This page is part of an exhibition shown July 2000

Stephensons Legacy - the iron road from Newcastle 1850-2000

Newcastle Central Station.

At the beginning of the 20th Century the North Eastern Railway claimed that this was the largest railway crossing in the world. Built originally as a twin terminus, the Central was in effect two stations for three Railways, The 'Newcastle and Carlisle' facing West, the 'Newcastle & North Shields' facing East and the 'Great North of England Railway' arriving from the South over the High Level Bridge into the East end of the station. Trains heading for Scotland had to reverse out of the Station, head East along the Newcastle & North Shields and then head North.

In 1854 the North Eastern Railway Company was formed by merger and takeover of many of the local companies and this was to become one of Britain's leading Companies. At the turn of the Century the decision was made to move its headquarters from Newcastle to York and a major force for industrial development and employment left the Tyne.

The East Coast Main Line was greatly improved with the opening of the King Edward Bridge across the Tyne at the West end of the Station in 1906 which allowed London - Scottish trains to run through the Station. From its opening in 1850 the station underwent many developments that were added to the original layout the most radical being through the period 1893 -1906. In 1904 electric trains began running between Newcastle and Tynemouth as the first stage of an extensive suburban electric service that would run from the East end of the station until 1967.

During the 1960's British Railways were unfashionable and regarded as a Victorian relic, starved of investment many local lines were closed and even the future of the East Coast Main Line was under threat . Industrial and Commercial business around the Central Station declined as local transport switched to car and bus.

Twenty years ago the Tyne & Wear Metro took over the the North and South Tyneside suburban lines from British Rail and linked it to a new underground system through Newcastle and Gateshead. As a result a large section of the East end of the Station has lost its traffic.

Recent careful restoration has returned much of the building to its original design. Railtrack is to be congratulated on the much needed £21 million investment in the renovation of the Station, however it is a great pity that aging diesel trains pollute the air and the East Coast Main Line falls short of the technical standards needed to run Eurostar Trains north of York.


Newcastle Central Station from the roof of the Keep - 1962.( photo Malcolm Dunnett )

Newcastle Central , June 1999

The three graceful arches at the top right of the photo are of 1850, the two on the right were built in 1893 to the design of William Bell.

The reduction of the local system is well illustrated by these two pictures and there is some irony in the conversion of the local platforms to make a car park.

Despite appearances only the London - Edinburgh main line is electrified.

(photo -Mike Tilley)

Photographs by Malcolm Dunnett 1959

Sir Nigel Gresley's A3 Pacific "Manna" being admired by track maintenance staff, 1936,

photo W.B.Greenfield

Royal Mail Train (Traveling Post Office) photo Malcolm Dunnet,1963

V1 tank taking an empty Pullman train to Heaton,1959

 Aerial photograph 1972 (the derelict Stephenson & Hawthorn works are right of centre)

photo courtesy of the University of Newcastle

A4 "Silver Link" with the record breaking

East Coast Express



photo W.B.Greenfield

A4 "Empire of India" with the "Elizabethan" Express rolling into the Central Station, 1953,

photo Bob Payne

Laying a conductor rail on the electric line near Benton, 1936 , photo L.N.E.R.

A new electric train at Benton in 1906 looking surprisingly similar to the "Metro" trains that today call at the same station.

In 1967 the suburban electric trains were replaced by second hand diesel units often transferred from closed lines. These 'new' trains required a slower timetable than electric traction and gave way to the the new Tyne & Wear Metro in 1979.


Click here for more about 'Stephensons Legacy '

Click here for the High Level

Click here to view Newcastle Locomotives of the 1850's - a trainspotter's guide!

Stephensons Legacy - 150 years of the iron road from Newcastle

Exhibition - including 'North East Focus' from the National Railway Museum, York.

Friday the 7th of July until - Saturday the 5th of August 2000


9am -5pm , Closed Sundays

at Newcastle Arts Centre, 67 Westgate Road, NE1 1SG

phone 0191 2610293

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Newcastle Arts Centre gratefully acknowledges the generous help of Ken Groundwater without whom this show would not have been possible.