IT is 150 years ago that the first stone of the Barton stationmaster’s house on the Darlington and Merrybent Railway was lain with a little ceremony.

This line was going to branch off the Barnard Castle railway at Merrybent, cross over the Tees and run into stone quarries near Scotch Corner.

The Darlington & Stockton Times reported how a man called GF Stelling, “although in no way connected with the company”, made a stone-laying speech in which he said that “he hoped that the time was not far distant when he should see some hundreds of our miners exerting their bone and sinews in raising the mineral productions in the neighbourhood of Barton”.

The railway opened the following year, with the station as its major piece of brickwork. However, the line never made any money and it closed in 1878, although the North-Eastern Railway did reopen it and the quarries between 1890 and 1938.

Barton is believed to have been the only station on the entire railway network that never sold a passenger ticket.

In the early 1960s, the A1(M) was built on the line’s trackbed and went over the top of the station. The Barton interchange now sits inside the quarry.

Although the railway turned out to be a white elephant, 150 years ago, Mr Stelling’s speechifying showed what high hopes there were for the project.

The D&S Times’ report finished: “Mr Stelling, who supplied the workmen with a liberal supply of beer, then drove home, amid flying flags and the hearty hurrahs of the workmen.”

If you wish workmen to send you off with hearty hurrahs, it is always good to provide them with a liberal supply of beer.