(The Marsden Rattler)

Built by the Whitburn Coal Company the colliery railway line ran north to south for 2 ¾ miles from South Shields to Whitburn colliery roughly where the Coast Road is now. Construction of the railway began 1878 when permission was given by South Shields Corporation to build the final section of the railway through South Shields. The railway first opened to mineral traffic in 1879.The colliery and the railway got off to a very slow start as the pit did not start full coal production until 1882. Therefore It was limestone that initially made up most of the mineral traffic on the railway as the Whitburn Coal Company had bought five quarries, two of which were developed as the Lighthouse (Marsden) Quarries. The quarries lay next to the new railway and were found to have large reserves, which were to provide traffic for the railway in it's early days.

In 1888 the Board of Trade, sanctioned the running of passenger services along the line. Normal passenger trains consisted of three coaches, plus a guard’s van. The railway always used second hand coaching stock, usually worn out and in poor condition. The riding qualities of the carriages gained some notoriety and the service was given the nickname 'The Marsden Rattler' which remained with it until the service ended. The coaches used by the mineworkers were stripped of all interior partitions and fittings and were fitted with wooden seats.

                                                 The Rattler at Whitburn Colliery Station


                                                          Leaving Whitburn for South Shields



                                                    Pre 1929 Marsden station (just south of the Grotto).

The line is also said to have had one of the smallest stations in the country. Marsden Cottage Station (Salmons Hall) the platform was only the length of one carriage. 

                                                                  The rattler approaching Marsden Cottage (Harton Downhill).

On January 1, 1947, the Harton Coal Company was vested into the National Coal Board. Therefore the rattler became the first nationalised passenger line in the country, a year before the formulation of British Railways on January 1, 1948. 

                                               Heading south along the coast

                                                     Passing over the coast Road                      


                                                              Passing the Grotto

The line stopped carrying passengers in 1953, but the line continued carrying coal until the pits closure in 1968. 

                                                         Durham Coast Rail Tour 7/9/1968

                                 Front of a workman's rail pass                                                               Back of a workman's rail pass

                                                                                                           Train tickets

Reference: The South Shields, Marsden and Whitburn Colliery Railway (Oakwood Library of Railway History) William J. Hatcher 

All copyrights acknowledged were known. 
B Cauwood 2013

updated 2018

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