Notes: Ironworks were established at Consett in 1841 but in the
1860s Consett needed better access to the iron town of Middlesbrough
and the neighbouring Ironstone of the Cleveland Hills. There were
some circuitous rail links between the two towns but a direct
route was required. The Browney valley provided the ideal setting
for such a line.
In February 1861 construction of the North Eastern Railway's
Lanchester Branch commenced and it officially opened the following
year. It was initially a single-track line with stations at Consett,
Knitsley, Lanchester and Witton Gilbert.
The Lanchester Branch opened up mining possibilities along the
Browney Valley. In 1870, Lord Lambton who owned land in the valley
accepted an application to search for coal and the following year
coal was found. The NER doubled its track in anticipation of colliery
demand and collieries soon opened along the line at Bearpark,
Malton, Lanchester and Langley Park. An additional station was
added at Aldin Grange in 1883 (renamed Bearpark in 1927).
As well as a number of substantial stone bridges spanning the
River Browney there was a 700
foot long viaduct 1.5 miles east of Knitsley Station. The
viaduct was built mainly of wood towering 70 feet above the Knitsley
Burn. By 1915 the viaduct was in need of major repairs and a decision
was made to turn it into an embankment using colliery slag and
Passenger numbers were always light and the Lanchester Branch
was an early closure with the last passenger trains running in
1939. The stations were occasionally used by Miners' Gala excursion
trains after that date, the last recorded excursion being 17.7.1954.
Goods traffic continued until 1965 when Lanchester Station was
the last on the line to lose its goods service. The branch closed
entirely in 1966 when minerals were diverted to road transport.
All Consett steelworks rail traffic was rerouted via Annfield
plain and South Pelaw at this time. The track was lifted in 1967.
The 12 mile long branch line has now been converted into The Lanchester
Valley railway path and cycle way running from Lydgetts Junction
just south of Consett to the Broompark Picnic Area near Stonebridge.
Knitsley Station first closed on 1.2.1916, reopening on 30.3.1925.
To see the other
stations on the Lanchester Valley line click on the station name:
for more pictures of Witton Gilbert Station