North Eastern Railway

In 1854 three companies, York & North Midland, Leeds Northern and the York, Newcastle & Berwick amalgamated to form the North Eastern Railway. The amalgamation produced a system 700 miles long, with administrative headquarters at York. The North Eastern Railway continued to expand and gradually other companies were taken over. This included: South Durham & Lancashire (1862), Stockton & Darlington (1863) and the West Hartlepool Railway (1865).

The North Eastern Railway now had virtually a monopoly of rail transport in the north-east. However, integration was slow, and an increase in accidents brought warnings concerning the dangers of trying to organize such a large company. After four serious accidents took place on the North Eastern at the end of 1870, the company's general manager, William O'Brien, was sacked.

The North Eastern Railway relied heavily for its income on the transport of coal and other raw materials. This trade declined in the early 1870s and in order to maintain revenues, the company decided to vigorously promote third-class travel.

North Eastern Railway - History

( Note: Numbers in brackets refer to specific references )

The NER was formed in 1854 by an amalgamation of the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway, the Leeds Northern Railway, the York and North and the Malton and Driffield Railway. It went on to absorb several other lines including the famous Stockton & Darlington (absorbed in 1863) and was the largest constituent of the LNER at the 1923 grouping.

The NER served an area running north from Doncaster to Tweedmouth and operated services to Carlisle, Penrith Tebay and Leeds. The NER was the first of the really large and monopolistic railway companies. The company owned the docks at West Hartlepool and its policies on charging for traffic to the docks within its area provoked the building of the Hull & Barnsley Railway. That line is described in article XX (xx xx RM)..

The NER was at the forefront of the development of electric traction, starting with third rail current supplies but later favouring overhead wires and direct current transmission. Electric traction was installed on the short quayside line in Newcastle in 1902 and some suburban services were electrified in 1904 but these used third rail current supply only (the lines involved now form part of the Tyneside Metro third rail electric system). In 1915 it electrified the heavy freight line between Shildon and Middlesborough using overhead supply and would have continued with the line between York and Newcastle had not the First World War intervened.

With its operations divided into three divisions (North, Central and Southern) the company had some curious variations in operational detail across its territory. As an example the signals in both the Northern and Southern divisions used slotted post type signals whilst the Central Division (based on the former Stockton and Darlington Railway) used solid posts.

The railways of the north east, and the North Eastern Railway in particular, had always favoured hopper wagons and the NER had been building eight plank high (nine feet ten inches from the rail) four wheeled wooden hopper coal wagons since the turn of the century. The NER discouraged the use of private owner wagons, offering its own high capacity leased hopper wagons at competitive rates, and by the time of the 1923 grouping there were over 17,000 of the NER wagons in use. After the grouping the LNER built 7,000 more to an essentially similar design, substituting T section angle for the heavy timber ends supports used on the NER stock.

Fig ___ NER/LNER 20 ton hopper wagons

Hopper wagons have to be discharged into under-track bunkers, if the lay of the land did not allow a track to be run out over a natural drop the NER built ramped sections of track leading to an elevated coal drop. It was not advisable to excavate a hollow and run the track over that is it tended to flood. The NER were in the forefront of hopper use and relatively few ramps and drops were built by other companies. Because the facilities were in place to handle these wagons British Railways actually built a number of the NER designed wagons to maintain services in this area.

Goods stock had grey bodies and chassis with black ironwork below the solebar and white lettering. Originally the initials used were N E R in six inch high white lettering, shaded black placed toward the upper left of the body, the wagon number being placed on the upper body on the right. In 1904 they stopped using the black shading and in 1911 they changed to using the initials N E in plain white lettering twelve inches high in the usual places on the sides. It can be difficult to tell on black and white photo's whether the livery is NER grey or LNER bauxite, the smaller initials and the placement of the number are points to watch for. The NER had the largest fleet of goods stock in the country and about the turn of the century they reached to point of needing six digit numbers on rolling stock. This was not deemed a good idea and in 1908 (1 Vol.2) they introduced a system of a single letter followed by three numbers. Several letters were not used in the letters and number scheme, O, Q, I, H, P and X were excluded, some because they might be confused with numbers. Mineral wagons were also marked ND, CD or SD indicating Northern, Central or Southern divisions. In 1917, as the common user system came into effect, the Government requested they change back to using all-numbers but it was well into the LNER period before all the lettered stock was changed to six digit numbers.

