March 13, 2009

North Tyne railway workers - 1880-1960

North Tyne railway workers - 1900-1960

By Clive Dalton
The railway bridge at Tarset station.
Stand in the archway, admire the stonemason's craft, and listen for the
ghost of 'Wandering Willie' leaving Falstone.

(Donald Clegg photo)

The North British Railway (NBR) which was purchased by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923 ran from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to Riccarton Junction in Scotland, ran up the North Tyne and played a very important part in the history of the valley in terms of transport, business and trade.

This progress could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of many people, and it's important that they are not forgotten. Sadly my memory as a child of a railway worker, and a regular traveler from Bellingham to Newcastle to school and college have faded after 50+ years.

SPECIAL REQUEST: If you can add to these lists of people, please let me know. Also let me know if there are any errors to correct.

Riccarton junction. Photo taken in 1862 when the Border Counties line from Newcastle via Hexham and the North Tyne was completed. The engine was made by E.B. Wilson of Leeds.

  • ??

  • Station master: Alec Lesslie


  • Station master: James Hay Miller, Robert Bowman
  • Porter: David Steel
  • Signalman:
  • Platelayer: John Scott (foreman)
  • Station master: John Elliott, Mr Scott
  • Boy porter: Alex Armstrong
  • Foreman platelayers: Thomas Elliott, John Wright.
  • Platelayer (foreman); John Pattinson
  • Platelayer (foreman); John Wright.
  • Station master: Hector Inglis, Dan Dirken, William Elliott
  • Signalman: ??
  • Platelayer: Thomas Elliott (foreman) Innes Hogg, ?? Hutton, Harry Hindmarsh.
  • Porter: ??
  • Station master: David Hall


  • Station master: Ted Burns, Bob Hind, ?? Norman
  • Porter: ???
The railway cutting by Tarset Castle with the Surfacemen's hut made
from railway sleepers still there. The cuttings were dug with pick,
shovel, wheelbarrow & horse and cart.
(Donald Clegg photo)

  • Station masters: Alex Hume Lesslie, Peter Bird, Donald McKenzie, Jimmy Lough
  • Clerks: Harry Brown, Cissie Dodd
  • Porters: R,E. Craig, John B Thompson, J Cairns, Amy Daley
  • Signalmen: Jack Barass, Harry Dalton, Tom Young
  • Lorry driver: Willie Wright
  • Permanent way inspector: Ted Parker
  • Platelayer: Tommy Davidson, Jack Gibson, Ted Turnbull. Bill Murray, Tommy Whitaker
  • Signal maintenance: Percy Bolam
  • Station Masters: Peter Bird, James Denholm, Peter Fyfe, Jack Thirwell, James Urwin
  • Inspectors: John Young, Jas Mitchell, Harry Brown, Alex Parker, Alex Baxter, ? Burns
  • Clerks: Harry Brown, Eric Coulson, Muriel Cairns
  • Porters: Frank Coulson, R.E. Craig
  • Signalman: Billy Craig, Arthur Scott, Jimmie Beattie, Geo Paxton
  • Platelayer: Jimmy Cairns, Jackie Phillipson, Jock Rome
  • Signal maintenance: Jimmy Anderson
  • Guards: Harry Dalton, George Railton, Michael Gorman, Eddie Laing
  • Carpenter: Phillip Wood
  • Engine drivers: William Johnson, Bob Johnson, Harry Pigg, Jim Robson, Jim Swanson, Jim Coulson, Jack Richardson, Bob Richardson.
  • Firemen: Derk Pearson, Billy Telford, Norman Armstrong
  • Engine cleaners: Billy Scott, Isaac Elliott
  • Locomotive foreman: James Weston.
  • Engineering foreman: John Waugh
  • Traffic inspector: Thomas Sisterson.
  • Station master: Josheph Potts, John Thompson, David Hall, Tommy Gilmour, Harry Smith (last one)
  • Clerk:
  • Signalman:
  • Platelayer: David Hall jnr
  • Station master: Nicholas Hedley, , Bobby Benson. Tommy Gilmour
  • Clerk: ??
  • Station master: Thomas Elliott, ? Wylie
  • Porter: ??
  • Signalman: ??
HUMSHAUGH (called Chollerford up to 1919)
  • Station master: James Cuthill, Bob Wilson
  • Porter: ??
  • Signalman: ??
  • Station master: John Watt
A spanner that clearly went missing from the NBR railway! It was used to
tighten the nuts on the
fishplates that held the rails together.
It's probably a bit late to return it now!
(Donald Clegg photo)

Arrival announcements
It's funny what the brain can dredge up after five decades, but fails to deliver who it was you just met! We few remaining train travelers can still remember (and have a nostalgic laugh at), the voices of the station masters, porters or whoever had the honour of announcing the name of the station, as the train pulled into the station.

