Alston Railway Station

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Britain retains a fascinating collection of small railway stations despite the steady stream of station closures over the years. Station building stretched over a 150 year period with the vast majority constructed during the 19th century. The result of numerous independent companies, these stations reflect the introduction of new building materials, remarkable changes in architectural fashions and the taste of the architects employed. Experimental and simple, the first country station buildings were small and with a need for resident station staff, a station house became a common feature. The earliest stations were not provided with platforms but were added later and the number of tracks through the station dictated the number of platform faces required (Binney & Pearce, 1979). While the most flamboyant architecture was the reserve of major town stations, a number of small stations are of the cottage orne style. Owing to their aesthetic qualities, sound structure and usefulness as houses, many of the fine Tudor station buildings have survived. Definite styles of architecture were favoured by each rail company and the great variety of buildings in a region is the result of numerous small companies building short lines in the early days of the railway.

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Immediately striking is the relationship of stations to their communities. Appearing to be in the middle of no-where, rural stations such as Alston served sizeable towns and catchment areas. The first part of the Haltwhistle to Shafthill line, later known as Coanwood, was opened in 1851. The southern section of 9 miles from Alston to Lambley Colliery was brought into use on 5th January 1852 for goods and mineral traffic. The whole branch was opened to all traffic on 17th November 1852 following the completion of the Lambley viaduct. The initial service consisted of two trains per day in each direction and by the turn of the 20th century, four trains per day were leaving Alston. Following the amalgamation of the four largest railway companies – Great Western Railway, London and North Eastern Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Southern Railway – British Railways (British Rail) was formed in 1948. British Railways inherited the Alston branch line, along which the South Tynedale Railway now runs, yet made little difference to rural branch lines other than the liveries of locomotives and rolling stock. Following the introduction of a diesel worked passenger timetable in November 1959, the last scheduled steam hauled passenger train pulled into Alston station (carrying ‘Royal Train’ headlights) on the evening of Saturday 27th September 1959 (South Tynedale Railway).

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The station master’s house (above) was built in 1852 and is believed to be the design of architect Benjamin Green who also designed a series of stations between Newcastle and Berwick. The Newcastle and Berwick Railway built a splendid collection of Tudor stations which are all stone built with tall chimneys and ball finials on their gables. The station and station master’s house are constructed of coursed squared rubble with string course and Welsh slate roofs. Built in a Tudor style, the symmetrical two storey building features gabled ends, corniced stone chimneys and mullioned windows. The use of the Tudor style was an important link between stations and domestic house building. The picturesque landscapes captured in the writings of the theorists of the 19th century was echoed in the choice of Tudor, or simplified Italianate, styled stations designed as elements in a landscape.

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The South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society was formed on 3rd April 1973 following formal consent to the closure of the Alston branch in January of the same year. Although the intention was to purchase the line intact from British Rail, the last standard gauge train ran on 1st May 1976 and by September, the track had been lifted between Haltwhistle and Lambley. At the AGM in July 1977, the decision was taken to build a narrow gauge line and both Cumbria and Northumberland County Council were given first option to purchase the trackbed. Agreements were reached to enable the construction of a two foot gauge line northwards from Alston and Cumbria Council completed the purchase of all the British Railways land within the county in February 1979. Following a grant from the English Tourist Board in October 1980, for the cost of the first section of the line, the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society was able to start laying permanent tracks.

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Trackwork in the station area was completed in 1981 and following further track laying, the new railway’s initial destination of Gilderdale was completed. Cumbria County Council redeveloped the Alston site by converting the engine shed area into a car park and the goods yard was converted for industrial purposes. Passenger services once again started from Alston on 30th July 1983. The station is now used as a tourist information centre and the trains from Alston are hauled by Phoenix, a 4 wheeled Hibberd 40hp diesel locomotive. The line was extended in 1986 to Gilderdale Halt and a further section to Kirkhaugh Halt opened in 1999 (South Tynedale Railway).

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There are further plans from the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society to continue extending the line from Alston, the highest narrow gauge railway in England. On the opposite side of the station is the Hub Museum. Housed in the former railway goods shed, the museum contains a number of local transport and household exhibits together with historic photographs and memorabilia.

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The station master’s house is Grade II Listed.

