Trains Reversing

If the line was blocked in the Norton area trains could reverse at Billingham towards Haverton Hill and another reversal would take them along what we used to call the Billingham Beck branch, rejoining the main line at North Shore, Stockton. The photographs show…
t14599A Diesel Multiple Unit at Haverton Hill on a Newcastle – Middlesbrough train




t14600A top and tailed express at Belasis Lane with a class 25 no. D5255 hauling the train from Billingham to Haverton Hill.




t14601After the train had reversed it is seen again climbing towards North Shore, Stockton hauled by class 40 no. D244.




t14602A Middlesbrough – Newcastle DMU heading away from Stockton seen just after passing beneath Norton Road.

Photographs and details courtesy of Garth McLean, taken 15 May 1966.

18 thoughts on “Trains Reversing

  1. I would guess that during the late 1940s and middle 1950s there would be about one train an hour, along the Billingham Branch, counting trains going east or west

    Very, very, sporadically trucks were shunted off the Billingham Branch on a short section over Lustrum Beck towards Blacketts Brickworks. The trucks usually stood on bridge which still goes over Lustrum Beck. Blacketts began operation before WWII and was a major brickworks, so a rail connection would have been perceived to be absolutely vital at the time. Possibly the Billingham Branch was why the brickworks came into being.

    Diesels began to be introduced on the Billingham Branch around the late fifties. I have a distinct recollection of a solitary steam locomotive painfully making its way from Billingham to Norton. I had been walking on the tracks alongside Stoney Road, off Portrack Lane. I caught sight of the engine in the far distance and as it gradually came up to me, I thought that the driver was going to get off and arrest me.

    Most likely it was an engine in which a big end had run or something similar.

    There are drawings of Blacketts, and Stoney Road, on the Picture Stockton Website.


  2. Thanks for these photos. I have been fascinated by the section of line known as ‘Billingham Beck Branch’ for years. As A child I lived within a few yards of the Norton Road bridge. Now I am seeking as much info on the use of the branch before it’s truncation to serve the Freightliner depot. All info greatfully received. You would be surprised how often it is ignored on railway maps!


    • Hello Pete. The line was built about 1921, a late addition to the local railway system. It was built as far as I can remember,to serve the growing industry on the North bank of the River Tees. Although passing very close to ICI in later years, and acquiring a siding to various fertilizer plants, it was built before the “Synthetic” expanded across Haverton Hill road. It made a junction with the Billingham to Port Clarence line near Haverton Hill station. Some railway maps show two junctions,where the branch meets the main line, near Stockton engine sheds,one from the Stockton direction,and the other from Norton, but most only show one. An early memory of mine was seeing a J26 or J27,from the top deck of the bus. It was just passing under Norton road bridge. That was about 1956. I never saw another train on that line until about 1965/66, when a type 2 Bo-Bo passed under the road bridge near to the Newport bridge. It was hauling fertilizer. I think the N.E.R,was expecting large increases in reclamation of land from the Tees, on which industry was expected to be sited, between Port Clarence and the Teesmouth, which the TCC (Tees conservatory commission) had indicated would be achieved, but the reclaimed land was found to need 30 to 40 years to consolidate.


      • The beck branch was controlled from north shore to Haverton south and was a single line controlled by electric token machines you could also withdraw a token to service a ICI petrol sidings and also the CCF sidings the line in the late fifties and early sixties was heavily used and trains often stacked up on the goods line at north shores 12 signal waiting their turn, traffic started to slacken off as the coal traffic decreased and ICI shut the south grid, the line exiting north shore was quite a steep gradient and on a curve so was quite difficult for the steam trains to negotiate signalmen in north shore had a warning approach bell and would do their best to have a clear run out for the drivers via 109 and 108 signals and I remember one old signalman used to kick the cupboard doors to the beat of the struggling steam engine as it made its way up the bank and through the junction and didn’t stop until it had made it, happy days.


        • David, Gordon, many thanks for your replies. So the branch was, in part, intended to serve industry that never materialised? It is a curious addition at such a late date. I suppose it indicates the traffic on the Billingham – Norton triangle section was running at near to full capacity.
          David. Was there ever a connection from the branch northwards at the Stockton end or is it a mapping error?


