Thompson B1 steam Locomotive 61264 at Darlington
Thompson B1 Locomotive 61264 at Darlington station

My interest in railways comes from my father, he was an engine driver in the steam era.


He first became a driver in 1962 in the last few years of steam locomotives on British Railways. He then moved on to drive diesel locomotives which to me don't hold the same fascination as steam engines.


The Locomotive in the picture is one of two Thompson B1 locomotives to be preserved. it normally lives on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway but it spent it's last years in service at Colwick motive power depot in Nottingham, so there is a possibility that my father drove or fired this engine before it's withdrawal .



Railways in the North East

The railway era started in the North East of England, in the towns of Stockton on Tees, Darlington and Shildon, Known locally as 'The cradle of the Railways'


Today there are many collections of railway history and along with the railway museums there are around 70 standard gauge heritage railway's operating on sections of railway lines closed under the Beeching Axe of the 1960s


The North East is home to one of the longest stretches of preserved railways, the 'North Yorkshire Moors Railway' which runs from Pickering to Grosmont with extensions at weekends to Whitby. There are also heritage railways at Wenslydale, Weardale, Tanfield, North Tyneside, Bows and Beamish open air museum.


Sans Pareil is a steam locomotive built by Timothy Hackworth
Sans Pareil steam locomotive built by Timothy Hackworth

The End of BR steam

British Railways had retired all of it's steam locomotives by 1968, except for the narrow gauge 'Vale of Rheidol' railway in Wales which saw steam traction continue until 1989 when it was privatised.


The majority of the locomotives, 16,000 in total, were sold for scrap and cut up for recycling, except for the ones sold to Woodham brothers of Barry where 297 locomotives were stored for many years, waiting to be dismantled.


During this time, many rail enthusiasts began buying the locomotives for restoration, this was more profitable for woodhams than cutting them up, plus they had more than enough work scrapping wagons and other railway infrastructure.


Up until the Barry scrapyard closed in 1980 a total of 213 locomotives had been purchased and more than 100 of these have been restored to working order


My home patch

Close to were i live there are many reminders of railway history, in Hunwick village the old station buildings are still in place and the trackbed from Bishop Auckland through Hunwick to Brandon near Durham has been turned into a long distance footpath. The railway line linking Bishop Auckland with the Weardale railway at Wolsingham has been cleared and can be used to run heritage train services between Bishop Auckland and Stanhope. This line passes over Witton viaduct spanning the river Wear and then passes the site of Wear Valley junction where the weardale branch line left the main line to Crook.


To the East along the 'Bishop Line' there is the National Railway museum at Shildon and further along the line is the Head of Steam museum at Darlington. Darlington is the closest point on the East Coast Main Line were i am able to photograph the many Steam excursions which travel between York and Newcastle each year, however it is much more difficult for me to get to the West coast main line as public transport does not cross the pennines except for routes via Leeds or Hexham.