Rail’s role in the building of piers

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BACK again, after a break pretty much spent at ‘Worgate’ but relaxing nonetheless.

I’m ashamed to say, though, that I didn’t get down to the seafront much, let alone enjoy a walk along the pier.

It’s been nice to note, though, that the pier itself has continued to be a topic of discussion during my absence, especially in relation to the old railway that ran along the seafront, carrying stone from Trow Quarry.

Bill Watson got in touch, for instance, to say: “I remember the railway, or probably only the sleepers from when we used to play down at Trow Rocks in the late 1950s. I wondered what they were there for at the time, and this article explains it all. Thanks for that.”

But it was especially interesting to hear from an on-line reader, The Keelman, who points me to an extract from the book. Railways of South Shields.

This notes how, in the 1850s, the newly-formed Tyne Improvement Commission commenced the construction of the North and South Piers and, in order to provide stone for certain parts, opened a quarry at Trow and laid a railway along the foreshore at South Shields.

The latter was worked initially by horses, which were replaced in 1876 by a locomotive which ran to the construction sites for the South Pier and the South Groyne.

Stone was also taken to staithes at the river mouth for shipment across to the North Pier.

By the way, The Keelman notes that another feature of the massive engineering undertaking that was the pier’s construction was the Titan harbour block setting crane – you can see it in the distance in the picture here, which was built by Stothert and Pitt, Bath.

“The block yard was situated at the pier car park and had two electric gantry cranes by the same maker to lift the 40-ton concrete blocks onto bogies which were then hauled out to the Titan crane to place around the pier end to stop scouring,” he says.

“The crane was originally intended for Gibraltar and it had to be modified to run on the South Pier by making one leg shorter.

“A steam winch was salvaged by Beamish when the crane was demolished and one of the stone transport bogies is preserved at the Tanfield Railway.”

And you know what – and I love this – he has actually recently built a working Lego model representing this type of crane (though not an exact replica).

You can see his video of the model in operation at https://www.flickr.com/photos/116189129@N03/12431685423