History of Railways in Northumberland

This refers to the pre-1974 boundaries of Northumberland, after which North Tyneside Council became an independent local authority. Newcastle upon Tyne has been independent since the 1400s. Islandshire, Norhamshire and Bedlingtonshire were enclaves of Durham until 1844.
National Grid references are shown to the nearest kilometre square.

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Neptune Yard wooden waggonway found, July 2013, NZ3065

The waggonway appears to have run from Bigges Main Colliery to staiths on the Tyne.

Daily Mail -  Wooden waggonway built more than 200 years ago discovered near former colliery is 'oldest example of standard gauge railway ever found'.

See the location on Google Street View and www-old-maps.co.uk 430000,565700 (click "Switch Print Extent Off")

Plessey Wooden Waggonway ran from pits near Plessey Checks NZ2479 to Blyth NZ3181. It opened in the late 1600s and closed in 1813. The A192 road follows the route for a few miles.

Maps of Blyth -
Geograph NZ3181 - British History - Microsoft Virtual Earth - Wikimapia - Google Maps
Northumberland Communities - Blyth
Old Maps showing "Plessay Old Wagonway" on the 1:10,560 map of 1865, coordinates 431500_580800.
Blyth Hospital was built on the Station site, coordinates 431000_581600.

Wylam Wooden Waggonway opened in 1748. It later had iron rails before closing in 1867. William Hedley built locomotives to haul coal from Wylam NZ1164 to the staiths at Lemington NZ1864. Puffing Billy of 1813 is at the Science Museum in London. Wylam Dilly of 1814 is at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.
The course of the Tyne has since been altered to avoid the long loop at Lemington. Most of the Wylam Waggonway route was used by the Scotswood, Newburn and Wylam Railway in 1875. George Stephenson's Cottage stands by the route near Wylam.
Northumberland Communities - Wylam

Killingworth Waggonway - C.R.Warn in his book Waggonways and Early Railways of Northumberland states that a wooden waggonway opened in 1764 from Killingworth Moor to Willington Quay.
Ordnance Survey shows an iron waggonway from Killingworth Old Pit NZ2870 to Killingworth Drops NZ3166 on the River Tyne. This waggonway reached Burradon Colliery NZ2772. George Stephenson's Dial Cottage NZ2770 was in Paradise Row near Killingworth Colliery at West Moor.

Kitty's Drift was a tunnel of about 3 miles running from East Kenton to Scotswood. The north-eastern end of the tunnel has not been shown on this website, but could be in square NZ2267. Christopher Bedlington opened it in 1796 both to drain the mines and transport coal to the Tyne. The subterraneous tunnel is shown on the 1812 map by Robert Galloway. It ran to the west of the Montague Main waggonway.
The Cyclopaedia of 1819 by Abraham Rees gives an account of visitors travelling in empty coal waggons down the tunnel. Coal was later diverted to the Kenton and Coxlodge waggonway which opened in 1808.

Shilbottle Colliery Railway opened in 1809 from Shilbottle Colliery NU1808 to Alnwick NU1912. It is shown on the 1828 map by Greenwood. The northern end of this route is still known as Waggon Way Road. There was also a tramway from Longdyke Pit NU2010 to Alnwick and a railway from Grange Pit NU2107 to the ECML NU2308.
Northumberland Communities - Shilbottle

Whitley Waggonway opened in 1811 from pits near Whitley Bay NZ3571 and ran to North Shields NZ3668. Most of the route was used by the Blyth and Tyne Railway in 1860.

Backworth Waggonway opened in 1818 and ran from Backworth A Pit NZ3071 to Whitehill Point NZ3566 on the River Tyne. The waggonway was extended to Backworth B Pit NZ2972 and West Cramlington Colliery NZ2675.