The NER brake vans were originally painted dark brown but from 1904 they, and vacuum fitted stock, were painted Indian red. Goods brake vans, in addition to being associated with one of the three divisions, were also permanently assigned to either goods or mineral duties

Service stock was painted standard goods colours except for the locomotive department wagons which were painted a light blue, slightly lighter than British Rail's intercity blue.

The NER passenger stock was painted all-over in a dark maroon, usually called 'crimson lake', very similar to the Midland Railway carriage colour but this weathered to a browner red than Midland stock. The NER bogie petrol-electric railcars introduced in 1903 were painted maroon with cream upper panels. From 1904 goods loco's were painted black.

Fig ___ NER

The model of the NER outside framed van is a cut-down Peco refrigerator van body with bracing from 20x20 thou strip.

The other short wheelbase van is similar to the van described in Article XX (XX XX RM) but shows an earlier design with external flat strapping on the sides. The sliding roof door was replaced by a tarpaulin after 1911.

The long wheelbase van dates from 1902, the model uses the sides from two refrigerator van kits left over from other conversions, these are fitted to a Peco pallet van body. The chassis is the Peco fifteen foot type with modified brake handles as shown. This should have been extended at each end as shown in the drawing to produce a correct length model, I did not have the accurate dimensions when I built mine, the figures in brackets are the dimensions if using an unaltered chassis.

The four plank open is a cut down Peco five plank body mounted on a shortened ten foot wheelbase chassis.

The two plank dropside open wagon is from a photograph in LNER wagons by Peter Tatlow's book on LNER wagons (3). I believe this wagon had a ten foot wheelbase.

The plate trestle wagon is either from the LNER wagon book (3) or from an illustration in NE Record Vol 2 - I have not yet decided which form of bracing to use.

(1) The Historical Model Railway Society has published three books which should be essential reading for anyone modelling this line or the Hull and Barnsley Railway:

North Eastern Record Vol.1 (1988 ISBN 0902835130) Covers lineside matters including signalling as well a shipping and road transport.

North Eastern Record Vol.2 (1997 ISBN 090283519x) Covers passenger and goods rolling stock liveries of the NER and H&BR in considerable detail.

North Eastern Record Vol.3 (2000 ISBN 0902835203) Covers the liveries of the locomotives used by the NER and H&BR.

(2) The North Eastern Railway by G. J. Allen, published by Ian Allen in 1964 (ISBN Unknown) offers a good general history of the line.

(3) A Pictorial Record of LNER Wagons by Peter Tatlow - OPC - 1976 - ISBN 0 92888 92 7 Contains several photographs of NER wagons and a few H&BR examples.

North Eastern Railway Association
This site is apparently under construction (2018) but the links to individual pages all seem to work fine.

Available Models in N/2mm scales

The Graham Farish bogie van is a North Eastern vacuum braked design dating from 1906. The lettering on the Farish vehicle is actually (I believe) NER rather than LNER although the body colour should be a rather darker red than the supplied 'red oxide'. The NE 'sand' wagon in the Graham Farish range is (I believe) and NER wagon, the blue body colour is correct for departmental wagons attached to the locomotive department.

Bill Bedford Models, Leebiton, Sandwick, Shetland, ZE2 9HP

Mr. Bedford offers etched kits of a North Eastern Railway/LNER outside framed brake van and horizontal planked brake van.

The NER hopper wagon body is available as a kit from Paul Hodgson (now only available via the 2mm Scale Association).
The 10'6" chassis for this wagon is available as an etch from the 2mm Scale Association.
These wagons would seldom have wandered off the NER lines as they required coal-drops for unloading however if modelling the NER they are a virtual necessity.

Thanks are due to Mike Grocock of the NERA for his assistance in the preparation of this article. The wagon sheet illustration is by courtesy of the HMRS.

Laughing in the face of advertising since 1971

Site maintained by
All material Copyright © Mike Smith 2003 unless otherwise credited


The NERA Archive consists of photographs, books, timetables, maps, plans, diagrams and other official railway documents. We currently hold more than 30,000 photographs and 6,500 documents.

Many of our documents and photographs have now been scanned. You may download free examples through our shop. Members may view over 30,000 documents and photographs online.