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Shildon: National Railway Museum

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The National Railway Museum in Shildon was opened in October 2004 and is based on the Timothy Hackworth Victorian Railway Museum. Timothy Hackworth was recruited by George Stephenson in 1824 to oversee the building of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, engine houses and stationary engines. He was responsible for building locomotives for the company and he became the railway’s superintendent in 1825. The Welcome building was constructed in 1888 as a Sunday School for the Methodist Chapel and became a clothing factory in the 1960’s. The building became the entrance for the museum in 2004 and is now home to the original Sans Pareil locomotive which was built by Timothy Hackworth to compete in the Rainhill Trials in 1829 for the newly created Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

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Prior to the National Railway Museum, the Patent Office Museum, now the Science Museum in London, started its collected of railway artefacts in 1862. Railway companies began preserving their history from the late 19th century and a museum dedicated to railways was opened in 1927 in York by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). Although the Great Western Railway (GWR), the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and the Southern Railway (SR) had all collected significant quantities of railway heritage material by the 1930’s, it wasn’t until the nationalisation of the railways in 1948 that these collections were all brought together.

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A curator of historical relics of the nationalised transport industries was appointed in 1951 and adding to the existing York Railway Museum, the Museum of British Transport in Clapham was opened by British Railways. The 1968 Transport Act encouraged British Railways to work in conjunction with the Science Museum to develop a National Railway Museum to house the ever expanding collection. The very first national museum (National Railway Museum) outside of London was opened in 1975 at the former steam locomotive depot near York Minster.

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The National Railway Museum in York has expanded on numerous occasions since 1975 and now has a purpose built rail training centre – a base for the NRM’s education team. The National Railway Museum in Shildon, also known as Locomotion, was the first national museum to be built in the North East. The birthplace of the modern railway, and with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, this joint venture ensures the continued preservation of railway heritage and enables the collections to be conserved properly.

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Built up over the past 80 years, the collection at Shildon has over 100 locomotives and almost 200 items relating to the story of the railway from the early 19th century to the present day. One of the carriages in the Collection Building houses a 1924 12/50 ‘Duck’s back’ Alvis. This vehicle was used by the 20th century English writer Tom Rolt who led numerous campaigns to preserve our national heritage. Used as his general runaround in the early days of the Vintage Sports Car Club, the vehicle was purchased in 1934 for £10 and is still owned by the Rolt family. In 1959, Tom drove this car on a section of the M1 motorway whilst it was being built – from near Luton to beyond Watford Gap. This journey was part of his research for a pamphlet he was writing for John Laing & Sons who were the main contractors for the road.

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The original Sans Pareil is displayed in the Welcome Building and although it was more powerful, it proved not to have the speed of Stephenson’s Rocket. A working replica of Rocket is housed at the museum and was designed by Robert Stephenson in 1979 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Rainhill Trials. The working replica of Timothy Hackworth’s Sans Pareil (above) was built in 1979 by apprentices at British Rail’s Shildon workshop. First steamed in April 1980, the replica and original have been together at Shildon since 2004.

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Part of the collection includes the stunning steam locomotive built by London Midland & Scottish Railway, 5MT class, in black and designed by William Stanier in 1935. Locomotive No 34051 Winston Churchill is also displayed in the Collection Building. One of 44 members of the Battle of Britain class produced by the Southern Railway between 1945 and 1950, these locomotives were all named after the people, aircraft, fighter squadrons and airfields involved in the Battle of Britain. Mid Hants Railway Ropley Works have undertaken painstaking work to restore the Battle of Britain class loco back to its original condition.

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One of the major exhibitions at Shildon is the royal train collection which displays the splendour and quality of coaches used by members of the royal family during the early 20th century. The Hardwicke No. 790 (above) is currently at the head of the royal train and is a steam locomotive of “Jumbo” Class. A new speed record was set in 1895 during the era of the Race to the North when Hardwicke took 2 hours and 6 minutes to travel between Crewe and Carlisle. This fabulous locomotive was designed by F.W.Webb and was built in Crewe in 1873, withdrawn in 1932.

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Other locomotives included in the Collection Building include Imperial No 1. 1956 which was one of the last but one fireless locomotives to be built by the Andrew Barclay Company in Kilmarnock. Working in the Imperial Paper Mills at Gravesend, such fireless engines were used in certain locations where the fire of an ordinary steam locomotive would present a hazard. Although diesel and electric locomotives were available by 1956, fireless locomotives were much cheaper to build and to operate in plant where large quantities of steam were readily available.

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Orion (above) is a working model of a London & North Western Railway express passenger locomotive. This beautiful working 1/6 scale model was made by Mr G.R.S. Darroch who was an apprentice at Crewe works. With some of the parts being made at Crewe Mechanics Institute, Orion is one of the few genuine examples of LNWR locomotives still in existence. The original locomotive named Orion was built in 1902 at Crewe works to pull express passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line. The full size locomotive was scrapped in 1928 so this wonderful 1905 model remains a tangible link with Crewe’s golden age.

