North Tyneside Steam Railway

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Coordinates: 55°00′29″N 1°29′06″W / 55.008°N 1.485°W / 55.008; -1.485

North Tyneside Steam Railway
North Tyneside Steam Railway is located in Tyne and Wear
North Tyneside Steam Railway
North Tyneside Steam Railway
 North Tyneside Steam Railway shown within Tyne and Wear
OS grid reference NZ330683
List of places
Tyne and Wear
North Tyneside Steam Railway
Commercial operations
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Operated by North Tyneside Steam Railway Association
Length 2 mi (3.2 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preservation history

The North Tyneside Steam Railway is a 2-mile (3.2 km) standard gauge preserved railway between the Stephenson Railway Museum and near to Percy Main metro station in North Shields, North East England. It is operated by the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association (NTSRA).[1]

Line History[edit]

The Middle Engine Lane site has been associated with colliery waggon ways since the 18th century. The bulk of the coal mined locally was shipped out of the Tyne, mainly to London. As pits near to the river were worked out, new pits were opened further to the North. The only way to get this coal economically to the waiting colliers[a] was by trucks (or cauldron wagons) running on rails.

The first coal to pass through the Museum site was around 1755-60. A line using wooden rails and horse drawn trucks was built from Shiremoor to staithes at Hayhole on the river. A branch off this line was constructed to a pit at Flatworth, the site of which is now within the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate to the south of the Coast road. About 1764-69 a line was built from a colliery at Murton to Percy Main. This line joined the Shiremoor alignment at Murton Row. Whether this was a branch of the Shiremoor line is not known, but it was on wooden rails and horse drawn.

The next major development was not until 1818 when a line was built from the Backworth 'A' pit down to Percy Main. This was still horse-drawn wagons running on wooden rails, but by 1821 a start was made to convert the line to rope haulage by stationary steam engines, completed in 1827. Two winding engine sites have been identified, one at West Allotment on a site that later became a coal depot and the other at Murton Row, the site of which is just outside the east corner of the museum railings in what is now Chirton North Ind Estate. In 1858 this was a hamlet of 21 cottages. By this time the Bedlington Iron Works were producing wrought iron rails of up to 16 feet in length and so it is probable that the wooden rails were replaced at this time.

In 1822 the Cramlington group of pits built its own line from the Ann pit at Cramlington, via Prospect Hill, to Murton Row, where it joined the Backworth line. It then shared the Backworth line as far as the Newcastle to North Shields road at Percy Main, after which it ran on its own tracks to the staithes. This is the line taken by the Museum's own railway today.

In 1826 the Seghill colliery negotiated an agreement with the Cramlington waggon way to carry its coal. This was at the rate of 3 shillings per chauldron wagon, if the total number exceeded 22500 wagons per annum. This was from Seghill to 200 yards from the staithes at the Tyne. A chauldron wagon carried just over two and half tons of coal.

A further development in 1826 was the building of a new line from Fawdon, north of Newcastle, to Middle Engine lane, then to run alongside the Backworth line to Percy Main. At just over 9 miles it was the longest newly built line at the time. Initially named the Brunton & Shields railway, it was later renamed the Seaton Burn Wagon way. It came into being because coal mined in the Fawdon area was being moved by rail south to the Tyne to be loaded into shallow draught keel boats. These then sailed down the Tyne to the North or South Shields area where the coal was transferred to sea going colliers. The new wagon way cut out the use of the Keel boats and led to their eventual demise.

This was a time of great expansion in the coal industry and as more pits to the north in the Backworth, Cramlington and Seghill area opened, congestion on the Backworth line from Murton Row to Percy Main was considerable. So much so, in 1839 the Cramlington group of pits built a new line to the Tyne from Murton Row, having severed their connection with the Backworth line. This line veered to run further west through what is now the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate. It rejoined the route to the staithes at a point just to the south of the Museum's own Percy Main platform. The section of track between the Newcastle-North Shields road and its new line was abandoned.

