THE STEAMING SIXTIES No.5 Steam Amid the Spoil
During the summer of 1967, despite the imminent extinction of BR steam in the North East, there were two lines where ageing locos could be seen in all their volcanic glory. These were the railways serving coal mines at Silksworth and South Hetton south of Sunderland. Both of them involved very steep gradients, but the origin and setting of these railways were entirely different. The Silksworth branch was built specifically to give access to the colliery of that name. Part of it was completely dominated by the gigantic spoil heap of Ryhope pit and the views of J27s slogging uphill were truly spectacular. Access to South Hetton involved the very early Durham & Sunderland Railway, which was almost entirely worked by stationary engines and ropes for many years. The steepest part of the line was Seaton Bank in open farmland, so there were no birds-eye panoramas to be had. However, J27s and Q6s were pounding away just as heavily and the visual effects on these pages are virtually audible.
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