Idling a couple of hours away over the Festive Season with a book of steam railway images, I found myself looking at this photograph and wondering just where the coal had come from that the train was moving and whether it was destined for the power station in the background.
I looked on Google Maps and battled to find the colliery mentioned in the book’s caption - almost every pit in the North East has been closed for decades. Following some visual clues, mainly local rivers and roads, I managed to find the scar of the track bed and followed it north over the River Weir into Sunderland.
The original image seemed to have been taken from one bridge looking towards another and with a bit more map zooming, it was possible to spot the Wearmouth Bridge and on its right, the arched shadow of the much less visible rail bridge.
Plucking Google’s little yellow man from the scale tool and placing him on the bridge revealed a StreetView across from the west side of the road bridge and the steelwork of the rail bridge.
I was clearly almost at the right spot, but there was absolutely no sign of the power station. Surely that hadn’t been done away with too?
It certainly had. I’m no expert at map interpretation, but the empty area north of Livingstone Road, opposite the Northumbria Police Station looks suspiciously like an abandoned industrial area, well capable of housing a small power station.
Back to StreetView. Now I’m standing just inches from where the photographer stood almost fifty years ago. By moving the StreetView fractionally, it’s possible to align the circles and ovals and look through the rail bridge’s steelwork and see where the cooling tower and chimney would have been in the area closest to the river.
Mystery solved and I now have the start of a new hobby. All that said, I still can't help but wonder what happened to the chap in the flat cap.
Ain’t technology great?