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Tow Law Station

The large village of Tow Law lies a thousand feet above sea level, high above Weardale and on the fringe of the West Durham moors. It was a creation of the railway and the iron industry. The Stockton & Darlington's satellite Weardale Extension Railway was the first development to disturb the solitude of Tow Law farm. It opened to goods and mineral traffic in May 1845, linking the S&D with the Stanhope & Tyne Railway; passenger services began in September. Meanwhile, an entrepreneur, Charles Attwood, got on with developing ironworks at Tow Law.

The railway originally climbed out of Weardale by the Sunnyside Incline, employing rope haulage by a stationary engine. This was bypassed by a new route between Crook and Tow Law, graded to permit locomotive haulage, which opened to goods and mineral traffic in April 1867. Because some issues had to be sorted out with the Board of Trade, passenger services did not switch to the new route until March 1868. The new station, designed by William Peachey, took a few more years to achieve and was built in two phases: the directors approving the building of the house in August 1870 and the station offices in September 1871. Nonetheless, it seems that Peachey had already worked out a coherent design for the entire building.

The moorland route, west of Tow Law, was closed in 1939 but the station retained a passenger service from Darlington until June 1956, while freight continued until July 1965, when the route was cut back to Wear Valley Junction. Until then Tow Law station offices had remained in use, while the house was occupied for a few years more. The site was cleared in the early nineteen-seventies.

Peachey's station was a handsome gothic design, built in the local sandstone. The house and office range were distinct elements, linked by a deep, pent-roofed waiting area. From the approach road, one entered this area through a gabled two-storey porch, whose upper room, accessible only through a trap door, would have served as a muniment store. A very similar porch is found in his almost contemporary design for Brotton and Loftus stations, though these are quite different from Tow Law in all other respects. 

Once through the entrance, the booking office was found to the right, occupying the ground floor of the north wing of the station house; toilets and waiting rooms lay to the left. The NER's original intention was to provide just the one platform, which would have been quite adequate for the traffic and given ready access to all the facilities. However, the   Board of Trade insisted on a second one, much to the annoyance of the NER, which gave it simply an open-fronted waiting shed.

Postcard view of Tow Law station in NER days, looking west towards the moors, with a typical 'Darlington Section' NER signalbox at the far end.


View of the former concourse/waiting area c1970. The outline of its vanished roof can be seen as well as the stone corbels for the roof trusses. Above the far doorway is an NER enamelled sign, declaring 'General Waiting Room'.



above & left: station entrance and stationmaster's house c1970. The wall visible through the main entrance is that of the waiting shed on the other platform, which had lost its roof by this time.

below: section through the waiting area on the main platform, based on Peachey's original drawing.






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© W. Fawcett, 2011