Cramlington Waggonway ran from Cramlington Colliery (1825) NZ2876 to Cramlington Staiths NZ3366 on the River Tyne. There were branches to Amelia Pit NZ2778, Hartford Colliery NZ2679, Nelson Colliery NZ2677 and Dudley Colliery NZ2573.
Northumberland Communities - Cramlington

Seaton Burn Waggonway began in 1826 as the Brunton and Shields Railway, running from Brunton NZ2270 via Wideopen NZ2472, Hillhead Engine NZ2872 and Shiremoor Engine NZ3170 to Staiths NZ3366 on the River Tyne. It was extended from Wideopen Colliery to Seaton Burn Colliery NZ2374 in 1837, crossing the Great North Road near Six Mile Bridge. In the 20th century there were branches to Brenkley Colliery NZ2274, Mill Hill Pit NZ2172, Havannah Drift Mine NZ2171 and Weetslade Colliery Lizzie Pit NZ2572.

Netherton Waggonway opened in 1828 from Netherton NZ2381 to Morpeth NZ2085. It later linked Howard Pit, Frances Pit and Nethertonhall Colliery to Bedlington. 1828 map by Greenwood shows early railways around Bedlington Iron Works NZ2782. The eastern end of Netherton Waggonway is shown. Netherton is now spelled Nedderton.
Northumberland Communities - Nedderton

Walbottle Waggonway (or Wallbottle) - An iron waggonway ran from North Walbottle Colliery NZ1868 to Coronation Pit NZ1767, Blucher Pit NZ1766 and Lemington Staiths NZ1864. Another branch ran from Duke Pit NZ1666 to Lemington Staiths.

Coxlodge Waggonway - Also known as the Gosforth and Kenton Waggonway. This ran from Coxlodge Colliery Jubilee Pit NZ2368 and Regent Pit NZ2468 to Coxlodge Staiths NZ3065 at Wallsend on the River Tyne. Most of the route was used by Tyneside Tramways and Tramroads from 1901 to 1930. This company operated double-deck electric trams until 1930 and then buses from 1930 until 1975.

Fawdon Waggonway - Pre-Ordnance Survey maps show waggonways converging on an engine at NZ2169 (later Bell House). The first edition 1864 Ordnance Survey map shows West Brunton Engine NZ2271 on Fawdon Old Waggonway and Middle Brunton Engine NZ2370. The 1920s Ordnance Survey map shows a new Fawdon Waggonway running to Coxlodge Colliery Jubilee Pit NZ2368.

George and Robert Stephenson
Stephenson's Engine Works opened in 1823 on Forth Banks, Newcastle upon Tyne, where Locomotion and Rocket were built.
www.robertstephensontrust.com and Photographs of Newcastle, Stephenson Works

Microsoft Bing Maps aerial photograph of Forth Banks.
British History 1:2500 scale, 1861 map of Stephenson's Engine Works on South Street.

Newcastle and Carlisle Railway (N&CR)
The first section was opened in 1835 between Blaydon and Hexham. Carlisle to Blenkinsopp Colliery opened in 1836. Haydon Bridge to Hexham also opened in 1836. Blenkinsopp Colliery to Haydon Bridge opened in 1838. In 1837 the line was extended from Blaydon to Redheugh. In 1839 it made a connection at Redheugh with the Brandling Junction Railway. Also in 1839 the line crossed the River Tyne from Blaydon to Scotswood and then ran via Elswick to a temporary station in Newcastle. By 1839 the line was open between Carlisle and Newcastle. In 1851 it gained access to Newcastle Central Station. Scotswood Railway Bridge caught fire in 1860. A temporary bridge was replaced by the existing iron bridge in 1871. The N&CR was taken over by the NER in 1862.

British History 1:2500 scale, 1861 map of Newcastle Central Station. Numerous small turntables can be seen between the platforms. The station was built over the course of Newcastle Town Wall.

