Station Name: DURHAM
Still open but included for completeness

[Source: Alan Young]

Date opened: 1.4.1857

Northern end of Station Approach

Company on opening: North Eastern Railway
Date closed to passengers:

Still Open

Date closed completely: Still Open
Company on closing:

Still Open

Present state: Still Open
County: Durham
OS Grid Ref: NZ270428
Date of visit: 20.6.2013

Notes: The present-day East Coast main line station at Durham was, in effect, the third station to serve the city of Durham. The first was the terminus of the Durham & Sunderland Railway (via Hetton) opened in 1839 which was actually in the village of Shincliffe a couple of miles south of the city. The second one, which the present station replaced in 1857, was on Gilesgate, the terminus of a branch from Belmont on the Darlington to Gateshead line via Leamside. The fourth was Durham Elvet, opened in 1892 to replace the inconveniently located Shincliffe terminus – by that time renamed Shincliffe Town.

Today’s Durham station was originally just an intermediate stop on the Bishop Auckland branch from Leamside. However, as befitted the historic city, it was favoured with a most attractive building. Biddle (1973) notes the similarity of the Tudor-Gothic building to G T Andrews’ remarkable edifice at Richmond, and suggests that although the Durham building is credited to Thomas Prosser, the NER architect at its opening in 1857, it was likely to have been an Andrews design that had been laid aside when George Hudson’s downfall postponed the completion of this line. Biddle also remarks that the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral opposed the construction of the railway, and the choice of a well crafted, traditionally styled building on the elevated site in view of the cathedral and castle could perhaps have placated them.

The buildings on both platforms are in dressed sandstone. The main building is on the up (east) platform, and its frontage is a two-storey gabled block with a crenellated portico of three pointed arches in front and one on each side. Other features of interest are the groups of octagonal chimney stacks and mullioned windows. A screen wall formerly linked the building to the stationmaster’s house and refreshment room.

The station sufficed for over a decade, but the re-routing of the East Coast main line through the station in 1872 required superior facilities. Consequently Prosser undertook major improvements in 1871-2. The site needed to be widened to the west, to accommodate two through platforms and bays for local services. The station originally possessed a trainshed, which was demolished. The main east side station building with its office range was retained for its original purpose, and it influenced the style of the new work, notably the booking office and waiting rooms on the new down platform; Fawcett notes that these formed a virtually independent station. The down platform offices took the form of a single-storey cottage-style pavilion, reflecting the Tudor-Gothic of the original station. He also remarks that with four tracks between the through platforms, goods and express passenger traffic could avoid the platform roads, and extensive circulating areas and bay platforms on both sides were also features of the generous accommodation offered by the station. In place of the trainshed there was fully-glazed ridge and furrow roofing, with a slated skirt at the platform edge.

Fawcett’s description of the re-vamping of the original up side building refers to the rearrangement of the offices, the refreshment rooms being re-sited in a new building north of the old one, and a new ramped platform entrance being formed between the two. The new rooms were in a two-storey and raised basement block, appearing rather like a prosperous suburban villa, stylistically similar to the old building but ‘livened up’ with a crenellated parapet, punctuated by corbelled chimneys. Inside there were staff bedrooms and a sitting room on the upper floor. Downstairs was a large first-class refreshment room with a pair of bay windows looking out towards the city, while other travellers had to make do with a smaller room looking out onto the platform. The original station building ‘underwent some surprising external surgery at the same time: the turrets at the corners of the portico were replaced by angle buttresses, and the shaped stone mullions of the ground-floor windows were replaced by flat timber ones’.

To increase office space wooden buildings were added to both platforms, including a general waiting room on the up side and a bay-windowed stationmaster’s office, with nicely detailed Gothic windows, on the down side. However not all alterations were in such good taste. Fawcett notes that the breaking through of the front wall of the original station, to extend the parcels office into a wooden lean-to with a vestibule formed by partitioning off one bay of the portico was unfortunate.

