Arthur Harkness – the Consett Steelworks Brickworks and meeting the love of his life

As a child, Arthur was born in Templetown in 1937. He was the eldest of four children, went to Consett School and loved playing in the fields around his home as a child.


He worked at the steelworks for 10 years from 1953-1963. He started working at
the steelworks at 16, as a bricklayer.

He put bricks in the massive blast furnaces to stop the metal heating up when it melted the steel.


Arthur also covered the coolers with bricks. He earnt £7-13 a week, which was
a lot back then. In one year, he received around £1000 in total!


Although he only had a protective cap and mask, he loved his job there. He was just pleased he did not have to wear a uniform. Surprisingly, Arthur never felt claustrophobic in the tight spaces he worked in.


Arthur started working at the Steelworks three years after the 1950 disaster. It could be a dangerous job, one day at work someone poured liquid metal down one of the furnaces where he was working, burning both of his legs.

Arthur also lost two of his toes whilst working at the steel works. That just proves how dangerous working there really was!

His brother, father and uncles also worked at the steelworks. Arthur was never seriously affected by the red dust but it did irritate him, but others were not that lucky. For him, red dust was just normal, but he does remember the smell of sulphur in the air.

Arthur made many unforgettable and life-changing memories working at the steel works such as meeting the love of his life, his wife.


She worked at the steel works too, in an office as a typist, like many other women at the time. Arthur worked there for 10 years, for 8 hours a day, and his wife worked at the steelworks for 6 years.


Overall, Arthur loved working there, Arthur said “Even though some people hated the steelworks, I loved working there as the friendship and community spirit was great. I met many friends there’.


By Jason, Aston, Evie, Tyne & Aleksandra

Shared with kind permission of Building Self Belief CIO and Delves Lane Primary School https://www.buildingselfbelief.org/about-us

Building Self Belief CIO amd Delves Lane Primary School Display at CDHi Exhibition held at the HEART Centre in Consett Oct 2021

Consett Railway RIP my friend by Steve Shields

It has been over 41 years since I rang my last block bell in a Signal box on the Consett branch line.

However the memories of working at Consett, first as a Guard on the Tyne dock to Consett ore trains then bringing up coal from the Colliery’s of the Durham coalfield is as clear now as it was then.

After I left the train crew grades I became a Relief Signalman at Consett until closure of the branch when I was transferred to Ferryhill box on the East coast main line.

Then I became a Signals inspector and eventually a Signalling Manager at Middlesbrough, a varied and long career on British Railways.

When I was sent to Consett as a Relief Signalman everyone thought I was mad.

They would say ,’ What on earth do you want go to Consett for?’

But go I did and, it was a life changing experience which held me in good stead for the rest of my railway career. One of my Signal boxes was Consett North this was down at the Low yard.

It was a great place to work because the railway men who where there where all characters in their own right.

Billy McCauley was one of them he lived with his sister at the grove, Billy made a beautiful garden behind the signal box at Consett North and we all helped with the weeding and planting.

Doreen from the office at Consett station would assist as well, when the vegetables and flowers where in bloom a grand sight it was to behold.

Our boss was Mr Edward Gray he was the Station master and was of the old school, it was his railway and it ran like clockwork working with Consett iron company lads.

One day at Consett North box I was on early turn when two men from British Rail telecoms arrived to service the yard speaker system.

This was operated from inside the signal box by means of a bacolite unit. Now it had never worked for years all we did was shout out the window to the railway lads in the yard when we needed them.

So the first lad says where’s the amplifier for it? I hadn’t a clue at this point the two of them searched in the box cupboards finally finding the yard ampifier unit.

Ah said the first one there’s your problem pointing at a old valve unit. I remember a makers plaque on it which read Marconi Radio Systems 1941.

On closer inspection lying very much mummified in amongst the valves was a dead mouse the poor thing had probably caused it to blow up years before.

Oh said the lad well soon get that fixed, and true to his word he came back a few months later with a state of the art amplifier as the old one was beyond it help.

Well after that no more shouting out of Windows, at the flick of a switch your voiced boomed round the yard.

In the November of 1979 it was announced the works was to close the following September 1980.

My beloved Consett railway was soon to be no more R.i.P my freind and thank you for letting me be a small part of you.

Steve Shields

Do any of the names mentioned “ring a bell”?

Low Yard-Thanks to Steve Shields
Consett North box taken by Steve Shields from his Guard Van

9F Steam Locomotives

One of the most iconic railway locomotives used to work the Tyne Dock to Consett route ie the 9F Steam Locomotives

The British Railways BR Standard Class 9F 2-10-0 is a class of steam locomotive designed for British Railways by Robert Riddles.