Route via Newcastle Central Station, Elswick, Scotswood, Blaydon, Ryton, Wylam, Prudhoe, Eltringham (later Mickley Station), Stocksfield, Ridingmill, Farnley Tunnel, Corbridge, Hexham, Border Counties Junction, Warden Bridge, Fourstones, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, Whitchester Tunnel, Haltwhistle, Blenkinsopp Colliery, Greenhead, Hadrian's Wall, Rosehill (later Gilsland Station), Low Row, Naworth, Milton (later Brampton Junction Station), Middle Gelt Bridge, Cowran Cutting, How Mill, Heads Nook, Wetheral, Scotby, Carlisle London Road Station NY4154
Carlisle Citadel Station NY4055 from 1864

Lord Carlisle's Brampton Railway ran from Milton to Kirkhouse Iron Foundry, Hallbank Gate (Hallbankgate), Clowsgill Lime Works, Black Sike Coal Pit, Howgill Mines, Tindalefell Spelter Works, Midgeholme Colliery NY6458 (Cumberland/Northumberland border), Haltonlee Gate and Lambley Colliery. The line joined the Alston Branch at Lambley Station NY6758.

1836 Milton branch to Brampton Town.

1852 N&CR Alston Branch with stations at Haltwhistle, Featherstone, Coanwood, Lambley, Slaggyford and Alston.
www.south-tynedale-railway.org.uk - South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society

www.cumbria-railways.co.uk/brampton_railway.html - Brampton Railway description and map. A wooden waggonway carried coal to Brampton Staith in the 1700s.

Newcastle and North Shields Railway (N&NSR) opened in 1839 from Carliol Square NZ2564 in Newcastle via Ouseburn Viaduct NZ2664, Heaton, Wallsend, Willington Viaduct NZ3166 and Percy Main to North Shields NZ3568. The laminated wood viaducts were rebuilt in iron to the same design. Carliol Square Station was bypassed with the opening of the viaduct from Manors to Newcastle Central Station. The N&NSR route from Manors to Heaton Junction is still part of the ECML. The N&NSR route from Walkergate to North Shields is used by the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Old Maps - British History 1:2500 scale, 1861 map of Carliol Square terminus.

Microsoft Virtual Earth - "Birds Eye View" of the Ouseburn Viaducts. The northerly viaduct is the Newcastle and North Shields Railway, now the East Coast Main Line (ECML). The middle viaduct is the Tyne and Wear Metro, built in the late 1970s.

Microsoft Virtual Earth - "Birds Eye View" of Willington Viaduct, now used by the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Old Maps - British History maps of North Shields.

The Newcastle and Berwick Railway opened in 1847 the extension from North Shields to Tynemouth old station NZ3669.
Old Maps - British History maps of Tynemouth.

Blyth and Tyne Railway (B&TR) began in 1840 as a waggonway from Seghill Colliery to Northumberland Dock on the River Tyne. It was built so that Seghill Colliery could avoid using the Cramlington Waggonway.

Old Maps - Microsoft Virtual Earth maps of Northumberland Dock.

1840 Seghill Colliery NZ2874 to Northumberland Dock NZ3366 on the River Tyne.
1846 Seghill to Hartley NZ3176.
1846 Hartley to Newsham NZ3079 and Cowpen Colliery NZ2980.
1846 Cowpen Colliery Junction to Blyth NZ3181.
1846 Hartley to Dairy House NZ3275 on the Avenue Branch, with a private line to Seaton Sluice.
1847 The name Blyth and Tyne was first used.
1857 Newsham to Bebside and Bedlington NZ2782, using an 1850 line.
1857 Bedlington to Choppington NZ2583, Hepscott NZ2284 and Morpeth NZ2085.
1859 Bedlington to North Seaton NZ2786, with a private railway to North Seaton Colliery.
1860 Dairy House Junction to Monkseaton NZ3472, Cullercoats NZ3570 and North Shields NZ3669 on the Avenue Branch. The Whitley Waggonway route was used at the southern end.
1864 Monkseaton to Backworth NZ3071, Benton NZ2768, South Gosforth NZ2567 and Newcastle NZ2564.

The terminus in Newcastle was at New Bridge Street. The New Bridge was built in 1812 over Pandon Dene as part of the road to North Shields. Pandon Burn was later arched over and Pandon Dene filled in. New Bridge Terminus was built on the reclaimed land. In 1909 the NER continued the line southwards to link with the ECML at Manors. This completed the loop into Newcastle Central Station.

