Few settlements the size of Ryhope can claim to have had two railway stations – and surely no other place in the country can have had two within a few dozen yards of each other, both operating at the same time!
This curious state of affairs came about because of the number of competing railway companies in the region during the early years of the railways. What was originally known as Ryhope Railway Station was opened in 1854 as part of the Londonderry, Seaham and Sunderland Railway system, built by local notable, Lord Londonderry, to help ship his coal (and a few passengers) to the coast and Sunderland. Within a year, though, a second line and station graced the still modest village as a competing company spread its wings. The two stopping points became known as East and West Stations, respectively, and operated quite independently of one another, yards apart. The course of the two tracks can still be clearly made out on the modern-day map.
The ludicrous state of affairs didn’t last, with the stations’ amalgamation in 1900. The western track (Londonderry’s old line), which once went all the way to Durham City, is now disused (being finally closed to passengers in 1952); whilst the eastern track still carries folk betwixt Sunderland and Middlesbrough – though no one has disembarked at Ryhope since 1960 when the old East Station complex closed.
There’s a neat track plan of Ryhope here, which may explain things a little better.