We are also jointly responsible with the Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum for maintaining more than 6,000 photographs taken by our late member John Mallon together with his collection of around 4,000 documents assembled during his work on the railway.

You are welcome to examine any items from the NERA collection (by prior appointment with our Archivist) at the Ken Hoole Study Centre in the museum. In view of the Covid-19 restrictions this service may not be available, so please check first. In order to help with your research, we have prepared two “Finding Aid” tables which are available as free downloads from our shop – where you will also find some useful fact sheets about the NER and HBR.

If you are unable to visit Darlington, we can often provide digital scans or photocopies of much of our material, subject to size or copyright restrictions. We may ask for a donation to cover our costs, if any.

Please contact the Archivist if you think we may be able to assist you.

We regret that we are unable to undertake family history research.

Our collection has been built up entirely due to the generosity of members and others in donating material, and the Archivist would be delighted to hear from anyone who has relevant documents or photographs that they would like to make available to us. Please see our Collections Policy which will give you an idea of what may be of interest.

© North Eastern Railway Association 2021

Registered with the Charity Commission
of England and Wales: Number 1164199

Photographs appear by courtesy of:

Armstrong Railway Photographic Trust
Rob Langham
Michael Rising
Tom Burnham Collection
John Alsop Collection

A History of North Eastern Railway Signalling

This newly-reprinted book, the first to be devoted to the subject, explores the historical development of signalling on the NER, with particular reference to the signals and signal cabins which helped to give the railway its characteristic appearance. At the same time, the development of rules & regulations, the telegraph and block signalling are described and illustrated. There are numerous track and signalling diagrams for a cross-section of locations, along with a wide range of scale drawings of equipment and signal cabins. Signalmen’s conditions of employment and the NER’s pioneer acceptance of union representation are covered, as well as a selection of those accidents which were relevant to signalling. Finally, the special techniques needed to model slotted-post signals are described.
The book is the product of much in-depth research and draws on original source material as far as possible it has been published with financial support from the Ken Hoole Trust. There are some 450 illustrations, 95 in colour.

Lead Mining

Killhope Wheel lead mining museum, Weardale © David Simpson 2020

Most important lead field in the world

The North East region was almost as famous for the mining of lead as it was for its coal. Although the Romans had mined lead in the upland dales, it wasn’t until 1750 that it became vital to the local economy.

For the next century the North Pennine field, comprising Teesdale, Weardale, South Tynedale and the Derwent valley, was the most important lead producing area in the country. Lead mining was also carried out in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale in neighbouring North Yorkshire.

The Blacketts, a Tyneside coal-owning family, leased land in Weardale from the Bishop of Durham in the late 1680s and developed mines like Burtree Pasture in Weardale, Coalcleugh in the West Allen, and the Allenheads Mine. Later, the company owned smelting mills at places like Dirt Pot and Rookhope.

The London Lead Company extensively mined in the Derwent Valley, Weardale and Teesdale in the 18th Century and built houses, schools and libraries for its workers. It was the first company to introduce the five day week. From 1880 Middleton in Teesdale was its northern headquarters. The company folded in 1905.

Growing towns and the industrial revolution had stimulated the demand for lead for use in roofing, piping, casting, building materials, lead shot, paint-bases and glazing. Lead works began to open on Tyneside with Newcastle the main point of export from the Durham dales, though Stockton was often used for Swaledale lead.

Memorial fountain of the London Lead Company, Middleton-in-Teesdale. Photo © David Simpson 2018.

The earliest methods of extracting lead were simple bell pits or by Hushing, an open cast technique, which involved damming streams and then releasing the water to remove vast quantities of peat and soil from suspected layers of lead. By the late 18th Century the preferred method was to dig stone-lined shafts called Levels into the hillsides along a vein. The lead was hauled from the mines along wooden rails (later iron) by horses. The lead ore was stripped of its waste products outside the mines, often by boys, and then washed and crushed before transportation to a smelting mill where the lead would be produced in the form of ingots along with any silver.

In the mid 19th Century Rookhope Chimney was a smelting mill with a two mile long horizontal tunnel which eventually led to a vertical chimney. The chimney directed fumes away from the workers and also allowed the formation of lead and silver deposits which were scraped off and collected by lead workers. Today the chimney is one of the most noted landmarks in Weardale.

