South Pelaw Junction

South Pelaw Junction was a vital junction on the Tyne Dock to Consett railway line with connections to the East Coast main line at Ouston Junction, Tyne Dock via Washington as well as local collieries via Stella Gill.

South_Pelaw37006_and 008_come_up_the_bank_from_Tyne_Yard_
A classic late 1970s shot of Class 37s (37006 and 37008) double heading an iron ore train on it’s way up the hill to Consett.  Photo copyright Ernie Brack.

This site chronicles the history of the Tyne Dock to Consett line, concentrating, for the most part, on the section from Ouston Junction to Consett, as well as my plans to build a P4 gauge model railway of South Pelaw Junction.

It is a location that fascinates me as I am just old enough to remember the ore trains being double headed by Class 37s running past the playing fields of my school, Pelton Roseberry, and of the lines passing under the Pelton Lane bridge when on the bus to Chester-le-Street but, unfortunately, not old enough to have recorded what I saw at the time.

The site includes a photographic history of the location (as well as selected sites further up and down the line from the junction), concentrating on the period from 1954 onwards when the new iron ore facilities came in to use at Tyne Dock, and a number of ‘past and present‘ pictures to show the massive changes that have occurred since the line was abandoned in early 1984 and redeveloped as part of a coast to coast cycle way.

The site of South Pelaw Junction today (2013) Photo copyright John Donnelly

As well as South Pelaw Junction itself, other locations covered are Birtley and WashingtonOuston JunctionStella GillPelton, Beamish, Shield Row (Stanley), Annfield Plain, GreencroftLeadgate and East Castle, Consett Station and other locations around Consett.

This site would not have been possible without the generosity of those who have supplied photographs of the locations on the line over the years.  I am always on the lookout for photographs of any location on the line so, if you have any, I would love to see them and, subject to your permission, publish them (full acknowledgement of copyright will, of course, be given).

Iron Ore Pellets
The stuff without which the line would never have existed. Iron ore (taconite I believe) pellets collected from the site of Beamish Station which, even in 2014, well over 30 years after the last iron ore train ran, are just lying on the surface if you know where to look…

If you spot any errors on the site, please let me know. I can be contacted via email here or leave a comment on the relevant page.

Use of Images

Please note that all images that appear on this site do so with the express, written, permission of the copyright holders.  Please do not copy them to other sites or social media platforms without permission, any such postings will be reported to the platforms involved.  

I have no issue with my own images (which are clearly marked as being copyright John Donnelly) being used in this way as long as my copyright is acknowledged.

Site Copyright © John Donnelly

17 thoughts on “South Pelaw Junction

  • I do not have any photographs of South Pelaw Junction or any of the Tyne Dock / Consett line but I do remember 9f’s double headed working the line with perhaps nine loaded wagons, I also remember Std Class 5 and Q6 working with lighter loads as well as molten metal flasks. This was between 1964 /1966


  • 1966 – 2016

    It’s now 50 years since the last full year of steam working over the line to Consett. As a Beamish lad who lived literally feet away from the railway line I watched the trains for years and in my teens started to keep records. I’ve enclosed just a tiny sample from a week in July of 66 ( some folk then were bothered about England and the World Cup!!) showing the nature of freight workings and the motive power used. The 9Fs were still in charge as train engines for the ore workings but banking was in the hands of Class 40s. They certainly made the job easier for the steam crews.
    Coal and other workings, oil for example were done by O6s and K1s and WDs. These latter locos had always been around but in the last year of working many more appeared, the K1s from Alnwick and the WDs from the Yorkshire sheds.
    Diesels were often used to bank. If the train was a through working it would have steam at the head and the banker would be waiting at Pelaw. The diesels were put to work hard. I’ve seen a 22 hopper coal train climb through Beamish with a Q6 up front pulling four trucks and a Type 4 ( class 4) pushing the rest!
    The variety of freight had gone. There were no more pick up freights, trip workings and loads of scrap for the furnaces. And, as one by one the pits closed there was practically no coal moving down the line. But the iron company still needed material and so tons of ore, coal and oil made their way up the line each day.



    July 18th Monday.

    Beamish 63377 Oil train (8)
    92065 banked by D6820 Coal train (21)
    92060 banked by 92098 Coal train (21)

    July 19th Tuesday

    63379 Coal train (8)

    Seen at Beamish
    July 20th Wednesday

    63377 Oil train (8)
    92060 Iron ore empties
    92061 Coal train (12)
    92097 Iron ore empties
    July 21st Thursday

    92060 Iron Ore empties
    92098 Coal train (12)
    July 22nd Fri:day
    63366 Coal train (8)
    92060 banked by D5112 Coal train (19)

  • My late father did his two years national service at Pelton Lane National Service Miners Hostel, working in the local coal mines 1946-48.
    The miners hostel was a nissen hut complex, on a site directly behind where South Pelaw Signal Box once stood. A housing estate is there now – built in the early 1960s I understand.
    Dad was a railway enthusiast, and I am a railway civil engineer.
    I have often wondered about that Signal Box now gone – when it was built, and when the line’s heydays were, operationally.
    Although I am ‘a Londoner’, I still occasionally stop over in Chester-le-Street and South Pelaw … ..
    David G.

