Solved WWW 193 – Negative Number PWBS 61 16 B
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This photograph shows a BR ER class Q6 0-8-0 on a train of mineral wagons crossing the Hownsgill Viaduct west of Consett Co. Durham on the single-track route of the 1834 Stanhope and Tyne Railway.
One of the places served was Parkhead Quarry that produced high quality silica sand used by Consett Iron Company (later British Steel) to manufacture silica refractory bricks. The first two wagons in the train are “wheel in each corner” industrial types and have heaped and sheeted loads. Possibly silica sand.
The Stockton and Darlington eventually owned this section of line and built the viaduct. It replaced an incline up each side of the valley (Gill) that had a trolley holding three wagons each side and a fixed engine in the centre at the base of the inclines. That system dated from the old Stanhope and Tyne Railway. Gradients on the inclines were as steep as 1 in 2 and a half (40%). It was a bottleneck, as can be imagined. The viaduct was designed by Thomas Bouch and it remains standing unlike his Tay Bridge. The construction tender was won by John Anderson who started the work in 1857 with completion after 17 months work.
Some two and half million white firebricks were used in the structure, with sandstone Ashlar dressings, and iron railings along the platform. The completed single-track bridge opened on 1st July in 1858, 730 feet long and at maximum 150 feet high, spanned by twelve semi-circular 50 feet wide arches on slender triple- tiered piers, with arched recesses in three layers on each side. It is reported that the piers looked so slender that the abutments on each side of the piers were added later.
The locomotive tender has the later BR crest which had the words ‘BRITISH RAILWAYS’ either side of the heraldic lion. The locomotive has a new smokebox and is heading towards Consett with the return pick-up goods from Weatherhill to Consett. This train operated daily until about 1964 and then intermittently as required. Diesel haulage later took over. Goods traffic ceased on 2nd August 1965.
Tony Davies has advised that the November 1973 Journal, page 342 has another photograph by Peter Semmens where the train has advanced further across the viaduct. There is more of the tree visible. Whilst the published caption identifies the loco as 63379 no date is stated.
On the basis that Peter Semmens’ negative numbering regime used the year as the first two digits of his reference number 1961 is thought to be the likely date. Possibly mid-summer, there are leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground!
The photo is taken from the south side of the viaduct as the afternoon sun is on it with the shadows in the abutments on the piers. Buildings in Castleside, to the north of the viaduct, are just visible through the right-hand arch.
Today the viaduct is a walk way and part of the Coast to Coast Cycleway, Workington to Sunderland and Tynemouth. Concern about a number of suicides from the viaduct has led to it having ant-suicide fencing installed. The spelling of Hownsgill as it is on the OS maps. It is variously spelt Hownes Gill, Hownesgill, or Howns Gill by others.
Tony Davies, Brian Dotson. Steve Frost, Roger Hennessey, Christopher Lee, Malcolm Paul and R. Wood are thanked for supplying information.
Readers who can provide any additional details about the above picture should e-mail: email@example.com or write to K. Greenwood, Bradstones, Charlton Road, Holcombe, Bath, Somerset, BA3 5ER.
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