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A Trip Back in Time.
Bowes Railway (Tyne & Wear)
Member Name: daseaford
Bowes Railway (Tyne & Wear)
Date: 14/11/00, updated on 14/11/00 (44 review reads)
Advantages: Very well Preserved Coal Train Line.
Disadvantages: Brings out the little boy in all of us.
Bowes Railway is situated at Springwell Village, which is located between the A1 and theA194M near Gateshead, just south of Newcastle. After leaving the A1 there are plenty of signs to the village and the railway, but be prepared to travel back in time as you enter the car park.
From the moment you arrive you feel that you have travelled back in time by at least 50 years. The whole set up and pace of life at this railway is so laid back that you soon become part of the very relaxed atmosphere that surrounds you.
The first building is a combined tea room, souvenir shop and ticket office. We bought our tickets and asked when the steam train would be leaving. A gentleman sat at one of the tables looked up and said, “just tell me when you are ready”. Yes, he was the engine driver.
You can wander all around the engine sheds and the other buildings, which include an exhibition/museum all about the history of the site and the railway. The vast majority of the steam engines and wagons are from the mining industry as these train lines were originally used to take coal from the local collieries to the River Tyne at Jarrow.
When you take the train trip you have a terrific uphill ride from the museum centre to Blackham’s Hill in traditional brake vans hauled by immaculate saddle tank steam locos. At Blackham’s Hill you get off the train and walk about 400 yards to see the two working inclines.
Inclines were built to take coal wagons over a hill, without using a locomotive. A large engine (originally steam and later electric) hauled the wagons up the hill and then lowered them down the other side. But this was not a gentle operation, as the ropes hauling the trucks did not stop and were continually hauling and lowering trucks all the time, so working here was furious and often dangerous. The staff from the centre spend a long time explaining the whole process and show how the workers of the day risked life a
nd limb to keep the wagons rolling. Their enthusiasm brings alive the area and you can picture how the whole process used to work. This is apparently the only preserved pair of inclines, on a standard gauge rail line still in operation. There are only certain days of the year that the inclines are in operation and you would need to ring first (0191 416 1847) to check when these days are or look it up on their web site:
The cost of a visit, with unlimited steam train rides, is £1 for adults and 50p for children. There is also free car parking. This is not a dear day out!
If you enjoy steam trains or are interested in the coal industry of this area then spend a few hours visiting the Bowes Railway, it is a very pleasant visit.
As well as the train ride there is plenty to see and the staff are so friendly that you feel you want to sign up and join the team. Because of my enthusiasm about the place my family bought me a small lapel badge saying “Engine Driver”. It must be that dream we all had as small boys, to be a steam train driver.