Tyne & Wear

Newcastle to North Shields railway's 175th anniversary

Workers at Tyne improvement commission Image copyright Jim Skipsey

A railway line which played a "significant part" in the economy and the lives of those living in the North East is celebrating its 175th anniversary.

Opened in 1839, the Newcastle to North Shields track enabled goods to be transported from the emerging suburbs to the city.

Running from a terminus in Carliol Square in the city centre to a station at Percy Main, it was used for both goods and passenger trains.

Malcolm Dunlavey, chairman of the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association, said: "It was a very significant line.

"In those days, there would have been a massive fishing business in North Shields that would have needed to transport their stocks to the big cities.

"Back then railways weren't common and transport links were very poor. This line would have played a significant part in many people's lives and the economy.

"That long ago the engines would have been fairly primitive. They're beautiful to look at, but for drivers and firemen, there would have been very little creature comfort and they would have been exposed to the elements - almost like a horse-drawn carriage on tracks."

Image copyright Alan Grenfell

In the early 1900s, the development of the line allowed people to live in the suburbs and travel into the city for work.

Today, the Stephenson Railway Museum sits on Middle Engine Lane in North Shields, a site which was once used to store rope haul engines.

The full wagons would need assistance from the stationary engines at the site and would be pulled up an incline using rope.

Later, steam engines and then diesel engines were used, until the mines closed in the late 1960s and they were no longer needed.

A decade later, in the 1970s, the tracks were used by a new method of transport, the Metro.

A few miles of the line and the workshops were used to test the carriages which would be powered by electricity through overhead cables.

Image copyright Nexus

Today, the Tyne and Wear Metro still uses the same line between Chillingham Road station and North Shields, where the station remains on its original site.

It is believed to be one of the oldest purpose built suburban railways in the world.

Now, 175 years after it first opened, the Stephenson Railway Museum, Nexus and the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association, are celebrating by running a steam train along the historic line on 1 June.

A commemorative plaque will also be unveiled on the original terminus at North Shields Metro station.

As part of the track's anniversary, the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association has also carried out a project to capture the history and memories of those who worked on the line.

Our Railway in Years Gone By, focuses on the industrial railway corridor from what was Backworth Colliery down to the coal staithes on the River Tyne.

Through displays and interviews with local people who worked on the railway and associated industries, the project focuses on how the railway enabled Tyneside to develop.

Mr Dunlavey, said: "I think it is something that has lasted all this time and obviously it's a modern railway system now, but it's the same route.

"There's not much around that has lasted that long and it's very significant for the Metro that it runs on that historic route.

"The anniversary is extremely significant because the North East is the birthplace of the railway."

All Our Stories : Our Railway in Years Gone By is currently on display at the Stephenson Railway Museum.

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