Remains of Rookhope Chimney, Weardale. Photo © David Simpson 2018

In the late 18th and early 19th Century hydraulic machinery was extensively used in mines. Weardale’s Killhope Mine (opened 1860) saw the introduction of a 30ft diameter wheel in 1878 by Blackett’s. It hauled tubs of ore to the crushing mill while other wheels worked the crushing machines, jiggers, buddles and separators. The mine is now a lead mining museum.

By the 1850s, Britain’s best lead ore had been removed and there was cheap competition from the United States, Germany and Spain. Many Northern miners began to seek work abroad, notably in the United States. Some mines continued until the 1930s others reopened during World War One but lead mining had virtually died out by the start of the 20th Century.

Old mine shaft at Allenheads. Photo © David Simpson 2018.

In addition to lead, products like Witherites, Barytes and Flurospar which were once discarded as a waste product of lead mining have acquired commercial uses in the 20th Century and waste tips have been quarried for the minerals in the dales. Silver mining had been another important industry in the region’s dales. Allenheads, between Stanhope and Alston, was once home to the largest silver mine in the world. It closed in 1896.

Sir Vincent Raven and the North Eastern Railway (Oakwood Library of Railway History)

Grafton, Peter

Published by The Oakwood Press (2005)

From: GENERATIONS GONE BY (Manchester, United Kingdom)

About this Item: Soft cover. Condition: New. No Jacket. It would be incorrect to state that Sir Vincent Raven?s contribution to the development of British railways has been ignored but it has certainly been overlooked and this biography will, it is hoped, re-dress that imbalance. Vincent Raven was, arguably, one of the far-sighted ? if not the most far-sighted ? of the Victorian railway engineers. His work on steam locomotives was overshadowed by Churchward of the Great Western Railway and by Gresley of the Great Northern Railway, but in promulgating his ideas on electric traction, in common with Sir Isaac Newton, he stood on the shoulders of giants. Raven was born in Great Fransham in Norfolk in 1859 and in 1875 he took up a pupil apprenticeship with the North Eastern Railway at Gateshead. By 1910 Raven had risen to the position of Chief Mechanical Engineer with the NER. He was to remain in that position until the formation of the LNER AT THE Grouping. His 0-8-0 locomotives in particular were to prove to be solid workhorses from their introduction right through to withdrawal in the 1960s. Raven? vision of an electrified main line from York to Newcastle was set aside with the onset of the First World War . Little was he to know that it would take some 70 years before that particular dream was to become a reality. Seller Inventory # 005972

Railway Bridges Around Newcastle

Newcastle upon Tyne, and the area surrounding it, is famous for its bridges across the River Tyne, particularly the railway bridges connecting it to Gateshead. However, there are other examples of railway bridges and viaducts in the area that deserve mention, and this article will focus on some of the more notable structures that carry the North Eastern Railway (NER) around the area without going into too much detail on what is a very complex railway history. To do this, Gateshead on the opposite bank of the Tyne, and the other numerous urban areas along both banks of the river must be taken into account. The bridges will be dealt with in chronological order rather than scale in order to provide a better idea of how the railways connected this important hub to the rest of the country.

Brief History

For strategic reasons the Romans established their major settlement in the area around the line of a bridge at a point where the Tyne becomes hemmed in by steep hillsides on both banks, and it is these features that have dictated the need for major engineering works to allow the railways access to the two towns. There had been railways in the area previous to the opening of the first public railways in the 1830s, namely the large network of waggonways which spanned a period of some three centuries. These first public lines were the Newcastle & Carlisle, the Newcastle & North Shields, and the Brandling Junction (Gateshead to South Shields and Sunderland). The latter two served the area to the east of Newcastle - the Newcastle & North Shields on the north bank, and the Brandling Junction on the south - were of only local importance, whereas the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway was an important cross-country link. The importance of the area increased when in 1844 George Hudson linked Gateshead with Darlington, York and London with the Newcastle & Darlington Junction Railway, and in 1845 the Newcastle & Berwick Railway obtained its Act of Parliament. In 1846 the Newcastle & Darlington Junction changed its name to the York & Newcastle, finally merging with its northern partner in August 1847 to become the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway. The final step came in 1853 when the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway ended its rivalry with the Leeds Northern Railway and formed a working relationship, culminating in their amalgamation to form the North Eastern Railway in 1854.

