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Thread: Bowes Railway - Black Fell incline the forgotten one

  1. #1
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    Default Bowes Railway - Black Fell incline the forgotten one


    I have driven past this place hundreds of times and always said I would have a look and see what was left, well the other day I had to take a 30 minute tachograph break and I was in the area so I did just that. The hauler house was bricked up tighter than a gnats chuff so no entry could be gained but there was plenty to see outside although I am going to have to go back when the snow has cleared. Any way on with the history (sorry it's a bit long)

    The Bowes Railway was originally a colliery railway built to carry coal mainly from pits in north west Durham to the Tyne at Jarrow. The earliest section was designed by George Stephenson and opened on 17 January 1826, making it one of the world's first modern railways. It was 15 miles long when completed in 1855. Each end was locomotive worked; the six mile middle section consisting of rope worked inclines with very steep gradients. At its peak, the Railway handled over 1 million tons of coal per year and remained virtually intact until 1968. Between 1968 and 1974, most of the line was closed until only the last 3.5 miles between Monkton and Jarrow staithes were operated by the National Coal Board. However, the original 1826 section between the Black Fell bank head and Springwell bank head was acquired for preservation in 1976 by Tyne and Wear County Council. This comprises Blackham's Hill West and East inclines, which are operated by a stationary haulage engine. It is the only working preserved standard gauge rope hauled railway in the world. In 1977, the Railway's Engineering and Wagon Shops at Springwell were added to the scheme, providing the facilities needed for maintenance.


    The Hauler House taken in 1974

    Black Fell hauler is all that is left of the once significant Black Fell Colliery site. The original pits sunk here in the early 1700s formed Mount Moor colliery. Later the site became known as Black Fell Colliery and the last working pit here was Vale pit, which closed in 1929. However, the shaft was still in use for man-riding and escape purposes as late as the 1960s, being linked underground to other pits in the area. Black Fell in the early 1900s is shown below and demonstrates how industrial the area was at the time. The hauler is centre left, viewed in the same direction as the picture above. The boiler house is adjacent, to the left of the hauler building. A set of wagons stands on the kip. Vale pit is seen centre right, beyond the wagons. The view is from Shadons Hill.



    As can be seen from the map below



    Black Fell bankhead is on a very sharp curve. This is because the original 1826 alignment towards Springwell and the direction that had to be taken for the later extension to Kibblesworth were almost at 90o to each other. The result is that the hauler for the Black Fell incline down to Team Valley stands well clear of the short bank up to Blackhams Hill. To the casual observer, the building seems to stand in splendid isolation in the surrounding fields.

    The raised kip is the middle of three tracks, and is curved. The full wagons coming up the Black Fell incline were landed either side of the kip alternately. The rope was slipped just as the wagons entered the curve, the track sloping down past the kip to form a "dish" where the wagons would come to a standstill without the need for heavy braking. The rope from Blackhams Hill would then be attached for the haul up Blackham's short bank.

    Empty wagons descending Blackhams short bank came straight down onto the kip. The track lifted slightly at the entry to the kip in order to slow the wagons, but mechanical rail mounted wheel retarders were used to bring the sets to a halt. After slipping the Blackhams rope, the sets were run forward around the curve onto the top of the Black Fell incline and the Black Fell rope was then attached for the run down.

    Black Fell incline was operated with two ropes, each wound onto separate adjacent sections of the winding drum. Both ropes wound off the bottom of the drum. One rope came out of the front of the hauler building and straight down the incline. The second rope went in the other direction, out of the back of the building at high level and then around a large vertical rope return wheel mounted some 20m behind the building before returning at low level via a conduit under the building and then down the incline. The rope return behind the hauler can be seen in the picture at the top of this page. The effect was that as the engine wound the drum, one rope paid out while the other wound in.

    This enabled a set to descend the incline while another was hauled up. The work required to haul a full set up the incline was a combination of winding by the engine and the weight of the empty set descending.

    The descent from Black Fell to the bottom of Team Valley was via a three-rail arrangement. There was a passing loop half way down, below Dunkirk Farm. A view looking up the incline is shown below. Dunkirk Farm is at the top of the picture.


    Black Fell incline, looking up towards Dunkirk Farm 1974



    The next view was taken in 1988, looking up towards Black Fell hauler. It shows all that remains of the track on the incline. This short section of track was not removed by the NCB as it was attached to the floor of the bridge that went across the Pelaw Main line. It shows the 3-rail track. However, the right hand rail has been lifted and moved in to make a narrow gauge way. Immediately following closure by the NCB in 1974, Black Fell incline was narrowed and used for a few months for testing narrow gauge underground locos. This was because the gradient was typical of gradients underground.


