11 thoughts on “Original S&D Line, Railway Tracks outside Preston Hall Museum

  1. Fish belled rails were originally produced by casting. The deeper “belly” was a vital necessity as it compensated for the stress in the centre of the rail when a wheel was half way between the two sleepers. I recently did some calculations for the cast iron rails on the Butterley railway and the stresses were about 40 MPa or around 2.9 tons per square inch.

    The manufacture of wrought iron rails with a fish bellied section would have been very difficult although not impossible. The only reason for doing this would have been to save some wrought iron, which at that time was a costly product.

    Are there any actual examples of wrought iron fish bellied rails still in existence? It would be an easy matter to show that they were actually wrought iron rather than cast iron


  2. I seem to remember reading that fish bellied rails were still in use on the Brusselton and Etherley inclines between Shildon and Etherley bank top long after other parts of the S and D had been converted to longer Tee section rails. Some stone blocks on which the rails were secured, were still in situ in the 1960’S on the remains of the inclines, according to railway historian Ken Hoole.


    • Bill Fawcett in his book on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway goes into detail of the laying of the line with fishbelly rails and the problems encountered. It is recorded elsewhere that rail from the N&C line was re-used on Lord Carlisle’s mineral Railway from Brampton to Lambley. A couple of years ago I discovered a length of fishbelly rail in use as a fence post near to Lord Carlisle’s line, which was still there last time I visited.


  3. I read Derek’s comments with interest. The only other picture I could find of the set of rails at Preston Park could suggest that the rail may have been of an “Eye Beam” rather than a “Tee” section. But has anyone better pictures?

    It begins to sound like the display at Preston Park is, or was, an imaginative reconstruction, which may now have disappeared. Were the stone blocks and chairs found with the tracks?

    The book by Andrew Dow, I mentioned, shows a Tee section rail from the S&D line that is in passion of the National Rail Museum. The book also contains drawings of the Blenkinsop elliptical rails on the S&D from a German publication of about 1890.

    There is also quite a good internet website “The Working and Management of an English Railway” by George Findlay. Chapter 4 focuses on the railtrack


  4. The section of rail etc came from roughly where the Bingo place currently is, just before the Victoria Bridge. Before the area was altered in abt 1973-75, the road to the bridge passed through St John’s Crossing. As I recall, a section of the line on the north side of the road ran into the coal yard and was overlooked by the office of solicitors Iveson and Finch. The piece lifted definitely came from the coal yard site. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that the coal yard was not part of the original scheme re the rail set up. If one looks at all other pictures on the site of rails, they appear to be the modern ‘eye’ beam (sorry Qwerty boards don’t do a normal capital i) This would perhaps explain Fred’s comments. The coal yard section was all that was left of the much earlier track simply because it had fallen into disuse; whereas the section to the Corporation Quay found use after small colliers had gone.


  5. As I traveled and was asked where I came from knowing full well that saying Stockton-on-Tees usually left blank faces my reply would be “from the birthplace of Passenger Railways”, that would set them off. You mean Manchester Liverpool? no, Cornwall? no, the Great western by Brunell no. Then explain the Darlington Stockton Railway built to haul coal to the Stockton Stathes forwarded to London by boat then discovered by the local people as a novel way to travel and willing to pay for it, the railway companies suddenly found a profitable side line for their lines. From those small and unintended beginnings came the explosion of railways which as I knew them could take you anywhere in Britain the smallest local village to the great cities. (who could ever forget the Bordon Bullet single track from Bentley to the Garrison, that was an experience).
    Travelling by train from Stockton or Thornaby became so normal that as the engine came roaring into the station I hardly took notice, I was never a number taker or even notice a named train though Darlington to London many times over the years it would be one of the named engines.
    We Stockton folk have a lot to be proud about, early trains were built in Stockton works, Ships Ships engines, iron and steel fabrications not counting the men and women who left Stockton to work then came back because like me I did not feel at home anywhere else.
    I notice when my grandchildren talk about Stockton there is a certain pride, they are well traveled yet came home to settle, there must be something magical about the place though many seem to complain about the changes. Not me or mine.


  6. I hope that these fragments still exist, but it seems unlikely that they date from the original 1825 line, According to the monumental book by Andrew Dow ” The Railway-British Track Since 1804″, the S&D track was mainly laid with Blenkinsop rails.

    The Blenkinsop rails were of wrought iron, but were of a peculiar form, with the gap between the sleepers being deepened into an elliptical shape. This gave a deep section at the point between the sleepers, where the stress was highest. Rolling such a rail section would be quite difficult, but may have been done to minimise the amount of wrought iron needed. But this type of elliptical or fish bellied section was also used for the short lengths of cast iron rail that was then standard, until the Stockton to Darlington line was built.

    The picture seems to indicate that the rails shown are of the “T” shaped type, in which the flange below the head of the rail is of constant depth. These would be very easy to manufacture. The T shaped rails, were also not popular for very long. They were replaced by “I” beam rails of various form, where the bottom of the flange was thickened up, giving a bull head or flat bottomed rail.

    It seems likely that the original Blenkinsop elliptical rails on the Stockton to Darlington had been replaced by 1840 by the “T” type. Wrought iron was a very expensive material at that time, and wrought iron scrap can easily be reworked into new blooms, which can then be re-rolled to make new rails. so it is not surprising that nothing remains of the original lengths.


    • I seem to recall that there is a section of the original ‘fish bellied’ Blenkinsop rail on display at Darlington Railway Museum. I should say it was on display last time I was there around seven years ago.


  7. I came to Canada in 1975. I was listening to a radio show on Cape Breton Island, where I was working at the time, and the program host asked listeners to call in with any interesting tit-bits so, I called in and told them about the first passenger railway in the world, the Stockton and Darlington. Very few, if any, knew about this. As Yoda would say, proud of our heritage I am.


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