NCB Trains at Seaham, 1980s
In the late 1980s I was based in Durham and sought out some of the railway activity around the remaining coal mines. By then it was almost too late since the mines were coming to the ends of their lives, accelerated after the miners strike of 1984-5. The main attraction was Seaham where there had been two rope-worked inclines to lower wagons of coal from collieries to the harbour, and spoil to be dumped in the sea. Alas, by now one had recently closed but the other, from Seaham colliery, was still in use, but rope haulage had ceased in 1965 and it was now being operated by adhesion using diesel locomotives. Nevertheless, this incline with its route through the centre of Seaham to the harbour and Dawdon colliery was still interesting and was the subject of several visits, resulting in the photographs shown here.
As it had been in 1952
2-of-22) An unidentified NCB Barclay 0-4-0 diesel shunting locomotive pauses next to the crossing over North Terrace which led to Seaham harbour, 7/6/86. Buildings on Castlereagh Road/North Railway Street can be seen in the background behind the locomotive
3-of-22) An unidentified NCB Barclay 0-6-0 diesel shunting locomotive pauses in the centre of Seaham with a train of wagons which have come down the incline from Seaham colliery. Shortly it will cross over North Terrace and on to the harbour, 3/10/86.
4-of-22) Seaham Harbour Co. 0-6-0 diesel shunting locomotive no. D2 (built by English Electric, Vulcan Foundry, in 1967) is coupled to a train of wagons in the centre of Seaham which have come down the incline from Seaham colliery. Shortly it will take the train over North Terrace and on to Seaham harbour, 3/10/86. D2 was scrapped in October 1988.
5-of-22) As the flagman stops the traffic, Seaham Harbour Co. 0-6-0 diesel shunting locomotive no. D2 (built by English Electric, Vulcan Foundry, 1967) crosses over North Terrace, Seaham, and on to the harbour with a train of coal wagons which have come down the incline from Seaham colliery, 3/10/86. D2 was scrapped in October 1988.
6-of-22) The flagman keeps the traffic stopped as the next train immediately follows the previous one. Here an unidentified NCB Barclay 0-6-0 diesel shunting locomotive crosses over North Terrace, Seaham, and on to the harbour with a train of wagons, probably containing spoil to be dumped in the sea next to Dawdon colliery, which have come down the incline from Seaham colliery, 3/10/86.
7-of-22) Clearing up the aftermath of a train running away on the incline at Seaham, looking towards the harbour from North Railway Street, 25/4/87. Apparently, this was not a unique occurrence.
8-of-22) On 15/6/87 I found activity on the incline from Seaham colliery down to Seaham harbour. NCB 0-6-0DH diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 was the locomotive in action on the incline that day. Here it starts down the incline with a train of wagons with a load of coal or spoil.
All traffic on the incline ceased a month later, from 17/7/87, when British Rail took over all coal and spoil movement. The incline track was lifted in 1988.
The following photographs were all taken on a visit on 15/6/87.
9-of-22) Turning round on the footbridge over the incline provided a view of NCB 0-6-0DH diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 heading down the incline from Seaham colliery towards Seaham harbour with a train of wagons loaded with coal or spoil, 15/6/87.
On the right are the exchange sidings to the Seaham to Sunderland line, under which the train is about to pass.
10-of-22) After photographing the train heading down the incline, I followed well behind on foot using side streets to the centre of Seaham. When I arrived NCB 0-6-0DH diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 had uncoupled from its loaded wagons and was soon ready to propel a train of empty wagons back up the incline. So I decided to walk back up and photograph the train somewhere going up the incline, 15/6/87.
11-of-22) I was hurrying along the roads alongside the incline from Seaham harbour to Seaham colliery looking for a place to photograph the train coming up when I heard it approaching. This is a grab shot of NCB 0-6-0DH diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 propelling the train of empty coal wagons up the incline just after it had passed me, next to Londonderry Road, 15/6/87.
12-of-22) On reaching the footbridge again near the top of the incline I found Class 56 Co-Co diesel locomotive no. 56128 standing at the front of a loaded MGR (“Merry-go-round”) coal train on the chord between the incline from Seaham colliery to the British Rail line to Sunderland, 15/6/87.
I thought then that an NCB 0-6-0 would have brought the loaded train down to this point for the Class 56 locomotive to be attached. However, I have since learned that at this time the the Class 56 worked into the colliery with the wagons for them to be loaded there.
13-of-22) Class 56 Co-Co diesel locomotive no. 56128 propels the loaded MGR coal train, that it had brought down from Seaham colliery, onto the British Rail Seaham to Sunderland line, 15/6/87.
