Get on track to see piece of rail history

Volunteer Daniel Eddy prepares visiting locomotive Alfred for a gala weekend.
Volunteer Daniel Eddy prepares visiting locomotive Alfred for a gala weekend.
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TRAIN-LOVERS have the chance to see the restoration of a unique piece of Sunderland’s industrial heritage this weekend.

Visitors to Tanfield Railway’s steam gala weekend, running today and tomorrow, will have the chance to see the restoration of brake van No 7, built at the Philadelphia workshops of the Lambton, Hetton and Joicey Collieries.

Turned out by an apprentice at the workshops in 1946, the vehicle is undergoing restoration by the County Durham line’s volunteers and involves about a ton and a half of new timber and thousands of man hours.

The brake van was used on coal trains running from Philadelphia to Sunderland for onward shipment by sea.

The trains worked over the main British Railways line from Penshaw to Sunderland until 1967, and the brake van was transferred to the Seaham.

Brake van No 7 is the only former Lambton brake van still in original condition, and its restoration is seen as a priority, with the project being carried out in the line’s woodworking facilities, not normally open to the public.

Tanfield Railway trustee Derek Smith said: “This brake van is a unique part of not just Sunderland’s industrial heritage, but the whole region.

“It’s one of the few surviving pieces of rolling stock actually built in Sunderland, and it’s done remarkably well, having very little work done since it was built way back in 1946.”

Other highlights of the gala weekend include visiting steam locomotives Alfred and Judy, the inspiration behind Bill and Ben in the Reverend W. Awdry’s Thomas The Tank Engine books, working trains, a model railway exhibition and a display of vintage road vehicles.