The Stainmore Railway

The Stainmore Railway

Location : Kirkby Stephen
Ordnance Survey – NY 775088.

All that remains of the Belah viaduct at Stainmore
All that remains of the Belah viaduct at Stainmore

The South Durham & Lancashire Union Railway opened a single line between Barnard Castle and Tebay in 1861. It was taken over by the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1863 and later the same year was absorbed by the NER.
It was built to take coke to the Cumberland & Furness blast furnaces and iron ore back to Cleveland; by 1874 much of the line was doubled. In 1910 five passenger trains were provided by the North Eastern Railway on weekdays, the journey taking 45 minutes and forty years later, under BR, the service was virtually the same.
It was also utilised by seasonal and excursion through trains between the NE and the Lancashire resorts of Blackpool and Morecambe. In LNER days it was mainly worked by NER class J21 and J25 0-6-0s, replaced in the 1950s by BR standard class 2-6-0s and 2-6-2Ts.
In January 1958 DMUs took over local services although steam was retained on summer through trains.
The line closed to all traffic in 1962.
British Railways very quickly lifted the track, demolished Belah viaduct and other structures, leaving only the section from Hartley Quarry to Appleby open to carry goods traffic until October 1974. This included a section of the South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway near Kirkby Stephen.
Most of the track bed of the former route over Stainmore Summit to Barnard Castle or Bishop Auckland and the east is still intact, however the viaducts at Belah, Deepdale and Tees are sadly just memories. [See links below for historic pictures.]
The Northern Viaducts Round follows just over a mile of the former Stainmore Railway. Near Kirkby Stephen the Merrygill and Podgill Viaducts have been restored by the The Northern Viaduct Trust, forming the railway part of the walk, along with the award winning Stenkrith Millennium Bridge, which crosses the River Eden, providing access to the route from Kirkby Stephen.
The Kirkby Stephen east heritage centre based in the Kirkby East Railway Station opened to the pubic in 2011 – with steam train rides, and various items on display including several steam and diesel engines, various carriages, and good vehicles.
The Eden Valley Railway Company was formed in 1856 at a meeting in Appleby, then the county town of Westmorland, to build the line between Kirkby Stephen and Clifton just south of Penrith). This formed a link between the Darlington and Tebay (The South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway, or Stainmore line), and Penrith, and opened to passengers on 7th June 1862.
The Eden Valley Railway trust is making efforts to re-open the section of line between Appleby and Warcop, and has bought, via Stainmore Properties Ltd, Kirkby Stephen East station, with an eventual aim of perhaps re-opening the line all the way to Stainmore.
Kirkby Stephen East station
Kirkby Stephen East station

Stainmore railway
Old map of Westmorland, showing the two railway routes from Appleby to Kirkby Stephen, with the East Station route continuing to Stainmore, and having a branch joining from Tebay.

Photos by Simon Ledingham.
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