A further development took place in 1840, when the Seghill collieries dissatisfied with sharing the line to the Tyne with the Cramlington pits built their own line. This ran from Seghill and paralleled the Cramlington line as far south as the museum site but then ran alongside the Backworth line to Percy Main. There it took over the discarded Cramlington line and made its way passed the site of the Museums present platform to its own staithes It was at this time that the cutting to the East of the Museum's car park fence was dug. It is now a pathway about 15 to 20 feet below the surrounding ground. A bridge was built to carry the Backworth waggon way over to Murton Row, the remains of the East abutment of which is still visible. The building survey of 1840 gives the bridge clearance as 13 feet 2 inches.

In 1839 the Newcastle to North Shields passenger line had opened, with a station at Percy Main. In August 1841 the Seghill wagon way decided to run a public passenger service from Seghill to Percy Main where passengers could transfer to the Newcastle line. This was an unusual occurrence for a colliery line, although in later years miners special trains were quite common. History does not tell us what sort of carriages the people traveled in, but it was on iron rails and south of Holywell it was certainly rope hauled. There does not appear at this time to have been a timetable as coal traffic had priority. During 1843 the Seghill collieries and their associates decided to extend the line to Blyth. This was done by linking up existing waggon ways and some new build. Until the 1880s Blyth harbour was shallow and difficult for colliers to berth, so in 1846 coal from pits in the Bedlington and Blyth areas was transported to the Tyne for shipment. By this date coal, and some passengers, from an area stretching from Seaton Burn, through Cramlington to Bedlington and Blyth in the east were being funneled through the Middle Engine Lane site. By 1846 the Blyth Seghill and Percy Main railway as it was now called, had visions of becoming a public railway. It ran a passenger service 3 times a day between Blyth and Percy Main, taking 1 hour. The section between Seghill and Holywell was operated by two Timothy Hackworth built engines, named Samson and John. South of Holywell station the line was still rope hauled. The winding engine was at Prospect Hill station and hauled trains up from Holywell and then lowered them down to Percy Main. The site of Holywell station is adjacent to the still existing British Rail level crossing on the east edge of Backworth village and Prospect Hill was sited to the north of New York road, adjacent to the road bridge over the railway track bed at West Allotment. There was never a station at Murton Row. The following year, 1847, the line was calling itself the Blyth & Tyne Railway, but the passenger and goods part of the business was operated by the Newcastle and North Shields Railway. The Blyth & Tyne was not incorporated as a public company until 1853.

The Museum site stands almost on the top of Prospect Hill. With the urban development that has take place over the years it is not now obvious as a hill, but it was a major obstacle to the railways. This was the reason rope haulage persisted on the site 20 years after steam engines were a common sight at nearby Killingworth. So in the year of its incorporation, 1853, the Blyth & Tyne began a programme to ease the gradients on its line down to Percy Main. The 1840 survey gives the gradient between Percy Main north to Flatworth as 1 in 55, too steep for the steam engines of the day. With this work now done, steam engines could now work through from Blyth to Percy Main. It was at this time the engine shed came into being at Percy Main, being built at a cost of £8552.00. It was to last until 1966.

The Blyth & Tyne railway was an ambitious company and by 1864 had opened a line from Monkseaton to Manors in Newcastle, via Backworth. (This line is now part of the Metro system.) Passengers from Blyth could now reach Newcastle via Backworth, so it is probably about this time the passenger service to Percy Main ceased. The museum site reverted to mineral traffic only, which must have been quite considerable. The Tyne in 1848 exported, mainly to London, 3.5 million tons of coal.

In 1874 the Blyth & Tyne Railway was absorbed by the bigger North Eastern Railway. This in turn became part of the London & North Eastern Railway in 1923 and, in 1948, part of British Rail.

In 1896 the Backworth collieries built a new line from the Blue Bell pit in Shiremoor to link in with its existing line at Murton Row. It ran along the east side the B&T line and crossed Middle Engine Lane immediately adjacent to the fence that encloses the Chirton North Ind. Estate. The Blue Bell branch also served the Algernon pit.

Just prior to the First World War coal production had reached its zenith. Steam engines now handled all the traffic, the Seaton Burn line being the last to convert from rope haulage in about 1900. The ruins of the Middle Engine winding house of the Seaton Burn line lasted till the 1970s. After the First World War coal production gradually declined and the Seaton Burn wagon way closed in the 1920s.

