South Shields Local History Group

Under Construction


1 Templetown and St Hilda’s Wagonways

Map – 1843

The earliest railway in South Shields was a wagonway built to transport coal from the Templetown or Manor Wallsend colliery. Opened in 1810, it which was situated roughly between what would become the end of H.S. Edward Street and Templetown. It hauled coal in cauldrons by horse from Templetown Colliery tunnelling underneath Commercial Road to what would become the High Staiths for onward shipment.

Wagonway passing under a ballast hill, Walkers Mill on right (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0000411)

When St Hilda’s colliery was sunk in 1825, this was also connected to the wagonway and ran behind Holy Trinity Church. This wagonway survived well into the 20th century.

Templetown was closed in 1826 after the opening of the Hilda Colliery. The trackbed was later greatly expanded becoming Hilda Hole Mineral Sidings which remained until the end of the 1960s.

Hilda’s Hole- 1940s (South Tyneside Libraries, STH15720)

2 Lawe Ballast Railways

Map showing 2 ballast railways

The second oldest railway in Shields was the Fairless Ballast Railway, used for removing ballast from ship’s holds to be dumped on the beaches of Herd Sand by The Lawe. It was built from the Low Dock in 1820 and wagons were hauled up the incline by a stationary engine. It must have crossed Wapping Street on a bridge then either tunnelled under Heugh Street or more likely ran up an incline continuing towards the Lawe. It is likely to have been short lived and would soon be built on, being covered by Palatine Street and Fort Street, both of which were built on the course of the railway as far as what would become Lawe Road.

There is no record of when it closed but it was pre-empted by the use of water ballast in ships. It had disappeared by the end of the 1800s by which time the ballast hills were being cleared for the laying out of the North Marine Park.

In 1846 it was replaced by a newer line, the Salmon’s Railway from Salmon’s Quay that crossed Shadwell Street on a wooden bridge, then tunnelled under Military Road right next to the Turks Head pub, then across open land and through the Roman Fort to the ballast hills.

Salmon’s Ballast Railway Tunnel, Turk’s Head pub to left – 1898 (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0000264)

3 Bents Ballast Railway

The third oldest railway in Shields was the Bents Ballast Railway opened in 1832 and remained in use until 1989. It was built from Cookson’s Plate Glass Works at the Mill Dam to the Bents and took ballast from the ships in the river, waste from the glassworks and brought sand back from the beach for the Glassworks.

Wagons (bottom left) being hauled towards the Bents – 1857

The western end was worked by a stationary steam engine situated near to where Derby Street baths would be built. The Upper portion would have been worked by horses unless the one engine house worked both portions.

The line continued to be used after the demise of ballast traffic by the Glassworks until they closed in 1892. The following year, the line was taken over by the Harton Coal Company and a deviation was built to connect with the Marsden Rattler. The redundant portion down to the beach was lifted around the turn of the century.

Ballast railway line, roughly the end of Erskine Road -1890s (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0000835)

4 Stanhope And Tyne Railway Part 1

The first proper railway in Shields was the Stanhope and Tyne Rail Road which when it was completed in 1834 was only the 6th public railway in the country, despite the fact there were already 3 wagonways in existence in the town.

It was built to bring limestone from Weardale and coal from West Durham for shipment from Shields harbour.

Stanhop and Tyne Railway bridge, King Street, 1939 (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg, STH0003392)

The company did not purchase the land and ended up paying crippling wayleaves (charges over owners land). As a result of massive liabilities, an Act of Parliament was passed winding the company up leaving shareholders to foot the bill and almost crippling Robert Stevenson.

Robert Stephenson – 1856 (Wikipedia)

As a result, it was a short lived railway only lasting 6 years after which the eastern portion of the line was repossessed and became the Pontop and South Shields Railway.

5 Stanhope And Tyne Railway Part 2

The original Stanhope and Tyne Railroad ran beyond the old BR station and the old turntable pit, crossing Long Row on a bridge and supported by stone piers continued to purpose built staiths by Fairless Quay. The Stanhope and Tyne Drops were revolutionary for their time.

Trains arriving from the West Durham coalfield ran straight onto the staiths where they had to be turned through 90° and were then lowered directly into the hold of the colliers.