The NER opened a reinforced-concrete goods warehouse in 1907 at New Bridge Street. This was bombed in World War 2, the contents burning for days. The skeleton of this warehouse stood for decades until replaced by a Warner Cinema. The site is now part of Northumbria University.

The A167 Central Motorway roundabout now occupies the site of New Bridge Terminus. North of Jesmond the B&TR route via South Gosforth is used by the Tyne and Wear Metro. B&TR Jesmond Station is now a restaurant.

Old Maps - British History - Microsoft Virtual Earth maps of New Bridge Street.

1865 North Shields to Tynemouth NZ3669. This was a short curve from the Avenue Branch. British History
1867 West Sleekburn Junction to Cambois NZ3084.
1872 North Seaton to Ashington NZ2787 and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea NZ3087.
1874 The Blyth and Tyne Railway became part of the North Eastern Railway.
The B&TR route is still open for diversions from a junction at Benton NZ2868 on the ECML to Backworth, Seghill, Hartley, Bedlington and Morpeth.

1828 map by Greenwood shows the Inclined Plane from Cramlington Colliery and Seghill Colliery. Also shown is a waggonway to Seaton Sluice.
1828 map by Greenwood shows early railways around Bedlington Iron Works NZ2782. John Birkinshaw made the wrought iron rails at Bedlington Iron Works for the Stockton and Darlington Railway of 1825. These rails retained the fish-bellied shape of the earlier cast iron rails, but were about 5 metres long.
www.ntsra.org.uk - the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association museum is at Middle Engine Lane NZ3269. Steam trains run to Percy Main NZ3367.
Northumberland Communities - Blyth

Victoria Tunnel opened in 1842 from Spital Tongues Colliery NZ2365 to Ouseburn NZ2664 on the River Tyne. It was soon closed for coal traffic but became an air-raid shelter during WWII 1939 to 1945. It still runs beneath the Barras Bridge area of Newcastle.
British History 1:2500 scale 1872 map and Old Maps - maps of Spital Tongues Colliery.
British History 1:2500 scale 1872 map of Barras Bridge. At one time the Great North Road crossed Pandon Burn here on a bridge.
British History 1:2500 scale 1884 map of Spital Tongues Staiths and Victoria Tunnel entrance near Glasshouse Bridge, Ouseburn.
www.victoriatunnel.info by Phil Thirkell.
Wikipedia page about the Victoria Tunnel.

Newcastle and Berwick Railway (N&BR) opened in 1847 from Tweedmouth, joining the Newcastle and North Shields Railway at Heaton Junction. The N&BR also opened the extension from North Shields to Tynemouth old station NZ3669. In the same year (1847) the N&BR was taken over by the Newcastle and Darlington Junction Railway, which soon became part of the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway.
The High Level Bridge opened in 1849 over the River Tyne, joining Gateshead and Newcastle. Newcastle Central Station was linked to Manors on the former Newcastle and North Shields Railway. The Royal Border Bridge opened in 1850, crossing the River Tweed into Berwick Station.
In 1854 the YN&BR became part of the North Eastern Railway (NER). The route is now part of the ECML. There were derailments at the sharp curve south of Morpeth Station in 1969 and 1984.

Route via Berwick upon Tweed, Royal Border Bridge, Tweedmouth, Scremerston, Goswick, Beal, Smeafield, Belford, Lucker Water Troughs, Lucker, Newham, Chathill, Fallodon, Christonbank, Little Mill, Longhoughton, Lesbury Viaduct, Alnmouth, Warkworth, Acklington, Amble Junction, Chevington, Widdrington, Longhirst, Pegswood, Morpeth, Netherton (later Stannington Station), Plessey Viaduct, Plessey, Cramlington, Annitsford, Killingworth, Benton (later Forest Hall Station), Benton Quarry Junction and Heaton Junction

www.senrug.co.uk - South East Northumberland Rail User Group - Morpeth Station.