In 1939/40 the last line to be built was constructed by the LNER to the Rising Sun colliery just to the north of Wallsend. Coal from the pit had been moved to the river by a railway that ran over a trestle bridge built in the Wallsend Burn Closes, then by a level crossing over the High East Street and finally crossed the North Shields electrified line on the level. This line closed once the new line opened. The new line ran through what is now Battle Hill and the Silverlink. The trackbed exists in parts as a pathway. The only tangible part of the branch that is left is the rail bridge that carries the Museum's railway over the Cramlington wagon way trackbed. The nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947 brought all the various colliery wagon ways under the ownership of the National Coal Board. It now meant that coal could be transported by the most convenient route which led to the inevitable rationalization of the wagon ways and subsequent closure of various sections. Under the NCB the first to close was the Cramlington Wagon way in the 1950s. At this time there were two sets of lines running through the cutting to the east of the site. The pair to the east belonged to British Rail and the pair to the west the NCB. The Blue Bell branch still operated to the Algernon and Blue Bell pits. In 1971 the NCB lines closed at the same time as the last of the coal staithes at Percy Main closed. Finally the British Rail lines between Percy Main and Backworth closed in 1983 and the tracks lifted. It was worthwhile contractors excavating the track bed to a depth of three feet to recover the coal that had been spilt over 200 years. The railway presence on the Middle Engine Lane site had gone.

There had been a short interlude in 1975 when the newly planned Tyneside Metro system established a test track at the site. The Metro is a light transit system and no one in the UK had any experience of building or operating such a railway. So to test out the theories, a 1.5 mile track was laid. A two road workshop was built which now forms the rear half of the museum. The test track ran south from the workshops on the track bed of the Seaton Burn wagon way as far as the Coast road bridges. To the north the line crossed Middle Engine Lane on an open level crossing controlled by traffic lights and took the route of the Backworth wagon way as far as West Allotment. A passing loop and a section of tunnel were built on this northern extension. Two prototype Metro cars amassed a considerable mileage on the track until 1979 when the Metro system opened. The test track then closed and the track and over head equipment were all removed, leaving only the test sheds

Rebuilding of the Railway

In 1982/4 North Tyneside Council acquired the test sheds as the nucleus for a transport museum. At about this time, a group of volunteers under the identity of The Monkwearmouth Station Museum Association were working in the station goods shed on restoring and repairing rolling stock, decided to relocate to Middle Engine Lane. These people formed the nucleus of what is now the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association. A partnership was formed between Tyne and Wear Museums and the Council, to construct a steam hauled passenger railway rather than a static transport museum. Construction work began in 1987 and involved the creation of new embankments, the building of two stations, the inspection and renovation of bridges and laying of the rails. A group of unskilled and unemployed people, under supervision, were recruited to relay a single line from the museum to Percy Main. The work was completed in 1989 and the first passenger trains ran in early 1991. In 1994, Tyne and Wear Development Corporation and North Tyneside City Challenge made a grant available to North Tyneside Council to extend the workshops, redesign the museum space and construct a new facilities block. In 2003 the facilities block was further modified to improve educational and toilet facilities. The railway was, and continues to be, operated by a keen group of volunteers. These dedicated people undertake the duties of train crews, ticket staff and most of the essential work needed to operate a successful railway. But perhaps more importantly, the work of restoring and maintaining the locomotives and rolling stock could not be achieved without their help. A glimpse into the workshops will reveal the magnitude of the projects undertaken. Today, the museum, whilst still owned by the North Tyneside Council, is managed on a day-to-day basis by the Tyne and Wear Museum Service. So after 250 years trains still run to Percy Main.


Formerly the Monkwearmouth Station Museum Association, the NTSRA was formed in the late 1980s at the Stephenson Railway Museum. The association is managed by a committee that meets quarterly and has an Annual General Meeting yearly. The association exists to provide a volunteer workforce to assist with the maintenance and conservation of locomotives and rolling stock.

Train services[edit]

On Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from April till late October the volunteers operate a train service between Middle Engine Lane (Museum) and Percy Main Village, a round trip of around 4 miles. Volunteer duties include: Steam Engine Driver & Fireman, Locomotive Cleaner, Guard & Operations Controller. The trains are usually hauled by a steam locomotive however a diesel replacement may be required at times. The railway often hosts popular special events such as a Halloween Special, a 1940s day and Santa Specials.[2]

North Tyneside Steam Railway
Middle Engine Lane(Museum)+Shed
Middle Engine Lane (Museum) Station
A1058 Coast Road
Wallsend Road
bridge under Tyne&Wear Metro line
Percy Main

Steam locomotives[edit]

The Stephenson Railway Museum owns 5 Steam locomotives. Currently 2 of which are operational.

