[Source: Alan Young]

From the mid-1870s most passenger railways in northeast England were operated by the North Eastern Railway. However a quarter of Northumberland’s passenger routes belonged to the North British Railway, a Scottish company based in Edinburgh.  In 1923 the NER and NBR were brought together within the LNER, yet the NBR system in Northumberland retained its character. The 74 miles of single-track railways served remote, beautiful and tranquil countryside; but they grew out of intense rivalry between the Scottish company, determined to reach Newcastle and share in the wealth of the Northumbrian coalfield, and the NER, equally determined to keep them out. A W Stobbs (1992) sees this Scottish incursion into England as a continuation of the centuries of ‘border raids’!

After inter-company rivalry subsided in the mid-1880s, a few trains made leisurely journeys daily serving remote communities in the North Tyne and Wansbeck valleys. Small mines and quarries provided traffic, and farmers looked to the railway to transport livestock. Although the NBR system was hardly profitable it provided a lifeline for an isolated area. The railway staff understood the needs of the communities they served; for example newspapers were dropped off at line-side cottages, and the guard would convey medicine from doctor to patient .Trains were known to make unscheduled stops to collect urgent hospital cases from remote locations. Stationmasters found time to tend gardens, and special trains ran to allow passengers to admire their handiwork. Rothbury branch trains sometimes stopped for passengers and train crew to pick blackberries or catch rabbits! Harsh economic reality destroyed this way of life, and the system closed to passengers between 1952 and 1956. No longer would six men – two drivers, two firemen and two guards – be employed to move one railway carriage 59 miles a day (Scotsgap-Reedsmouth/Bellingham), or Knowesgate station survive on issuing fewer than five tickets a week.

In the later days of the NBR in Northumberland the system was distinguished by having three of the five stations officially designated Halt in the North Eastern Region: Lewiefield, Fontburn and Brinkburn. (The others were Springhead and North Eastrington.)




[Source: Alan Young]

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