The Coming of the Railway.

In 1831 Colonel Thomas Braddyll, the owner of the newly sunk South Hetton Colliery, paid for the construction of a railway to transport coal from the new pit to the harbour at Seaham. This, the South Hetton and Seaham line (also known as The Braddyll Railway), utilised gravity on its final legs and was completed in 1833.

Initially the South Hetton line served only the one colliery. When Haswell Colliery was opened in 1835 the wagonway was extended to it and, in 1841, when Shotton Colliery was sunk the line was extended again. This two mile extension was later abandoned in favour of a branch line from Shotton to the Sunderland-Haswell-Hartlepool line. After the 1844 explosion the pit suffered many difficulties, opening and closing several times. It was finally abandoned in 1896. Following the closure of Haswell the South Hetton line served only two collieries - South Hetton and Murton - until these were also closed and the line itself was abandoned.

The course of the old wagonway from South Hetton to Haswell Colliery is still clearly visible all the way from Hawthorn shaft to Haswell village. The course of the wagonway from Haswell village to Haswell Colliery and on to Shotton Colliery has long since returned to fields.

Haswell railway station

In 1832 the Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company began to build a passenger/freight line from Hartlepool to Haswell with the intention of pushing beyond and hopefully diverting coal trade from the collieries en route towards Hartlepool. In the same year a rival company, the Sunderland Dock & Railway, started to build a line from Sunderland to Haswell which opened on August 30 1836. Although both lines terminated at Haswell there was initially no connection between them as they were on different levels and almost at right angles to each other. Haswell therefore boasted two separate stations.

Empty platform at Haswell railway station

The Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company abandoned any idea of expanding their line beyond Haswell when the Durham and Sunderland Railway constructed a branch line from Murton to Durham. A proper junction was then created at Haswell so that passengers could change trains with the minimum inconvenience but there were still two stations. It was only after the NER took over these two companies in 1857 that a single station was then constructed at Haswell and through trains began running from Hartlepool to Sunderland. Passenger service on the Hartlepool and Sunderland line via Haswell was withdrawn on June 9 1952. The line remained open for freight and minerals until the mid 1960s when it was dismantled.

Haswell Goods Yard

The early railway companies set out to capture the coal trade from the new collieries and had little interest in passengers. Initially the first passenger service on the Hartlepool line was not undertaken by the railway company but by a private firm who, on July 21 1836, were granted a licence allowing it to trade between Haswell and Hartlepool, paying a toll of 3d per mile for the privilege of using the line. In 1839 the railway company decided to take on passenger conveyancing itself and by early 1840 receipts from passenger services amounted to six per cent of the total revenue.

Steam engine at Haswell railway station

The Sunderland and Durham Railway Company began it's first passenger service in 1836, initially from Sunderland to Ryhope, but then extended to Haswell in May 1837. By this time its passenger service provided four percent of its revenue; in 1838 ten per cent and in the following year this rose to eighteen percent.

The companies continued to work in competition with each other until they were finally merged as part of the North Eastern Railway Company. Three trains were run per day between Sunderland and Haswell in 1854, at a speed of 12 miles per hour and a fare of 4/- first class, 3/- second class and 1/9d third class. The distance from Haswell to Hartlepool, in spite of the extra mileage, cost the same in fares as to Sunderland.

Improvements to the line in 1893 enabled speedier trains and greater passenger comfort, and so, for a time, the railways enjoyed a monopoly on travel.