    • Thanks for that. I’ve been trying to remember what that place was for years. The boiler house was still standing when I was a nipper and my Uncle (who’s been up the the miners hostel in the sky for decades) had told me it’s original purpose. but I couldn’t bring it to mind. I think it became NCB offices that supplemented the NCB offices at No Place/Beamish prior to being replace by the NCB HQ (Coal House) on the Team Valley.


      • Hi Porcy, in reply to you post. the nissan huts were for the Bevin Boys in the war years, Later on part of the site was used by the Ministry of Labour Offices. Pelaw Pit offices were at the end of the pit officials houses at the entrance to the pit ie 50 yds south of the bridge. I remember as a kid the bloke coming out of the wagon weighbridge or sometimes the shunters guard (Jack Bridgewater was one of them as there was two shifts) with a red and a green flag at the road crossing to warn motorists of wagon movements. I lived in the railway cottages over the bridge, from 1947 till 1963 before moving away.

        • Hello Dodd,
          Your April post above I found very interesting.
          As per my post above (Sept 2016), my late father was a Bevin Boy – immediately following WWII, for the 2 years 1946 – ’48.
          I’ve built a OO 1:76 gauge model layout of the entire Nissen Hut complex (known as Pelton Lane National Service Miners Hostel) behind South Pelaw signal box. [Its still modelling work in progress … ..]. It includes a small section of the exchange sidings serving South Pelaw Colliery.
          Based on your post, maybe you could help me with some questions – to assist my historical accuracy please:
          1. Which ‘part’ of the nissen hut site was used for Ministry of Labour Offices please? [Does this imply the rest of the site became disused?].
          2. The shunter using flags. Does this imply that the level crossing was without any traditional level crossing gates?
          Thanks again for adding your post.
          Yours sincerely,
          David Goodliff

    • South pelaw had it’s own pway staff ,a right motley crew better known as F troop.Consett had it’s own pway staff. I was a relief Signalman at Consett and South pelaw was one of my cabins.Steve shields

      • Hello Stephen,
        I am an ex British Railways Eastern Region civil engineer from DCE Stratford, East London. I have a family connection with South Pelaw, as my late father lived there for two years at the former Pelton Lane National Service Miners Hostel.
        I was both interested and amused by your post above – thank you. Arising from my age, I remember the programme ‘F-troop’ when I was young, about 1970 I think on children’s television … ..
        One of the excellent pictures added to the South Pelaw website by Mr. Stark, shows what I understand to be South Pelaw P.Way cabin. A standard precast concrete p.way cabin that I estimate was erected in the 1950s or 60s. Comparatively, its quite a big one.
        Would your remembrances recall:
        1. Approximately how many there were in that p.way gang?
        2. Was the South Pelaw gang, a static gang? (In other words did they have a personnel carrier truck, routinely parked up at South Pelaw?).
        Thanks in advance.
        Yours sincerely,
        David Goodliff

  • Looking at the pics of the South Pelaw Jcn. model, there appears to be a p.way cabin on the opposite side of Pelton Lane (at road level) – to the signal box. Do the South Pelaw Jcn. Model Group have any photographic clues showing this p.way cabin, or the Pelton Lane level crossing access across the road to the colliery – they could share please?
    Advice I sought during a BR Eastern Region civil engineers Xmas Reunion at York last December, suggested that South Pelaw Junction was within the Consett Permanent Way Section, of British Railways DCE Newcastle Division.
    It is my aspiration to see the model one day, if it is planned to be shown at a model railway exhibition anytime soon … ..
    Yours sincerely,
    David Goodliff

    • I’ve never seen any photos of the level crossing but I’m told that some do exist, I shall ask around.

      The layout is due to appear at Railex NE in July 2018.


  • Hi, I am looking at woodlands local to Pelton and am interested in the history of a site sometimes called Twizell Woods Reclamation Site which is on Twizell Lane at NZ223522 and some 300m south of the dismantled railway. It is marked as a disused tip and has a significant mound and retaining wall. Can you provide any clue as to what was tipped there (I wondered if it had anything to do with the railway construction). The significant retaining wall means someone had an eye to moving and keeping some overburden in place.

  • Can’t find an email link on your site, so I’m posting here…..
    I was brought up a couple of hundred yards away in Conyers Avenue and have listened to the train engine and banker whistling to each other night and day throughout my childhood.
    – I have a number of photos of the location taken 1965. You’re welcome to use copies of the photos if you wish. (Includes brake tenders, which I didn’t spot glancing through your site).
    – The ‘railway’ houses to the east of the bridge were not very nice. I went for tea there as a bairn in the mid-fifties and I think they still had dry ash toilets.
    – You show samples of the iron ore, but might like to mention what superb catapult ammo it was (if you didn’t mind the purple muck)
    – Somewhere in the attic I should have a copy of a Beamish signalbox train register which deserves a more useful home.

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