These photos are by kind permission of Mark Keefe of the Stainmore Railway Company at Kirkby Stephen East Station and should not be reproduced without his permission.
Bank Top Darlington - Were it all began, Darlington bank top station. This shot was taken on the 7-10-75. By the time this shot was taken the stainmore line was long gone.
Barnard Castle - One of the major stations on the Stainmore route was Barnard Castle. This was John Birkbecks hometown. John moved away from Barnard Castle shortly after the stainmore line closed in 1962. But he would occasionally return during his holidays, and photograph the remains of the route as nature took over. This shot shows Barnard Castle station in June 1971. The station buildings had less than a year to live, as the demolition men were due. Today Barnard Castle station has been wiped from the face of the earth. Nothing remains. Despite this gaunt photograph, its a shame that John didnt go inside and photo the interior.
Tees Viaduct - Tees Viaduct, was just to the West of Barnard Castle station. This impressive structure was 132 ft high and 732 ft long. Although the Stainmore route closed in 1962. The line from Darlington to Barnard Castle and the branch line to Middleton-in-Teesdale, limped on for another 3 years, but the writing was always on the wall. This was a well thought out trick by British Rail. By closing a big section of the stainmore line they had simply rendered the rest of the route useless. So in June 1971 John Birkbeck, photographed the now redundant Tees viaduct, as it turns out, he would never see it in one piece again. On November 29th 1971, the demolition men moved in and began cutting up the 120 ft spans.
Tees Viaduct - the demolition men, cut up the spans of the Tees viaduct, then let them drop into the river below. Once the girders were in the river they were cut up into smaller pieces and hauled back upto the bridge by crane then loaded onto a wagon. Due to John Birkbecks working commitments, he missed the actual demolition work. But, on the 27-2-72. John took this haunting picture of the piers of Tees viaduct silently awaiting their fate. Once the spans had been removed the demolition men waited until the summer to demolish the piers, as the river would be well down.
Lartington - Lartington Station. John Took this picture on the, 20-10-85. Today, Lartington station still remains in immaculate condition.
Deepdale Viaduct - John Birkbeck took a lot of pictures of the demolition work on the stainmore route, the demolition pictures are what John is most well known for. These grainy black and white shots were taken with a box brownie. John Birkbeck never learnt to drive; instead he went round, in those early days, on a lambretta scooter. The picture shows one of the piers of Deepdale viaduct, been pulled down. The bolts that held the pier to its stone foundations were cut through, and if you look very carefully at the top of the falling pier, you can see the attached hawser that would be fastened to a couple of bulldozers, that are pulling the pier over.
Bowes Station - Bowes station photographed by John on the 21-6-75. The building was still holding its own; but the signs of the terrible stainmore weather are showing, with sections of the slates missing. Over the years the station has simply collapsed in on its self. And today, is nothing more than a complete ruin, with the murderous traffic on the A66 road, which is only 50 yards away, screaming by.
Barras Station - Barras station was the highest main line station in England. It is interesting to note in this John Birkbeck shot, taken on the 19-7-89. That the platform edging stones are still in place. But they are gone today. Barras station and its buildings have faired very well over the years, when you consider some of the station sites on the stainmore line have vanished altogether. A recent change has taken place at Barras station. Volunteers of the Stainmore Railway Company have dismantled the up platform waiting room, which can be seen in the picture. The waiting room will be rebuilt on a section of the Eden Valley line.
Belah Biaduct - Belah Viaduct on the 11-10-86. It must have stirred the emotions for John to return to the site of Belah viaduct. John took a lot of black and white shots of Belah been torn down. The demolition work on Belah began on the 4th June 1962, with the removal of the decking. Followed by the removal of the first span on the Barras side of the bridge followed by the first pier, and so on. Johns photos of the demolition of Belah are now safe with in the archives of the Stainmore Railway Company.
The Bobbin Factory - The Bobbin Factory, as the Kirkby Stephen east station was known as in its industrial days. This picture was taken on the 7-5-87. At the time John Birkbeck took this shot, the east station yard was a green wilderness, it is much changed today, with areas of the yard sold off to local businesses. The Bobbin factory closed in 1992, the station building was almost pulled down, but was saved for preservation, by a volunteer group called stainmore properties.
Appleby East Station - Appleby east station, taken on the 26-1-80, note the absence of heaps of scrap! The station building looks in excellent condition as it waits for its next train to pass through on Warcop camp.
Appleby East Station - Appleby East station, john took this picture almost eight years after the 1980 picture, on the 28-1-88. Things are somewhat more chaotic than in the picture taken in January 1980. Note the stop sign on the platform. Perhaps stop before you fall over a piece of scrap!