Notes: This was the second station built 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 – known simply as Durham – was on Gilesgate, the terminus of a branch from Belmont on the Darlington to Gateshead line via Leamside. The third is the only one now open, and it replaced the ‘Gilesgate’ station in 1857. The fourth was Durham Elvet, opened in 1892 to replace the inconveniently located Shincliffe terminus – by that time renamed Shincliffe Town.
After closure to passengers in 1857 the station continued in use to handle the city’s goods traffic until 1966. It is not known from when the name ‘Gilesgate’ was applied to the station; the NER working timetable for winter 1898 includes a table headed ‘Durham and Belmont – Goods Trains’ and does not refer to the Durham terminus as ‘Gilesgate’. The 1913 Railway Clearing House map calls the station simply ‘Durham Goods’.
It seems that George Hudson did not expect the station at Gilesgate to be a long-term arrangement. It was, of course, a branch terminus which limited its accessibility by rail, and it was also an inconvenient distance from the historic heart of Durham City and at a considerable height above the city centre. Thus, although the station had some architectural merit, it was far from ostentatious, and there was only a single passenger platform provided for the shuttle service to and from Belmont Junction.
The principal station building was a single-storey, classically inspired structure in sandstone ashlar. Fawcett notes that its façade comprised a central block, with flat-headed windows and a projecting middle bay with an arched entrance, supported by low wings with arched openings. The building was aligned from north-east to south-west and it contained (from the north-east) toilets, a booking office (entered from the platform), and then the entrance followed by a waiting room and ladies’ toilets. There then followed a further toilet and yard which linked to a two-storey house which was originally intended to provide a refreshment room for passengers. This building had a stripped-down Tuscan doorcase and the ground floor bay window which were characteristic of the work of G T Andrews. The appearance of the house was marred by the loss of the original modillioned wooden eaves cornice when renovation work took place in the 1970s. Both the trainshed and offices had cornices in stone, crowned by a heavy blocking course.
The station possessed a trainshed within which the passenger platform and track were at the north-western side, adjoining the principal building, and a pair of carriage sidings occupied the remainder. A goods shed with a single line and wooden platform were provided adjoining the trainshed, to the south-east. The ashlar walls of the trainshed supported a three-bay pitched roof on arcaded iron columns with unequal spacing. They covered three tracks which entered at the north-east end through three large double-doors and led out to buffer stops in the open at the other end. The goods platform had three recessed loading docks entered by large openings in the wall. Two further goods sheds were constructed at the station. The goods yard also had a branch line leading off it at the north end to Kepier Colliery, 1 mile ENE of Durham – this line’s cutting is still visible through the gardens of Long Acres. The colliery closed in the early 1920s.
The buildings were adapted after closure to passengers in 1857 to serve as a goods station. This required easier access between the original goods shed and the former passenger facilities, and, to this end, most of the rear wall of the passenger trainshed was removed and replaced with a cast iron arcade.
After closure to goods traffic in 1966 the rails were swiftly removed, but the historic significance of the building was acknowledged. It passed into the ownership of a builder’s merchant and acquired Grade II Listed status. Since 1994 the buildings have formed part of a Travelodge hotel, and they have been cleaned and are well presented.
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:
- Biddle, Gordon Victorian stations (David & Charles 1973)
- Biddle, Gordon Britain’s historic railway buildings (Oxford University Press 2003)
- Bragg, S and Scarlett, E North Eastern lines and stations (NERA 1999)
- Clinker, C R Register of closed passenger stations and goods depots
(Avon Anglia 1978)
- Cook, R A and Hoole, K North Eastern Railway historical maps
(RCHS 2nd edition 1991)
- Fawcett, Bill A history of North Eastern Railway architecture (Three volumes)
- Fawcett, Bill George Townsend Andrews of York (NERA 2011)
- Guy, Andy Steam and speed: railways of Tyne and Wear from the earliest days
(Tyne Bridge Publishing 2003)
- Hoole, Ken A regional history of the railways of Great Britain: vol 4 The North East
(David & Charles 2nd edition 1974)
- Hoole, Ken Railway stations of the North East (David & Charles 1985)
- Hurst, Geoffrey Register of closed railways 1948-1991(Milepost Publications 1992)
- Quick, Michael Railway passenger stations in Great Britain: a chronology
- Sinclair, Neil T Railways of Sunderland (Tyne & Wear County Council Museums 1985)
- Teasdale, John G (Ed) A history of British Railways’ North Eastern Region (NERA 2009)
- Young, Alan Lost stations of Northumberland & Durham (Silver Link 2011)
- Hansard Various (HMSO)
- North Eastern Express North Eastern Railway Society (various)
- Darsley, Roger R Darlington - Leamside - Newcastle (Middleton Press 2008)
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, Belmont Junction, Sherburn Colliery, Shincliffe & Ferryhill
See also Coxhoe (branch fpm 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