Bowes Railway Museum & Springwell Colliery
The village of Springwell traces its roots back to 1821 when a group of pit cottages were built for workers at the new colliery site, which was being built by George Stephenson, a pioneer in engineering, and known as the ‘Father of the Railways’.
It would consist of a standard guage cable railway system, capable of transferring coal from local pits in the area, downhill to the River Tyne at Jarrow.
The colliery was completed in 1824, with shafts able to go as far as 755 feet below ground. To put that into perspective, that’s about 230 meters. Within 2 years of this, the colliery was open and work had began.
Mining was such a dangerous occupation and every miner knew the risks involved. That is why on the site of most former mines in the north east, there is some kind of monument of recognition. Disasters were common, and day to day deaths and tragedies sadly happened a lot of the time.
There are over 211 recorded deaths on this site alone, with hundreds and thousands more injured. In 1830, 3 men died when a chain snapped, plunging them to their deaths. 3 years later, 47 men and boys, some as young as 7 years old, were instantly killed during an underground methane explosion. None of their remains were ever identified, due to how deadly the explosion was.
On the 6th December 1837, 29 workers entered the mine shaft. Only 2 came out. 27 men and 3 horses are still buried hundreds of feet below ground. It was impossible to get the bodies out, and to this very day, the 29 workers are still beneath the colliery.
Another explosion in 1869 claimed 5 more lives. The list of deaths in the archives feels almost endless to read through. Men and boys were crushed between tubs, hit by wagons on the track, and trapped under stone fall. Nobody desired to work here, but it brought food and money in. Young children, who couldn’t read or write, were sent here by mothers, desperate for any additional income. And quite often, the inexperience, or lack of concentration was a big factor in many children never returning home.
And it wasn’t just in the railway yard or colliery that accidents happened. The railway line at Bowes connects several collieries in the North East, and runs downhill to the staiths at Jarrow. Hundreds were killed on the line.
In May 1884, 14 year old Elizabeth Coulthard was collecting spilt coal that was lying around when she was hit by a train, taking both her legs off. She died of her injuries.
In May 1886, the Jarrow Express reported the tragic story of 6 boys that climbed onto the colliery to ride on the back of wagons. They would run along the train trying to get to the front of the waggon. Witnesses last saw 12 year old William Cooper fall between 2 of the wagons, which rose up and bumped as it crushed the young boy’s body.
Some would ride the wagons as a mode of transport. Charles Armstrong was on his way home from work at Palmers Blast furnace to Jarrow. He slipped and fell beneath the buffers, crushing his head. He was unrecognisable.
So who haunts Bowes? A transparent looking man in a boiler suit throws things at people in the engineering workshops here. He is said to be very angry at people in his area, and mediums have picked up on him countless times. Whilst without a name, he is believed to have burned to death in an accident here.
‘Clean Willy’, thought to be the very first person to die on this site, has a regular smell of soap and has an attraction to perfume. This is according to people who have sensed his spirit on investigations. He once told a medium that when he died, his wife came here everyday for 3 years looking for answers, but they never told her his fate in case it upset her. It was probably best she didn’t know what really happened.
One woman came looking for her child who never returned home a long shift at work. His body was never found but a carriage with blood on the front lead the assumption he had been killed. People have reported screaming a lot in the museum. Could this be some kind of painful memory replaying itself?
Dark shadows walking around in the dark, stones being thrown at volunteers and sounds of crying have also been reported here.
In my investigation, I spoke to Amanda, who has worked here for many years. She had one of the most frightening experiences, when a series of stones flew through the air towards her, but yet landed in a neat little pile (classic poltergeist behaviour). Seconds later, a metal bolt was thrown at her. This all took place in the engineering workshop where volunteers had been reaaranging a display around. It turns out that the bolt was actually a piece from a locomotive’s engine.
Wilf Brown, another volunteer and guide here has also reportedly heard screaming. It doesn’t happen often, but it is chilling when it happens as he desecribes it as being right beside you.
Another common sighting associated with the road outside of the museum of that of a figure walking from the locked up railway yard, over the modem day road, and onto an old piece of railway line opposite. Many motorists have seen it, including some staff who work here. Given the amount of death that occurred on this piece of railway line, it makes sense to started my investigation here.
For this investigation, i would be joined by Kathrine Taylor, who runs the TikTok and YouTube channels NorthEastNostalgic – you can follow her on TikTok for her viral videos about the North East and its cool history. She’s also a big fan of all things spooky!
For this investigation, I would be bringing a lt more equipment. The GeoPort makes a return, which I think would be the perfect place for it due to the amount of energy believed to still be lingering around this place. The SLS camera and the Spirit Box are also in the arsenal of hunting equipment.
Click above and enjoy!
Visit Bowes Railway Museum
Address: Springwell Rd, Springwell, Gateshead, NE9 7QJ
The museum is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 11-4pm and guided tours can be bought upon arrival for just £5 (underpriced if you ask me!)
A section of the line that I used for filming at the start is open as a public footpath. It begins right outside the museum entrance and you can walk it for miles!
Ghost Hunting at Bowes Railway
The following groups run events at Bowes: