The Act of Parliament granted on 17th May, 1824 authorised the Company to relinquish one of their branch railways, enabling them to build another railway in its place. The original act enabled them to build a line, starting near Norlees House in West Auckland and terminating at Evenwood Lane.
"An Act to authorise the Company of Proprietors of the Stockton and Darlington Railway to relinquish one of their branch railways, and to enable them to make another branch railway in lieu thereof; and to enable the said Company to raise a further sum of money, and to enlarge the powers and provisions of the several Acts relating to the said Railway".
Hagger Leases Lane was chosen as a more suitable terminus for the Branch to serve the Collieries at Butterknowle and Copley Bent.
The new line was to commence at the north-west end of St. Helen's, Auckland, passing through St. Helen's, Auckland, West Auckland, Evenwood, Hamsterley, Cockfield and terminating at Hagger Leases Lane. Work commenced on the branch line, which was approximately 5 miles long, shortly after the Bill passed through Parliament in 1824.
" We are informed that a large and powerful steam engine, lately erected at Old Butterknowle Colliery, in this county, commenced its operations on the 13th. ult. amidst the cheers of a large concourse of people, who were attracted by the novelty and interest of the spectacle, and amongst whom refreshments were liberally distributed. The engine, which is placed at the lowest point of the Old Butterknowle and Copley Bent seams, will drain an extensive tract of superior coal, and on completion of the projected branch of the Darlington railway to these collieries, will facilitate the supply to the London market, as well as to the surrounding country."
The line, however, was not opened until 1830, allowing the Collieries at Butterknowle, Cockfield, Copley Bent and Norwood to gain access to the Stockton & Darlington Railway network.
The northern terminus for passengers was at St. Helen's (renamed in 1878 to West Auckland) at the foot of the south side of the Etherley incline, from where the branch line started up the Gaunless valley.
At the extremity of the line was a stone skew bridge, which despite all expectations, stood the test of time.
Horse drawn coaches were used on this line until 1856 when they were replaced by locomotives. The Hagger Leases branch was the last part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway to use horses .A nominal passenger service was introduced in October, 1858.
'...On Saturday last, the remaining part of the Hagger Leases branch from the Stockton and Darlington Railway, terminating at the lane which gives it its name, in connection with a branch from its termination to Butterknowle and Copley Bent Collieries, belonging to the Rev. W.L. Prattman, were opened for use. Early in the morning, several gentlemen, members of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company arrived... They were met, at the junction of the two branches, by Mr. Prattman, his friends, and an immense number of spectators, whom curiosity had drawn to the spot. The Company after inspecting the branch, inclined plane, and other works made by Mr. Prattman, walked in procession to the colliery offices, where a splendid entertainment was provided... The festivities of the day continued until five in the afternoon, when the company set off in the Railway Company Coach, accompanied by coal waggons laden with coals(the first that passed down the Railway, belonging to Butterknowle Collieries). A number of passengers, and the Staindrop Band playing various tunes appropriate to the occasion, amongst which, the Keel Row and the Bonny Pit Lad were the most striking... '
West Auckland station with its unusual platform arrangement. Although it had 2 platforms, they both faced the same way.
At the south end,the line followed the original 1825 route over the Brusselton incline, whilst at the north end it continued up the south side of the Etherley incline with the Hagger Leases branch swinging away to the west.
The Hagger Leases Branch Line followed the banks of the river Gaunless, as it ran along the Gaunless valley.The South Durham and Lancashire Railway, however, after branching off at Spring gardens, climbed to the summit of Cockfield Fell. It crossed the valley (and the Hagger Leases Branch) at the Lands Viaduct, built in 1863. The girders were renewed in 1905.
" On Saturday morning last, a large party of gentlemen... set off from Darlington, in several railway coaches, carrying flags with appropriate mottoes and devices, to open the Hagger Leases Branch...The party were met at the foot of the inclined plane near to West Auckland a little before 11 o'clock, by Mr. Storey, the chief engineer of the Company, and a considerable body of spectators who had assembled to greet them on their arrival. The West Auckland band of music, seated in waggons provided for their convenience, here joined them, and a procession having been formed, it moved forward at a brisk pace...The number of spectators continued to gradually increase until they amounted to between 2000 and 3000. The weather was exceedingly favourable; and it was not the least agreeable or amusing part of the spectacle to observe the young and old, of all denominations, hurrying from all parts, as if eager to enjoy a sight which seemed to be to most of them equally novel and delightful..."
Work commenced on the Shildon Tunnel in April 1839 to give access to the mineral producing areas of the Wear Valley. The tunnel was developed by the 'Shildon Tunnel Railway Company' formed by Joseph Pease, Thomas Meynell and Henry Stobart.
It is 1225 yards long and was made for two lines of rails and during its construction was worked by seven shafts from the surface. A considerable amount of white stone was excavated in the shafts and this was used in the construction. The sides of the tunnel being formed of stone and the arch entirely of brick (over 7,000,000).
It was officially opened on 10th January, 1842 amidst great rejoicing. At 10.00a.m. a procession formed at the Cross Keys Inn, the Union Jack being carried at the head of the procession, followed by the resident engineer, Mr. Luke Wandless, Mr. Henry Booth, the principal contractor, and Mr. Thomas Dennies, the principal bricklayer, followed by Lord Prudhoe's Brass Band, the workmen and a large gathering. The procession through the tunnel was illuminated by numerous candles.
