Stephenson Railway Museum
Stephenson Railway Museum in North Shields is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums on behalf of North Tyneside Council. It is named after George Stephenson, the famous railway engineer. The railway is operated by the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association. The North Tyneside Steam Railway follows the route of former waggonways used for transporting coal.
The North Tyneside Steam Railway and Stephenson Railway Museum are visitor attractions in North Tyneside, North East England. The museum and railway workshops share a building on Middle Engine Lane adjacent to the Silverlink Retail Park. The railway is a standard gauge line, running south for from the museum to Percy Main. The railway is operated by the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association (NTSRA). The museum is managed by Tyne and Wear Museums on behalf on North Tyneside Council.
The railway runs along the alignment of various former coal waggonways, which were later used by the Tyne and Wear Metro Test Centre; the museum and workshop building used to be the test facility. The museum is dedicated to the railway pioneers George Stephenson and his son Robert, with one of George's early locomotives, Billy, housed in the museum.
Horse drawn and rope hauled waggonways
As the early coal seams of the Northumberland Coalfield near the River Tyne were exhausted, waggonways were laid to serve pits sunk further north. Coal would be unloaded into colliers (coal transport ships) via staithes. The first waggonways used wooden wagons on wooden rails drawn by horses. The first traffic begin in 1755 on a line from Shiremoor to Hayhol staithes, and was soon followed by more lines. Wooden rails were eventually replaced by wrought iron. Rope haulage was introduced from 1821, with the museum site being at the top of Prospect Hill. By the 1820s coal was coming from pits further to the north in Seghill, Backworth and Cramlington, while a pit at Murton near Shiremoor had also been added. In 1826 it also became the preferred route for coal coming from Fawdon to the west, to make it unecessary to use keel boats further upriver.
Traffic increased as further pits opened, and the corridor from Middle Engine Lane down to Percy Main became congested as companies either shared lines or built their own within a hundred yards of each other, depending on which was more convenient. Once they crossed the line of the present A193 Wallsend Road, they fanned out to their respective unloading points. In 1839 the Cramlington waggonway built a new line away from the corridor further to the west, while still passing close to it at the Middle Engine Lane and Percy Main ends. By the 1840s, coal was also coming from Blyth and Bedlington on the east coast, although this ceased after improvements to Blyth harbour in the 1880s.
The opening of the route to Blyth also saw passenger services being run to Percy Main from 1841, for connections with the Newcastle and North Shields Railway. These were run by what eventually became the Blyth & Tyne Railway. Passenger services ceased around 1864 when they opened an alternate route further to the east via Monkseaton (now the present Metro route).
Steam locomotive working & Metro test track
At its peak, there were four lines on the corridor, with three stationary engines in close proximity to the museum. Having already been in use on other parts of the lines, gradient improvements on the Blyth & Tyne's line allowed it to use steam locomotives throughout from the 1850s. Others persisted with rope haulage, the Seaton Burn waggonway being the last to convert in 1900.
Coal production began to decline after the First World War causing the Seaton Burn wagonnway to close in the 1920s; a new route from the Rising Sun colliery to the west did open in 1939, although this was to replace a line on a different route. In the late 1940s the coal and railway companies were nationalised - the lines on the corridor were now controlled by either the National Coal Board (NCB) or British Rail (BR) (as the eventual owners of the Blyth & Tyne). Rationalisation saw with the Cramlington line to the west closed in the 1950s.
As volumes further declined, the last Percy Main staithes closed in 1971, leading to the closure of the NCB lines, although the BR lines persisted. In 1975, the Seaton Burn waggonway alignment was relaid for use by the Tyne and Wear Metro Test Centre, whose 1.5-mile test track ran from Middle Engine Lane as far south as the A1058 Coast Road bridges (and north beyond Middle Engine Lane on the Backworth wagonnway alignment to West Allotment). The two prototype Metrocars worked out of a two road maintenance shed constructed in Middle Engine Lane. Once the Metro system opened in 1979 the test centre closed and the track infrastructure was dismantled, leaving only the shed. The last BR line (Percy Main to Backworth) closed in 1983 and the tracks were lifted, ending over 200 years of railway use of the corridor.
Museum and heritage railway
In 1982/4 North Tyneside Council acquired the test sheds as the nucleus for a transport museum. A partnership was formed between Tyne and Wear Museums and the Council, to construct a steam hauled passenger railway rather than a static transport museum. The North Tyneside Steam Railway Association formed at the site after the Monkwearmouth Station Museum Association relocated to Middle Engine Lane, bringing with them some items of rolling stock they had been restoring in the Monkwearmouth station's goods shed, which was in a deteriorating condition. From 1987, volunteers under supervision conducted the works necessary to relay a single track from the museum to Percy Main. The line was completed in 1989 and the first passenger trains ran in early 1991.
