For today's longer read we take a look at what can be assumed to be some of the early locomotives at Marley Hill shed.
When Marley Hill Colliery was opened in 1841, horses pulled waggons from the Tanfield Branch. Even in 1845 when Burnopfield colliery 2 1/2 miles away was linked to Marley Hill, horses were still used. It was not until 1847 that steam locomotives are first recorded at Marley Hill.
Where these first locomotives were housed is not entirely certain but it is known that by 1854 the current locomotive shed was in existence. As the railway expanded and became busier from 1847, Marley Hill locomotive shed became busier and busier. From 1854, Marley Hill locomotives worked trains from Birkheads in the east to Dipton in the west, a distance of around 5 1/2 miles.
When Marley Hill locomotive shed was built, it was located at the junction of two lines and at the centre of the newly completed Pontop & Jarrow Railway (P&JR). Trains from Andrews House colliery passed the shed on its south side and joined the main line of the P&JR just in front of the shed.
Old Marley Hill locomotive drivers interviewed in the 1930s said that these first machines were bought second hand and they described them as ‘grasshoppers’. In the 1840s, the term ‘grasshopper’ was used to describe engines with cylinders sloping heavily attached to the front of the boiler. They looked much the same as the shape of a grasshopper’s legs. It is thought that the first locomotives at Marley Hill are likely to have been similar to Stockton & Darlington Railway locomotives DERWENT and Locomotion No.1.
At that time, locomotives such as these were being replaced on the major public railway systems. They are likely to have been six wheelers, and may even have had a tender at one end for water, and at the other end for coal. The exact identity of these earliest Marley Hill engines, and how many there were, has never been discovered.
Legend has it that one early locomotive ended its days as a stationary boiler powering machinery at Marley Hill shed.
Descriptions of the locomotive suggest that it dated back to the 1820s. Although evidence is conflicting, it may be that this machine was SPRINGWELL No. 1 or No. 2 built in 1826 by Robert Stephenson & Co. They were the first locomotives ordered from Robert Stephenson & Co, the world’s first locomotive manufacturer. They built to work on the Springwell Colliery Railway, which was joined to Marley Hill in 1854. It is highly likely that one of them became 'The Bull' at Marley Hill.
Part of the shed was adapted for it and became known as ‘The Bull’s Hoose’. It was not finally cut up for scrap until the 1880s.
Converting elderly locomotives to static use for driving machinery was once fairly common but pictures are rare. Pictured is Adelaide, built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1832 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. It was converted to drive a mortar mill during the construction works in Saltburn.
As Marley Hill found itself at the centre of the expanding Pontop & Jarrow Railway, it needed more, and bigger, locomotives. The need for new power meant that both new and second hand locomotives arrived throughout the 1850s.
Locomotive design at that time was still developing and the engines that worked at Marley Hill were very similar to those that could be found at work on coal trains on any railway. They gradually grew in size with bigger boilers and cylinders to cope with heavier trains and longer journeys. They were almost all tender engines, carrying their coal and water behind them.
Marley Hill engine shed was not just a place for locomotives to rest. Fairly major repairs were carried out here too. One locomotive was even built here.
In 1854 a small four wheeled tank locomotive was built in the shed. It is said that the engineers responsible for the work were brothers, called Thompson. It is known that it had cast iron wheels, a saddle shaped water tank over the boiler, and an elaborate ‘gothic’ style cover over the firebox.
It was named after a racehorse owned by John Bowes, Daniel O’ Rourke, which won the Derby in 1852.
It is believed that the locomotive was scrapped in the 1880s. The tank though was later used to hold fire clay at Springwell Bank Foot shed and was not scrapped until 1954.
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