Inspired by John's talk, I looked for a suitable book and after a little research picked 'Lost Railways of Northumberland' by Robert Kinghorn published by Countryside Books in 2006. It seemed to cover all the lines that might interest me, is not too big, and has a nice painting on the cover of a steam train at Lambley Station with the viaduct behind.
'Ask where the station in Newcastle is today and everyone will direct you to Central Station. Ask about others and they will probably suggest various Metro stations. Imagine discovering a railway terminus within five minutes' walk of Central Station that is unknown to most people in present day bustling Newcastle.'
I thought I knew this area of Newcastle fairly well but this was new to me.
He then shows a photo of an old building on Forth Banks with the caption:
'Forth Banks Station today - it has not seen a passenger train since 1851' and refers to it as the [former] '... terminus of the line from Carlisle'.
'The platforms were on the second floor, with open arches into the train shed, which had a pitched glazed roof supported by iron trusses. The line ran alongside Pottery Lane over brick arches from Shot Tower station.'
Tyne & Wear SiteLines provides some evidence on the Forth Banks Goods Station which was situated at the rear of this building, the remains of which can be seen along Pottery Lane, and, as an almost aerial view, from Redheugh road bridge
HER(4321) describes the first Forth Banks Goods Station thus:
'The single most important piece of railway architecture of the 1860s in the area was the North Eastern Railway's Forth Banks Goods Station, designed by Thomas Prosser in 1866. The new goods station opened for freight in 1871, replacing a small goods shed of the former Newcastle and Carlisle Railway (one of the companies which amalgamated in 1854 to form the North Eastern Railway). All that now survives of the goods shed [Prosser's Goods Station] is the undercroft, the south face of which is a sandstone wall pierced by arch headed openings.
In 1904 a new goods station office [Kings House] was built at the end of the site, facing onto Forth Banks. This building, an imposing structure faced with brick and terracotta, may have been designed by William Bell (architect for the North Eastern Railway from 1877 to 1923).
The following year Prosser's goods shed was cut in two by the building of the approach viaduct to the King Edward Bridge.
Shortly afterwards it was extended to the east by the addition of a smaller, three storeyed shed built alongside the new goods station offices. This shed, which is a ferro-concrete building in a plain but functional neo-classical style, was built by L.G. Mouchel's Hennebique Company to a design by Bell.'
Prosser's Goods Station was huge - and has been described as one of the largest in the world at the time, as can be seen in the photos below.
The shed, which is the building currently fronting onto Forth Banks, is described in HER8917:
'Goods station warehouse, now general workshops. c1910. Designed by William Bell, for the North Eastern Railway Co., engineer LG Mouchel of Hennebique, using patent ferro-concrete, steel-framed roof with glazed strips and boarded rear gable. Simplified Classical style.'
There follows a detailed description of the architecture of the three-storey building including this:
'Pediment has wide surround which merges with similar surround to central slatted oeil-de-boeuf. referring to the upper bull's eye opening.
This then is the same building, and it is dated to the early 1900s, built in an early form of reinforced concrete.
By the time it was built, the terminus of the line from Carlisle had been ensconced in Central Station for over 50 years (from shortly after it was completed in 1851). There is a mention though of the early N&CR goods shed which was replaced by Prosser's huge building to the rear. Could this ever have been a temporary passenger terminus?
I was initially sceptical that this was ever the case, and considered that the mostly likely scenario was that described by Alan Young on the website Disused Stations.
He describes a first temporary terminus on Railway Street, just north of the current coach and car park, west of the Metro Radio Arena. This station was also called 'Shot Tower' after the famous landmark at the nearby Elswick Lead Works. It was used from 1839 to 1847. The rail junction leading to the Forth Banks Goods Station was just west of this location and crossed over Redheugh Bridge Road on bridges south of the main line. Most of these lines have now gone.
But maybe there was indeed a third temporary station between the time that Railway Street ('Shot Tower') was in use, and the time when the railway reached the now disused platforms west of Central Station. A station on the site that would later become the Forth Goods Station would account for some of the confusion, especially the station names in use that seem to include 'Forth', 'Forth Banks' and 'Infirmary' as well as 'Shot Tower' and 'Railway Street'.
John S. MacLean writing in The Newcastle & Carlisle Railway 1825-1862: The First Railway Across Britain. Compiled from Official Reports, Documents and Records. R. Robinson, Newcastle (1948) confused me some more.
Page 52 has:
'In October 1839, the Newcastle line was opened between Scotswood Road and Parker's Lead Factory where a passenger station was opened, but it was only a temporary one after all, as the directors found they were able to purchase more land east of the proposed site, thus bringing the main station about 300 yards nearer the centre of the town'.
On page 64, he tells us:
'The reason for building a temporary station was the fact that after land was purchased west of Lead Factory Lane, the company acquired more ground east of the Lane enabling a larger station to be built than was at first intended and bringing the main portion about 300 yards nearer the town, connected by wide roads with the Cattle Market and Forth Banks'.
'The first plans for the buildings and approaches to the 'permanent' station at Newcastle were prepared by John Blackmore and part of the earthwork and retaining walls on the south side had begun under his direction. In 1844, the only bit of the line unfinished was the short extension to the station...'
The 1841 map section above shows MacLean's wide roads connecting the temporary station ('Forth Banks Satation' or 'Infirmary Station') with the Cattle Market and Forth Banks.
Changes had been agreed, however, and land made available for a single Newcastle Central Railway Station on Neville Street.
'In March 1846, the line from the temporary station to the Forth Banks road, which is crossed by a handsome iron arch leading directly in to Central Station, was nearly ready and purchase of ground on the south side of Neville Street completed.'
'In November 1846, the formal opening of the viaduct and line, extending from near Dunn Street, at a point slightly west of the 'temporary' station, to Forth Banks took place for passenger traffic.On March 1st 1847, the extension was finished and temporary wooden offices for booking passengers and parcels erected which were in regular use until the opening of the Carlisle end of the joint station on January 1st 1851. The east end of the Central Station was opened with great ceremony by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on August 29th 1850.'
'In 1851, the company tackled the problem of providing a new goods warehouse and depot in Newcastle ... The directors finally chose the site where the Forth Goods Station now stands... The buildings were erected on green fields sloping down to the river.' The buildings were opened in 1854; the later Goods Station not built until 1870.
If the map evidence does indeed show a temporary passenger station at Forth Banks I've failed to find any old illustrations of it. The intention of the N&CR had always been to enter the shared Central Station, and the temporary buildings at Forth Banks may just have been wooden.
The first Forth Banks Goods Shed of 1852-53 was built in stone, however. The material of its construction, when it was demolished in 1871, was recycled into the carriage shed at the west end of Central Station. In 1883, this became the NER Goods Office and later Accountant's Office Link
Never believe everything you read, even this. Maybe I still have it wrong, and if so please let me know or leave a comment below. Other books dealing with the history of the N&CR seem to gloss over the story too, to some extent, and I'm sure it's not just me that's confused.
I hope the rest of the 'Lost Railways' book doesn't entail such a level of research though.
Bill Fawcett (in A History of North Eastern Railway Architecture 2005, vol.3 p110) describes the Goods Warehouse thus:
'Despite its honest virtue, one cannot claim that the rain-streaked concrete facade makes appealing streetscape'. It will be interesting to see what the Police architects make of it.
There is lots of information here.Planning permission has recently (2011) been granted for the incorporation of the buildings on Forth Banks (Bell's Goods Warehouse and Kings House to the north), along with part of the site of the Goods Station at the rear, into a £37 million new Central Police HQ for Northumbria Police. A 'station' of another sort.