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  Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle is the market town of upper Teesdale, best known as the home of the Bowes Museum. It was originally served by a locally-promoted line, the Darlington & Barnard Castle Railway, which opened in July 1856. Engineered by Thomas Bouch, it enjoyed strong support from the Stockton & Darlington Railway, by which it was absorbed in 1858. By then it had become a critical link in S&D plans to expand across the Pennines in order to link the Durham coalfield and Teesside ironworks with the iron-producing areas of West Cumberland.

The S&D push west was undertaken by the South Durham & Lancashire Union (SDLU) and Eden Valley Railways, satellite companies which soon merged with their parent. Engineered again by Bouch, the SDLU main line opened to passengers from Barnard Castle to Tebay in August 1861, the Eden Valley line from Kirkby Stephen to Penrith in June 1862, and a vital link from Barnard Castle to Bishop Auckland in August 1863. The final addition to the railway network at 'Barney' was a line up the Tees to the lead-mining and limestone quarrying centre of Middleton in Teesdale, opened in 1868.

All these routes were abandoned in the nineteen-sixties, the last of the closures being in 1965. Barnard Castle's first station is the only significant building to survive, thanks to having been bypassed by the SDLU and converted into housing. The second station was a picturesque creation of Bouch's architect, Hector Orrock, transformed at the hands of William Peachey. Its loss is much to be regretted, but the most dramatic feature to have vanished from the immediate scene is the Tees Viaduct, which bore the SDLU towards the moors. 


The Tees Viaduct at Barnard Castle, seen from the left bank of the river in July 1970. By then it had been disused for 5 years, freight traffic between Darlington and Middleton in Teesdale having ceased in 1965; the passenger service went the previous year. The piers and abutments were original but the NER had replaced Bouch's wrought-iron girders with more substantial steel ones.

 By January 1972 the furthest of the spans seen here had been removed and its neighbour was being dismantled. The sandstone piers were also demolished, and today just the abutments survive.

Just a couple of miles along the line towards Kirkby Stephen is the site of Deepdale Viaduct. Demolished in the nineteen-sixties, it was a smaller edition of the better-known Belah Viaduct, with wrought-iron girders borne on tall, slender iron piers.






© W. Fawcett, 2011