Search for these places in Northumberland Communities

York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway (YN&BR)
1849 Amble Branch ran from Amble Junction NZ2298 north of Chevington on the ECML to Broomhill Station NU2401 and Amble Station NU2604. The passenger service did not start until 1879. There was extensive opencast mining in the area around the former RAF Acklington. Heavy opencast vehicles used private roads which followed the airfield perimeter track and part of the Amble Branch.

1849 Tweedmouth to Sprouston via Velvethall, Norham, Twizell, Cornhill (renamed Coldstream Station 1873), Wark (renamed Sunilaws Station), England/Scotland border NT7937, Carham, Sprouston Station NT7635
The North British Railway continued the line in 1851 from Sprouston to Kelso Station NT7333 (Maxwellheugh, Maxwell Heugh)

1850 Alnwick Branch ran from Alnwick Station NU1912 to Alnmouth Junction Station NU2311, which was originally called Bilton Junction.
www.avrs.co.uk - the Aln Valley Railway Society plans to reopen the route.

Ashington Coal Company Railway ran from Ashington Colliery NZ2688 with branches to Linton Colliery NZ2691, Ellington Colliery NZ2891, Lynemouth Colliery NZ2990 and Woodhorn Colliery NZ2888. This extensive network ran passenger trains for mineworkers. A mineral railway was built in the 1980s from the Ashington Colliery network to the ECML. Ellington Colliery was the last deep mine in the North East Coalfield, closing in February 2005.
www.experiencewoodhorn.com - Woodhorn Colliery Museum.

North Sunderland Railway - 1898 private railway from Chathill Station NU1827 to Seahouses NU2132

Whittle Colliery Waggonway ran from the ECML NU2205 to Whittle Colliery NU1706 which was to the east of the Great North Road, near Newton on the Moor. Whittle Colliery and Shilbottle Colliery supplied coal to the Cooperative Wholesale Society (CWS).

North Eastern Railway in Northumberland (NER)
1868 Allendale Branch from Border Counties Junction on the old Newcastle and Carlisle Railway. Stations at Elrington, Langley, Staward and Catton Road (later Allendale Station)

1870 Quayside Branch ran from the ECML east of Manors Station NZ2564 through a steep curving tunnel down to Newcastle Quayside. Two electric locomotives were later built using overhead and third rail power supply.

1878 Tweedmouth Dock line.

1879 Riverside Branch line branched off the ECML between the Ouseburn Viaduct and Heaton Station to Byker Platform NZ265648. The tunnel still runs under shops on Shields Road in Byker NZ266647. Stations were at St.Peter's NZ275636, St.Anthony's NZ284631, Walker NZ295642, Carville NZ303662, Point Pleasant NZ314664, Willington Quay NZ323665 and Percy Main NZ337673. This line was later electrified using the third-rail system.

1882 Coast Line via Monkseaton, Whitley Bay, Cullercoats and Tynemouth Station NZ3669. A junction was made with the N&BR line near to the original Tynemouth Station.

1887 Alnwick and Cornhill Branch via Coldstream, Mindrum, Kirknewton, Akeld, Wooler, Ilderton, Wooperton, Hedgeley (Powburn), Glanton, Whittingham, Hillhead Tunnel, Edlingham, Alnwick Station NU1912
Coldstream Station NT8639 was in Cornhill, Northumberland, England
In 1948 the track between Wooler and Ilderton was damaged by flooding. It was not economic to repair the gap and from then until closure the line was worked as two separate sections.

1904 Electrification of the Coast Line to Newcastle in response to the success of electric tramways. Junctions at Benton NZ2869 joined the N&BR line to the B&TR line. This allowed an express electric service from Monkseaton to Newcastle via the ECML.

1905 Ponteland Branch via South Gosforth, West Gosforth (now Regent Centre Metro Station), Coxlodge (now Fawdon Metro Station), Kenton (now Bankfoot Metro Station), Callerton and Ponteland Station NZ1672
This line reopened as the Tyne and Wear Metro, with the terminus at Newcastle Airport NZ1871.

1906 King Edward VII Bridge NZ2463 between Newcastle and Gateshead. This avoided reversing at Newcastle Central station for trains running between Edinburgh and London Kings Cross.

