Steelworks Stories: the blog

The Workers Album- All Welcome

The History of Consett Steelworks project team have started a Workers Album our Facebook page

Link for Workers Album on History of Consett Steelworks Facebook Page

If you or a member of your family would like to be added to album it is easy

We need

  1. Name
  2. A picture
  3. Indication of what roles were and when
  4. Any more information or memories you can share

We can also offer to work with you to do a Consett Story blog post if you would like to do that

please comment or email us to discuss being added to the album

Happy New Year 2022 from the History of Consett Steelworks Project

The History of Consett Steelworks project team would like to wish all a good and safe 2022

We thank all for your interest and contributions so far, if you have a story. pictures or documents to share please either post on our Facebook group or send us an email

Keep an eye out for 2022 events as these are confirmed

We would also welcome volunteers to assist with

  1. Photo archiving and logging
  2. Adding and managing the content of the website
  3. Be part of the Mapping Group – read more here
  4. If you have memories or would like to do a Consett Story or guest blog please do get in touch

If you would like to get involved do get in touch

Facebook group link


Gas Pipeline from Derwenthaugh Coke Works to Consett Steelworks

An interesting comment and follow up on the HCSW Facebook group

Charlie Smith wrote

There was a gas line from s to Templeton brick flats

Robert Gowland wrote

It was completed when George Lonie was Fuel Engineer.

The line was Derwenthaugh up to road near Whickham Golf Course along to Pickering Nook following old railtrack up to Delves all underground.

It was then on Concrete Supports Hownsgill Plate mill to Fell Coke Works.

The N.C.B. negotiated the Wayleaves to the Works from Team Valley Coal House Headquarters and the line installation including the Gas Booster Station at Derwenthaugh.

Consett Works Engineering were responsible work on its own land.

Ted Jeffries (a Leadgate Lad) was the Section Leader supervising the line design – expansion joints, supports etc., It saved Gas being wasted by being flared at DH.

Another First for Consett Works.

Land of Oak and Iron link re the Derwenthaugh Coke Works- they do some guided walks on occasion

Crowley Ironworks & Derwenthaugh Coke Works

Article about the re-use of old Coke Works land

Also a short video by Land of Oak and Iron

HCSW Blog post

Also see a lovely post from Alfred the Dog and Rob Moran

Source and thanks to Winlaton and District Local History Society

Source and thanks to Land of Oak and Iron from a video by them –

Did you work at the Coke Works?

Did you help with the install or maintenance of the pipeline?

In memory of (red) Ray Thompson

RAY THOMPSON20 December 1931 – 15 December 2021

Heather Thompson (daughter) has agreed for the following to be shared

Announce death of (red) Ray Thompson of Castleside.

He started at CIC as an apprentice electrician around 1946 when he was 14, working alongside many women who continued their wartime service at the works in the years immediately after the end of World War 2.

Apart from a period of broken service in the 1960s while he built his beloved house at Castleside, he worked at British Steel till the closure in 1979, serving as electricians’ convenor and Union rep for the EEPTU.

A staunch socialist, Ray could be uncompromising and sometimes did not see eye to eye even with other union men, especially if he felt their views were not aligned with the will of the people, from whence he derived his mandate.

Ray retained his socialist principles to the end, preferring to die at home rather than unnecessarily costing his beloved NHS the unnecessary expense of an ambulance.

Despite multiple serious illnesses, blindness and deafness he never once complained. And he fought bravely to the last.

He spent his last minutes with his daughters and grandchildren, finally at peace and pain free – a good death for a good man.

Image taken by Peter Brabban

Val Boyle wrote the following on the HCSW Facebook group and has agreed for it to be added to this post

What a wonderful man he was. I feel lucky to have met him and privileged to have worked with him on Tales of Derwentdale.

If it wasn’t for Ray, I’d never have found out about J.W.Fawcett, and his campaign to get a gravestone for one of his heroes was typical of this lovely, principled, clever, funny man.

Ray, you’re a hero of mine too.

on reply to me asking if ok to share

Yes, of course, thank-you Richard. It’s an honour to be associated with him at all.

Here’s another photo from the speech he gave at the launch of the book in the Lodge at Blackhill Park.

Val Boyle and Ray Thompson at a launch event for the revised Tales of Derwentdale by the publication group of Land of Oak & Iron Trust –

Ray at a Book Launch- Here’s another photo from the speech he gave at the launch of the book in the Lodge at Blackhill Park. shared by agreement thanks to Val Boyle

HCSW Project delighted to Be members of County Durham Forum for History & Heritage

The History of Consett Steelworks Project is delighted to support other local and sometimes national heritage groups

We have been delighted to be members of the County Durham Forum for History & Heritage for the last year with a FREE membership due to COVID

We have just renewed our membership (£20 for the year)

Membership has enabled us to interact and share information with the member organisations

Also Margaret Hedley the Honourary Chair gave a wonderful Zoom Talk on Women of the Coalfield

More about Margaret and her writing + family history research work on her website

Uncovering the past for over 30 years

Latest newsletter of the Forum and details of the forum

County Durham Forum for History & Heritage

A voluntary association of local history societies and groups, heritage organisations and individuals interested in sharing and promoting the history and heritage of County Durham.

Aims of the Forum

  • The Forum exists to promote and facilitate member organisations in celebrating, researching and raising awareness of the history and heritage of County Durham.
  • The Forum provides an avenue for communication and sharing of information between members and the wider community thus creating an opportunity for learning through sharing skills and knowledge.

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

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

Another great source article

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,uk

BR 9F 2-10-0

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

Video to enjoy

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.

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

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?