We used to mimic them fearlessly from Ted Burns's "Tar-SeT" , then the nazel Scott's of Donald Mckenzie calling 'Belllling-Ham' (not Bellinjum like us locals). Then there was the long 'Rrreeds-Mooth', the clipped 'Wark', the long 'Choll-er-Ton' and the short moaning sound of 'Worrl" (Wall).

Humshaugh was most risky when mimicking the Scott's of Bob Wilson's
"Hums- Shorff" who had radar equipped lugs and eyes. The late Lawrence Dagg told the story of once when his mates threw an apple gowk (core) out on to the platform as the train pulled out, 'Owld Wilson' in a rage stopped the train for the culprit to retrieve it, with the admonishment that "Aam no hevin rubbish on ma platforrm'!

But we had most fun with Barrasford - always breaking it down into 'Bare', 'Arse' and 'Ford'! Tommy Gilmour was a great bloke and didn't mind our cheek. His 'Barrrass -Ford' was always very clear amid the hiss of steam.

Train spotting was a major craze at the time, and us North Tyne laddies learned about the great works of Sir Walter Scott without reading a word of them. This was through the names of the engines that pulled us up and down the valley. They were 'Scott class' engines named after characters in the classic works of Sir Walter Scott.

Our old brains can even trot them out today: The Talisman, Caleb Balderstone, Dougal Dalgety, Ivanhoe, Meg Merilees, Wandering Willie (our favourite), Guy Mannering, Quentin Durward, Heart of Midlothian, The Fair Maid of Perth, The Abbott, The Gifford, Caleb Balderstone, Ellangowan, Norna.

Other memorable names from the Hunt class were The Percy, The Zetland and The Rufford.

Special thanks to Nancy McLauchlan (nee Brown) for her great memory of the people involved on the North Tyne & Wansbeck lines. Thanks also to Graham Batey of Bellingham for researching old names, some he found carved on the door of the old Bellingham goods shed which has been preserved. Photos are by Donald Clegg.

Further reading

Stobbs, A.W. (1992).
Memories of the L.N.E.R. in Rural Northumberland.
ISBN 0-951-5330-1-0.

Sewell, G.W.M. (1993)
The North British Railway in Northumberland.
Merlin Books. ISBN 0-86303-613-9 .
This is an outstanding piece of scholarship and essential reading. It may now be hard to obtain other than through libraries.

Wells, J.A. (2009).
A guide to researching railways. Published by author
Contact Powdene Publicity (

Kielder viaduct - a great memorial to the engineers and stone masons who built it. It has seven arches featuring the 'skew arch' construction as it crosses the river at an angle with 32 crenellations on each side. A Victorian geomatrician called Peter Nicholson who taught mechanical drawing at the Newcastle School of Design in the late 1800s came up with a method to calculate the correct angles for the stone masons to cut the stones, rather than measuring each one individually.

Donald Clegg photo


  1. It isn't true to say that the North British Railway was purchased by the LNER. In a process known as "The Grouping" (of the railways), as a result of the Railways Act 1921, various independent companies, including the Great Northern Railway, the Great Central Railway, the Great Eastern Railway, the North British Railway, the North Eastern Railway and the Great North of Scotland Railway amalgamated and the LNER was created on 1 January 1923.

  2. My great grandfather William Mcleod worked at Falstone station up until it closed. Not sure what his job was but he lived in the railway house above the station then when the station closed the station became part of the house and he lived there until he died. Prior to going to Falstone station he worked at the belling

  3. My grandfather,John Wylie was stationmaster at chollerton,Northumberland & also ran the post office,I would like to know more of his history.