, electrified from 1904. The central signal is for the line straight ahead to Backworth. The left-hand signals indicated by the ‘X’ as not in use are anticipating the installation of Benton north-west curve, which was not opened until 1940.
Photo from Jim Lake collection

Benton station, looking south-west from the footbridge c1905. A rake of 1904 electric stock is at the up platform; its destination blind reading ‘Benton’ is a reminder that until 1917 a standard feature of the electric service was a Newcastle (Central) - Benton shuttle, full ‘Coast Circle’ workings being introduced in that year. The coiled serpent bench (lower right) was found at many NER stations.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

A fine study of Benton station, looking east from the down platform c1915.
Photo from John Mann collection

A general view of Benton station, looking north-east from the down platform in 1959.  This was the only Coast Circle station still to be lit by gas, and the lamp standards were unusually ornate in a style seldom seen on station platforms. BR(NE) totem name signs can be seen attached to the lamp standards; these were in place for only a few years, to be removed when electric lighting was installed. The electric third rails are in place, and would be used for a further eight years by the Coast Circle trains. In the background, beyond the NER footbridge, the three-way junction is indicated by the splitting signals. Those on the left controlled the north-west curve to the East Coast main line, opened in 1940, and used for regular passenger train workings only in the 1970s.
Copyright photo from Stations UK

In March 1970 a Class 101 DMU enters the down platform on its way to the coast. The view is from the footbridge, looking south-west. By this time the electric third rails have been removed, as have the goods sidings beyond the up platform, the goods yard having closed on 14 August 1967.
Photo by Ben Brooksbank

A general view of Benton station, looking north-east from the down platform in April 1973. The footbridge (replaced with a less appealing structure under Metro ownership) is of the standard NER design.
Photo by Alan Young

On 27 July 1977 Benton station building on the up platform is seen from the footbridge. The BR(NE) running-in board, formerly displayed on the wooden panel (extreme left) is being returned to its hiding place in the booking office by the booking clerk. When the photographer asked his permission to take photographs of the station, the clerk confided in him that the old nameboard was in storage, and was keen to display it once more – as seen on two other images.
Photo by Alan Young

On 27 July 1977 a DMU enters the up platform of Benton station.
Photo by Alan Young

On 15 August 1978 Benton station had been closed to passenger traffic for seven months. This view is looking south-west from the up platform. The former goods area has been taken over by the Metro construction engineers; the platform had recently been constructed for their use.
Photo by Alan Young

On 15 August 1998 a Metro train is leaving the down platform of Benton station, heading north-eastwards for the coast. The station is well cared for, in contrast to its run-down appearance in later BR days. The NER footbridge has unfortunately been replaced with a utilitarian structure of little charm: happily at South Gosforth the NER bridge has been retained. This view was used as the front cover illustration of the author’s 1999 publication ‘Suburban railways of Tyneside.’
Photo by Alan Young

Benton station, looking south-west from the footbridge. The Metro has retained the original station building (left) and waiting shelter (right), but the structure in the left foreground is recent. The choice of brick colour and the slate roof enables it to blend in successfully with its older neighbour.
hoto by Ali Ford

Click here for more pictures of Benton station




[Source: Alan Young]

Last updated: Sunday, 04-Jun-2017 09:39:51 CEST
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