Iron Ore Unloading

1954 – 1974

Having reached Consett, the iron ore trains would make use of an unloading gantry. Twenty two bunkers, each capable of holding thirty tons of ore, sat underneath the gantry over which a single track passed.

The gantry was reached from a line to the right which was taken just after passing the signal box at Carr House West. The line formed part of a triangle and ran to Fell Box.

al Consett Ore Gantry 4may63

An ore train on the unloading gantry at Consett on 4 May 1963. Photo copyright Ernie Brack

Whilst Fell box was owned by the Consett Iron Company, it was staffed an operated by British Railways Staff. Beyond the signal box were three reception lines and the loaded ore trains were usually received in the right hand (No. 1) line.

Access to the unloading gantry was controlled by the Consett Iron Ore Company and, to gain access, the train guard would provide one set of the train’s documents to the Traffic Agent and the other to the Consett Iron Company’s gantry leading man.


9F 92097 on an ore train at Consett on 22 August 1965. Photo copyright Ernie Brack

Once stopped the Consett Iron Company staff would release all the safety levers on the gantry and advise the guard when this was completed. Only then would the train be allowed to move forward onto the gantry under the control of the Gantry Leading Man for unloading.

When the train was positioned correctly for unloading the guard notified the driver to open the doors. Once unloaded into the hoppers the ore was then transferred to a mobile hopper and then on to a conveyor which took it to the storage bunkers. From the storage bunkers, measured amounts of ore were loaded in to steel tubs which then delivered it to the blast furnace at the Steelworks.

Consett 92098 Iron Ore hoppers 9jul60 img239

9F 92098 on an ore train at Consett on 9 July 1960. Note the additional brake van at the rear of the train which indicates that there were railway enthusiasts on the train. Photo copyright Ernie Brack

Once the wagons had been emptied, the guard would advise the driver to close the doors after which he would operate the ground frame to allow the train to reverse from the gantry. Once clear of the gantry line Consett Iron Company staff would re-instate all the safety lock handles and pins on the gantry. After the reversal was completed a couple of ground frame operations and shunting moves would position the now empty train for its journey back to Tyne Dock.

With the introduction of the double headed Type 2 diesels on the train in late 1966, there was a small change to the unloading process as, due to the additional length of the train, it now had to be reversed on to the unloading gantry.

There is brief colour footage of an iron ore train at the unloading gantry at 3:22 in this video.


The unloading gantry at Consett Steelworks. Photo copyright Ernie Brack

A 9F at the unloading gantry in Consett in the 1960's. Photo copyright Kenneth Gray

A 9F at the unloading gantry in Consett in the 1960’s. Photo copyright Kenneth Gray

From Bill Watson come these stunning night time shots of 9F 92063 at the iron ore unloading gantry at Consett Steelworks.  Bill says the following about the photos:

“Standard 9F 92063 on the ore unloading gantry at Consett Iron Works – one of the most dangerous and difficult locations we photographed. Pitch black and industry roaring all around! We had travelled in the van late at night, the Class 40 banker had run up behind us at South Pelaw and the roar of it’s engine and the dazzling headcode lights swaying in the total darkness above our heads was all we experienced standing on the back platform of the van. Only when it fell off at Consett did we then hear the 9F again!”

9F 92063 at the iron ore unloading gantry at Consett Steelworks. Photo copyright Bill Watson

9F 92063 at the iron ore unloading gantry at Consett Steelworks. Photo copyright Bill Watson

9F 92063 at the iron ore unloading gantry at Consett Steelworks. Photo copyright Bill Watson

1974 – 1980

1974 saw the iron ore coming from Redcar rather than Tyne Dock and, with the introduction of the 100 ton tippler wagons, the iron ore unloading gantry at Consett was no longer required and, instead, unloading took place in a purpose building.  Each of the tippler wagons was fitted with rotary couplers allowing each wagon to be turned over for tipping without being decoupled from the train.  As each wagon had to be unloaded in turn, the process was much slower that with the previous wagons.

The new unloading facility for the iron ore wagons (the building in the background with the single pitch roof) can be seen in this photo.  Photo copyright Jon Hale

2 thoughts on “Iron Ore Unloading

  1. catfish eaves

    awesome I come from fingsbury park London and have only lived here for 18 years I find the industrial past of this area breathtaking and somewhat taken aback by how much has been ripped out or should I say how little is left,only the good work of people like yourselfs that I know as much as I do.Am currently planning to model Highwestwood station in 7mm hopefully with some form of representation of both Derwent colliery and Hamsterley colliery as well.

  2. Jonathan Hubbard

    Once again some great photos and an interesting read. My dad drove a lorry for Siddle C. Cook from the early 60’s out of Consett Iron Company, delivering their steel all over the UK, for me it’s fascinating to see all of the heavy industry from that era on your website.



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