In 1994, Tyne and Wear Development Corporation and North Tyneside City Challenge made a grant available to North Tyneside Council to extend the workshops, redesign the museum space and construct a new facilities block. In 2003 the facilities block was further modified to improve educational and toilet facilities.
In 2007, the Tyne and Wear Museums and North Tyneside Council's head of cultural services have submitted plans for feasibility study into developing the museum into a premier North East railway tourist attraction, with period buildings, a link to Percy Main Metro station, and all year round opening.
The museum is managed by Tyne and Wear Museums on behalf on North Tyneside Council. Volunteers of the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association (NTSRA) operate the railway and assist with the maintenance and conservation of locomotives and rolling stock. The NTSRA is managed by a committee that meets quarterly and has an Annual General Meeting yearly.
The building on Middle Engine Lane serves as the railway workshop and the museum's indoor exhibition space, the workshop being on the left hand side. The railway yard has three sidings entering the building from the south, the westernmost being for the workshop, while the two others enter the exhibition space allowing operational stock to be put on display.
The running line of the railway consists of a single tack line, with two open air platforms at either end, both with a passing loop. The northern platform, "Middle Engine Lane", is just south of the museum building. The southern platform, "Percy Main", is immediately south of the point where the Metro crosses the railway, paralleling the length of Brunton Street, to which there is a pedestrian access for passengers wishing to leave the train there.
Entry to the museum is free; rides on the trains requires purchase of a ticket. The museum building also contains a gift shop and toilet facilities, and a cafe which opens on certain event days. The museum is only open at certain times of the year, and passenger trains are only run on some of those days.
As of the 2015 timetable, during operating days four round trips are performed - departing at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm. The scheduling allows for a ten-minute journey time from one end of the line to the other, with a further ten minutes allocated for running the locomotive around the carriages in the loop at Percy Main. Special event days include a Halloween Special, a 1940s day and Santa Specials.
Billy was built by George Stephenson in 1826, one of the various pioneering early designs now known as the Killingworth locomotives, as they were built for use in Killingworth colliery. It is often referred to as the Killingworth Billy to differentiate it from the Puffing Billy built by William Hedley in 1813 for Wylam Colliery. Killingworth Billy ran until 1881, when it was presented to the City of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is a stationary exhibit mounted on a short stretch of period track which features the block mounted rails, to remain compatible with horse drawn trains (horses would be tripped up by conventional sleepers).
No.1 Ted Garret
An 0-6-0 Side Tank believed to have been built in 1951 as works number 7683. It is thought she was delivered new to Meaford Power Station to shunt coal waggons. It was one of several of its type supplied to power stations by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd., Forth Banks, Newcastle upon Tyne during the 1950s. They were used to transport coal wagons from main line sidings into the power station, supplying the boiler-house coal bunkers. Their small diameter wheels enabled heavy loads to be hauled at slow speeds. Larger wheeled versions were supplied when long journey's were needed - for example some colliery systems. Locally they could be seen working at places in Northumberland and Durham including Ashington, Backworth, Stanley and Consett. This loco was purchased from the Power Station by the East Lancs Railway and hauled their first trains at Bury. After a period in store, she was overhauled at Bury and moved to Tyneside in 1996. In a blue livery, this loco carries the name Ted Garrett, JP., DL., MP. No.1's overhaul is planned to begin once No.401 is complete.
Ashington No.5 Jackie Milburn
This 0-6-0 saddle tank was built in 1939 as works number 1979 by Peckett & Sons of Bristol for Ashington Coal Company which operated one of Britain's most extensive colliery railway systems. In 1939, two identical locomotives were delivered to one of Peckett's standard designs and they received the names Ashington No 5 & Ashington No 6. The former spent her entire industrial career on the railway for which she was built. In 1969 she was sold by the National Coal Board to North Norfolk Preserved Railway because the Ashington system was dieselised. However she returned to Northumberland in 1991 and was repainted into the "as delivered to Ashington Colliery" livery. The loco was additionally named Jackie Milburn in honour of the local football hero.
A.No.5 is an 0-6-0 side tank built in 1883 by Kitson and Company. It was the last working example of the 1841 patented Stephenson 'long boiler' design, to produce higher steam pressure while retaining a small wheelbase. Unsuited for high speeds, they nonetheless satisfied a need for powerful shunters at certain industrial railways like the Consett Iron and Steel Company. Withdrawn in 1972 it passed to Beamish Museum and then theTyne & Wear Museums Service at Monkwearmouth Station, Sunderland, where the Monkwearmouth Station Museum Association began its overhaul from a very derelict condition. It returned to stream in 1986. It was overhauled in 1995/6 and again in 2013/14.
No.401 Thomas Burt
No. 401 was one of a class of three built for the Steel Company of Wales in 1951 to an advanced specification designed to provide a low maintenance competitor to the diesel shunters emerging. As such it had many advanced features not seen on other industrial steam locomotives. It was sold to Austin Motor Co. Ltd., of Longbridge, Birmingham in 1957 before passing in 1973 to the developing West Somerset Railway. Once it became surplus to larger locomotives there, the Stephenson Railway Museum purchased 2994 and repainted it from "Kermit the frog" green to a black livery similar to a NER style, and named after local MP Thomas Burt. It remained in regular use until 2009 when it was placed on static display to await funds for restoration to the firebox/boiler. No.401 is due to be completed by mid 2016.
