Westgate, St. Johns Chapel & Wearhead

Westgate, St. Johns Chapel and Wearhead were the last three stations on the line when it was extended west from Stanhope in 1895. Although a further extension was proposed and surveyed, the cost of driving a railway through the Pennine backbone to Brampton in Cumbria could not be justified, leaving Wearhead as the terminus. In 1953 the passenger service was withdrawn and all freight use west of the newly built cement works at Eastgate ceased in 1968. This section of line was lifted shortly afterwards.

Although many people would like to see it re-laid in the long term it would be a major undertaking. The trackbed to Westgate and its station remain substantially intact, but beyond Westgate several sections of the trackbed have been built on, and the last two stations are difficult to trace now.

These are not insurmountable problems but for the time being reinstatement of this section of the Weardale Railway remains very much on the back burner!

East of Wearhead, circa 1950.

Departing Wearhead, 1950.

Westgate in Weardale  
The railway station was one of five built as part of the Wear Valley Extension Railway, which opened on 21st October 1895. This new line (9Ĺ miles long) commenced at Stanhope and ran via Eastgate, Westgate, and St. Johnís Chapel to Wearhead Ė the terminus of the Wear Valley Railway.
The station buildings at Westgate were similar in appearance to the others on this section, being of a white brick construction. A pebbledash coating was applied at a later date.

At a time when good communications were still poor, the railway represented new standards of convenience and comfort. The trains carried quarrymen to work, children to school and shoppers to Crook and Bishop Auckland. The goods trains took limestone, fluorspar, timber and agricultural produce out of the dale and brought in coal, cattle food, machinery and many other items needed by the upper dale community. In post war years the station yard was one of the busiest on the Wear Valley branch, serving many mineral workings in the area.

The value of the station to the community it served was reflected in the pride with which it was kept and during the 1950ís it won awards for best kept station and gardens on no less than four occasions.  

Passenger traffic ceased on 27th June 1953 when the service from Wear Valley Junction to Wearhead was withdrawn. It became the terminus of the line on 1st November 1965, when the section westward to St Johns Chapel was closed. The station was finally closed on 1st July 1968 when the line was cut back to the present terminus at Eastgate. The station then lay dormant for a decade until Wear Valley District Council bought it from British Rail. Plans were drawn up to reclaim the station area for a picnic site and recreational area and in 1984 worked commenced by the local community group (P.A.W.S.) in association with the District Council and the RDC Appointed Community Aid.
Former World Cup Referee Pat Partridge officially opened the Centre on 15th September 1985.  

Westgate Station.

St Johns Chapel
St Johnsí station buildings were similar in appearance to those at Eastgate, Westgate and Wearhead. All were part of the Wear valley extension railway, which opened in 1895 from Stanhope to Wearhead. The station contained a run round loop, goods warehouse and a number of sidings.  

St. Johns Chapel Station.

 Sadly all traces of the station and goods yard have disappeared under Industrial Units, except for one small section of the platform's traditional diagonally laid fencing.
The station closed to passengers on 27th June 1953 and to goods on 1st November 1965.  

Wearhead  
Wearhead is about 1100 feet above sea level and was the terminus of the Wear Valley Extension Railway. It was 22miles from Wear Valley Junction, where all mileages for the branch commence.  
The station layout was quite complex, containing a single road engine shed, turntable, signal box, goods warehouse, water column, run round loop and of course the station buildings. The branch engine was stabled at Wearhead, being a sub shed of West Auckland. The last engine to be stabled there was class J21 0-6-0 no. 314 later 65064.

The station as recorded elsewhere was opened on 21st October 1895, closed to passengers on 27th June 1953 and closed to all traffic on 2nd January 1961, when the line was cut back to St Johns Chapel. For a time some of the sidings were used to store redundant wagons.

In the early 1930ís Contractors building the nearby Burnhope Reservoir added an additional siding adjacent to the existing sidings purely for their use.
Principle traffic despatched in 1923 was roadstone 29000tons, clay and ganister 8,600 tons.  

 

Wearhead Station, 1901.

Today the Stationmasters House and station building are private residences. All traces of the station complex have been grassed over.


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