Hetton colliery railway

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hetton colliery railway, 1826

The Hetton colliery railway was an 8 miles (13 km) long private railway opened in 1822 by the Hetton Coal Company at Hetton Lyons, County Durham, England. When it closed in 1959 it was the oldest mineral railway in Great Britain.


The Hetton was the first railway to be designed from the start to be operated without animal power, and was George Stephenson's first entirely new line. It ran from Hetton Colliery, about two miles south of Houghton-le-Spring, to a staithe (wharf) on the River Wear.[1]

From 1831, the Marquis of Londonderry had developed the Rainton and Seaham Railway, a similar rope-worked incline railway which ran from West Rainton to his newly developed docks at Seaham. However, after the line closed in 1896, the Hetton Railway bought the section which ran from its Moorsley Pit to the top of the Copt Hill engine, and integrated it into its workings.[2]

After Lambton Collieries merged with Hetton Collieries in 1911, the companies merged their railway operations, and the still rope incline-worked Hetton system was merged with the locomotive-operated Lambton Railway. The company additionally connected Lambton staithes to the Hetton staithes within the Port of Sunderland.[3]

In 1947 control of the line passed to the new state-owned National Coal Board. Because extraction of coal from this area had been concentrated at the Hawthorn Combined Mine (adjacent to the former Durham and Sunderland Railway), the Hetton system closed on 12 September 1959.[1] A further spate of closures occurred in 1967 with Lambton Staithes being closed in January and the line to Pallion closing in August of the same year.[3]


The first five locomotives were built by Stephenson between 1820 and 1822, as a development of those at Killingworth: 0-4-0 types with chain-coupled wheels. Four of them had names: Hetton, Dart, Tallyho and Star.

They incorporated his steam springs in an attempt to compensate for the reaction to the vertical cylinders which had caused previous locomotives to rock excessively, and were not entirely successful. For a while a section of the line was an inclined plane[1] operated by stationary engines. The 1822 engine however continued in service until 1912, being rebuilt in 1857 and 1882, and is now preserved in the Shildon Locomotion Museum.[4]

The Company acquired limited liability in 1884 and later built two more locomotives, Lyons and Eppleton, 0-4-0T, gear driven, with vertical boilers.


The line had a tunnel 1533 yards long.


The line had Stephenson's standard gauge of 4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm) which he had used before at the Killingworth wagonway[5] and was in use at the Wallsend Waggonway

See also[edit]

  • Lyons, the surviving 1852 locomotive


  1. ^ a b c Allen, G. Freeman (December 1959). "Talking of trains: First mineral railway closed". Trains Illustrated. Hampton Court: Ian Allan. 
  2. ^ "Rainton and Seaham Railway". twsitelines.info. Retrieved 18 March 2013. [permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Brief History of the Lambton Railway". LambtonLocomotivesTrust.co.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Industrial Railway Society (2009). Industrial Locomotives (15EL). Industrial Railway Society. ISBN 978-1-901556-53-7. 
  5. ^ Robin Jones. The Rocket Men. Mortons Media Group. p. 33. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lowe, J.W. (1989). British Steam Locomotive Builders. Guild Publishing. 

Coordinates: 54°48′59″N 1°26′35″W / 54.81629°N 1.44306°W / 54.81629; -1.44306