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RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 29: WHEELS OF INDUSTRY, N.E. Docks, Heavy Industry & Mining Links
A picture of industry: a cycle of activities and associated industries
Starting near the top end, Tyneside
Tyneside and Wearside burgeoned with industry...
Aside from shipbuilding at Swan Hunter amongst other yards, there was armaments and heavy machinery industry, such as at the Vulcan Works of Armstrong Whitworth that also produced locomotives for the North Eastern Railway. Vickers produced the big guns for the Royal Navy and artillery from before the First World War. Further south more shipbuilding at Sunderland by the mouth of the River Wear needed plate steel produced in great quantities during WWII and after. Sunderland shipbuilders were known as 'Mackems' ("We mak' 'em, they sink 'em"). Around six yards built ships after WWII, business having contracted with the cessation of hostilities in 1945. Sunderland yards had produced 27% of the total British merchant navy tonnage. Companies such as Austin & Pickersgill, Doxfords, Bulmers, Short Brothers and J L Thompson would find themselves faced with merger and stiff competition from builders in the Far East.
At Tyne Dock a new facility was added for handling large amounts of imported iron ore. A tall hopper structure was loaded from the ships' holds to discharge into wagons for Consett Works near Beamish. To take the ore thirty 56 ton wagons were built at Shildon to Diagram 1/182 with continuous vacuum brake and numbered 446000-446029. Tare weight was 28 tons 13 cwt, officially given as 28 tons 19 cwt due to several modifications made to the original design. These wagons were unusual for this country, as normally stone/iron ore was carried in twin axle steel 21 ton hopper wagons. The limit was dicated by loading gauge rather than axle number. With high density imported iron ore bogie wagons allowed greater capacity for a given train length. The wagons were inspected and passed for traffic at Marylebone Goods Yard on 10th December, 1951. (Ref: "A History Of British Railways' North Eastern Region" ed. John Teasdale and published by the North Eastern Railway Association - ISBN 9-780956 - 186706)
The railway - North Eastern Railway (NER) until 1923, London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). until 1948 and then British Railways' North Eastern Region (BR/NE) carried all their materials and took the coal from the pits north of the Tyne at Ashington and south of the Tyne around the Durham Fell to the Tyne and Wear for industry and export during peacetime.
The railways were also busy ferrying workers to the works from the growing towns either side of both rivers. Around Tyneside was a network of lines electrified from around the turn of the 19th Century when Wilson Worsdell, the NER's Locomotive Superintendent took a hand in establishing railway competition with the trams (street cars) and buses either side of the river between Newcastle and North Shields on the north side of Tynemouth and South Shields on the County Durham side (Tyne & Wear only came about in 1974, creating a new county around both rivers).
Inland from Sunderland was the large network of private colliery lines owned by the Lambton family (Lord Londonderry) whose locomotives were shedded at the Philadelphia Works. Elsewhere near Sunderland was Washington, which was a centre of more industry and mining.
Further south again, toward the Tees, was Hartlepool with its dock system that dated back to the mid-19th Century. Hartlepool Docks had it own railway system taken over by the NER, a thriving coal export trade, docking for other commodities and ship building. A network of lines narrowed into Hartlepool Docks from around central/ southern County Durham.
Passenger traffic around Hartlepool was not as intense as on Tyneside, as many lines were private, owned by the collieries, although there were links to Tyne and Wearside, the city of Durham to the west, and Teesside to the south. Some of the passenger traffic was directed during the holiday season to the small resort of Seaton Carew, south of Hartlepool. Trains to Stockton-on-Tees on market days swelled passenger traffic between Darlington to the west, Middlesbrough to the south-east and from south of the Tees as far as Rounton Gates south of Yarm-on-Tees.
Wearside and Hartlepool...
Next we come to busy Teesside with its network of lines west to Darlington, south to York, west to Leeds and a cluster of branches inland...
