Bowes Railway / United Kingdom

Bowes Railway

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Bowes Railway was actually the very first paranormal investigation that API founding members Cindy & Jo participated in, as guests of the host team.

Built in 1826 by George Stephenson, Bowes Railway is the only preserved standard gauge cable railway system in the world that is still operational.

In the north east of England coal truly was King, feeding many hard working miner’s families. It was common to see children as young as 5 years old working in the coal mines and pits. The Bowes Railway was built to haul that coal from the pits of county Durham to the waiting transpost boats on the River Tyne.

The Bowes Railway cars ran between several collieries, where the mines, pits and works were located, along with many company homes.

The company homes geneally consisted of small, cramped row houses, but sometimes detached cottages were offered instead. Regardless of the type of housing provided, they tended to be fairly consistent when it came to a lack of light and comfort. The image below is an example of Miners Row housing. Although this one is located in Scotland, it is still a good example of what would have also been found in the north east of England.

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Coal miners worked in horrific, dangerous conditions, and then at the end of the day went home to a small, damp crowded hovel that usually consisted of no more than two rooms, generally shared with a wife and four or five children, sometimes more.

Miners lived hard, played hard and they died hard. It was expected by the women that eventually they would lose a father, husband, brother, son or sweetheart in a mining accident, which were common and deadly occurances. A household could, and did, lose a father, husband and son all on the same day if a major collapse or explosion happened in the mine.

Here is just one incident of mass death occurring due to a mining accident. Most of those killed were young boys.

9th May 1833 Explosion, 47 lives lost

On Thursday, a most lamentable occurrence took place at Springwell colliery, the property of the Right Hon. Lord Ravensworth and partners, near Wreckinton, in the County of Durham, and about five miles from Newcastle, owing to a dreadful explosion, in the B Pit in that colliery, by which forty-seven individuals were instantly deprived of life, besides many who received severe fractures and contusions. This colliery is on the most extensive scale, and from its complete ventilation in every part of the workings, was admired by all those engaged in the undertaking. On the morning of the day the accident happened, it had, as usual, been examined by the under viewer, and overmen and declared quite safe. About eight A. M. one of the overmen observed that a collier had pricked a blower, (a hole or crevice in the roof, from which a small quantity of inflammable gas issued;) he instantly ordered the person to leave that part of the mine. And on returning, two hours after, accompanied by the under viewer, he did not perceive any danger, but as a measure of precaution, ordered the safety lamp to be used instead of candles, with which the mine had been worked, owing to the extreme purity of the air. The colliery consists of two pits, A, and B, although containing but one shaft, which divides them by a strong and formidable piece of wood work, termed a brattice. About two o’clock on the above day the neighbourhood was alarmed by one of those dreadful explosions so peculiar to the coal mines in this district, and many posts were thrown out of the mouth of the shaft. As soon as the alarm subsided, parties of brave fellows descended the mine, and they fortunately succeeded in rescuing several who were severely injured, and also found three dead bodies, but such was the havoc created by the explosive matter, and the impure state of the mine owing to the after damp, that they could not penetrate any considerable way into the workings, and at seven o’clock on the night of the next day only eight of the bodies of the sufferers had been recovered, consequently thirty-nine remained in the mine, and with them the sad secret of the catastrophe; not one person having survived to dispel the cloud of mystery that hangs over this dismal affair. Great numbers of people visited the colliery on the next day, Friday; and at five o’clock a respectable jury was assembled, to hold an inquest on the body of James Oliver, a fine lad, who had been found dead in the pit, where his father at the same time lost his life. During the proceedings, the coroner said, as a garbled account of this lamentable affair had been printed and hawked about Newcastle and the neighbourhood, charging an unfortunate stranger, who was represented to be a Welshman, as the cause, by taking off the top of his safety lamp, he was desirous, for the exculpation of the individual thus foully charged with such a heinous offence, that he should be examined, for the satisfaction of the public, as well as the future safety of the poor fellow. Thomas Turner, from Staffordshire, was then called. He stated that he was at work in the A. pit on the preceding day; used the Davy lamp, but did not take the top off; nor ever did such a thing in his life; he was aware of the report, but it was unfounded. The jury then returned a verdict of accidental death. There were only nine or ten adults that fell victims to the terrific explosion, the remainder being boys; and nearly the whole of the sufferers were natives of this district, as only two of the strange workmen are supposed to have been lost. The accident occurred in the Hetton seam, at a depth of 120 fathoms.

