About us

Tour of the site

Colliery Yard

Bowes has had a long journey as a Charity since 1976 but by 2013 had fallen on difficult times and saw its relationships with the Councils of Gateshead and Sunderland deteriorate, grant support withdrawn, staff redundancies and the volunteer base dwindle to a handful of supporters. 

In 2014, Bowes Trustees linked with a local community heritage partner Sunderland North Community Business Centre (SNCBC) to explore strategies to avoid site closure.  The partnership that evolved from those discussions gave Heritage Lottery Fund the confidence to invest in the site, providing funds for staff resource to target volunteer engagement, restore the Brakeman's Hut which sits proudly in the colliery yard, and improve the visitor experience by updating and enhancing the interpretation materials at site and introducing a media presence, promoting a visitor attraction which caters for both railway/ history enthusiasts and families alike. This has included introducing a dedicated history timeline exhibition, new interpretation and signage, repairing/servicing workshop machinery to enable public demonstrations and developing a tearoom area for visitors to take a break. 

The condition of the yard has been much improved and partnerships have been formed with local colleges such as Gateshead and Newcastle Rail Academies who have done much to improve the condition of the tracks whilst students benefit from practical hands on lessons in rail track maintenance - providing a win win solution for everyone. 

Yard restoration is ongoing and there is always a new project and plan afoot!


Wagon shop

The Wagon shop is the large building on the other side of the site, this cathedral like building was restored in 2014 thanks to an English Heritage grant. Originally it was a coal bunker for the adjoining Springwell Colliery (storing 2,000 tonnes of coal) but upon the mine closure, it was converted into a large workshop to maintain the railways wagon fleet. It was originally built in 1854 and was converted in 1932, approximately 25 men were employed at this time repairing 5 wagons per fortnight.

Blackham's Hill

 When coal transportation came to an end at Bowes railway, it was granted museum status in 1976. Some time later short passenger rides were set up  and carried people up the line to Blackham's Hill, the former hauler house for the railway system. We do not currently operate passenger rides, although hope to in the future. 

In the past people could take a ride up to Blackham's Hill in one of the brake vans, hauled by a steam or diesel engine. They could alight from the train and internally view the rope haulage equipment and the winding engine. 

 The Engine inside the hauler house can still be viewed today on one of our walking trail tours. It is powered by electricity that was installed in 1950 by Metropolitan-Vickers, replacing an earlier Steam hauler.

A programme of restoration is currently being planned and it is hoped to resume rope haulage displays in the future.