Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Durham City’s First Railway Station (NZ288408)

One’s arrival at Durham City’s present-day railway station, high to the north-west of the tight little conurbation, gives the lucky participant one of the finest views of the East Coast Main Line: the stunning vista that is Durham and its mighty Norman Cathedral. If ever there was an excuse to dismount and get out the camera, then surely this is it.

But Durham’s county town was not an easy place to reach by rail due to the awkward topography thereabouts. Following the birth of the railways in the North-East in 1825, the rail network spread rapidly throughout the region; but the task of linking County Durham’s two main towns, Sunderland and Durham, was easier said than done.

Shincliffe Village, a little to the south-east of Durham City – and very much outside the city boundary – was the unlikely setting of the very first railway station to serve the county’s ‘capital’. Moving coal from pit to port was the primarily use of the burgeoning rail network, of course, and one such line was thrown across the countryside from Sunderland to the pits and collieries to the south of Durham City at an early stage. This line passed through Shincliffe – the nearest it crept to the county town – so a decision was made to upgrade the line for passenger use as far as the little village. A brand new station was therefore built there to accommodate the travellers, and it opened on 28th July 1839.

The village of Shincliffe had been served by a bridge over the Wear (which leads to Durham) for many, many centuries – possibly as far back as the Romans. A new structure had been thrown up as recently as 1824, so it was no doubt considered an easy enough two mile trip into town from this point – at least by the standards of the time. Needless to say, though, as people’s expectation grew, so easier access was sought, and a succession of new lines and stations eventually rendered Shincliffe Village Station redundant – though it hung on until 1893. Traces of it still remain in the village, apparently.

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