Source: Local Historian’s Table Book of Remarkable Occurrences Connected with the Counties of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland and Durham by M.A. Richardson. Published in five volumes in 1844.

Below are the names and ages of just some of those who died in the above mentioned disaster. Information from Durham Mining Museum

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Aisbitt, Thomas, aged 8, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Donwell (Usworth Parish Church)

Individual page

Alexander, Robert, aged 8, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Bailey, Joseph, aged 29, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Ball, Charles, aged 19, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Binks, Jacob, aged 9, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Claughans, George, aged 12, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Maddison, William, aged 21, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Martin, John, aged 9, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Oliver, George, aged 41, address: Lightpipe Row, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Oliver, George, father of James who was also killed

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Oliver, James, aged 15, son of George who was also killed

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Oliver, William, aged 8, address: Lightpipe Row, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Raffle, John, aged 25, address: South Shields, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Ridley, Lancelot, aged 18, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Routledge, James, aged 22, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Routledge, Walton, aged 20, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Tate, Lancelot, aged 17, address: The Mount, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

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Thompson, Thomas, aged 13, address: Moorhouse Farm, Buried: Holy Trinity Churchyard, Washington, on 9th May 1833

Naturally, the Bowes Railway Museum would be an ideal location to conduct a paranormal investigation, due to all the deaths associated with the railway and coal mines.

Cindy & Jo arrived after sundown, and the railway yard was in complete darkness. They had to rely on their flashlights as they stumbled their way over icy ground to the office that was serving as the base room. Both were suffering from a slight case of nervousness as this would be the first time they met the members of the host team in person. They were greatly relieved by the warm and friendly welcome they received.

After a quick tour of the location the group was divided up into teams, with Cindy and Jo being separated and placed on different teams. As guests, neither Jo or Cindy had copies of actual reports from the investigation, and Jo remembered only a few possible paranormal incidents of “things going bump in the night.” It didn’t help matters that Jo started to feel a stuffiness in her head, and hshe ended up sick with flu by the next day, so her powers of observation were not at their best. Cindy remembers a few incidents that made her more than a little jumpy, and, to be honest, scared out of her wits.

While Cindy’s team were in one of the engine repair rooms she and her team mates heard the shuffling sound of someone walking at the other, DARKER section of the room, follwed by what appeared to be whispering. As they started to approach that area to investigate further the loud *CLANG* of a tool hitting the concrete floor rang out. Cindy and the other female team member both screamed and grabbed on to each other. Okay, it WAS the first time either of them had participated in an investigation as the other woman was also a guest! A recon of the area did not produce evidence of any tools on the floor.

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By this time the nerves of Cindy and the other woman were on high alert, and the male team member, founder of the host team, was amused by their jumpiness, which helped to lighten things up a bit. They moved in to another section of the engine repair rooms, which was just as dark and creepy. Turning on flashlights they surveyed the area, saw nothing amiss, and switched off their lights. The team founder began to ask any spirits/ghosts present to make themselves known to us by knocking, throwing something, speaking, touching one of us (which did not go over well with Cindy and the other woman!) or some other sign. They stood there quietly, listening for any indicators that ‘someone’ else was present. All of a sudden they all heard it, the sound of a metal chain being jiggled (yes, I know, the old “ghosts with chains” cliche!). They all turned in the direction of the noise and turned on their flashlights, to see the hook and chain on an engine cherry-picker swaying back and forth, in a room with no breeze!

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Another incident happened later in the evening when Cindy and her team were in the train room. As she and her two team mates stood outside of one of the trains they all heard the unmistakeable sounds of someone with heavy shoes walking around inside. Upon opening the door and looking inside, it was found to be empty. They all climbed in and sat for a while, asking for any spirits present to make themselves known. The other woman on the team jumped up with a shriek, shouting that something had pinched her on the back of her neck.

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During one of the breaks all of the teams gathered together outside for some fresh air. The night, quiet and still, was suddenly broken by what sounded like a man whistling, followed by the sound of something being dragged. It was coming from the other side of a fence, but nobody else was on the property other than the teams of investigators, and the very high entrance gate to the property was locked. Cindy and other team members took photos before walking over to investigate. When they got to the fence and looked over, there was nobody there. No people, no animals, nothing that could account for the whistling and dragging sounds. Later, after arriving back home, Cindy would find a strange figure captured in two of her shots, and whatever it is, it was moving and appeared to be dragging something. You can see that the figure is in two different spots on the other side of the fence in consecutive photos.

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All in all, Cindy and Jo had a great time and couldn’t wait to get back out there and do it again. Not too long after they would decide to form their own team.

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