The Bishop Auckland to Stockton Canal, 1770

The survey to build a canal from Bishop Auckland to Darlington by canal, travelling onward to Stockton using the River Tees was commissioned by the leading coal merchants of Darlington and district, who wished to transport coal by barge from the Bishop Auckland coalfields to Stockton. The intended canal when built linked with the nearest navigable section of the River Tees, allowing the barges to complete the journey by river. Brindley and Whitworth were the surveyors commissioned to prepare the initial feasibility study, they submitted their report and outline plans in 1770. The scheme collapsed due to the low density of population in this area and, therefore, of a sufficiently large market for the coal transported. After a few unsuccessful attempts at reviving Brindley and Whitworth’s plans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century, they became the basis for the famous Stockton and Darlington Railway in the 1820s. The canal was never built. It was designed by James Brindley, the engineer responsible for the Bridgewater Canal, with Robert Whitworth’s assistance.

Map reproduced with the kind permission and consent of the copyright owners, the British Library, London. Details courtesy of Bob Wilson.

Riverside Inn, Thistle Green

It’s been empty for years but the Riverside Inn could soon get a new lease of life with plans to convert the building into shops and flats. Bulldozers moved in on Tuesday 18 June 2019 to clear the way for the revamp.

Power Gas Letter from Company Metallurgist

Gordon Harnby was the company metallurgist for Power Gas, who at that time were the leaders in constructing steam reformers for the manufacture of town gas. The actual process had been developed by ICI Billingham. Their big innovation was that the process could use naphtha (cheap petrol). It was the technology that saved the British Gas Industry, greatly reducing the cost of gas. Furthermore, because the gas was supplied at high pressure, it could be piped over a wide area. Much of Teesside was supplied from a steam reforming plant at Hartlepool. The letter heading shows that by 1967 the company had been absorbed by Davy United.

However, the reformed gas boilers on these plants suffered from a serious corrosion problem, and Power Gas was cooperating with the R&D people in British Gas at London Research Station to find a solution. I eventually took over this job and met Gordon on a couple of occasions. Once at Bowesfield Lane. The letter from Gordon is to my predecessor, Peter Neufeld, and is full of good advice about the materials we should use in constructing a “side stream test rig” for testing more resistant boiler tubes.

The other picture reveals the cause of the corrosion. You are looking at the tube plate of a fire-tube type boiler. White potassium carbonate, carried over from the reformer, has deposited on the entrance of the tubes. When the boiler is operating, the deposit formed a sticky sludge which was highly corrosive, resulting in burst boiler tubes.

Images and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

Michaelson Road Bridge built by Head Wrightson

The Michaelson Road Bridge in Barrow-in-Furness was built in two stages to replace the old Lift and Roll bridge by Head Wrightson c1960s. Due to submarines being built in the same area, the bridge was constructed in a vertical position and once complete it was maneuvered into its horizontal position.

Photograph and details courtesy of Tony Campbell.

Stockton and Darlington Railway ‘Preston Park’

The Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway are holding their last walk on Wednesday 3 July meeting outside the main entrance to Preston Park Museum at 6pm.

The walk will take you along the original 1825 track-bed which runs through Preston Park and will be lead by Robin Daniels of Tees Archaeology.

Again all are welcome to come along and to finish we will steam along to the Locomotion in nearby Station Road for drinks and nibbles.