The Ouseburn and Willington Dene Viaducts (1839. Rebuilt 1867 - 1869)

When an Act was passed on 21 June 1836 for a railway from Newcastle to North Shields, it was for a railway 7 miles long and commencing on the east side of Pilgrim Street. The engineer of the Newcastle & North Shields railway was Robert Nicholson (1808 - 1858), but the most dramatic contributions to the line were made by John and Benjamin Green, who designed the viaducts across the Ouseburn valley, between Newcastle and Byker, and Willington Dene, between Wallsend and Howden. The viaducts were of laminated timber construction on the Wiebeking system and supported by tall stone pillars, and earned Benjamin the 'Telford Medal' from the Institution of Civil Engineers. The Willington Dene viaduct was built at an original cost of £25,000. Both bridges were rebuilt in iron between 1867 and 1869 to the designs of Thomas Elliot Harrison with great care being taken to replicate their original form. The Ouseburn viaduct was originally built with two tracks, in 1887 was expanded to four tracks with the the addition of a new viaduct alongside and to the north of the original) .

The Wiebeking System

In Germany Carl Friedrich von Wiebeking used laminated timber in the construction of road bridges. The individual laminates were substantial and secured together by bolts (with one notable exception at Altenmarkt which was glued). It was in France that the advantage of using curved members for other structures was recognised. Armand Rose Emy submitted a design for a roof using thin horizontally laminated timber arches in 1819, but did not use the method until 1825 in a trial at Marac, near Bayonne. The trial was a success and the "invention" made public by Emy in his own publications and by the French "Society for the Encouragement of National Industry" in March 1831.

In Britain there is evidence that the technique was being considered independently at about this time. The technique was suggested for bridges over the Rivers Tweed and Tyne in 1827 - these were not built but the technique was picked up for use on other bridges. The technique was then applied to public buildings, but was relatively short lived. By 1850 wrought iron, which was both certain and economical, had replaced cast iron for most applications and was to replace timber as a structural engineering material for almost 100 years. The early laminated structures experienced difficulties with rot and glues and there were widely publicised difficulties with the very big laminated arches at Kings Cross, which could also have contributed to its fall from favour.

The viaducts at Willington and Ouseburn were originally built using this system on masonry piers but the timbers were finally replaced by similar looking wrought iron in about 1869 supplied by the Weardale Iron and Coal Company of Tow Law, Durham.

The High Level Bridge (1846 - 1849)

After George Hudson's companies had completed an east coast line northwards from Darlington to Gateshead, difficulties in bridging the Tyne gorge forced passengers to make do with a fine station at Gateshead. However, the Newcastle & Darlington Junction Railway obtained an Act on 23 May 1844 which included powers to build a bridge across the Tyne. The financing was a joint undertaking between the Newcastle & Berwick Railway and the N&DJ with lines planned from a junction with the Brandling Railway from Gateshead, from the north end of the bridge to Neville Street in Newcastle, and from the north end of the bridge to join the Newcastle and North Shields Railway at Manors. John and Benjamin Green had suggested a high level bridge from near the castle at Newcastle to Greene's Field at Gateshead, which would have been of a similar laminated timber construction as they had used for the Ouseburn and Willington Dene viaducts, but after suggestions that a more permanent material be used Robert Stephenson and T. E. Harrison (later engineer of the NER) produced a modified design crossing the river at the same point. This bridge consisted of six iron spans resting on ashlar piers, with three railway tracks carried on top of the arches, and a roadway suspended below by wrought iron rods. The first pile was sunk on 1 October 1846 using a Nasmyth steam hammer, and on 12 January 1847 the first brick was laid. In o rder to get railway traffic moving, and to help with the construction, a temporary timber bridge with one track was built to the side. This structure used part of the foundations for the permanent bridge and was opened on 29 August 1848. The first track on the permanent bridge was brought into use on 15 August 1849, and on 28 September the Royal train conveying Queen Victoria stopped on the bridge. The new bridge was completed to its full width of 35ft 1in when the temporary bridge was removed, and the roadway on the lower deck was completed on 4 February 1850. The total cost of the bridge (includin masonry, coffer dams, ironwork, road, railway, temporary bridge, Newcastle viaduct and land purchase) came to 491,000 pounds. Both road and rail crossing were subject to tolls, with the roadway toll abolished in 1937, and the railway toll finishing in 1952. In 1913 the NER sought powers to run trolley vehicles across the High Level Bridge, but failed to get permission, but after long negations and strengthening of the road deck, trams were introduced between Newcastle and Gateshead on 12 January 1923. Interestingly the bridge is officially referred to as Leeds - Newcastle Bridge No. 323.

