As a youngster I can remember frequently being awoken in the mornings in my bedroom at 23 Coronation Street in Barnard Castle by the sound of locomotive whistles in the 'goods yard' across Montalbo Road. The 'pilot' - usually a 2MT or 4MT from Darlington shed -would come in from the junction at 'Barney' East Box, crossing Harmire Road using the second set of gates to the south of the main line. With the aid of the guard and a shunter it would then slowly propel a load of goods and mineral wagons southwards towards the goods shed and coal drops.
Although it was clearly visible from the whole length of Harmire Road there was always something a bit mysterious about this 'goods branch' because you would never need to go there unless you had business in the coal depot or the goods office.
I was intrigued to learn as a child that it had once been Barnard Castle's first passenger station. The building was the terminus of the Darlington and Barnard Castle Railway, opened to traffic on the 9th January 1856. However almost immediately work began on the proposed South Durham and Lancashire Union Line, and the Barnard Castle Station we all remember now opened about 400 yards away and five years later - presumably on 8 August 1861 when services to Tebay began.
But here's a mystery. This first station didn't close to passengers until 1 May 1862. Why was that? I would have thought that all trains arriving from Darlington after 8 August 1861 would either have continued westwards towards Kirkby Stephen or terminated at the new station. They were all operated by Stockton and Darlington staff and stock. Why did passengers have to trek along Montabo Road for nearly a year?
Whatever the reason, after May 1862 the old station continued as 'goods only' for 103 years and in fact outlived the 'new station' by six months, not closing until 5 April 1965.
The portico of the original Barnard Castle station went to Valley Gardens at Saltburn in 1863, where it can still be seen. Much of the rest of the original building still survives nicely restored at 'Mayfield Court'.
Does anyone have any photographs of the goods yard and facilities at 'Barney' as part of a working railway? They used to be quite a busy place, but I suspect that it largely got overlooked by enthusiasts over the years in favour of the action at the other end of Montalbo Road.Maybe there are family photos in a box somewhere?
It would make a fascinating research project to model it in '0' gauge as a terminus in its original 1856 layout, populated by S&D 0-6-0's and 4 and 6 wheel coaching stock ...