          • Errors on maps showing the Billingham Beck Branch are not unknown, but I am not aware of any showing a second north-facing junction at the Stockton end. All my maps show a single south-facing connection at a variety of locations ranging between the correct position behind Milburn Crescent to an incorrect position on the North Shore Branch.

            In addition at least three books contain maps showing Belasis Lane Halt (just Belasis Lane from 1937 to closure in 1961) on the Billingham Beck Branch, probably where it crossed Portrack Lane. The author of one of these books was obviously rather confused when he described the Clarence Railway as heading south from Haverton Hill, via Belasis Lane (shown on the Billingham Beck Branch), to a “head-on” connection with the Stockton & Darlington Railway at Stockton. This is a suitable reminder of the old warning not to believe everything that you read!


            • The preposed line from port Clarence, east towards teesmouth, was supposed to exit near Seaton Carew. A start was made at the Eastern end,and served the zinc smelter,and later Grays dock and the nuclear power station. It was never completed, although I think a bridge was built over Greatham creek, in anticipation of the two lines joining. The expected industry never materialized until the late 1960’s, when ICI began to construct North Tees site. The western end of the line from Port Clarence was still in situ, and serves the chemical industry there now. I think Haverton Hill locomotive depot was built to serve the growing industrial base north of the Tees,but never had an allocation greater than about fifteen loco’s I remember as a child of about eight years old, cycling on the Port Clarence to Seaton Road, and seeing the odd wooden bodied railway wagons, apparently marooned in the middle of a field. The rails were completely hidden by grass, and the wagons must have been there for years. They could have been slag or coke wagons from Bells iron works. The slag heap was still there in the mid fifties.


          • pete i have old diagrams and also worked at north shore and stockton bank and i have never seen any evidence of a north bound exit from the beck branch so i can only presume it was a mapping error unless of course it was one of the many schemes that were mooted at that time i know i have a diagram of a suggested line that would run from port clarence to the grays dock line and would exit at seaton,i think a lot of these plans were shelved with the onset of diesel engines that could haul the equivalent of three loads compared to steam and also the petering out of coal all of which eased the congestion that affected the norton lines and billingham and also elsewhere then of course there was the likes of ici who i think switched to oil, frank would tell you better on this,also north tees power station closed it all added up to the lessening of traffic, and then along came doctor beeching but i wont get started on that i have posted quite a few colour photos of the beck branch on this site mainly from the haverton south end.


              • I would love to pass a copy on but these are official British Railways documents and are copyrighted. I only have them as part of the job I used to do, that is why I have never posted them. Sorry about that, Pete…


                • Thanks, I understand. As part of my fathers collection I too have some railway issue maps the best of which is a canvas backed LNER national wall map. I also have official booklets issued for the opening of Tyne, Heally Mills and Tees marshalling yards.


        • My grandparents lived in Imperial Avenue and their garden backed onto the Billingham Beck Branch. I can remember my gran’s anger when smuts from passing locomotives dirtied her laundry that was drying in the garden.


  3. Great photos Garth. On the first photo you can see the loop line to Belasis and in the second you can see the old platforms at Belasis Station. I have performed these moves many times when I was a relief signalman both at Haverton Station and Haverton South and I have posted similar photos on this site and described in detail the way these moves were carried out. I have a particular fondness for this area having worked in all the boxes including Port Clarence which is often confused with Bells Bank Foot but was further up the line, lovely to see these photos Garth and great quality, keep them coming.


      • The train is heading for Haverton Station signal box, in the background of the train just close to the cooling towers was Haverton South signal box just past that was the bridge which is still there today that carries the Haverton Hill Road close to ICI’s east gate.


      • The 3rd picture shows the Blue Hall Estate on the left with the Ida Street allotments on the right which were directly behind Mowbray Road.


        • Number 3 picture showing passing Blue Hall. Once happened that a train was stopped right in the spot shown by locals placing objects on the line. When it pulled up it was invaded by people raiding it. It was a train full of Newcastle Brown Ale. It must have like watching an old cowboy movie.


          • Picture No 4 is taken looking west with the top of the embankment on the left being the back of Granville Grove and Imperial Avenue. I lived on the corner of Imperial Avenue as a child (when the line was serving only the Freightliner depot) but trains were so infrequent I never once managed to see one pass by.


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