Brief History of the Lambton Railway


The history of the Lambton railway system goes back nearly 300 years to the era of horse drawn waggonways. The waggonway between Fatfield and Cox Green is believed to be the first in the area opening in 1737. Steam locomotives were introduced around 1814 initially with varying degrees of success.

J.G. Lambton (later Earl of Lambton) purchased the Newbottle wagonway in 1819 and connected it to the Lambton waggonway by a line between Burnmoor and Philadelphia. This gave his coal wagons direct access to the river Wear at Sunderland. The new route was initially worked by stationary engines until around 1864/5.

In 1854 the North Eastern Railway formed taking control of the Darlington to Newcastle main line which passed through Penshaw and later in 1865 constructed a railway from Penshaw (close to the Lambton Railway system) through to Sunderland via Cox Green and Pallion. Also in 1865 a branch line was opened from Pallion to Deptford Wharf on the Wear close to Lambton Staithes. Soon after an agreement was drawn up between the NER and the Lambton Railway system allowing Lambton railway locomotives and trains running powers between Penshaw and Lambton Staithes and later to Sunderland South Dock over NER metals. This was followed by the purchase of a fleet of 0-6-0 tender locomotives by the Lambton railway.

In 1911 the Lambton system joined with the Hetton Coal company which resulted in the Lambton railway taking over the Hetton Railway. The Hetton railway was built by George Stephenson in 1822 and was the first to be designed primarily for the use of steam locomotives.

The locomotives could only be used in the vicinity of the colliery, as the main line from Hetton to Sunderland was made up of a series of rope inclines. This was necessary because the railway had to climb over Warden Law at 570 feet above sea level and then via a marshalling yard at Ayres Quay to Hetton Staithes which was just up stream from Lambton Staithes. After the amalgamation a tunnel was built to connect to the staithes making the incline redundant and allowing locomotives access to the north end of the former Hetton system.

In 1924 the Joicey colleries became part of the system forming the Lambton Hetton & Joicey Colliery system. All this became part of the National Coal Board in 1947. At this time the L H & J C had 57 locomotives.

At the beginning of the 20th century further locomotive were required to assist the ageing fleet of Lambton 0-6-0 tender locomotives. Locomotive design and development had brought the 0-6-2 Tank engine to the fore as the ideal short haul coal locomotive. The design had been well proven in South Wales hauling coal to Bristol and the channel ports.

The Lambton Management decided to follow this route and in 1904 purchased No. 29 their first 0-6-2T from Kitsons of Leeds. No. 29 (works No 4263) must have been a success as in 1907 two additional 0-6-2T's were added to the fleet, these were Nos. 30 and 31(works No’s 4532 &4533) Nos. 5 and 10 (works No’s 3377 & 3378 ) followed in 1909 but this time they were built by Robert Stephensons Darlington to a different design. In 1920 No. 42 (works No 3801) was added and the final 0-6-2T No 57 (works No 3834) was supplies by Hawthorn Leslie in 1934.

Further 0-6-2T’s were purchased from the Great western Railway in 1930 and 1931. These locomotives were redundant from the South Wales Area and became No’s 52-54 which were former Taff Vale locomotives and No’s 55-56 which were former Cardiff Railway locomotives.

The overhaul of all Lambton locomotives was carried out at the Lambton Engine Works at Philadelphia. A running shed at Philadelphia built in 1917 was situated near the main workshops, both the Works and running shed still stand.

In addition to hauling coal to Lambton Staithes the 0-6-2T's also worked past Millfield and Fawcett Street Junction Sunderland to South dock.

By the late 1950's the Durham Coal field was being wound down. In 1959 the Hetton Railway via Warden Law was closed. 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.