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Hetton Colliery Railway

Sunderland to Hetton-le-Hole

54.884244, -1.414932





Entry Created:

20 Jun 2023

Last Updated:

20 Jun 2023

Partly Preserved



Hetton Coal Co.

Description (or HER record listing)

NEHL - Much of the old Hetton Colliery Railway is preserved for the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists.

The Hetton Railway opened in 1822, soon after the ambitious large scale mining programme on the Lyons Estate commenced. Thomas Lyon was the principal motivator after the area was recognised as an exposed area of coal which could be reaped for profit. The efforts required a transport system capable of carrying large quantities of coal to prevent any bottleneck.

The railway was constructed by George Stephenson, and the first to be constructed for a line entirely of steam locomotives rather than animal power. His brother Robert was the resident engineer of the line. Stationary engines, ropes and self acting inclines were used, which required a long and flat route from the Wear Staiths to the collieries.

Work on the railway started before any coal was mined, with the first shafts sunk in the December of 1820. Track laying commenced a few months after this, with rails produced at Walker Ironworks in Newcastle. It was built to Stephenson's Gauge which is the default for most railways around the world today.

Operations carried on for another century and a half. It continued innovating - steam locomotive was introduced alongside expansions to the workshops at Hetton and electric lighting was introduced for colliery sidings, though an original Stephenson locomotive was still in use even into the 1900s.

The end came when the NCB made the railway redundant after combining workings at Elemore, Eppleton and Murton. Much of it closed in 1959 after 127 years.

The section from Silksworth to Sunderland survived to serve a coal depot, and closed on
30th June 1972


I walked from Millfield through to Silksworth. Sadly, a fair amount of the route is unreachable due to the A19 being built over the old line. The walk through Sunderland is pleasant, though requires some fairly steep hills which can pose issues for those with mobility aids. The line from the edge of Houghton to Hetton can be walked, though would have to be reached seperately.

Ordnance Survey, 1898

Ordnance Survey, 1898

The course of the Hetton railway through Silksworth, 2023

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A NCB locomotive on the line in the 1950s. Source: Hetton Colliery Railway

A NCB locomotive on the line in the 1950s. Source: Hetton Colliery Railway

Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

HER information as described above is reproduced under the basis the resource is free of charge for education use. It is not altered unless there are grammatical errors. 


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