Weatherhill Beam Engine

Engine in York Railway Museum copyright, Ashley Dace, Geograph

Engine House at Weatherhill

Engine House at Weatherhill copyright, Brian Johnson 1961

Elevation drawings

Elevation Drawings from North East Railway Magazine July 1919, Vol 9 No 103

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: 2 miles north of Stanhope
Current Location: York Railway Museum
Theme: Industrial
Period: Post-medieval
Date: c.1834

What is it?
A stationary winding engine used on the early Stanhope-Tyne Railway, 1834.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The famous beam engines at Weatherhill and Crawley were part of the 1834 Stanhope and Tyne Railway, one of the first railways in the country, constructed to transport lime from the Stanhope kilns to the many lime depots located at strategic points all the way to South Shields. Its construction presented fantastic difficulties to overcome the rugged terrain and all means of power available were used to haul the cargo of lime from the kilns at Stanhope. Locomotives, horse power, self-acting inclines, cradles and rope haulage by standing engines were all employed in the task.  The inspiration behind this railway was Westoe Wallis, a colliery owner from Medomsley in North West Durham. T E Harrison was the engineer and Robert Stephenson was the consultant engineer.

The Crawley incline was only 934 yards in length but by using grades of 1 in 8 and 1 in 12 it gained some 327 feet of vertical height. The haulage engine at Crawley was of 50 h.p. designed by George Stephenson and made by Hawks & Co., with a 2ft. 4in. diameter cylinder and 6ft. stroke.

Wagons were still faced with the long upward haul to the crest of the bleak moorland plateau at Weatherhill. This incline no less than I mile 128 yards in length had  grades of 1 in 12 and was exposed to the mercy of the weather. The haulage engine at Weatherhill was another 50 hp. non-condensing engine by Hawks, again with a 2ft. 4in. diameter cylinder but a 5ft. stroke. Together with two winding drums 9ft. in diameter, this was located in a lofty stone edifice on the summit. This incline was on the three rail principle with a passing loop, and wagons were raised and lowered in sets of four or six which balanced up well with the shorter Crawley incline where the rule was for only two or three wagons per set.

The engines at Weatherhill and Crawley continued to enact their daily tasks until finally replaced by marine type engines.  The marine engine installed at Weatherhill in 1918, (now in York Railway Museum)  a compound with one HP and two LP vertical cylinders, was located in a new brick building alongside the head of the incline. The original winding house was sealed up and no longer used for haulage purposes, being largely demolished in 1963 and the engine itself was installed in the York Railway Museum when it opened in 1975.

Why is it important?
At 1417 ft (432m), it demonstrates the extraordinary lengths that railway pioneers would go provide an industrial network in the early 19th century – in a context where steam locomotives were inappropriate. It is also important because, as a unique survivor from this period, it can be visited and appreciated today on occaisions it is seen operating at the York Railway Museum

Further Information

Other Information that might be useful

  • Article in North East Railway Magazine Vol 9, No. 103,  July 1919
  • The Railways of Weardale by J.N. Rounthwaite
  • Mining and Railways in Weardale by Barry Kindleysides


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