Why was Tynemouth Station so big?

Tynemouth Station showing 'through' lines and (extreme right) south bay platform

Why was Tynemouth Station so big?

Tynemouth station looked like a mainline junction with bay platforms for branch lines at each end and avoiding lines between the through platforms for trains not stopping at the station.  In fact the design probably says more about the history of the railway at Tynemouth rather than its actual operation. Tynemouth was not a junction nor was there any express service passing through the station.

The clue to interpreting the station is to be found in the official designation (by the railway companies and later by British Railways) of the line through Tynemouth as the ‘Tynemouth Branches’ rather than the coast 'loop' or 'circle' line as most passengers would have called it.  In other words Tynemouth is best understood as a terminus rather than a through station.

The station was built by the North Eastern Railway in 1882 to replace two previous terminus stations. The Newcastle and North Shields Railway had opened its station in Oxford Street in 1847 for a service from Newcastle via Wallsend.  The Blyth and Tyne Railway had opened in Tynemouth Road in 1861  for a service from Morpeth via Monkseaton.  In 1864 the service from Morpeth to Tynemouth was replaced by one from Newcastle (New Bridge Street) via Benton.

It is likely that when the NER was planning its new station at Tynemouth it imagined that a significant number of trains from Newcastle would terminate at Tynemouth (as all had previously done) - together with others from a reopened line to Morpeth and the new Riverside branch. For these three bay platforms were built at each end of the station.

In fact the through platforms at Tynemouth completely transformed the operation of the ‘branches’ and rendered the bay platforms largely redundant.  Through services meant that a large number of passengers on any train leaving Cullercoats or North Shields would probably be heading for stations beyond Tynemouth.  Terminating trains at Tynemouth would have made little sense and the timetables suggest very few services actually did start or finish there.

When services from Morpeth and Blyth were restored in 1904 traffic was light and better kept out of the way of the intensive electric service by terminating at Monkseaton.  In 1911 there were only two return journeys a day from Blyth to Tynemouth and none from Morpeth.  By the 1930s there were none. Interestingly when the proposed electric line to Colywell Bay (Seaton Sluice) was authorised (1911) there seems to have been no suggestion that the service would run beyond Monkseaton to the north end bay platforms at Tynemouth.  It seems likely, therefore, that these platforms saw very little use throughout their existence.

As for the three south end bay platforms, apart from a limited number of trains for the Riverside branch, they proved more valuable for fish and parcels rather than passenger traffic.

In early years Tynemouth was the destination of excursion trains that made some use of the bay platforms, but with the growth of Whitley Bay as a resort it’s more likely that these used the through platforms in both directions.  In any case the bay platforms were not primarily intended for excursion traffic and the station could have probably managed without them.

The tracks that ran between the through platforms were not the ‘avoiding’ tracks they appeared to be. There were never any ‘fast’ passenger trains passing through Tynemouth without stopping.  If Tynemouth was the terminus of the ‘Branches’ and apparently the most important station on the line why should it alone have such tracks?  The real purpose of these tracks was to provide access to the former Blyth and Tyne station that had now become a coat depot and keep the shunting of trains to and from there away from the passenger lines and platforms.  They were electrified, but again the timetables reveal only very limited use by electric trains running as empty stock to begin peak hour services to Newcastle from stations beyond Tynemouth.

For more pictures of Tynemouth station see http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/t/tynemouth_fourth/index.shtml and http://www.railways.whblakey.co.uk/index.php?page=tynemouth

1961 OS map

Tynemouth North Signal Box track diagram

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