Ropes and cables
Seaham and Harton
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The miners' strike of the mid-80s was a turning point for the UK coal industry. Much of the interest in the pits and their railway systems disappeared soon afterwards - including these gems which I had the good fortune to visit in August 1983. The weather may have been dull, but the railway activity certainly wasn't... The "gem" at Seaham was the rope-worked incline connecting Hawthorn Colliery with Seaham harbour. Originally used for the export of coal, its use by now was solely the removal of stone waste, which would be worked along the coast from the incline foot and tipped. The incline consisted of two sections, each with their own ropes - the upper from Cold Hesledon to Swines Lodge,
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
thence to the harbour. About 12 years previously, I had visited Seaham harbour - when the old wooden staithes were still intact. I didn't have my camera with me, sadly, and it being a Sunday there was no activity. The old staithes had gone by the time I paid this second visit, although there were still five locomotives based there, nos. 1-5, being English Electrics from Vulcan Foundry, D1191 - D1195, built in 1967. I believe that, by 1983, their only use was the stone waste traffic mentioned earlier. Remarkable survivors from earlier days stood near the incline foot - three derelict chaldron wagons. "Probably the oldest non-preserved railway wagons in existence" my companion suggested.
15 August 1983
We moved on to Westoe colliery, whose output travelled by the overhead-electrified line to Harton Low Staithe - the last remnant of the former South Shields, Marsden and Whitburn colliery railway. A fleet of German-built locomotives dating from before the first world war had been supplemented after the second by several English Electric / Baguleys - nos. 13, 14 and 15, depicted on this page, were EE 2308 of 1957, and 2599 and 2600 of 1959. I seem to recall (it's 21 years ago!) that we caught a glimpse of one of the old-timers - I think AEG 1565 of 1913, but it scuttled away before we could get a picture and didn't reappear. Coal was worked from the pit to sidings at St Hilda's (where there was once a pit also) by nos. 13 and 14 (the latter bearing the confusing inscription, in chalk, "14 or 15"). At St Hilda's, no.
15 then took the wagons down the tightly-curved line to the staithe - there were some gauging restrictions which prevented the others from working down there, I believe, although I must say all three locos looked pretty-well identical. Within a year, the strike had begun. I don't think the incline at Seaham was used afterwards (there were stories that the wooden keys holding the rails to the chairs had been stolen for firewood!). Westoe lasted a few more years - to become County Durham's last pit at closure in 1993. Links: Industrial Railway Society The Westoe Electrics the full set of photos taken on the day, b&w and colour
No 13 leaves St Hilda's and heads back to Westoe No. 15 at Harton staithe No 15 leaves Harton staithes No 13 arrives at St Hilda's sidings from the colliery Wagons at Swines Lodge No 15 at St Hilda's D1 and D4 at Seaham Derelict chaldron wagons at Seaham Nos. 13 and 14 (or 15!) at Westoe colliery A rake of wagons ascends the "kip" at Cold Hesledon D2 and D3 in the shed at Seaham Attaching the rope at Cold Hesledon Barclay 604 of 1976 poses at Cold Hesledon Barclay 604 of 1976 approaches Cold Hesledon The cab of no. 14, seen at St Hilda's