Wonderful Wetheral

Returning by train to Southern England after a two-night stay in Perth seemed like the perfect opportunity to pay an Eve-of-Lockdown Two (4 November) call at the one Tyne Valley signalling location I had not previously visited, Wetheral.

Wetheral station is six miles east of Carlisle and stands high above the River Eden and at the opposite end of the impressive five-span Wetheral Viaduct to the slightly curious looking Corby Gates Signal Box. 

There is no road crossing of the Eden for many miles in either direction, so anyone wanting to get from Wetheral to the village of Great Corby on the east side of the river must take the slightly daunting path that runs 100ft above the river on the north side of the railway viaduct, as seen below.

156444/449 cross Wetheral Viaduct with the 09.55 Morpeth-Carlisle (2N13)

Wetheral Viaduct, formally known as Corby Bridge, is a Grade I Listed structure that was built between 1830 and 1834 for the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Company. The cast iron footpath was added in 1851 because so many people were trespassing on the railway to cross the river.

Alongside the former stationmaster’s house at Wetheral station there is an old toll booth at the western end of the viaduct, which originally charged a half penny for someone to cross, apparently to match what was charged by a small ferry boat (seen above on left behind footbridge).

The River Eden looking north from Wetheral Viaduct

This toll had risen to one penny (1d) by the time the railway station closed in January 1967 as part of the Beeching cuts, but had been abolished by the time the station was re-opened by British Rail in October 1981. 

Corby Gates Signal Box (pictured above) stands just around the corner from the eastern end of the viaduct and is a British Railways (NER) Type 17 design dating from 1955 that is built on the base of a previous North Eastern Railway box, which has a letter box built into its end wall. 

156949 approaches signal CG24 with the 11.52 Carlisle-Newcastle (1N64)

It boasts a 26-lever McKenzie & Holland frame and controls just three semaphore arms, all of which stand to the east of the box and its level crossing. 

158850 approaches Corby Gates SB with the 10.46 Newcastle-Carlisle (1N57)

In view from the crossing are a down (westbound) home signal and an up section signal with sighting board behind (CG24), which stands at the far end of a second and smaller viaduct taking the railway over Corby Beck. 

156428 approaches Sandy Lane FP with the 11.23 Newcastle-Carlisle (2N15)

From this point the line curves round to the right, and for a great vantage point to see and photograph Corby Gates’ third semaphore it is well worth the ten-minute walk towards the village of Great Corby then turning left and heading north on Sandy Lane to a foot crossing of the line close to the motor-worked down outer home signal. 

There is a great panoramic view looking east from the crossing, and a highlight of my visit to this spot was the sight of DRS 66421/126 passing at around 13.00 with the seasonal twice-weekly (WFO) RHTT working from Nunthorpe to Carlisle (bottom photo).

156479 at Sandy Lane FP with the 11.51 Newcastle-Carlisle (1N59)

For a pleasant interlude on the return walk from Sandy Lane to Wetheral station I can highly recommend The Queen Inn at Great Corby, and the beer it serves that comes from a micro-brewery called Great Corby Brewhouse located in a building called the old village forge across the road from pub.     

Once back at Wetheral station, it is well worth making the steep 99-step descent down to the river to appreciate the full grandeur of the magnificent 660ft long sandstone viaduct from a path leading north along the river bank. 

Along with the old toll booth and stationmaster’s house, one notable feature at the station is its historic and attractive cast iron footbridge.