Tyne and Wear HER(3424): Blaydon Burn, wagonway and lower railhead - Details
Blaydon Burn, wagonway and lower railhead
In January 1840 Peregrine Edward Towneley and Joseph Cowen entered into an agreement giving the latter wayleave down the side of Blaydon Burn to build a wagonway. This was the first continuous rail link between Blaydon Burn hamlet and the Tyne, and was prompted by Cowen & Co's need for ready access for their High Yard fireclay products to the transhipment point at the quay on the River Tyne. The continued importance of water as the motive power for industrial processes along the burn is exemplified by Clause 3 of this agreement, which stated that the wagonway was to be made "so as not to injure the supply of water to the waterwheels on Blaydon Burn" (NRO Buddle Atkinson T.Y. Hall View Book 1829-41, p.154, 1 January 1840). For much of the 19th century the wagonway was a single track with sidings, but after Priestman Colleries' acquisition of Blaydon Burn Colliery, c.1900, addition lines were laid. Over the course of the following fifty years the line continued to expand with the addition of more tracks on the central line and numerous rail spurs for transporting goods around the growing industrial complex. In particular there was a spur in place by 1896 (2nd edition OS) to connect the Cowen coal screens with Mary Drift and another line running to the northeast to transport coal up to a storage area behind the coke works. The lower railhead, situated on the flat ground to the east of the Cowen coal screens, was established during this period to accommodate the increasing number of lines terminating at this point. The complex was further expanded between 1914 and 1940 (4th edition OS) but today only the course of the central trackway survives. There are no details of locomotives in use before 1896, but after that there were twelve 0-4-0 engines, all 4'8.5" gauge - Blaydon Burn Nos. 1 and 2, Enterprise, Venture, Active, Industry, Energy, Betty, George, Nell, Gerald and Claude. Photo of one of the locomotives c.1896 (NCL Acc. 26257 Neg. 31/5/85). A coal track bed and bedding layer for sleepers were noted during a watching brief in 2009 at NZ17320 63130 - off course of the line of the waggonway as shown on the HER GIS.
<< HER 3424 >> 1st edition Ordnance Survey Map, c.1855, 6 inch scale, Durham, 2; Northern Archaeological Associates & Northern Counties Archaeological Services, 2005, Blaydon Burn, Gateshead - Archaeological Desk Based Assessment and Building Survey of Industrial Structures; Pre-Construct Archaeology, 2009, Blaydon Burn, Path Head, Gateshead - Archaeological Watching Brief