Skinningrove to the south-east was the furthest outpost of steel making associated with Teesside. A welter of steel-making plants on Teesside itself spread eastward from Cargo Fleet, just east of Middlesbrough. At South Bank and Grangetown was a long chain of works owned originally by Bolckow Vaughan, then by Arthur Dorman and Albert de Lande Long. Across the Tees at Port Clarence were the works of Bell Brothers. These works all needed coking coal, and even with their own plants had need of more from across the northern Pennines in Cumbria and elsewhere in the North East. Of course much of the plate steel went to ship yards mentioned above, also supplied by Consett on long trains of plate wagons of different size. Steel fabrication went back to before WWI, its zenith being Redpath Dorman Long winning the contract to build Sydney Harbour Bridge. Naturally component parts of the bridge were taken by rail to Middlesbrough's docks. Raw materials came from mines to the south of Middlesbrough as well as imported from abroad. That involved long trains of wagons... See where this leads? Industry feeds commerce, feeds industry, feeds the railways and so on. It was a never-ending cycle broken only by a glut of steel production in the 1960s onwards.
Meanwhile commerce thrived, raw materials coming in to the docks, manufactured products going out or south etcetera... Foodstuffs entered the docks from the West Indies - cane sugar, bananas and so forth. Australia and New Zealand exported fruit, meat, mainly lamb, South America sent beef products and fruits, as did South Africa and India - which also exported tea in great amounts. From Malaysia came rubber and oil and so on... Fleets of tankers passed through Teesport, bulk storage tanks on the north bank at Billingham. Imperial Chemical Industries also had works at Billingham, and later at Wilton near Middlesbrough where paint, synthetic materials and fertilisers were produced. Teesside smelled odd at times, between steel and chemical processes, nicknamed 'Smog City', but there was full employment as much for railwaymen as for anyone else. The ironstone was worked out around Teesside between 1949 and 1964, so imports of materials increased although limestone was still brought by rail from quarries around the region. Coal still came from across the river as well as from other parts of the North Riding near Selby and further afield. To aid the movement of materials beyond Britain's borders merchant ships were built at several yards such as Swan Hunter, Furness Withy, Smith's Dock, Wigham Richardson, Pearse, Lockwood & Co.
Local passenger traffic was in decline by the 60s, however, with intensive bus competition and closures to passenger traffic along the coast to Whitby (1958) and Scarborough (1965) via inland to Whitby, as well as inland to Wensleydale (via Northallerton) from 1954, Guisborough and Richmond in the mid-1960s. Only the Eskdale route to Whitby was kept open. A service ran (and still runs) from Saltburn-by-the-Sea via Middlesbrough and Darlington to Bishop Auckland. A service ran until the 1960s from Saltburn via Darlington, across the spine of England to Kirkby Stephen and Tebay to Blackpool. There was a businessman's service that ran early in the morning from Saltburn via Northallerton, York and Doncaster to Kings Cross (London) and return in the early evening. Services have long run from Middlesbrough via Stockton, Hartlepool and Sunderland to Newcastle, a distance of over thirty miles.
Edited by John Teasdale, editor of the North Eastern Railway Association's quarterly journal, the NERA Express, 'A History of British Railways' North Eastern Region' displays good quality researched and written contributions by members of the association. Insights on particular studied interests within the railway's organisation over the years in the North East of England that include signalling, traffic, branch lines, main line operation etc. Use the link here to see if this book is for you.
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Tees to East Cleveland
From Teesside it's only a hop and a skip to the small harbour at Whitby
Whitby was connected to the broader railway network in the mid-19th Century after George Hudson's original Whitby & Pickering Railway (opened 1836 throughout) was reached from his York & North Midland Railway to Scarborough by way of Rillington Junction near Malton. Not long afterward another line linked the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway from Glaisdale to Grosmont when the NER took over the railways in North Yorkshire. In the 1880s the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Junction Railway linked Whitby to Teeside along the coast from Loftus to Whitby Westcliff and into Whitby Town by Prospect Hill Junction. Prospect Hill in turn would provide an end-on junction for the Whitby & Scarborough Railway over Larpool Viaduct to Hawsker and Bay Town (Robin Hood's Bay).
