About us

Tour of the site

Colliery Yard

The railway have carefully restored and maintained the large colliery workshops and courtyards used by the coal board from 1826 to the present day. This large range of sandstone buildings contain the Tub shop and locomotive shed (1919 and 1934 respectively). These buildings are home to our resident blacksmith on selected open days. Also as part of the workshops you can visit  the machine shop which is still at the heart of the railway, repairing our locomotives and waggons, it still looks as it did when the National Coal Board left in 1974. Whilst next door is the joiners shop dating back to 1826 and the opening of the colliery, you can smell the freshly cut wood as you enter this building. 

Brake Cabin

 At the other end of the site stands the Brake cabin, this building stood at the head of the Springwell self acting incline. This lowered waggons from our yard down to Jarrow on the river Tyne using gravity – fully loaded waggons running downhill hauled empties up the bank via a return wheel. The speed of the waggons was controlled by the brakesman in the cabin. This is an original part of the railway dating back to 1826, designed by prominent railway engineer George Stephenson. The Planet shunter is seen here in-front of the Brake and bait cabins.

Waggon shop

The Waggon shop is the large building on the other side of the site, this cathedral like building has been recently restored thanks to an English Heritage grant. Originally it was a coal bunker for the adjoining Spingwell colliery (storing 2,000 tonnes of coal) but upon the mine closure, it was converted into a large workshop to maintain the railways waggon fleet. It was originally built in 1854 and was converted in 1932. Inside 25 men were employed repairing 5 waggons per fortnight.

A Ride on the Line

The platform to board our trains is located in the middle of the colliery yard. All our passenger trains are steam hauled using one of our Barclay saddle tanks. Passengers can travel in one of three authentic brake vans, giving the passenger a real railwayman’s view and experience of working locomotives at close quarters.The train rumbles over the points in Springwell yard, once over the level crossing the engine works hard up the incline. On one side of the train is the quarry whilst from the other you can see out across County Durham, reaching the top of the climb the train leaves the main line onto the Pelaw main curve. After a short distance Blackhams hill platform is reached. Carrying on around the curve, passing the old chapel and Waggon Inn public house the line enters a shallow cutting. This part of the line has a more rural feel, with horses in the adjoining fields and lots of local wildlife. Leaving the cutting the train reaches the top of the climb, coasting down to the loop at Wrekenton. Here the engine will uncouple and run around the train ready for the journey back to Springwell. The line is followed most of the way by the Bowes railway path which provides views of our trains as well as a way to stretch the legs for the more energetic.

Hill

At Blackhams Hill you can alight from the train and in future you will be able to view the rope haulage equipment and the winding engine which is currently under restoration. Once this is complete it is hoped that haulage displays will again occur here. The Engine inside is powered by electricity and was installed in 1950 being constructed by Metropolitan-Vickers, replacing an earlier Steam hauler. Once further restoration occurs  it is hoped to resume rope haulage displays on the east and west inclines.

Wrekenton

Wrekenton is the terminus of operations – here the locomotive will run around the train to return to Springwell. Unfortunately there is no opportunity to alight from the train at this location. The photo below shows the loop at Wrekenton under construction.

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