Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Colin Creates a Rail Work of Art; 18th Century Waggonway Is Celebrated

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Colin Creates a Rail Work of Art; 18th Century Waggonway Is Celebrated

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

SCULPTOR Colin Wilbourn ensured yesterday that the hidden remains of one of the world's oldest railways will not be forgotten.

His artwork, unveiled at a new country park, marks the discovery 16 years ago at the former colliery site of 150 metres of an 18th Century wooden waggonway railway system.

It is the most extensive and complete example of its type to be found in Britain.

The find was made by a digger driver during reclamation work at the former site of Sunderland's Lambton Colliery and Cokeworks, between the villages of Shiney Row, Burnmoor and Fencehouses.

After being excavated and recorded by archaeologists, the railway, which would have been worked by horses, was reburied under sheeting to protect it for future generations.

Even sets of wooden points were preserved intact under two metres of fine coal and coke waste which set hard, trapping water and excluding oxygen to produce perfect preservation conditions.

The railway sleepers were cut from rough oak tree branches, up to 2m long, and were drilled for wooden dowels to hold the rails. The rails were mostly oak, but there were samples of fir, ash and elm. They had been roughly sawn to create a square section and flat upper face, and had been laid on a bed of ash and coal fragments in 2m wide shallow trenches, cut into the natural boulder clay.

The tracks formed part of a rail route used to transport coal from the Bournmoor 'D' pit at Lambton to the River Wear.

The mine was owned by the Lambton landed family. The three best preserved tracks formed a fan of lines on the east part of the site. Where the rails ended large baulks of wood were embedded in the subsoil probably to act as buffers. The ex-colliery site is now the 52-hectare Elba country park which opened last year after a pounds 25m remediation project led by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The two-part sculpture, commissioned from Sunderland-based Colin Wilbourn by the HCA is one of a series of artworks commemorating the park's industrial and cultural heritage.

Colin's artwork "Wooden Waggonway" is a scaled representation of the track, mounted on a rough-hewn horizontal stone slab, and shows the layout of the surviving timbers beneath the ground. …

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