The Scotswood Railway Bridge (1871. First bridge constructed 1839)

The rail layout here was quite complex with the main line to Carlisle running north of the river as far as Scotswood and a branch line continuing on the north bank of the Tyne to North Wylam via Newburn where it rejoined the main line. On the south side of the river the original Newcastle to Carlisle route ran south of the river to a terminus at Redheugh, Gateshead, until the first Scotswood rail bridge was built of timber in 1839. Designed by John Blackmore it was damaged by fire caused by hot ash from a passing train in 1860 with a wooden replacement opening in 1861, which in turn was replaced by a temporary single track bridge in 1865 until the fourth bridge was built on this site in 1871 (costing £20,000) carrying the railway. The bridge is a six span wrought iron hogback bridge on five cast iron cylindrical piers, and was set at an angle to the river so that trains could approach the bridge at speed, there being no sharp curve onto the bridge. It required strengthening in 1943 and was taken out of use permanently in November 1982, along with Scotswood and Elswick stations. In the early years of the twentieth century a diversionary route from the King Edward Bridge via Bensham and Norwood was built linking with the 'old' line between Dunston and Derwenthaugh and this was used for freight trains. There was a complicated series of junctions south of the bridge giving access to and from this line and to the Derwent valley line via Swalwell to Blackhill and Consett.

Wylam Railway Bridge (1874 - 1876)

Situated about 0.8 km west of Wylam, this bridge was originally built for the Scotswood, Newburn and Wylam Railway to connect the North Wylam Loop to the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway. Costing £16,000 to construct, the bridge was engineered by W. G. Laws (later engineer for the City of Newcastle) with masonry and foundations by W. E. Jackson & Co., and ironwork by Hawks, Crayshay & Co. of Gateshead. It was originally proposed to cross the river with a girder bridge supported on three piers, but shallow mine workings and the possibility of nearby pits being flooded led to the design of a wrought iron free arch. The bridge was opened to rail traffic on 6 October 1876 and consists of a suspended deck 240ft long and 30ft wide for the railway tracks the three ribs forming the arch springing from a level of 19ft 6in below the rails and giving a clear rise of 48ft. Freight trains were the main users of the bridge although some passenger trains on the branch were extended to Hexham. The railway closed on 11 March 1968 and the rails lifted in 1972. However the bridge is still in use as a footpath and cycleway.

The King Edward VII Bridge (1902 - 1906)

Although Newcastle was a through station this facility was not available to main line trains, which had to enter and leave from the east end. When part of the new main line using the Team Valley route was being built in the 1860s T. E. Harrison proposed building a new bridge 700 yards upstream from the High Level Bridge, but at this time the NER was engaged in a more extensive railway construction programme than at any other period in its history and the idea was not pursued. By the 1880s there were around 800 train and engine movements over the High Level Bridge each day and something had to be done, so in 1893 the NER decided to consider another river crossing and other traffic needs around Newcastle. After five years the railway obtained Parliamentary Powers to build what has become known as the King Edward Bridge, but the drawback with T. E. Harrison's original proposal was that in order to avoid the embarrassment of knocking down part of the brand new Forth goods warehouse the northern approach to the bridge had to be positioned too far east and would have resulted in a very cramped layout at the west end of Newcastle station. However, a scheme by C. A. Harrison (the nephew of T. E. Harrison) sliced through the roof of the goods warehouse the width of four tracks. The cut ends were glazed and from trains passing over the bridge it was possible to look down to the floor of the warehouse. The erection of the bridge (masonry and steel work) was awarded to the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co. Ltd. On 13 February 1902 and eventually cost £500,000 excluding land and permanent way. The bridge consists of four spans of (from the south) 191ft, 300ft, 300ft, and 231ft, weighing 1,350 tons, 1741 tons, 1741 tons and 950 tons respectively, with masonry arches at both ends. The extra weight at the southern end is accounted for by the fact that the line splits over two viaducts to form a triangular junction with the Team Valley Line. The arches also crossed the 1839 Redheugh incline the gradient of which was improved at the time the new bridge was built. The building of the King Edward Bridge gave the NER the opportunity to provide the last link in a developing railway system to serve the industries around Dunston. The new line gave a direct connection from Gateshead to Dunston avoiding the Redheugh incline. The foundation stone for the bridge was laid on 29 July 1902 and although not completely finished was opened by King Edward VII on 10 July 1906. Regular traffic commenced running over the bridge on 1 October 1906 and the goods line to Dunston, which was built to the east of the main line and passed under it by means of a short tunnel, was opened in March 1907.

