23. May 2012 06:45
The SOW (Stephan, Oncork and Waygood railway) was one of the first railways to be built in the north of England and opened in 1840. It connected the three valleys of Stephan which ran from the south to link with Oncork valley and Waygood valley near the town of Cork End. The Waygood valley ran from the north west and the Oncork valley ran from the west shepherding the river Cork which spilled into the River Tyne at Cork End. This was an excellent place for any railway to cross the Tyne as the river narrowed at this point and the People behind the SOW believed (correctly) that any north south railway on the east side of England use this as a crossing point.
The railway would server the towns of Cork End, Stephan, West Way, Tails, Cotton Bud and Low Bottom as well as some fifteen villages three coal mines and an iron oar mine, situated within the three valleys. The main part of the line was to be standard gauge but the iron oar mine already had a narrow 2 foot 6 inch wagon way which would be incorporated into the system with the west side of Stephan being served by a steam hauled narrow gauge line which would conect to the standard gauge line at Tails in Waygood valley.
Much of the line would be along side of the valleys with trains from Cork End running to Stephan via Low Bottom in Stephan valley, to West Way via Tails in Waygood valley and Cotton Bud in Oncork Valley. Stephen Valley would also have the narrow gauge line running along the west side of the valley from But Out, via Muck, Pleat and High End to Tails just over the Cork and about a mile up the Waygood valley. This would also server the Stephan, But and Muck Iron oar mine which was situated just north of But Out.
In the Waygood valley was two coal mines on at Inside Out and one at Wag which would be served by the line. In Oncork Valley there was a further coal mine at Side vale which was also served by the railway. Further down Oncork are two small valleys, Little Cork Dale which was a large farming community and High Cork where the source of the Cork river was. This valley had just one village called Hughes Seat which was a local farming community. The Lord of the Manor at Hughes Hall was against having a new dirty Steam training messing up his country side. His Friend the Lord of the Manor in Cotton Bud took his friend to ride on the New Liverpool Manchester Railway. After he had gone from one end of the line to the other four times declared that he was in love, with steam trains.
He latter became the Chairman of the board of the SOW and invested two thirds of the start up fund for the line and added a further £10,000 on the day the first train was run up to the small station at Hughes Seat. It was almost entirely due to him that the line, stations, bridges and signalling equipment was of the best quality. He also had the idea that each station should have a public toilet on it. From the opening of the railway in 1840 to his death in 1887 he was chairman of the board and personally worked on each of the stations for one week every year and took the controls of a train when ever he could. He was know on the line by the name of 'Cheerful Mac' and counted as friends everyone who worked on the railway. In his will he left each man and woman who worked on the line One Gold Soverign and ten shares in he railway they worked for.
The line flourished and even when it was taken over by the L N E R it was making a very healthy profit. In fact it was the only company in British railway history it is the only railway company never to make a loss.
So that is the short history (All made up just in case you had not guessed) of the SOW.