Stephenson Railway Steam Locomotives
Number & Name Builder Build Date History & Current Status Photo
Kitson & Co. 0-6-0T A.No.5 Kitson & Co. 1883 An 0-6-0 side tank built in 1883 by Kitson and Co. to the Stephenson 'long boiler' design for the Consett Iron and Steel Company. She worked there, shunting in the extensive railway system around the works.She ended her industrial life in 1972 at Derwenthaugh Coke Works. After withdrawal, she was taken into the care of Beamish Museum and then to Tyne & Wear Museums Service at Monkwearmouth Station, Sunderland. At this location, the Monkwearmouth Station. Museum Association (the former name of the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association) was established and its members, in very basic conditions, began overhauling a very derelict loco. The deteriorating condition of the building prompted a move to the former Tyneside Metro system test track facility at Middle Engine Lane, West Chirton, North Shields.

A5 passed her steam test & had her safety valves set on 3 April 2014.

Kitson & Co A.No.5 on steam test.jpg
Peckett and Sons 0-6-0ST ACC No.5 Jackie Milburn Peckett and Sons 1939 This 0-6-0 saddle tank was built in 1939 as works number 1979 by Peckett & Sons of Bristol for Ashington Coal Company which operated one of Britain's most extensive colliery railway systems. In 1939, two identical locomotives were delivered to one of Peckett's standard designs and they received the names Ashington No 5 & Ashington No 6. The former spent her entire industrial career on the railway for which she was built. In 1969 she was sold by the National Coal Board to North Norfolk Preserved Railway because the Ashington system was dieselised. However she returned to Northumberland in 1991 and was repainted into the "as delivered to Ashington Colliery" livery. The loco was additionally named Jackie Milburn in honour of the local football hero.

ACC5 passed her steam test & had her safety valves set on 31 October 2014.

Peckett Ashington No.5 leaving the water tower.jpg
Undergoing Overhaul/Repairs
Bagnall 0-6-0ST No.401 Thomas Burt Bagnall 1953 This 0-6-0 saddle tank was one of three to be built for the Steel Company of Wales. Two were preserved, 401 and 403, originally 2994 & 2996. They were designed to require less maintenance than other steam locos, as an experiment to try and make them more competitive against the diesel shunters that were beginning to appear. 401 has many features that are not usually found on shunting locos, including Walschaerts valve gear, rocking grate, hopper ashpan and mechanical lubricator. In addition, all the main bearings are roller bearings, as opposed to plain oil bearings that were the norm. 401 has been a reliable and frequent performer on the railway, and is well liked by those who crew her. It has been named after a famous local MP 'Thomas Burt', and looks very smart in her black livery. She was originally named 'Vulcan'. 401's boiler left the railway on 18 January 2014, it has been sent to the North Norfolk Railway to have a new firebox installed. Bagnall 401 undergoing overhaul.jpg
Static Display
Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns 0-6-0T No.1 Ted Garret JP Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns 1951 An 0-6-0 Side Tank believed to have been built in 1951 as works number 7683. It is thought she was delivered new to Meaford Power Station to shunt coal waggons. It was one of several of its type supplied to power stations by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd., Forth Banks, Newcastle upon Tyne during the 1950s. They were used to transport coal wagons from main line sidings into the power station, supplying the boiler-house coal bunkers. Their small diameter wheels enabled heavy loads to be hauled at slow speeds. Larger wheeled versions were supplied when long journey's were needed - for example some colliery systems. Locally they could be seen working at places in Northumberland and Durham including Ashington, Backworth, Stanley and Consett. This loco was purchased from the Power Station by the East Lancs Railway and hauled their first trains at Bury. After a period in store, she was overhauled at Bury and moved to Tyneside in 1996. In a blue livery, this loco carries the name Ted Garrett, JP., DL., MP. Currently a static display waiting overhaul, last ran in 2004. Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn No.1 on the crossover line.jpg
Stephenson 0-4-0 Stephenson 1826 Billy was built by George Stephenson in 1826. It is a stationary exhibit on a short stretch of track inside the museum and is one of the oldest steam locomotives in the World. Locomotive Billy.jpg

Diesel Locomotives[edit]

The Stephenson Railway Museum owns 3 Diesel locomotives.