14-of-22) On finding a nearby viewpoint on to the British Rail Seaham to Sunderland line at the end of the exchange sidings, this guards van was seen. The notices on it say:
"GUARDS RIDING VAN", "TO WORK BETWEEN DAWDON SIGNAL BOX AND SEAHAM COLLIERY"
Guards vans were very rarely used with Merry-go-round trains, but this one had to be used on the end of the coal train when it was propelled down from Seaham colliery and around the chord to the main line due to the sharp curve obscuring the driver’s view of the line ahead. It is painted with additional markings so that it could be seen more easily when being propelled. Seaham, 15/6/87.
15-of-22) Class 56 Co-Co diesel locomotive no. 56128 starts the loaded MGR coal train, which it has propelled down from Seaham colliery, northwards towards Sunderland, 15/6/87. The guards van seen in the previous photograph is on the extreme right.
16-of-22) Returning to the footbridge over the incline from Seaham harbour to Seaham colliery NCB 0-6-0DH diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 was seen again propelling another train of empty coal wagons up the incline. It has just travelled under bridge carrying the Seaham to Sunderland line, 15/6/87.
17-of-22) The train seen in the previous photograph, NCB 0-6-0DH diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 propelling the train of empty coal wagons up the incline from Seaham harbour to Seaham colliery, heads towards the colliery, 15/6/87.
18-of-22) On walking up to Seaham colliery, NCB 0-6-0DH diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 was now found parked in front of the screens, 15/6/87.
Seaham colliery had opened in 1859 and was merged and combined underground with the nearby Vane Tempest colliery in 1982, with all coal and being brought up at Seaham.
I had thought at the time that the NCB 0-6-0 would take the MGR (Merry-go-round) trains down to the exchange sidings with British Rail, but I have since learned that the Class 56 locomotives brought the MGR trains here for loading on the track on the left.
All traffic on the NCB incline tracks on the right ceased from 17/7/87 when British Rail took over all coal and spoil movement, and the incline track was lifted in 1988.
19-of-22) NCB 0-6-0DH 400 HP diesel locomotive no. 20-110-704 at Seaham colliery, 15/6/87
20-of-22) One of the two sets of headgear (the ‘Low Pit’) at Seaham colliery, with various items of mining equipment scattered around, 15/6/87.
21-of-22) One of the two sets of headgear (the ‘High pit’) at Seaham colliery, with a partially scrapped 0-6-0 diesel locomotive in the right foreground and the now disused locomotive shed on the left, 15/6/87.
Seaham colliery had opened in 1859 with coal being lowered down to the harbour using a self-acting rope-worked incline (heavy loaded wagons going down the incline pulled the lighter empty wagons up). Rope-working was abolished in 1965 when diesel shunting locomotives were allowed to take over the duties of leading the full wagons down to the harbour (not without mishaps) and propelling the empties back up to the colliery.
The colliery was merged and combined underground with the nearby Vane Tempest colliery in 1982, with all coal being brought up at Seaham.
All traffic on the incline ceased from 17/7/87 when British Rail took over all coal and spoil movement, and the incline track was lifted in 1988.
The Seaham/Vane Tempest Combined Colliery closed in October 1992 and both sites were demolished soon afterwards.
The photographs in these railway photograph galleries are available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Attribution should include a link to www.nigeltout.com.
1-of-22) In 2020 I was delighted to buy from an internet auction an old negative taken by R.M. Casserley and after scanning it produced the photograph above which shows 0-6-0T ‘MILO’, originally built by Robert Stephenson and Company for the North Eastern Railway in 1875 and scrapped in 1963. This venerable locomotive is standing next to North Railway Street in Seaham at the bottom of the incline from Seaham Colliery to the Harbour on 30/4/1952. Note that ‘MILO’ is fitted with extra-large dumb buffers to allow it to work with both normal main line wagons and also the ancient chaldron wagons seen in a long line behind. The wooden-bodied chaldron wagons are marked with a serial number, then an ‘L’ to indicate ‘Londonderry’ (the Marquess of Londonderry was the original owner of the system), and finally the wagon’s tare weight in tons.cwt.qtrs.
Oh to have a time machine and go back to observe this scene and the operation of the old staithes loading the ships in the harbour. Alas, I would just have a chance to take in the last year or two of operations here in the 1980s with diesel locomotives, a greatly reduced rail system, and the staithes in the docks long demolished.
As it was in 1986 & 1987
As it became in the 1990s
22-of-22) Looking along the end of the incline in the middle of Seaham in the 1990s after the railway track had been lifted. On the left is North Railway Street and the railway reached the harbour to the right of Barclays Bank, straight ahead. As a memorial to the railway short lengths of rail have been left embedded in the ground to the right of the bank beside the A162 (where it had been at the end of North Terrace) next to the sculpture “THE BROTHERS - Waitin’ t’ gan down”.