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.
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.
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.
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 location of the iron ore unloading gantry can be found on Google Maps here: 54°50’47.6″N 1°50’26.7″W – Google Maps
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!”
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.