In the Grouping of 1923 the NER network became part of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). Nationalisation in 1948 allocated Durham to the North Eastern Region of British Railways. In 1939 the Lanchester Valley route to Blackhill was closed to passengers by the LNER, and in 1951 BR withdrew the single advertised train per day on the Waterhouses branch. The two remaining ‘branch’ services, to Sunderland and Bishop Auckland, were axed by BR in May 1964, leaving Durham as a main line through station only.

The station received unusual signage, probably very early in the BR era, of rectangular enamel tangerine nameplates, rather than totems, and these remained until the late 1960s, accompanied by standard BR(NE) running-in boards, until replaced with Corporate Identity signage.

Further modifications to Durham station were made in the 1960s and ’70s which paid scant regard to the attractiveness of the buildings. The refreshment rooms were closed in the British Railways era and demolished. Fawcett (2005) is highly critical of Martin Little and Colin Phipps’ alterations, completed in 1966, in which Prosser’s original building was given over to parcels and a new station entrance was provided. A boxy new building was installed employing a modular timber construction, with plywood-faced cladding panels, and was designed to tuck under the edge of Prosser’s platform roof; the new structure housed a booking hall, offices and waiting rooms. In Fawcett’s opinion it looked like a temporary fix from the outset, and has worn very badly.

The track alignment through the station (dictated by the need to reduce to two tracks on the approach to Durham Viaduct) impeded high-speed running by through expresses, so in 1969 the up centre line was removed to allow for realignment. In 1972 all of the tracks were moved eastward, requiring the narrowing of the up platform and replacing Prosser’s attractive verandah with a clumsy and inelegant structure – a combined portal frame and cantilever design with profiled steel sheet cladding.

Despite the insensitivity of some of the changes to Durham station it enjoys Grade II listed status.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SUNDERLAND TO DURHAM (AND BISHOP AUCKLAND) VIA LEAMSIDE LINEDespite its name the Durham & Sunderland Railway (D&S) – not via Leamside – never did reach Durham City. Its route from South Dock, Sunderland, extended through Murton to Haswell (where the Hartlepool Dock & Railway Company already had a terminus) which opened in 1836, with a branch from Murton through Hetton, Pittington and Sherburn House to Shincliffe, two miles south-east of the Durham City centre, which opened in 1839. The North Eastern Railway eventually diverted the line from Shincliffe to terminate in Durham at Elvet station in 1893.

In an Act of 27 July 1846 the Newcastle & Darlington Junction Railway (see ‘Old Main Line’ history) was authorised to build a line from Pensher (later known as Penshaw) to join the D&S Railway at Sunderland. The line was known as the Painshaw Branch (another variation on the spelling of Penshaw). From Sunderland as far as Penshaw the line followed the River Wear valley but its route was generally some distance from the river to avoid a meander near Hylton and to serve the communities which were growing south of the river. The line opened on 20 February 1852 for goods traffic and 1 June 1853 for passengers. The terminus in Sunderland was Fawcett Street station, which opened on the same day on the southern edge of the developing commercial centre of the town.

The Bishop Auckland branch from Leamside via Durham opened to passengers on 1 April 1857. Beyond Leamside, at Auckland Junction (later known as Leamside Junction) it swung westwards from the route to Ferryhill, crossed the River Wear on a viaduct, then sharply south-west to reach Durham City. The curious dog-leg in the route enabled the line to follow the intended course of the moribund YN&B project of 1848: see details in the section below on the ‘new’ main line. Durham City’s centre is densely built up on the narrow, steep-sided peninsula within a meander of the River Wear, dominated by the cathedral and castle; the railway did not enter this historically important area, but passed by to the north-west, where a substantial viaduct was necessary and the city’s station was found.