    Black Fell incline, looking up towards the hauler 1988

    Enough of the history and on with the photos (sorry they are not the best as it was freezing cold, snowing and I didn't have a lot of time so they were rushed)

    The Hauler House


    The rear wheel






    Guide wheel in the rope ditch


    Second guide wheel (A bit hard to make out but it's there) next to the track bed


    This is where the rope entered the Hauler house


    Nice old windows


    Front of the Hauler House


    The cable ran underground through this




    Some of the track still in place although it's in a bad state






    I think this was a set of catch points (please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong)


    Large tank for the haulers steam engine


    Some of the original line and cable put to use as a make shift fence


    I don't suppose there is a lot left inside but it would have looked like this


    Black Fell steam hauler driver Mr Pallister Senior at the controls in 1920



    Thanks for making it this far without falling asleep

    Cheers Jon
    Last edited by jonney; 16th Jan 10 at 12:32.

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  4. #2
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    What a great little find.

    Im amazed it is still there.
    Servus ad percunia

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    Excellent. I really enjoy stuff like this.

    M :)
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    I liked that excellent find and report :)
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    Cheers guys here's one of the original waggons that was used on the incline. It now stands on the side of the carpark outside the Bowes Incline pub which is just down the bank from the hauler house.







    In the last photo you can just make out wooden blocks slung underneath the waggon can anyone tell me what they were used for?

    Cheers Jon

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    Brilliant! Thanks for making the effort :)
    Lb :jimlad:

    Think we're gonna need a bigger boat

    www.severallshospital.co.uk
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    Great report on a very interesting subject. Your photograph 15 is not a set of catch points, it is in fact a retarder. If you look carefully, your photo clearly shows the two metal braking strips that are positioned above the rail head on the short lengths of inner guide rail. The guide rail bears against the inner face of the wheel flanges, thus keeping the wagon on on the running rails when the retarder is functioning, thus allowing the braking strips to rub on the inner face of the wheel flanges when the retarder is automatically activated by a descending wagon.

    The retarder was there to prevent descending wagons gaining too much momentum and shock loading the haulage cable. The device is very simple in construction and operation, your photo not only clearly shows the 'hinged' locating ties pinned to the central locating rail and each braking strip, but also shows that these ties are angled towards the camera - chevron style. This indicates that the photograph was taken looking down the incline and the operation of the retarder should be self evident - the wheel flanges of an ascending wagon will 'bind' against the strips and push them in the direction of travel, but because of the angled tie rods the momentum of the wagon will push the strips off the flanges. In the case of a descending wagon the opposite happens - the angled tie rods force the moving strips onto the wheel flanges and cause a braking effect.

    The retarder is just another form of the wedge or cam braking mechanisms which were very common on rope/cable haulage ways.

    I suspect that the wooden blocks under the wagon are in fact cable guides. Your end on photo would indicate that they are ideally placed to keep the haulage cable away from the wheels.
    Last edited by Dirus_Strictus; 16th Jan 10 at 16:23. Reason: Addition info

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirus_Strictus View Post
    Great report on a very interesting subject. Your photograph 15 is not a set of catch points, it is in fact a retarder. If you look carefully, your photo clearly shows the two metal braking strips that are positioned above the rail head on the short lengths of inner guide rail. The guide rail bears against the inner face of the wheel flanges, thus keeping the wagon on on the running rails when the retarder is functioning, thus allowing the braking strips to rub on the inner face of the wheel flanges when the retarder is automatically activated by a descending wagon.

    The retarder was there to prevent descending wagons gaining too much momentum and shock loading the haulage cable. The device is very simple in construction and operation, your photo not only clearly shows the 'hinged' locating ties pinned to the central locating rail and each braking strip, but also shows that these ties are angled towards the camera - chevron style. This indicates that the photograph was taken looking down the incline and the operation of the retarder should be self evident - the wheel flanges of an ascending wagon will 'bind' against the strips and push them in the direction of travel, but because of the angled tie rods the momentum of the wagon will push the strips off the flanges. In the case of a descending wagon the opposite happens - the angled tie rods force the moving strips onto the wheel flanges and cause a braking effect.

    The retarder is just another form of the wedge or cam braking mechanisms which were very common on rope/cable haulage ways.

    I suspect that the wooden blocks under the wagon are in fact cable guides. Your end on photo would indicate that they are ideally placed to keep the haulage cable away from the wheels.

    Cheers for that mate. Now that I look back at the map the position of the retarder is roughly where the photo was taken on the kip. I thought the wooden blocks might have been something to do with unloading coal from the truck as the inside was sloped and the blocks directly below the slope. This photo was taken of the inside of the truck from the hole in the end of it.


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    thanks for this Jonney - brings back memories!

    My grandparents lived in Gateshead and we used to drive down Leam Lane regularly on the way to South Shields. The waggonway crossed Leam Lane. There was a little hut by the crossing and a man would come out with a red flag when the wagons were approaching.

    This was a long time ago so apologies if i've got mixed up.
    Some days you wake and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong, it's just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble

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    Quote Originally Posted by borntobemild View Post
    thanks for this Jonney - brings back memories!

    My grandparents lived in Gateshead and we used to drive down Leam Lane regularly on the way to South Shields. The waggonway crossed Leam Lane. There was a little hut by the crossing and a man would come out with a red flag when the wagons were approaching.

    This was a long time ago so apologies if i've got mixed up.
    thats the one mate

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