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Other railway relics in the collection include underground mining locomotives and tank wagons. The last locomotive out of Ellington Colliery in Northumberland in 2005 was Underground Mining Locomotive No 14. A diesel mechanical locomotive was used for coal haulage and No. 14 was built by Hudswell Clarke of Leeds in 1961. Below is a Shell-Mex and British Petroleum Limited Tank Wagon. Registered with Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, the rectangular wagon was built in 1901 for carrying oil and was claimed from Falmouth Docks.

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As part of Shildon Shed Bash held in July this year and inspired by famous “Shed Bashes” of the 1950’s and 1960’s, this special event welcomed the world famous Flying Scotsman. Joined by A4 60009 Union of South Africa, V2 4771 Green Arrow, Q6 63395 and D9002 Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, this historic event was a wonderful occasion for rail enthusiasts.

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Originally built in Doncaster in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway, the Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and was one of the most powerful locomotives used by the railway. Selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London, the locomotive was given the name Flying Scotsman, after the London to Edinburgh rail service which started in 1862, and renumbered 4472. The Scotsman was officially the first locomotive in the UK to reach 100mph on a special test run and reducing the journey to eight hours, produced the first ever non stop London to Edinburgh service in 1928.

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In 2004, a campaign spearheaded by the National Railway Museum resulted in saving this beautiful locomotive and confirmed its status as a national treasure. Having undergone extensive restoration in the workshop of Riley & Son Ltd since 2006, this railway legend is once again on Britain’s tracks. The oldest mainline working locomotive, this steam icon has remained in Britain with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Although the Flying Scotsman was undoubtedly the star of the show, the National Railway Museum in Shildon is a fantastic working museum conserving a rich industrial heritage for future generations.

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Hawes: Dales Countryside Museum

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Hawes Railway Station was at the end of a six mile branch line from Hawes Junction, now known as Garsdale, which met up with the Wensleydale Railway Line built by the North Eastern Railway Company (NER). Constructed of coursed sandstone, the station was built in 1878 in the ornate Derby Gothic style of the Midland Railway. The station buildings and goods shed feature decorated wooden barge boards, dressed stone quoins, lintels and window surrounds. Extended in 1998 by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Hawes Station is now home to the Dales Countryside Museum.

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The museum charts the fascinating history of the Yorkshire Dales and of the people who have lived and shaped the local landscape for thousands of years.

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The locomotive, a Robert Stevenson and Hawthorn 0-6-0T has been cosmetically restored, as have the three Mk.1 coaches, and is a replica of the last locomotive to work out of Hawes Station.

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The railway carriages form part of the museum exhibits and a ‘Creation Station’ provides craft activities for young visitors to engage in.

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The museum is also home to the Tourist Information Centre of the largest town in Wensleydale and the converted station buildings offer an insight into the rich heritage of the region.

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Galleries within the museum showcase historical objects with a range of special exhibitions providing a blend of old and new.

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The John Richard Baker exhibition hall was named after the Yorkshire Dales National Park employee who was the inspiration for Calendar Girls

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Weaving machine in the ropemaker’s workshop

Rope and webbing were used in many different ways on Dales farms. Halters, backbands and sheep hopples, creels, burdens and straps for backcans could all be made from the rope and webbing produced at the ropemaker’s workshop at Hawes. The use of rope was not limited to farming and was used for other purposes such as church bell ropes. Although changing farming methods have caused the range of products to alter, the ropeworks in Hawes continues to operate today, and in addition to the traditional farming and horse related products, supplies things to be used in the house and for leisure.

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Quorn and Woodhouse Station

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Opened in 1899, Quorn and Woodhouse railway station was part of the Great Central Railway London Extension. The station design is of a single double sided island platform. The single storey platform buildings are constructed of red brick with the office of the station master having a fretted canopy. The station was closed in 1963 and reopened in 1974 as part of the then private Great Central Railway.

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The goods yard was expanded during World War II with ammunition stored in local bases.

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The station has been restored to a 1940’s style due to the association with World War II.

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The Booking Office (below) and General Waiting Room (above) with authentic furniture and advertising.

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The Great Central Railway is the only double track main line heritage railway in the UK and is Grade II Listed.

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Lichfield: Railway Bridge

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Located on Upper St John Street is the railway bridge which leads trains to and from Lichfield City Station. Built in 1849 for the South Staffordshire Railway Company, the bridge was designed by either the local architect Thomas Johnson or Edward Adams who was the architect for the railway company.

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Constructed of Ashlar and cast iron, the bridge features several relief armorial bearings. The shields feature the arms of the Bishop of Lichfield (above right) and the old Borough Seal.

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The armorial bearings of four local families also feature on the bridge which are Anson,Dyott, Forster and Bagot.

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The Leopards of England was originally situated in the centre of the parapet

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The bridge was altered in 1882, 1969 and is Grade II listed

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