The Leamside – Bishop Auckland branch now provided an alternative route between Durham and Sunderland, far more convenient than via the Durham & Sunderland’s Shincliffe (for Durham) terminus – which was abandoned in 1893 when the D&S was re-routed to a terminus at Durham Elvet. On the day the Bishop Auckland branch was opened the branch from Belmont Junction to Durham Gilesgate closed to passengers: this had been opened by the N&DJ on 15 April 1844, providing the first station in Durham City.

From 1857 Leamside station enjoyed some importance as the de facto junction where trains to and from Sunderland and Durham connected with the services on London Kings Cross – Newcastle – Edinburgh main line. Fencehouses or Penshaw could equally have been awarded this status, but Leamside station, in its remote rural surroundings, was rebuilt with an island platform and bays at each end to accommodate the connecting services and allow convenient interchange by passengers. Its importance was short-lived and was suddenly removed when the new main line route between Ferryhill and Newcastle via Durham opened in 1872. Leamside station was now an extravagance, with little local population to serve; conversely the splendid Durham viaduct, originally serving only the Leamside – Bishop Auckland branch, was now a prominent feature of the main line providing a vantage point from which millions of passengers would be able to admire Durham and its cathedral.

In Sunderland the inconvenient gap between Monkwearmouth, the terminus of trains from Newcastle and South Shields on the north bank of the River Wear, and the lines from the south was closed in 1879 when in the ‘Monkwearmouth Junction’ project a bridge over the river and a tunnel under the town centre were constructed together with a new station known either as Sunderland (or Sunderland Central). From August 1879 Fawcett Street station closed and trains on the Durham line ran into the new station. The Central station also replaced the Hendon terminus, formerly used by trains to Seaham and West Hartlepool.

As with most lines in northern County Durham the Sunderland – Durham route carried large quantities of goods and mineral traffic, notably coal. Several collieries were directly linked to the line, and there were branches into shipyards and Deptford staiths on the Wear as well as to the Hudson, Henson and South docks on the coast.

Expecting that coal exports from Sunderland’s South Dock would increase, the North Eastern Railway and local authorities jointly funded the construction of the Queen Alexandra Bridge, to carry both rail and road traffic in the manner of High Level Bridge between Gateshead and Newcastle. The NER paid £325,000 (including railway approaches) while Sunderland Corporation contributed £146,000 and Southwick Council a further £11,000. The new bridge and associated lines would enable coal from the ex-Stanhope & Tyne line to reach South Dock, eliminating reversals at Washington and Penshaw, using instead a mineral line from Southwick Junction (between Washington and Boldon) over the new Queen Alexandra Bridge, then the Sunderland – Durham line from Diamond Hall Junction (just west of Millfield station). The bridge opened in 1909, but from the NER perspective it was a financial disaster since it apparently carried one coal train per day until the early 1920s when regular traffic ceased.

Passenger services on the Sunderland – Durham line remained frequent. However from the 1920s motor buses began to provide a more intensive service and linked the numerous mining villages and towns in north-east Durham. The ‘Old Main Line’ south of Leamside lost its passenger services in 1941. On the Sunderland – Durham route, apart from the very early loss of Frankland station, between Leamside and Durham, in 1877, casualties began with Leamside in 1953, followed by Millfield in inner Sunderland in 1955. Diesel multiple units replaced steam haulage on the route during 1957.

Further economies were exercised when Pallion and Penshaw were downgraded to ‘staffed halts’ and Cox Green became an ‘unstaffed halt’ on 14 August 1961. Passenger traffic censuses in summer 1962 and winter 1962-3 showed a respectable level of use on Monday-to-Friday of Hylton and Pallion stations, but limited traffic at the other stations, notably Cox Green. The Reshaping of British Railways (‘Beeching’) report of March 1963 recommended the withdrawal of passenger services between Sunderland, Durham and Bishop Auckland - as well as the services between Newcastle and Washington - and the official proposal of closure was published on 19 July 1963. Not a single objection was lodged to the Washington closure, which took place on 9 September 1963. BR must have been unprepared for the lack of resistance to this closure as a timetable for Usworth and Washington stations appeared in the winter 1963-4 North Eastern Region book. On 28 February 1964, having considered objections to the Sunderland – Durham – Bishop Auckland proposals, Ernest Marples, Minister of Transport, consented to the closure, and services were officially withdrawn on 4 May 1964.