Other Notable Railway Viaducts around Newcastle

After agreement to build Newcastle Central station on 4 February 1845 the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway got down to planning an extension of its line a distance of half a mile from the temporary terminus at Railway Street to the Forth. In 1846 an Act for this was obtained and the line was completed, mostly on a low sandstone viaduct of 44 arches, culminating in an ornamental cast-iron girder bridge across Forth Banks (no picture available) This seldom noticed viaduct, built with unusual forethought for 3 tracks, was rebuilt in connection with making the approaches to the King Edward Bridge. To the east of Newcastle station the North Shields railway entered Newcastle by an embankment across Pandon Dene, after which an impressive stone bridge, designed by the Greens, was constructed to carry the line over Trafalgar Street, Pilgrim Street and Dean Street, bypassing their Carliol Square Station (Figure 13) with the opening of the viaduct from Manors to Newcastle Central Station. And lastly a wrought iron bridge over St. Nicholas Street. (Figures 12, 15 & 16).

A Proposed Bridge

To enable express passenger trains and goods trains to bypass Newcastle station a plan was drawn up in 1918 for a new railway bridge across the Tyne. On 18 September 1919 the NER Estate Agent was authorised to negotiate with Newcastle Corporation for the necessary land to build a bridge situated near St. Anthonys to carry a line from north of Heaton to Washington. This commenced with north and south connections to the main line at Benton Bank, crossing the Heaton - Tynemouth line east of Walkergate station, and the bridge was to be constructed across the Tyne gorge at two and a half to two and three quarter miles from the beginning of the new line. The line would then continue parallel to the Pelaw - Washington route, but almost one quarter of a mile to the east of the 1848 line, finally connecting with it north of Washington station. Various connections were planned north of the Tyne there were north and south connections from the new line to the Riverside branch between Walker and Carville. South of the Tyne there was to be a lengthy connection from the new line Wardley, northwards to join the Gateshead to South Shields line near Hebburn, and later a proposal for a connection from the south end of the new bridge to join the South Shields to Gateshead line near Felling. Finally there was to be a connection which ran from the Pontop and South Shields line at Beamish to join the East Coast main line between Birtley and Chester-le-Street.

In April 1922 a price of 35,000 pounds was agreed for the land purchased from Newcastle Corporation and a further stretch of land was purchased from Lord Northbourne for £36,550 in December 1926. However, under the LNER the plan was allowed to quietly fade away.


  • Rail Centres: No. 8, Newcastle, by K. Hoole Publ. Booklaw Publications.
  • A Portrait of the North Eastern Railway, by D. & C. Williamson and M.Grocock Publ. NERA.
  • The High Level Bridge and Newcastle Central Station, by J. Addyman and B. Fawcett Publ. NERA.
  • Railway Archive, Issue No. 19. Publ. Lightmoor Press.
  • The North Eastern Railway. Its Rise and Development, by W. W. Tomlinson Publ. Longmans, Green and Company.


Thank you to Malcolm Peirson for the bulk of the above text and all of the images not credited to other people or organisations.

Figure 1 is out of copyright but was sourced from Gateshead Library.

The copyright for Figures 2 & 3 are owned by the SINE (Structural Images of the North East - a project of the University of Newcastle.

Thank you to George Moffat for providing the information and text about the Wiebeking System, as well as the image of the Weardale Iron and Coal Co. Limited flyer.


Maps of wooden waggonways from the 2 volumes of
A Fighting Trade: rail transport in Tyne coal, 1600-1800
by G Bennett, E Clavering and A Rounding.
Published by Portcullis (Gateshead Council) 1990, ISBN 0901273147

Acknowledgement is made to the Public Libraries of:-
Durham County Council
Hartlepool Borough Council
Middlesbrough Borough Council
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council,
for the free use of the People's Network computers.

this page started 25 May 2009

"Google Classic" websites are due to close in September 2021.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of "Waggonways in North East England".