Turntable at the back of the old South Shields station – 1939 (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg, STH0010593)

The Stanhope Drops were relatively short lived as traffic soon outstripped capacity and coal started to be transferred to new docks in Monkwearmouth. In 1859 the new Tyne Dock opened. This had deeper berths, and a great many improvements for handling coal including the ability to deliver coal directly onto the ships through spouts and huge capacity. This saw the closure of the Stanhope Drops which were soon demolished.

6 Trow Quarry Railway

Trow Quarry Railway was built to transport sand and the grey limestone dolomite rock from Trow Quarry along the sea front to the pier, the Groyne and the Tyne Improvement Commissioners Quay.

Collecting sand – 1937, (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0019014)
A “Dragon” steaming towards “Gandhi’s Temple” – 1937, (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0019015)

A branch of the railway ran along the pier from where large concrete blocks were lifted in place by huge steam cranes.

Pier with typical stone blocks transported by the railway,1984, (South Tyneside Libraries, Mudditt, STH0011256)

The line later became part of the Tyne Improvement Commission (TIC).

Railway lines visible on the pier – 1920s (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0011174)

The railway must date from the late 1860s as it played an important role in transporting the stone for both piers.

The section from Trow to the Pier closed in 1954.

Passing the old caravan park at the Groyne – 1960s, Les Snaith

7 South Shields, Marsden and Whitburn Colliery Railway (“The Marsden Rattler”)

Work started on the sinking of the new Whitburn Colliery and the construction of Marsden Village in the 1870s. The company had also purchased 5 quarries in the vicinity and a railway would be needed to transport the coal, limestone and lime.

The mine and railway opened on 1st May 1879 and was 2 ¾ miles long from end to end and ran from the colliery to a junction with the NER just north of Tyne Dock Station. The line was nick-named “The Marsden Rattler” a name which stuck beyond its operation.

Rattler train, 1940s, (South Tyneside Libraries, Parry Family, STH0015717)

As there was no Coast Road at the time, the railway almost certainly transported workers unofficially until 1889 when a passenger service was formally authorised which included the public. The final passenger train rain from Westoe Lane on 22 November 1953. During the final week of operation the miners were being transported to their work by bus, rail enthusiasts stayed away as the NCB had announced that there would be a special commemorative final train later in the year but this did not happen. So the final train probably ran empty.

Rattler train, N Stead – 1950s (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0015811)

Diesel locomotives replaced steam on the line in 1965 and with the closure of the mine, the Rattler finally closed in 1968.

8 Marsden Quarry Railways

Marsden Quarry Railway – 1913

With the coming of the Marsden Rattler in 1874, the Whitburn Coal Company purchased 5 quarries close to the present lime kilns. Some were almost exhausted but 2 had very good potential and are still active today.

Marsden Quarry – 1904, Public Records Office

The railway built a series of 2-foot gauge, horse drawn railways to serve the quarries using 33 horses and 104 side tipped wagons. The limestone was quarried to produce building material and was also burnt to produce lime for farming. There were 7 kilns with 2 large new kilns built at the southern end. In 1913, the quarries yielded 90,000 tons of limestone and 15,200 tons of lime.

Quarry Lane railway line (left) – 1930s (South Tyneside Libraries, STH0004261)

In 1937, five small 4 wheel Rushton Hornby diesel engines replaced the horses. In 1965, the colliery sold off the quarries to a private concern that immediately withdrew the diesels and sold them for scrap. Quarry traffic ceased to use the Rattler from that point.

Marsden Quarry – 2021

9 Riverside Line

Railway route from turntable – 1956
Railway line along Wapping Street – 1956

With the demolition of houses in Wapping Street and Shadwell Street, there were plans to run a railway line from the station down a steep incline beside the turntable then along the riverside in Wapping Street to serve the docks and related industries, then on to link up with the TIC Line at Littlehaven.

Railway line – 1939, (South Tyneside Libraries, Flagg, STH0005835)

The line was installed in 1939 and ran up the bank on the left close to the River Drive Bridge. A connection to the LNER was to have been installed in 1940 yet amazingly given the strategic potential, wartime conditions prevented this and the line was never used.

Railway line, towards Comical Corner – 1939 (South Tyneside Libraries, Cleet, STH0011101)

It was used for a time by a travelling crane and now only a short section remains embedded in the road.

Railway lines fom SAFT (Vidor) to Marine School – 2022

Les Snaith

South Tyneside Libraries
Terry Ford

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