Coal lay at the heart of industrialisation in Great Britain, and the waggonway network supported the coal industry across the Great Northern Coalfield, the most important coal producing area in the Victorian era. The waggonways were built to transport coal from the collieries down to the River Tyne. From there, the coal was shipped all over the world.
Originally coal was transported along the waggonways on horse-drawn carts travelling along wooden-railed waggonways. Until the second half of the eighteenth century, horses and gravity were the sole means of propelling waggons along the wooden rails. With the advent of the steam engine & steam locomotive, George Stephenson and the other railway engineering pioneers transformed the movement of coal along the waggonways. Stephenson’s early locomotive trials along the Killingworth Waggonway led to the development of the standard railway line gauge, 4 foot 8 ½ inches, adopted across the world.
Biodiversity along North Tyneside Waggonways
As linear features, the waggonways are invaluable to our wildlife as they allow free movement of birds and animals to and from our green spaces. These routes are a mixture of hedgerow, scrub and unimproved grassland habitats that are now rare in North Tyneside.