The North Eastern Railway V2: Its Rise and Development (1915)

Tomlinson, William Weaver

Published by Literary Licensing, LLC (2014)

From: Books2Anywhere (Fairford, GLOS, United Kingdom)

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The North East Railway

From 1882, the Tasmanian government constructed numerous branch lines including the Launceston-Scottsdale line as well as extending the Western Line along the North-West Coast. The Launceston-Scottsdale line was opened in February 1889 and passed through twelve stations along the way. The railway was extended to Branxholm in 1911, and later, Herrick.

Scottsdale Station today

Train travel was slow by contemporary standards. In 1923, a ‘modern’ motor train was trialled between Launceston and Scottsdale. While the journey took over 3 hours, it was deemed a success having shaved 23 minutes off the usual time. Due to increased competition from road transport, sluggish commute times threatened the future of rail. At the time, the fastest service to Launceston occupied 2 hours and 45 minutes compared to just 2 hours by motor car.

The shift away from rail, including trams, was a widespread phenomenon in the post war years across Australia and the English speaking world. Urban and state planners anticipated savings and greater flexibility from promoting road and personal motor car use. By 1978, the last passenger trains closed down in Tasmania and the rail network, including the Launceston-Scottsdale line, focused on carrying freight. By the early 1980s there were just three daily services between Scottsdale and Launceston transporting logs, woodchips and other goods however, by 2005, the line was closed. Enthusiasts still hope that a passenger service might be revived as a result of the increased popularity of heritage railways.


When you see a place called Tunnel on the map, it's not hard to imagine what you'll find there. Tunnel sits near of Lebrina, just a few kilometres past Lilydale. The tunnel itself is little known and well hidden. It was part of the north eastern Launceston to Herrick railway line. Work on building the structure’s approaches began in late 1885. It would be a further two years, Mr Dix said, until the two headings met. It was another 12 months until the 700 metre tunnel ras completed. The first passenger train to run through the tunnel did so on February 2, 1889, with the state's Governor on board, but initially the line only went as far as Scottsdale.

At the time, the tunnel was a rare feature of Tasmanian railways. So rare, in fact, that the accompanying railway station was named Tunnel Station – hence, the tunnel at Tunnel. The last train to pass through the tunnel did so, carry freight, from Tonganah to Launceston, on October 1, 2004.

Moss now grows over the tracks, and blackberry shrubs edge further down the banks each season, but otherwise the tunnel is in good condition. Work on a 26 km long rail trail from Scottsdale to Tulendeena along the former railway line has been in progress for several years, and the trail sits at 26 kilometres in length. As progress continues on the trail, it is planned that it will be expanded to pass through the tunnel. Location: off Tunnel Road, Tunnel, Tas.

North East Rail Trail

This is a spectacular rail trail with lush forest vegetation that still provides views of the surrounding mountains. The trail has a good gravel surface, suitable for all weather and best either walked or ridden on a mountain bike. The trail starts at the old Scottsdale Railway Station in Ellenor St (accessed between the Mitre 10 Store and the railway crossing on the road). Also Kings St (which is the main street) though no car parking. There are numerous interpretive signs to provide a background on the area and the railway. Bikes can be hires from Scottsdale Art Gallery Café and Bike Hire, and the Red Dirt Cycle Company in Scottsdale which has bikes for sale and hire.

The Scottsdale to Tonganah section (10km) descends through picturesque farmland to the Great Forester River at Tonganah. The Tonganah to Tulendeena (Billycock Hill) section (16km) is a gentle but steady climb almost all the way from Tonganah up to the former station of Tullendeena then to Snake Track, a few km short of Legerwood. This section of the rail trail winds through beautiful tall forests with spectacular tree fern-lined cuttings and huge embankments across gullies, well away from any roads.

The rail trail follows a section of the 124 km railway to Herrick, which branched off the Bell Bay railway line at Coldwater Creek Junction, 13km north of Launceston. It reached Branxholm in 1911 and finally Herrick in 1919. It was closed back to Tonganah in 1992, the rails in this section were removed around 1996 and the land returned to the Crown.

Watch the video: LNER Class 91 u0026 82, Intercity 225 at Speed Compliation 2020 (January 2022).