1909 Manors Station link NZ2564 joining the Blyth and Tyne line to the Newcastle and North Shields line. This completed the North Tyneside Loop, allowing electric trains to run from Newcastle via Jesmond, South Gosforth, Benton, Whitley Bay, North Shields and Wallsend to Newcastle.

1913 Darras Hall light railway from Ponteland Station NZ1672 to Darras Hall Station NZ1571

1914 Seaton Sluice Branch via Monkseaton, Brierdene and Collywell Bay Station NZ3376. This unopened branch was dismantled for the War Effort 1914 to 1918 and was not rebuilt.

1915 Monkseaton Station built on a new site.

1923 NER becomes part of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).

1928 - Tyne Commission Quay opened on the riverward side of Albert Edward Dock.
There was an LNER rail link to Newcastle Central Station. Port of Tyne

North British Railway (NBR)
1862 Border Counties Section joining the NBR Waverley Route from Carlisle to Edinburgh.
Route via Riccarton Junction Station NY5397, Saughtree, Dawstonburn Viaduct, Deadwater, England/Scotland Border, Kielder, Kielder Viaduct, Plashetts, Falstone, Thorneyburn, Tarset, Bellingham, Redesmouth Junction, Wark, Barrasford, Chollerton, Chollerford, Hadrian's Wall, Wall, River Tyne Viaduct and Border Counties Junction NY9265. North British services from Hawick then ran via the N&CR line to Newcastle.
(Chollerford to Border Counties Junction opened 1858 as the Border Counties Railway).
Old Maps - maps of Plashetts, now submerged under Kielder Water

www.wrha.org.uk - Waverley Route Heritage Association. Track is being laid between Whitrope Tunnel and Riccarton Junction Station.

1862 Wansbeck Valley Railway ran from Reedsmouth Junction to Morpeth. NBR trains reversed into the Blyth and Tyne Railway Morpeth Station. This was an attempt by the NBR to gain access to Newcastle, using the B&TR lines. In 1871 new junctions allowed NBR and B&TR trains to run into the NER Morpeth Station. The B&TR Morpeth Station then became a goods shed.
(Also known as the Wanney Line or Wannie Line). Route via Morpeth Station NZ2085, Meldon, Angerton, Middleton, Scots Gap, Knowesgate, Woodburn, Broomhope Siding and Redesmouth Junction Station NY8681

1870 Northumberland Central Railway via Rothbury Station NU0601, Brinkburn, Lee Siding, Fontburn, Ewesley, Longwitton and Scots Gap Station NZ0386

Scotswood, Newburn and Wylam Railway opened the line along the North bank of the River Tyne in 1875, following most of the route of the Wylam Waggonway. There were stations at Wylam NZ1164, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Newburn, Lemington and Scotswood NZ2063. Wylam Railway Bridge NZ1164 opened in 1876 across the River Tyne, joining the SN&WR to the Newcastle and Carlisle line. The SN&WR was taken over by the NER in 1883.

Kirkheaton Colliery Waggonway - This was an isolated coalfield with pits at Kirkheaton NZ0478, Ingoe NZ0374, Fenwick NZ0572, Muckleridge NZ0473, Todridge NZ0072 and Boghall NZ0477. The mineral railway opened in 1927 and ran from Belsay Colliery NZ0476 to Darras Hall NZ1571 where it joined the Darras Hall Light Railway to Ponteland NZ1672.

Rural Branch Lines of Northumberland by C R Warn.
Published by Frank Graham 1975, ISBN 0859130772
Contains a page about the Kirkheaton Colliery Waggonway.

Bastles were built as fortified farmhouses to protect against raids by the Border Reivers. Livestock were kept on the ground floor. The family lived above. The walls are up to 1 metre thick. Some bastles have been modernised with living accomodation on the ground floor. Modern Ordnance Survey maps of Northumberland incorrectly describe them as Castles.

Bastions and Belligerents by John F Dodds, 1999
Keepdate Publishing, ISBN 1899506454

Waggonways Home Page
this page updated 30 July 2013

broken links repaired 23 Feb 2015