The Class 9F was the last in a series of standardised locomotive classes designed for British Railways during the 1950s, and was intended for use on fast, heavy freight trains over long distances. It was one of the most powerful steam locomotive types ever built for British Railways, and successfully performed its intended duties. The class was given the nickname of ‘Spaceships’, due to its size and shape.

At various times during the 1950s, the 9Fs worked passenger trains with great success, indicating the versatility of the design, sometimes considered to represent the ultimate in British steam development. Several experimental variants were constructed in an effort to reduce costs and maintenance, although these met with varying degrees of success. They were also capable of reaching speeds of up to 90 miles per hour (145 km/h).

The total number built was 251, production being shared between Swindon (53) and Crewe Works (198). The last of the class, 92220 Evening Star, was the final steam locomotive to be built by British Railways, in 1960. Withdrawals of the class began in 1964, with the final locomotives being withdrawn from service in 1968, the final year of steam traction on British Railways. Several examples have survived into the preservation era in varying states of repair, including Evening Star.

They were generally thought of as very successful locomotives, O S Nock stating “The ‘9F’ was unquestionably the most distinctive and original of all the British standard steam locomotives, and with little doubt the most successful. They were remarkable in their astonishing capacity for speed as well as their work in heavy freight haulage.

Design features

The 9F was designed at both Derby and Brighton Works in 1951 to operate freight trains of up to 900 tons (914 tonnes) at 35 mph (56 km/h) with maximum fuel efficiency.

The original proposal was for a boiler from the BR Standard Class 7 Britannia 4-6-2, adapting it to a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement but Riddles eventually settled upon a 2-10-0 type because it had been used successfully on some of his previous Austerity locomotives. Distributing the adhesive weight over five axles gave a maximum axle load of only 15 tons, 10 cwt.

The driving wheels were 5 feet 0 inches (1.52 m) in diameter. However, in order to clear the rear coupled wheels, the grate had to be set higher, thus reducing firebox volume. There were many problems associated with locomotives of such a long wheelbase, but these were solved by the design team through a series of compromises.

The centre driving wheels had no flanges, and those on the second and fourth coupled wheels were reduced in depth. This enabled the locomotive to round curves of only 400 feet (120 m) radius.[6] As on all other BR standard steam locomotives, the leading wheels were 3 feet 0 inches (0.91 m) in diameter.

source Wikepedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BR_Standard_Class_9F

Another great source article https://www.derbysulzers.com/24102.html

A brief look at the Tyne Dock – Consett iron ore workingsClass 9F’s 92060 – 92066 & 92097 – 92099Class 24’s 24102 – 24111

John Donnelly and contributors have some great pictures on http://www.southpelawjunction.co,ukhttps://southpelawjunction.co.uk/wp/?page_id=2287

BR 9F 2-10-0

2014-08-27_11
9F 92099 at South Pelaw Junction with a coal train. Note the white buffers and smokebox door hinges, a hallmark of Tyne Dock shed. Photo Author’s collection.

Designed for British Railways by Robert Riddles, a total of two hundred and fifty one 9Fs were built originally for use on heavy freight trains. ten 9F locomotices, numbers 92060-92066 and 92097-92099 were modified, with the fitment of a pair of Westinghouse Air pumps, specifically to haul the the iron ore trains from Tyne Dock to Consett.

The 9Fs began duties on the ore trains in 1956 with the final 9F hauled train, named the Tyne Docker, running to Consett on 19 November 1966 behind a specially cleaned and adorned 92063.

A number of 9Fs have been saved for preservation, the most well known of which, Evening Star, is part of the National Collection.

Please get in touch if you have any pictures or memories of the 9F Steam Locomotives

Facebook page re 9F’s https://www.facebook.com/groups/517377101747933

Video to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeOnudmiqzU

Entering Leadgate, 9F, 92063 hauls the ‘Tyne Docker’, 19th November 1966. Eden Colliery in the background and The Jolly Drovers to the left.
The 9Fs, some of which were little over 10 years old, were withdrawn from 1965 onwards. The final 9F hauled train, named the ‘Tyne Docker’, is running to Consett, behind a specially cleaned and adorned 92063.
The train consist also included an additional brake van to accommodate some railway enthusiasts. 92063 was withdrawn in November 1966, so this may have been it’s final train. Photo copyright Keith Pattison.
Courtesy of South Pelaw Junction. http://southpelawjunction.co.uk/wp/

XMAS 2021 Steelworks Advent Calender call for content

We are about to plan our Advent Calender of posts to mark XMAS 2021 with a Steelworks theme where possible

Do you have any content be that pictures, memories that you would consider allowing the HCSW Project team to use?

