Newcastle Central Station
DELAYING ACTION (17 K)   One of the favorite haunts of Skylighters during their stay in the Newcastle area in 1944, the Central Station was staked out routinely by the men of those batteries located close to the city center since that was where the girls were. It doesn't take much imagination to picture the station waiting rooms and platforms crowded with confident young "Yanks" waiting for the mad rush of English girls just off of work. It was pretty obvious that British men didn't like this situation very much. The Yanks were said to be "overpaid, oversexed, overfed, and over here." The Americans countered this by saying the Brits were "underpaid, undersexed, underfed, and under Eisenhower." Below is a poem that was sent our way that was apparently recited by the English during the influx of American troops into the British Isles during 1942-44. It's from the point of view of an English girl who's had her fill of those bloody "Yanks!" In the photo at above left, which appeared on the cover of the December 1943 British edition of YANK — The Army Weekly, an English girl fights a "delaying action" by taking her sweet time applying her lipstick, while her "Yank" impatiently checks his watch (how quintessentially American!). How such scenes in pubs and music halls all over Britain must have stirred the ire of local males, who were, by comparison, poor, and couldn't compete with these brash, bragging "invaders."

Dear old England's not the same.
We dreaded the invasion, still it came.

Though it's not the beastly Hun, the goddamn Yankee Army's come.

We see them on the train and bus, there isn't room for both of us.

We walk and let them have our seats and then get knocked down by a jeep.

With admiration we would stare at all the ribbons the Yanks do wear.

We think of deeds so brave and daring that won those ribbons they are wearing.

But alas they hadn't fought the Hun, no glorious battles have they won.

That pretty ribbon just denotes they crossed the sea, brave men in boats.

They laugh at us for drinking tea, but a funnier sight you'll never see

than a gum chewing Yank with a dumb looking face, he'd raise a laugh most any place.

They moan about our luke warm beer, say beer's like water over here.

Yet after having two or more we find them lying on the floor.

You should see them try to dance, they pull and hug and strut and prance.

When you're half-dead they stop and smile and say "how you doin', honey chile."

It's enough to make Red Indians jealous but Yanks are so civilized, so they tell us.

They will tell you, you have teeth like pearls, they love your hair, the way it curls,

your eyes would dim the brightened star, you're competition for Hedy Lamarr.

You are their love, their life, 'til death do part, But if you love them, they'll break your heart.

For there they leave you, broken hearted, the camp has moved, your love departed.

You'll wait for mail that will never come and then you realise you were awfully dumb.

For in a different town, in a different place with a different girl with a different face

"I love you, honey, please be mine," the same old Yank, the same old line.

   Newcastle Central Station was opened by Queen Victoria on 29 August 1850. The station buildings were designed by the famous Tyneside architect John Dobson, though his original plan was deemed too expensive and his complete concept, including the impressive portico (the focus of the contemporary picture appearing above; photo © Ray Urwin, reprinted by permission) was not finalized until 1862 under Prosser's supervision (below, the portico as it appeared in the 1950s).


   As Engineer-in-Chief to the successive railway companies, Robert Stephenson was responsible for all structures under and over the railway 1845-50 and was succeeded by Thomas Harrison. The station has seen many developments and modifications over the years, with new lines and connections extending the earlier works to accommodate traffic needs. Perhaps the most well known of these are the installation of the famous "Diamond Crossing" at the east end of the station in 1893, which together with other track and platform improvements increased the capacity for through east/west traffic.


   When built, the station had been virtually two terminus stations for the York, Newcastle & Berwick mainline and the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway. The well-known configuration of routes shown on the map above was completed in 1906 with the opening of the King Edward bridge, which meant  East Coast mainline trains could travel directly through the station without having to reverse. Since 1982 the north bank route to Carlisle has been truncated and trains now travel over the King Edward bridge via Dunston.

   The last 20 years or so has seen much rationalization, and although many of the aspects beloved of railway enthusiasts have been swept away, the Central station remains very busy in both mainline and local rail traffic and the Tyneside Metro system.


The above view shows some of the Station's track and signalling developments for which the North Eastern Railway, and particularly the area around Newcastle, was justifiably famous.


This view (c.1900) looks eastward towards the Keep and the East End Diamond Crossing, then the largest junction in the world. Trains diverged to the left, northbound to Edinburgh and the North Tyneside suburban lines. The right hand route takes trains over the High Level Bridge, crossing the River Tyne and on to the mainlines south and the surburban lines to South Shields and Sunderland. At the left can just be seen Newcastle No. 1 signal cabin (244 levers) which was built at the time of the east end improvements (1893-1895), replacing older cabins around the station. All signals and pointwork at this time were mechanically operated.


The opening of the N.E.R.'s North Tyneside electric services in 1904 meant another round of new developments. The trackwork at the east end diamonds was simplified, but the major improvement was in the introduction of power signalling using the Westinghouse electro-pneumatic system which was completed after the opening of the King Edward bridge in 1906. This view (circa 1920) shows the gigantic No. 1 overtrack cabin (259 levers) which replaced the older No. 1 cabin in the previous view. The Central Station was then controlled by three cabins; No. 2 was in the center of the station and No. 3 in the junction of the Carlisle lines and the King Edward Bridge. These were, in turn, replaced by one all-electric signalroom opened in 1959.


Here we see Newcastle No.3 box in the background. This view taken in 1949 shows A3 Pacific 60040 Cameronian beneath part of the famous signal gantry at the west end, which at one time boasted over 60 arms.


The High Level Bridge

   Built under the direction of Robert Stephenson, the High Level Bridge, a two-level rail and road bridge, is one of the great historic features of Tyneside. (The photograph above, reprinted courtesy Gateshead Library, was taken ca. 1890.) Officially opened by Queen Victoria on 28 September 1849, the bridge was a vital link in a direct East Coast route to Scotland, with trains reversing in the Central Station, then still under construction. The bridge is 1,337 feet in length and rises on stone pillars to 112 feet above the mean high water mark. The ribs of the cast-iron arches are arranged in pairs and have a span of 125 feet. The total weight of iron used in the construction of the bridge is 5,050 tons. The upper level carried three tracks until cut back to two recently; the road level some 23 feet below it was opened in 1850 and is still in heavy use today.

Photos reprinted courtesy of, and text portions
from, the Gateshead Library, unless stated otherwise.


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