Stephenson Railway Diesel Locomotives
Number & Name Builder Build Date History & Current Status Photo
British Rail Class 08 0-6-0DE, 08915 Horwich Works 1962 Class 08 shunter, ex 08915 (né D4145) of Allerton (AN) depot. This is the main standby for the passenger service should the steam locomotive be undergoing maintenance. 08915 Middle Engine Lane.jpg
British Rail Class 03 0-6-0DM, D2078 Doncaster Works 1959 Class 03 shunter, ex 03078 (originally D2078) of Gateshead (GD) depot. It returned to general use in late April 2011 after undergoing gearbox repairs. It will be used on some passenger trains. It is in a similar livery to Bagnall 401 above but has a North Tyneside Council crest on either side. Class 03 in the workshop.jpg
Awaiting Repairs
Consett Iron Company 0-6-0 No.10 Consett Iron Company 1958 'Consett No. 10'. An early diesel shunter, built in the Consett Iron and Steelworks own workshops. She has many unique features and is infrequently used. Consett No.10.jpg

Electric Locomotives[edit]

The Stephenson Railway Museum owns 1 Electric locomotive.

Stephenson Railway Electric Locomotives
Number & Name Builder Build Date History & Current Status Photo
Harton Electric E4 Siemens 1912 Built in circa 1912 for the Harton coal system at South Shields.

It was stored outside for many years, but after a successful lottery bid and sponsorship from the local Siemens Microchip Company has been restored to working order but uses battery power rather than an overhead supply. The batteries are carried in a converted coal wagon. It is used for demonstrations on several days each season.

Harton Electric E4.png

Stock List[edit]

The names "Dogfish" and "Salmon" are railway codes for types of wagon. See rolling stock.

Stephenson Railway rolling stock
Name History & Current Status Photo
Second Lavatory Open Ex-British Rail. It is currently painted in BR Midland Maroon Livery. It is regularly used on the railway's services. BR KX Outer Suburban Standard Lavatory Open.jpg
Lavatory Composite Ex-British Rail. It is currently painted in BR Midland Maroon Livery. It is regularly used on the railway's services. BR KX Outer Suburban Standard Compartment Lavatory.JPG
Brake second Ex-British Rail. It is currently painted in BR Midland Maroon Livery. It is regularly used on the railway's services. BR KX Outer Suburban Brake.JPG
LNER Gresley Teak Pigeon Van Formerly a pigeon van with the London and North Eastern Railway. It was used to transport racing pigeons. It now sit's in the head shunt at Middle Engine Lane awaiting funds for restoration. Derelict LNER Gresley Teak.JPG
Dogfish Ballast Wagon A 20 ton Dogfish Ballast Wagon. Occasionally used on permanent way trains. It is stored in Middle Engine Lane Yard. Dogfish Ballast Wagon.JPG
Diesel Crane & Runner Ex-British Rail crane with associated runner. Now sitting in a siding at Middle Engine Lane awaiting repairs. Ex-BR Crane with associated runner.JPG
1 of 2 Flat Wagons 1 of 2 of the flat wagons. This one has been converted to carry the batteries for the railway's electric locomotive E4. Converted Flat Wagon.JPG
1 of 2 Flat Wagons 1 of 2 of the flat wagons. This one is currently carrying Bagnall 401's water tank. BR Flat Wagon with water tank.JPG
North Eastern Railway 20 ton wooden Brake van A 20 Ton wooden brake van used by the North Eastern Railway. This brake van is often used on engineering and permanent way trains. NTSR Brake Van.jpg
Tool Van A former goods van converted to a Tool Van which houses an electrical generator. GUV Tool Van.JPG
Salmon Rail Carrier A long flat wagon nicknamed a Salmon wagon. It is occasionally used on permanent way and engineers trains. It is currently sitting in the head shunt at Middle Engine Lane. Salmon Wagon.JPG



  1. ^ The term collier can mean either a coal miner, or else as here a coal transporting vessel, often a brig.