Port Clarence Railway c1969

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I climbed up onto the railway embankment, which was about 25 feet high, following a cycle ride around Haverton Hill. It appeared that this stretch of the Clarence Railway was more or less disused at this time, not even a solitary waggon in the scene. Apparently, however, the line is still in existence, but has gone from four to two tracks. The Furness shipyards can be seen in the distance. There is a terrace of houses on the right that has now disappeared, but there are similar ones in existence nearby, which may be under a preservation order. The cooling towers belonged to ICI, I think, not to the North Tees power stations.

I hope when the bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington is celebrated, the Clarence Railway, which did far more for Stockton and Billingham than the S&D ever did, is also given it full importance. Please note that the first proper Stockton station was just off Tilery Road on the North Shore Branch.

Photograph and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

16 thoughts on “Port Clarence Railway c1969

  1. The sidings may have been disused, but the line was still well-used in the late-60s/early-70s with traffic to and from the Seal Sands oil terminals/refineries.

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      • The picture of the railway tracks was taken right at the junction with Seaton Rd, I was born in Samphire St which is just to the right in the photo. To the left is Andersons Foundry.

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    • The line was well used in the early 1980’s. I worked at no1 Methanol plant in ICI near Belasis bridge, and many a time I would climb to the top of our refining column,and watch the train of chemical waggons leave North Tees,and pass under Belasis bridge. I could keep the train in view constantly.

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  2. Many thanks to Gordon and Jonathan for helping me to determine where I took these pictures. As well as the aerial views I used the 1913-20 Ordnance Survey map in the National Library of Scotland series.

    I was apparently standing opposite the splendid set of buildings belonging to the Anderston Foundry, which was on the river side of the embankment. The street of houses, on the right, is on Port Clarence Road and is parallel to Bell Street.

    I would guess that these blocks were built by Lowthian Bell one of the greatest metallurgical technologists of the 19th Century, who had built blast furnaces and a wrought iron manufactory at Port Clarence. The building just beyond the street is a school, and there is a smaller school much further on. Its chimneys are just visible. Anyone know their names?

    As Gordon says, what I thought was a four track system was part of an extensive set of sidings which narrowed down to two tracks at either end, one going to Haverton Hill and the other going over a road bridge to serve the Bell Iron and Salt works complex. The sixty lever box that Gordon worked on sounds like whoever was doing it would need to be on their toes. Presumably more than a one man job, at its peak?

    Later this week I will be sending in a couple of other pictures of this area. One showing the Bell Brothers signal box.

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    • fred port clarence box was a single man job throughout its shelf life but bells bank foot box at its peak when serving all the coal stagings was a two man box look forward to your photos.

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    • Looks like the houses on the right are the remains of Lowthian Terrace, those that have already gone were on Salthome Terrace. The school next to St Thomas’ of Canterbury RC Church (you can see the bell tower) is St Thomas’ RC Primary. Past the church was Kensington Terrace (including The Royal PH), Newby Terrace, Cedar Terrace and then the High Clarence Primary School. All on Port Clarence Road.

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    • I’m sure those houses are Lothian Terrace but I may have the name mixed up, just up a little was The Chappel, the old Co-op and then the school was St Thomas’s RC and then the old church, St Thomas’s.The chimney just under the square looking crane is the Royal Hotel.

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  3. I always think there is something forlorn about a disused railway line, that had been very busy in earlier days. It cost a great deal of money to build a railway, as well having to get a bill passed through parliament, before track laying could commence. There must have been a great deal of traffic on the Port Clarence branch, when Bell’s iron works were in operation, and coal was still being exported from Staith’s at Port Clarence, in addition to salt produced locally. When my interest in railways began in the mid 1950’s, the Eastern end of the branch was probably little used, other than for wagon storage, although I do remember seeing a Q6 shunting East of the Transporter in the late 1950’s, when I was out for a bike ride. Most of the goods traffic had moved up to the ICI/ North Tees Power station area near Haverton Hill by then. Nothing shows to greater effect the decline in old industries, than disused railway lines, and sidings.

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  4. If I remember right, the yard was the main place, for cleaning out box wagon’s (van-fits) for the ICI, for the fertilizer traffic from East Grid, which kept the yard pilot busy going to and from, at one time they opened a van, and found it was filled old bank notes going back to the Royal Mint for incineration, (it got mixed up in traffic) it was moved away within an hour.

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  5. Hi Fred, so you must have climbed up near to the junction of Port Clarence Road & Seaton Carew Road, and looked back up the line towards Haverton Hill.

    The distinctive roof of the building on the left makes it easy to place this location on these 1950’s images:
    http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/eaw032476
    http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/eaw032477

    On these images there are even more houses on the right, I wonder why they were demolished yet those behind have survived?

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    • jonathan on the second of these images you can actually see port clarence box and where the turntable used to be on the first image you can see bells bank foot box not to be confused with port clarence itself which was about 3/4 mile further up towards haverton

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  6. Nice moody photo. I worked at Port Clarence box in 1963/64 it was closed down around this time and demolished otherwise it would have been in this photo, it was quite a large box, I think it had about a 60 lever frame which had controlled the entrance to Port Clarence Station which was a single line, various sidings a turn table and bells foundry, it was unique in that the frame started with a 0 lever which I have never seen since, it worked on either side to Bells Bank foot box and Haverton Station it was always just a up and down main to Haverton and the lines you see in your photo Fred were sidings that branched off the down main from Haverton Station, there is a grainy shot of Port Clarence box on this site which was just about opposite the Queens Hotel on the Port Clarence Road. Nice photo Fred.

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