The author was blissfully unaware of this development, and alighted from a Newcastle train at Durham on 15 May to catch the Sunderland train, only to be informed that the last one had gone! He decided to travel on to Darlington and Middleton-in-Teesdale instead – which was still open.

Goods services ceased between Leamside (Auckland Junction) and Durham (Newton Hall Junction) and at Finchale siding (Frankland) on 22 October 1964. The tracks into the former Fawcett Street terminus in Sunderland, which had continued as a goods facility reached from the Durham line, were severed on 3 October 1965. Goods services were retained between Penshaw and Sunderland until 21 August 1967 when they were discontinued west of Hylton Quarry sidings. In 1971 the line from Pallion to Ford paper works at Hylton was singled and ceased to be signalled when the factory closed, but Dolomite from Hylton Quarry continued to be carried until 1976 when the line was cut back to Pallion; it was officially taken out of use on 20 November 1976. The remainder of the line to Hendon, including Deptford Johnson Siding closed to goods on 27 November 1984. The section of the ‘Old Main Line’ which the Sunderland – Durham services shared between Penshaw Junction and Auckland Junction continued in goods use for some years more, but was ‘mothballed’ in 1991 and closed in 2012.

Sources and bibliography:

Tickets from Michael Stewart (except 2165 JC Dean). Bradshaws from Chris Totty and Nick Catford. Route maps drawn by 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, Belmont Junction, 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):
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

See other ECML stations:Tweedmouth, Scremerston, Goswick, Beal, Smeafield, Crag Mill, Belford, Lucker, Newham, Fallodon, Little Mill, Longhoughton, Lesbury, Warkworth, Longhirst, Morpeth, Stannington, Plessey, Annitsford (1st), Annitsford (2nd), Killingworth, Forest Hall, Heaton (2nd), Heaton (1st), Croft Spa, Eryholme, Otterington, Alne & Tollerton

Looking north-eastward from the down platform of Durham in June 1953. The locomotive - and the fireman! - are working hard with a heavy Class C fitted freight on the stiff climb through Durham station to Relly Mill Junction on its way towards Darlington and York. The train is taking the up fast line which bypasses the platform. No.61415, a Raven-designed B16  4-6-0 was built at Darlington works in September 1920 and entered service at York North shed as No. 915. Renumbered by the LNER in 1946 to 1415, it was withdrawn as 61415 on 25 September 1961 and broken up at Darlington in March 1963.
Photo by Ben Brooksbank

1896 1:2,500 OS map. Durham station is shown after it was expanded in 1871-2 to accommodate the extra traffic that main line status would bring. The buildings on both through platforms look enormous because the cartographer has not distinguished them from the large areas of glazed roofing. Sidings can be seen both north-east and south-west of the passenger facilities, but the extent of the latter is severely curtailed as the Durham viaduct begins almost immediately south-west of the platforms. The engine shed is shown north of the station, but not named, with a turntable close to it.

1939 1:2,500 OS map. This map is helpful in identifying the buildings and glazed roofing with different symbols.  The positions of the station’s signal boxes and the engine shed are clearly marked and named. The presence of the park on the steep slope west of the station helps to preserve a semi-rural atmosphere at this busy station. At this time passenger routes radiated from Durham to Newcastle, Leamside, Ferryhill, Bishop Auckland, Waterhouses and Blackhill, though the
last-named closed in 1939.