Was there a XMAS tree and decorations in the Offices?

Staff XMAS dinners or parties?

Anyone be a Steelworks Santa?

If so please do get in touch

Delves Lane Primary School | Consett Steelworks Heritage Project with Building Self-Belief

Delves Lane Primary School | Consett Steelworks Heritage Project

In recognition of the 40th anniversary of the closure of Consett Steelworks we delivered a project where we looked back at the whole history of the town of Consett, and the huge influence the steelworks had on the local community.

We had guest speakers who talked about their lives working at the steelworks as well as inviting local people in to school to discuss the impact the closure had on the town.

The children felt that the project had given them a true appreciation of their local history and they gained a whole new sense of pride about the town where they live.

This above is shared from the Building Self Belief website https://www.buildingselfbelief.org/

Video about the project

This is a first of series of Blogs that the HCSW project team are working with Building Self Belief team

Did you see their display at the recent CDHI Exhibition held at the HEART Centre in Consett? We are also hoping to have the display as part of future events for more people to see it

Did your child or family take part in this project?

The Kids of the Heaps

No1 plant being pulled down (With thanks to the Tommy Moore collection/Billy Ellwood)

I’m just old enough that I remember the works in operation, seeing them every day from my bedroom window at Delves Terrace, but young enough that the picture above (and many other like it) where my playground as a youngster.

Big metal structures that where like huge monkey frames to climb on, old tires which we gleefully rolled down the sides of the slag heaps, holes and tunnels in the ground to climb into and explore.

From dawn until dusk we’d find somewhere to get up to mischief, and if it wasn’t on the steelworks site(s) then it was definitely the many railways lines, yards and buildings that where still scattered around waiting for their final demise.

We broke windows in the signal boxes, pulled cables out the ground and made bike ramps using the concrete slabs and bit’s of wood a plenty that we found lying around, it really was the best playground in the world, even if we didn’t really realise then what all the fuss about this place closing was.

We’d heard our parents and grandparents going on about where the kids would work in years to come, but we didn’t really care it was just too much fun getting chased by security guards back then, and yes… we did get chased by them, not like today where they just shout at you and then call the police. Back then we proper got chased, and if they caught you (which they sometimes did) you got taken home and your parents disciplined you!!

It didn’t stop us though, the next day we’d be roaming around again, to be fair how we didn’t damage ourselves (well seriously anyway) or ever worse kill ourselves is anyone’s guess, when you have a 10ft girder with a crane hook on a pully attached to it that slides along the girder, it makes for a brilliant tarzie swing.

I look back on those days quite often now and wish that the technology I have today in the form of my camera phone, I had back then, because the amount of photos and video I would have taken would have been unreal, some of it might have been taken for sensible reasons, but a lot of it would have been taken to show some of the utterly stupid stunts we got up to.

I do feel sad that I didn’t think to find ways to record what I saw for future prosperity, but thankfully others did, we found ways to make use of our towns heart in other more creative ways, ways that I’ll never forget and times that I’ll always cherish as the fun times I had with my friends before we grew into young adults and realized the gravity of our situation and the bleakness of our future.

A Memory of the Aerial Ropeway by Dave Wallace

After a post on the HCSW project Facebook group of a video of a Aerial Ropeway similar to the one that was operated to support the Consett Steelworks Dave Wallace has kindly got in touch with his own memory of the Ropeway

Richard, as a small child I was pushed in a pushchair down to Hardy’s Farm then along the Lydgetts.

On those Sunday walks I loved to watch the aerial ropeway and it’s tubs travelling high above my head then tipping their contents high up on a giant spoil heap. I then watched as the empty tub returned to the bottom possibly to the Brick Flats to my left.

I am unsure as to whether these tubs were in some way connected. In other words as one tub came down another went up, rather like telegraphiques (cable cars) in the mountainous regions of France.

This was around 1952.

This spoil heap was removed to allow the development of the Hownsgill Plate Mill.

This is my personal recollection… Dave Wallace

What are your memories of the Ropeway?

Any pictures or tech drawings of the Ropeway?

please comment or make contact with the HCSW project team we would be delighted to hear from you

This a link to video mentioned

Consett Fawcett Park development at Berry Edge from Project Genesis website