Goods had come through Whitby by sea since the days of the Danish Kingdom of York. Coal was shipped from Newcastle-upon-Tyne by collier ship and on to Pickering. Until the late 1800s whale meat and oil came into Whitby, fish and seafood was landed at the quayside for conveyance inland by cart until the railway was opened. Being surrounded by steep hills, Whitby town's best investment was in its railway connections. Timber from the Baltic was brought in from when James Cook first took employment with ship owner John Walker (the cottage Cook lived in is at nearby Sandsend, set back along the beck from the seashore). So for a while, with the railway links along the coast and inland things looked better... until 1958 when the Loftus link was lost, and 1965 when the railway south of Grosmont closed along with that to Scarborough. Shipbuilding still plays a part in Whitby's economy, although not at the level Tees-, Wear- and Tyneside pursued it.
Nevertheless preservation saved at least the link to Pickering in 1973, with steam and heritage diesel on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (from Class A1 'Tornado' to Deltic diesel 'Alycidon' - all the Deltics were given names from classical Greek literature) now taking passengers through handsome scenery from its own platform at Whitby Town all the way via Goathland and Levisham through Newtondale.
There is also the regular Whitby to Middlesbrough service by way of Battersby with links further afield, threatened originally by the Beeching Report of 1963 but managed to survive despite countless feasibility studies. There are no viable bus connections through Eskdale for those who live in the bottom of the dale in picturesque villages such as Kildale, Castleton, Glaisdale and Egton. In wintertime the road links can be cut off, and even if there were bus services some roads along the Esk are impassable to buses before Sleights near Whitby.
The thread still holds...
Whitby and Kingston-upon-Hull (Hull)
We jump from Whitby to Hull...
Why? Simply because fish and Baltic timber from Scarborough would have had to be taken uphill to Central Station. It was simpler to take these direct by road, even though it meant the roads away from the harbour being clogged with traffic.
We go straight to Hull then. Coal was taken by rail from the Barnsley coalfield at Cudworth, along the old Hull & Barnsley route to Alexandra Dock, where it was loaded into vessels for the Baltic ports. These docks also provided berths for general merchant shipping to Baltic, North Sea and English Channel European ports. Along the road was the St. Andrew Fish Dock, from where long trains took the catch across country to York and West Riding cities as well as to the Midlands and South (London and Home Counties), along with trains from Grimsby and Immingham on the south bank of the broad River Humber. This was where the ex-Great Central and Great Northern, subsequently British Railways Eastern Region took over on the east coast express fish services. Upriver on the River Hull at nearby Beverley a small shipyard produced ocean-going trawlers that had to be helped downriver to the Humber when the tide was up, resting at low tide and continuing with the next high water. Outflow was understandably restricted.
Hull lies at the southern edge of a largely agricultural East Riding. Passenger services were once provided by the Hull & Barnsley Railway as well as by the North Eastern Railway, although by the nature of population distribution passenger services suffered from closure in the 1960s across the area. Until the 1960s services linked York via Market Weighton on the Yorkshire Wolds to Beverley and Hull. Services to Bridlington and Scarborough to the north-east, and to Selby and York to the west as well as Leeds and the West Riding are still in evidence. An Intercity service links Hull to Doncaster and London.
British Railways North Eastern Region
A very useful volume by Alan Earnshaw and Kevin Derrick that shows British Railways' North Eastern Region 'warts and all'. You can almost feel the heat from the engines, smell the hot oil and grease on the locomotives, the 'creosote' smell from the smoke. A general round-up of views from the far north of Northumberland, across country to the Borders (Scotland), south to Durham and York and all points between. I've had a copy for years - almost since the book was first published - and still use it for reference!