Looking north-east from above the down platform of Durham station in summer 1955. On the up platform the main building and the slated front of its ridge-and-furrow glazed verandah can be seen.  No.60017 ‘Silver Fox’ is heading the up ‘Elizabethan’ (non-stop Edinburgh Waverley to London Kings Cross) on the fast line. The loco was built in 1935 and entered service at Kings Cross shed on 18 December. A Gresley-designed A4, it had a service life of nearly 28 years, when it was withdrawn from New England shed on 20 October 1963 to be cut up at Doncaster works in December.
Photo by William Lambeth

Durham station, looking east in June 1957.  The up platform with its generous expanse of glazed platform roofing with a hipped ridge-and-furrow design is shown well. On the down platform the reverse of the BR(NE) tangerine running-in nameboard can be seen. Standing at the up platform, heading a Sunderland to Bishop Auckland train and with just over a year’s service left is 67246, an 0-4-4 Wilson Worsdell-designed G5 tank. Built for the NER in June 1894 and numbered 1783, it was withdrawn from 54A, Sunderland South Dock shed in November 1958 and was broken up shortly after.
Copyright photo from Colour-Rail

Looking north-east from the down platform of Durham station in 1962. Class A1 60141 ‘Abbotsford’ is arriving at Durham. Note that it has the calling-on signal only; it is about to go onto the viaduct then reverse across onto the down lines to reach the shed site to pick up failed Class A1 60135 ‘Madge Wildfire’ and take it south for scrap in 1964. No.60141 was built by the fledgling British Railways at Darlington works and entered service in December 1948. A Peppercorn- designed A1, it was delivered new to 50A, York North shed, from where it was withdrawn on 5 October 1964. It was scrapped by Drapers of Hull at the end of the year.
Photo by Roy Lambeth

An exquisite shot which captures in colour a moment on Durham station in June 1962. A couple waiting on the bay platform for a Bishop Auckland local train look on as a Gresley Class V3 banker pushes an up express out of the station. The loco is not coupled to the train and will soon leave the train and come back light engine to await the next stopping passenger. The water crane is also a point of interest.
Photo by Brian Johnson
Looking north-east from the up platform of Durham station in May 1972. Both platforms are still sheltered by the Victorian glazed verandahs, but that on the up platform would soon be replaced with a modern structure. A back-lit BR Corporate Identity running-in nameboard and fluorescent lighting have been installed.
Photo by JC Dean

Looking south-west from the down platform of Durham station in August 1978. The track arrangements and modern roofing on the up platform date from 1972. The down platform retains its glazed roofing that was installed in the 1870s.
Photo by Alan Young

Looking east across Durham station in August 1979. The down platform buildings with generous glazed platform verandahs are seen clearly, contrasting with the less elaborate new roofing on the up platform. A Class 47 is heading an up passenger train through the station.
Photo from SINE project

An InterCity 225 (Class 91) in East Coast livery calls at the up platform of Durham station in February 2013. The route was electrified in 1991. Although both platforms have retained their Victorian buildings, there has been considerable reconstruction, including the removal of the glazed roofing from the up platform in the 1970s, when its austere replacement was installed.
Photo by David Martin, reproduced from Geograph under creative commons licence

Looking north-east along the up platform of Durham station in May 2013. The modern (1972) roofing on this platform contrasts with the Victorian (1871-2) down platform roofing. The mural in the foreground shows the view that will open up to rail passengers as soon as their train leaves the station on its journey south.
Photo by Nick Catford

The façade of Durham station’s main building, looking north-west in July 2013. This dignified building dates from the station’s opening in 1857. It has retained its portico, albeit with alterations, and the chimney stacks have been restored to something like their original height having been all but removed in the 1960s. It is regrettable, however, that restoration of the stonework has given the frontage a patchy, polychrome effect. From left to right we see: toilets, stationmaster's house above the booking office, parcels office and left luggage office. To the right of the building the station hotel has been demolished. There used to be separate booking offices one each platform; that serving the down (northbound) platform closed about 1961.
Photo by Roy Lambeth

Click here for more pictures of Durham station




[Source: Alan Young]

Last updated: Wednesday, 17-May-2017 10:06:43 CEST
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