Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Eastern - Bishop Auckland review 1


3/10/08 Darlington to Bishop Auckland

Cost of ticket £16.00 (Tyne/Tees Day Ranger)

Dept Darlington: 15.57    Arrive Bishop Auckland: 16.24

Journey time: 27 mins

Distance:  15 miles    Weather:  cloudy and sunny

Train type: Class 142 2-car dmu (single track some of the way)

Railway company: Northern

Frequency of trains - one every two hours


Darlington is still a massive station with three arches above the station though it now only has four platforms, two of these being bays for trains to Middlesbrough and Saltburn. There is an avoiding line to the east of the station. We leave from platform 4 and move only a little way up the ECML before turning off to the left, passing through a run down industrial area, with the trackside covered in foliage. We are on single track now and go over a canal and then arrive at North Road station, which is still in Darlington. It has a single platform with a small shelter. There are some oil tankers on rails in a yard next to the station as this is the site of the Darlington Railway Centre and museum. After we leave there are some more trains on a track in a field on the left. We continue past the wasteland scenery with graffiti covered buildings and here the track is very bumpy. After passing a derelict warehouse we reach open countryside. The track looks like it was much wider here with at least two if not four lanes going along. We speed up as we leave Darlington behind and go into a cutting. We then see horses and sheep on the left and sheep on the right. The track then twists to the left and then to the right and thankfully becomes smooth under us again. The land is quite flat round here as we go over the A1 Motorway, which has a long tailback of traffic going south. It's slightly hillier now as we pass a large factory on the right. We go in another cutting and then slow for Heighington station. The station has a new platform with a blue bus shelter. Several workers from the nearby factory get on returning to their homes further on up the line. We go over a level crossing and then past a signal box then see the other platform as we are now on two tracks again. There is a chemical works on the left and new houses on the right. After passing through a smaller cutting we curve to the left and then arrive at Newton Aycliffe station. It has two platforms with steel glass shelters. There is a golf course on the left and new houses on the right. We are now on an embankment and go past an old spoil heap on the left and then out into the countryside. We pass the site of old sidings on both sides, which is now just wasteland. There are now semaphore signals and new track appears on the left and a large new building on the left, which is Locomotion, the Shildon branch of the National Railway Museum. Outside in the yard are a class 37 and two 08 shunters. There is a signal box on the right as well as the original station, which is no longer used. We then enter the new Shildon station, which is next to some demonstration track for use by the museum locomotives. It has the same shelters as Newton Aycliffe and is in the start of a cutting. It gets deeper as we leave and then we enter Shildon Tunnel, which is about a mile long. We exit where there was once more track, again four or six lines wide. We are high up and looking down on Bishop Auckland in the distance on the left. We are on an embankment as we start to go downhill passing more modern houses on the right. We go over the A688 and slow down as we come into Bishop Auckland. The line to the Weardale railway leaves us on the left. We then pass an Asda on the right and an old rusted track on the left indicates that we are entering Bishop Auckland station. It has a single platform, which is open with no ticket office. There is a buffer stop just before the end of the platform, indicating the end of the line.        

Summary: The train I travelled on seemed busy enough, but with only one train every two hours, this line needs more input from the TOC to help it to flourish once again.                MC