Tales of the old S&D Railway

Tales of the old S&D Railway

In the early days of the S&DR the railway was a perilous place…

The following incidents were dictated to Mr H Oxtoby by Mr George Graham, who drove Engine No.1 ‘Locomotion’ and whose father, John, was the first Traffic Manager of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

John Graham was born on 7th March 1799.  He was left an orphan at the age of 9 and at the age of 10 was sent to work at Hetton Colliery.  He had two older brothers who would take him underground, sometimes working from as early as 3am or 4am until 7 pm at night.  He started his working life as a ‘trapper’, opening and closing the wooden ventilating doors to allow the coal tubs to pass through.

In 1815 he dislocated his ankle in an accident underground which prevented him going to work for some months.  During this time he started attending a day school, and afterwards continued his education at a night school.

He carried on working at the pit and for two years worked on the coal-face as a hewer before being given the job of overman and then, in 1822, he was appointed ‘Head Underground Overlooker’ at Hetton Colliery.

In 1831, when the Stockton and Darlington Railway advertised for a Traffic Manager, John Graham was the successful candidate from a list of 52 applicants.  The letter of appointment read:

To:  John Graham, Overman, Hetton Colliery near Sunderland

Southend, Darlington.   6 mo. (June) 14. 1831

John Graham,

As the terms of the engagement are fully and clearly understood – I have only to say that the Committee of the S.& D. Company accept the offer of thy services, consider the engagement closed, and beg to know the earliest possible time when they may expect to see thee here.

I am, respectfully

Jos. Pease Jr.     

In 1834, when Timothy Hackworth moved on from the S&D, John Graham took over the management of the Loco Engines as well as the Traffic.  In 1839 he was appointed Head Mining Engineer for Messrs Pease and Partners and held both situations until 1849 when he gave up the position with the S&DR, continuing with Pease and Partners until his death in 1864.  Most of the following extracts are taken from reports written by him…..

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From a report made out by John Graham on 1st May 1835 it would seem that the ‘Board’ had requested that the speed of coal trains should not exceed six miles per hour on account of so many cast iron wheels breaking, but John Graham pointed out that this could not be adopted as this would delay passenger trains as two hours would be needed for running between Darlington and Stockton.

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John Graham once remarked that if the Company still continued to run the Passenger trains at a high speed the Goods wagons would need to be mounted on springs as the goods themselves shook out of the wagons onto the tracks.  He also suggested that the Passenger trains should be run separately from the Goods using two light engines – the ‘North Star’ and the ‘Planet’ and an engine called the ‘Globe’ should be used to haul the Goods trains as the railway would get out of order by running Goods trains at high speeds.

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Horses as well as locomotive engines were used for conveying coal on the Stockton and Darlington Railway for some years after it opened and there were many instances of problems caused by the horse drivers ‘neglecting their work and taking drink’ on duty.

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In a report made out by John  Graham to the directors of the S&D Railway dated 4th August 1831, Thomas Sanderson is reported for leaving his horse and getting into the ‘Dandy Cart*’ behind the wagons, in going up an ascendant gradient, thereby holding up the ‘Globe’ engine for a considerable time, and – it being a foggy morning – the engine collided with the ‘Dandy Cart’ and wagons drawn by the horse, which derailed the engine and blocked the line for upwards of two hours! 

Ordered to be fined 5/- d** by Edward Pease

* The Dandy Cart was a simple four wheeled cart that was attached to the rear of a horse-drawn train. It was devised by George Stephenson in 1828 for the purpose of carrying the horses that pulled the wagons when going down an incline…

** 5/-d Five shillings – about a week’s wages at the time.

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The Sandersons were obviously a bad lot as a report dated 11 August 1831 stated…

Robert Sanderson, William Varey and Michael Howe reported for leaving their horses and wagons standing on the line and going into a public house at Spring Gardens and stopping there for two hours.

Ordered to be fined 2/6d each by Edward Pease.

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At that time the railway was a single line so, in an attempt to regulate the passage of the trains, posts were set up alongside the track to determine the priority of trains travelling in opposite directions.  The idea was that whichever of the trains (horse or engine) passed a particular post first they would have possession of the line and the other train would be required to set back to a siding.  This wasn’t always followed….

On 25th August 1831, Ralph Hull, who had not got past a post, up or down, met another train (drawn by a locomotive) but refused to set back to a siding he had passed.  For this he was ordered not to come on the railway any more with his horse, and an order was given by Edward Pease for him to be taken before the magistrate.

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On 1st November 1831 William Moore and John Pears refused to let No.9 Engine pass them at a siding but kept the engine following the horses for four miles.  The horse drivers to be fined 5/- each by order of Edward Pease.

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On 24th November 1831, Thomas Leng joined his wagons up to Joe Slack’s wagons at such a speed that Slack’s horse was pitched out of the carriage or ‘Dandy Cart’ and over Mines Flat Embankment.

Ordered to be fined 2/6d each by Edward Pease.

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On the same day, George Snaith let his wagons run down into Darlington at too high a speed and run into some wagons which were descending at the same time, which did considerable damage, breaking Snaith’s leg.  The horse was thrown out into a ditch.

Ordered to be fined 5/- by Edward Pease.

John Usher, horse driver, when travelling between Eaglescliffe and Darlington without a light was met on the single line by the ‘Rocket’ engine which killed his horse and broke the engine’s tender.

William Ogle and Geo. Hodgson started from Shildon in a state of intoxication.  Ogle galloped his horse before the wagons with the ‘Dandy Cart’ off the line, which tore up some of the rails.  they met another horse, and the driver Michael Tailor, who they forced back to a siding and then upset.  Afterwards, about two miles further on, they came into contact with the ‘William 4th’ engine, but they refused to go into a siding to let it pass, contrary to the rule.  They got a loose rail and chair put on the line for the purpose of throwing the engine off the road.  Edward Pease states that they had to be summoned before the magistrates whom he hoped would severely punish them as complaints against them had been so frequent.

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On 1 November 1832, a horse belonging to George Foster took fright at an engine passing, backed out of the ‘Dandy Cart’ and was killed by the wagons following it.

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A report by John Graham dated 14th November 1832 states that eight horses drivers employed by Matthew Stephenson left their horses and empty wagons at Newport  and went into a public house and stopped a long time; and vessels waiting for the wagons at the same time.

Fined 10/- each by order of Edward Pease.

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A report dated 8th February 1833 says that there has been a good traffic for the week, the engines having hauled 2020 wagons and the horses 417 wagons.

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A report by John Graham dated 5th April 1833 states ‘We have had a very good traffic this week, and now we have plenty of engines, we are leading all the coal by engines’.

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We’ll be publishing more tales of the old S&DR soon….