The last brick was laid by Mr. Wandless with a silver trowel which bore the inscription " Presented on the 10th of January, 1842 to Mr. Luke Wandless, the Resident Engineer of the Shildon Tunnel, by a few friends for the purpose of laying the last brick."
The tunnel was sold to the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1847 for £223,450.
When the tunnel was opened the track only covered a mile to South Church, adjacent to the road to Durham and until late in 1843 this was the northern terminus of the line with a horse drawn bus service to connect with the Durham Junction trains at Rainton Meadows. An employee of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was stationed at Bank Top Station with the purpose of persuading passengers from York to use this route to Newcastle instead of the coast route.
The line was extended to Bishop Auckland and on to Crook in November, 1843 by the Bishop Auckland and Weardale Railway.
When it was first opened the station was basic, but it grew in importance with the arrival of the NER from Leamside and Durham, becoming a joint S. & D.R./NER station administered by a joint station committee, made up of 2 representatives from each railway, for the S. & D.R., Col Stobart and Henry Pease and the NER Mr. Wharton and Mr. Plews.
With the demand for the export of coal increasing, it was abundantly clear that the staithes at Stockton could not cope with the larger vessels. On 19th October, 1827, the Directors of the Stockton and Darlington Railway met to discuss the issue. The Stockton and Yarm Officers favoured an extension of the Stockton staithes by making a second cut in the Tees at Portrack. The Darlington Officers however, favoured an extension of the line further downriver, and it was their vote that won the day. The building of the Middlesbrough extension resulted in a split on the Board of Directors and the resignation of Thomas Meynell, the Chairman and Leonard Raisbeck, Solicitor.
The "Owners of the Middlesbrough Estate", comprising of Joseph Pease, T. Richardson, H. Birbeck, S. Martin, F. Gibson and Edward Pease Junior, purchased 32 acres of land for "Port Darlington", where they proposed to build a new town, namely, Middlesbrough.
" ...And that it is intended to obtain power to make and maintain a BRANCH RAIL-WAY from and out of such Main Rail-Way or Tram-road (together with proper works and conveniences connected therewith), to commence at or near that part of the said Main Rail-Way where the same crosses a certain lane or road called Bowsfield Lane, in the township of Stockton, and in the parish of Stockton upon Tees, in the said county of Durham, and thence to pass in, into or through the several townships, hamlets, or places of Stockton aforesaid, and Thornaby, Stainsby, Stainton, Acklam, Newport, Linthorpe otherwise Leventhorpe, Middlesbrough, and Ormesby, in the said North Riding of the county of York, and to terminate in a certain close or parcel of ground called the Marsh, adjoining the said river Tees,..."
The bridging of the river Tees at Stockton was achieved by the building of a suspension bridge (the first in the world), designed by Captain Samuel Brown, R.N.The bridge was built in 1830 and was 412 feet long, 16 feet wide and 20 feet above the water. Unfortunately it could not support the proposed 150 tons load and wagons had to be passed over four at a time with coupling chains keeping them 9 yards apart. it was replaced in 1844 by a girder bridge, designed by Robert Stephenson. this was subsequently replaced in 1907.
In January 1829, the Company advertised a competition with a prize of 150 guineas for the best plans for the construction of the Staithes. This was won by Timothy Hackworth and after completing the preparation of full working drawings, the work was commenced on building the Staithes in January, 1830.
Six vessels could be loaded at any one time by the wagons loaded with coal being lifted by steam power onto a platform. The wagons being placed in a cradle and lowered to the deck of the ship. A workman accompanied the wagon and released a bolt on the bottom of the wagon, allowing the coal to be discharged into the hold. A full descending wagon would thereupon act as a counterweight and pull the empty wagon back upto the platform. It would be lowered onto the line and pushed along into a siding.
On the 27th December, 1830, the opening of the Middlesbrough extension took place with the " Globe", designed by Timothy Hackworth pulling the inaugural train of coaches and wagons containing visitors and coal. To a certain extent, the festivities of 5 years previous were repeated, and were concluded with a banquet for 600 people in the Gallery of the Staithes.
" On arriving at Middlesbro' the procession was received with loud acclamations by the assembled multitude and the firing of guns from the vessels in the river, and of others on the shore. Flags of every size and description, from the Union-jack of England downward, floated on the breeze from the roofs of the respective buildings, and the day being uncommonly fine, the appearance of the whole was highly picturesque and beautiful..."
From 1834 to 1837, the station at Middlesbrough was a coachshed, on a siding near the river and close to the coal drops. The shed was moved in 1837 to a new site on the north side of Commercial Street, where a larger passenger station was built. This became the Goods Station, when a station was opened on the Dock Branch railway at the foot of Sussex Street, in 1847.
Almost 47 years after the opening of the line, Middlesbrough Station opened on 3rd October, 1877, on what was believed to be the site of a former S. & D.R. shed dating back to the early 1840's.
The original iron latticework roof was destroyed in an air-raid on 3rd August 1942.