IT was a decision that cost him his life. Because at the same time, about three miles away, engine driver Henry Kitching was beginning to sense that all was not well with his train.

He was in charge of a tank engine which was pulling two brand new locos from Gateshead to the North Road shops where they were to undergo final adjustments before entering service.

At Whiley Hill, near Coatham Mundeville, Kitching was doing about 30mph and the brakes were taking a long time to have any effect.

He turned off the steam.

Then he put the loco into reverse.

“The engine began to slide, and he had no control over it,”

an inquest heard later. “At Rise Carr, he passed some signals at danger, but he could not stop.”

The one-armed Rise Carr signalman, Joseph Fawbert, waved and shouted at the train from his box but, he said, it did no good. The train sailed through, whistling furiously, at about 20mph – too fast for him to change the points ahead so that it did not dash into the North Road shops.

Unable to do any more in his cab, driver Kitching ran along the side of his runaway engine and clambered into the cab of the new loco behind and tried to apply its brake.

But it was too late. The train had not branched off the Stockton and Darlington Railway and was heading for the paintshop.

The Northern Echo: chris lloyd

In its way was a stationary pilot engine. John Murphy, 17, who was loading coal into the pilot engine, saw the runaway train coming and jumped off the coal stage. Then he heard the crash, saw the bricks falling and the roof tumbling… When he looked up, the runaway train had smashed the pilot engine into the paintshop where it had collided with a stationary engine which had been shunted into the loco Albert Hudson was finishing off.

The collision had caused the pilot engine to spin through 90 degrees and burst through the wall of the paintshop, causing an explosion of debris.

Amid a shower of slates and bricks, John Murphy ran into the ruined paintshop where he saw Albert Hudson lying unconscious beneath an engine.

He helped carry him out.

Within minutes Albert’s father, Joseph, had come rushing out of the main workshops where he was employed as a labourer, and the badly injured lad was taken to Greenbank Hospital, where he died at 11pm.

To make matters worse, The Northern Echo reported that the pilot engine “in its brief and inglorious career had upset Mr Vincent Raven’s saloon, which was on the line inside the paintshop” – Mr Raven, later Sir Vincent, was the chief mechanical engineer of the North Eastern Railway.

The Echo reported: “Scores of people visited the place of the collision. The smash has lefty its mark behind in a partially- wrecked building – buttressed up with timber – a derailed engine, and generally a scene of wreckage that the management does not want to see.” Particularly not if the boss’ carriage is amid the wreckage.

The accident happened on Monday evening. They spent Tuesday clearing up. The inquest into Albert Hudson’s death opened on Wednesday and was concluded on Thursday.

While the driver, supported by his fireman and apparently corroborated by the signalmen, said the brakes had failed, another railwayman claimed the brakes had worked “too well, in a sense”, holding too hard and causing the engine – pushed on by the weight of the two new engines behind – to skid.

“In summing up, the coroner said the question resolved itself into the train travelling at a greater speed than it ought to have been travelling,”

said the Echo. “The jury returned a verdict that Hudson was accidentally killed while following his employment.

They made no recommendation.”

So, either the brakes failed and killed a man or they worked too well, and killed a man. That was that. All done and dusted within four days, leaving the Hudsons of Alliance Street to grieve for Albert.

TODAY, the paintshop where Albert Hudson lost his life is in a sorry state. Surrounded by scrapyards, some of its skylights are smashed, its outbuildings are roofless, its fence is daubed with grafitti and its gateway is guarded by an old toilet.

And yet Darlington Historical Society has applied for it to be given listed building status.

In a town that likes to forget its railway heritage, it is a great survivor, and it has just celebrated its 150th birthday.

Its daubed fence overlooks the Stockton and Darlington Railway of 1825 and it is only a couple of hundred yards west of North Road station of 1842.

It was built in 1862, on the site of a smaller shed, by railway architect William Peachey. Peachey is one of this column’s heroes because he designed a couple of the region’s best buildings before falling spectacularly from grace.

His greatest triumph is surely the Zetland Hotel at Saltburn, which he built fantastically over budget. It is the focal point of the railway resort, with a sweeping stairway, dramatic windows, splendid balconies and a sumptuous central tower.

Middlesbrough station was another Peachey masterpiece, described as “an architectural tribute to the greatness of Middlesbrough”. Even today, it is a marvellous assemblage of frontages, archways, subways and bridges, but it was even better before August 1942 when a German air raid blew away the best bit: a 60ft high trainshed.

In Darlington, Peachey’s Baptist Church in Grange Road is an imperious slice of Italian panache, and Beamish Museum has seen fit to preserve one of his more modest works, Rowley Station, as the centrepiece of its railway scene.

However, there were suspicions that he was not entirely straightforward when he built the Zetland in the early 1860s.

By the time Middlesbrough Station opened in 1877, he had been rumbled for demanding backhanders. The railway company smartly but quietly sacked him, and he disappeared to London.

The Whessoe Road Engine Shed is not as grand as some of his other buildings. In fact, it has survived because of its humble, adaptable nature.

It was built with four lines running into it to house 12 engines – some of them would have been working the line to Barnard Castle and beyond; others of them would have been waiting for repair in the North Road Shops, which opened in 1863.

BUT after five years, the engine shed had been outgrown, and two new roundhouses, each holding 24 engines, were built on the North Road site. The engine shed was converted into a paintshop, its wooden roof being strengthened in 1884 so that it would support skylights which enabled painters like Albert Hudson to see what they were painting.

After Albert’s fatal accident in 1908, the shed was patched up. It cost £1,000 to restore and if you look across the tracks at it from the new Hopetown Park off Darrowby Drive, you can clearly see that the bricks on its west end are redder than the rest.

Three years after this expensive restoration, the paintworks were moved to the North Eastern Railway’s new Stooperdale plant, and our engine shed was relegated to a storeroom. It remained a bits-and-pieces sort of a place – diesels were tested there for a while; the Signal and Telecommunications Department kept things there for a while more – and somehow survived the closure and clearance of the North Road Shops in the 1960s.

Morrison’s supermarket now occupies the shops’ site, and the engine shed is occupied by a scrapyard.

But it in its state of dereliction it still has dreams, dreams of one day being a listed building, of being lovingly restored and vibrantly used as part of the North Road rail heritage quarter which attracts visitors from all over the world…