No.08915 (originally D4145) used to be of Allerton (AN) depot. It is the main standby for the passenger service should the steam locomotive be undergoing maintenance.
No.03078 (originally D2078) used to be of Gateshead (GD) depot. It is in a similar livery to Bagnall No.401 but has a North Tyneside Council crest on either side.
An early diesel built in the 1950s, Consett Iron and Steelworks No.10 is the last example of in-house production of locomotives by industrial railways in the North East. It was conceived in their Templetown workshops to satisfy a need for a 300hp shunter with mechanical transmission, and was based on a Hunslet design. It was built by reusing many parts from steam locomotives. Eventually redundant to Sentinel's with hydraulic transmission, it was donated in 1976 to the Tyne and wear Museums Service by the work's later owner, the British Steel Corporation. A small group of volunteers are working on this locomotive and after roughly six-to-seven years have had her fired up. No.10 is undergoing minor repairs.
Harton Electric E4
Electric locomotive No.E4 was built for the Harton coal system at South Shields. It was stored outside for many years, but after a successful lottery bid and sponsorship from the local Siemens Microchip Company has been restored to working order but uses battery power rather than an overhead supply. The batteries are carried in a converted coal wagon. It is used for demonstrations on several days each season.
Motor Luggage Van 3267
No. 3267 is the sole surviving example of the stock built in 1904 for the Tyneside Electrics system, the first suburban electric railway in the country. The system used third rail power and trains formed into multiple units. The vehicle was one of two on the system fitted out as vans, with driving cabs at each end. They were used to carry fish and sundry goods, as well as acting as the locomotives for passenger services on the Riverside branch. After withdrawal in 1938, the two vans had their motors removed and were converted to de-icing vans, hauled along the system at night by steam locomotives. It has since been restored to NER livery, and is on static display in the museum, on loan from the National Rail Museum.
Coaches, wagons and departmental stock
The three ex-British Rail Mk1 carriages are used for the passenger trains. They were had been used on the Kings Cross suburban lines. They wear BR Midland Maroon Livery. They were preserved by the Bluebell Railway between 1973 and 1975, and were obtained by the museum in 1986.
The former London and North Eastern Railway pigeon van was used to transport racing pigeons. It now sits in the head shunt at Middle Engine Lane awaiting funds for restoration. Formerly No. 70754 and 041366, it was preserved in 1991. A preliminary repaint to resemble its teak finish has since been weather worn.
The rail crane (No. DRS 81140, prev. DB 966401, 81/001, 24247) was designed for British Rail. It has been paired with an ex-LNER wagon converted to a crane runner (No. DE321051, ex-6282, 70130E) It is stored in the head shunt at Middle Engine Lane awaiting repairs.
The 20-ton Dogfish Ballast Wagon, Salmon Rail Carrier and 20 Ton wooden brake van all see occasional used on engineering and permanent way trains.
The four-plank wagon was built in 1927 as an oil tank wagon for a private owner, presumably an industrial railway. It had the registration number LMSR 103136. It was later reduced to its underframe and sold to the Metro for use on the test track. Having been left on the site, the museum inherited it. They converted it into a four-plank open wagon for use as the carrier for the batteries needed to power the railway's electric locomotive E4. It has been given a fictitious brown livery and markings of "No. 103 Boldon Colliery" on one side and "No. 136 Whitburn Colliery" on the other.
The 12-ton Vanfit goods van has been converted into a Tool Van which houses an electrical generator.
The TTP flat wagon was built as a Tank Wagon for a private owner.
The 5 ton Type BD van and 12 ton Shocvan are stored in the open, as bodies only, i.e. demounted from their chassis.
The museum site includes a free car park. Bus stops on Middle Engine Lane itself provide direct connections west to Haymarket bus station in Newcastle or east to Blyth bus station via Whitley Bay. Other bus stops Atmel Way in the adjacent Cobalt Business Park provide other connections, including to the two nearest Metro stations - Percy Main five minutes away to the south and Northumberland Park ten minutes away to the north (both being on southern and northern sections of the North Tyneside loop respectively).
Nearly all of the railway is paralleled by the National Cycle Route 10, which continues north from Middle Engine Lane along the alignment of the former railway to Blackworth. Near the southern end, at the crossing with the A193 Wallsend Road the cycle route diverges from the railway to head south east, past Percy Main Metro, on its way to meet the east-west running National Cycle Route 72 which shadows the River Tyne.
On days when passenger services are in operation, the museum can also be accessed by joining the trains at the southern terminus, Percy Main Metro being around a 300m walk away from the platform through the residential estate of the same name.