By Luke Payne
Most students will be familiar with the stunning views of Durham that can be appreciated from the train as it pulls into and out of the city’s train station. However, the iconic train station was not always Durham’s only rail stop. For a 48 year period, between 1893 and 1941, the city was serviced by three train stations.
The first train station to service Durham opened in Shincliffe in 1839. This meant a three-mile journey to the centre of Durham. The train line itself terminated at Shincliffe and only went as far north as Sunderland.
The railway didn’t have locomotives until almost two decades later. Until then, the cars were pulled by rope. A second Shincliffe station opened in 1844 that serviced a junction between Darlington and Newcastle.
In the same year, the Durham (Gilesgate) station opened. This was the first train station to open within the city boundaries. It was connected to the main line between London and Newcastle via a junction station at Belmont.
The station closed to passengers just 13 years later, after Durham train station (the one familiar to us all today) opened in 1857. Gilesgate station continued to serve as a goods shed for freight until 1966. The station building still exists today and is now occupied by the Travelodge off the Gilesgate roundabout.
Durham’s fourth train station opened in 1893 and led to the closure of the original Shincliffe Town train station. The train line was now diverted to Durham (Elvet) station which opened by The Racecourse.
Elvet station’s building occupied the land where Durham County Court currently stands. The passenger service was not very successful and in 1931 the station closed to passengers.
There was one main exception to this, the station opened one day a year for the Durham Miners’ Gala. Photos of passengers at Elvet Station arriving for the 1949 Miners’ Gala can be found online.
One of the final uses of the station was for a circus which arrived by train in 1953. The station closed in 1954. The station house was used as council offices in the 1960s before being demolished sometime thereafter. Walking between the river and old Durham gardens, you can still see some remains of the rail line, including a rail arch that led to the former bridge crossing.
The main source for this article was the wonderful histories of former train stations found at disused-stations.org.uk
Image Credit (Gilesgate Station): Luke Payne
Image Credit (Rail Arch): Sam Bailey