AT 4.50pm on August 17, 1908, the working day was all but done. Most of the men in the Hopetown paint shop had moved away from their locomotives to clean up and wash down.

Only Albert Hudson, 24, remained at the rear of the shop. He’d decided to stay on and finish painting the buffer beam on a loco he was working on.

The Northern Echo: The 1861 engine shed at Hopetown, DarlingtonThe 1861 engine shed at Hopetown, Darlington

Today the paint shop is one of the most important buildings in Darlington’s newly named Hopetown railway heritage quarter, looking splendid after its recent restoration following years of dereliction as a scrapyard.


When it was built in 1861, it was of some importance. It was created to stable 12 locomotives which were to work the extraordinary line from Darlington to Barnard Castle and across Stainmore, but over time locos had grown in size and so were taken to bigger stables. The engine shed, therefore, was relegated to the status of a paint shop at the back of the North Eastern Railway’s main workshops on North Road.

The Northern Echo: 1908 Hopetown accident graphic

But for all the building’s relegated status, Albert Hudson’s decision that day was momentous. And it cost him his life.

Because at that moment, about three miles away up the Stockton & Darlington Railway to the north near Newton Aycliffe, engine driver Henry Kitching was beginning to sense that all was not well with his train. He was driving a tank engine which was pulling two brand new locos from Gateshead to the North Road shops in Darlington 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 Rise Carr signalman, Joseph Fawbert, who only had one arm, 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 and prevent it from dashing into the North Road shops, where Morrisons supermarket is today.

Driver Kitching realised there was nothing more he could do in his cab, and so, in a scene from a movie, jumped out of it at 20mph, ran alongside it, then hauled himself up into the cab of the new loco running behind it. He frantically tried to apply its brake.

But it was too late.


The points had directed the runaway train off the S&DR and now it was heading into the works on a line that ran past the paint shop.

Standing on that line, right beside the paint shop, was a pilot engine, into which John Murphy, 17, was loading coal. He saw the runaway train coming straight towards him and jumped off the coal stage. Then he heard the crash and saw the bricks falling and the roof tumbling...

The Northern Echo: The aftermath of the 1908 crash, with the pilot engine still in the wall of the engine shed, the roof of which is being held up being timber propsThe aftermath of the 1908 crash, with the pilot engine still in the wall of the engine shed, the roof of which is being held up being timber props

When he looked up, the runaway train had smashed the pilot engine into the paint shop where it had collided with a stationary engine which had been shunted into the loco on which Albert Hudson was finishing off the buffer beam.

The collision had caused the pilot engine to spin through 90 degrees and burst through the wall of the paint shop, causing an explosion of debris and a shower of slates and bricks.

The Northern Echo: Carnage in the Hopetown paintshop in 1908. Picture courtesy of the Darlington Centre for Local StudiesCarnage in the Hopetown paintshop in 1908. Picture courtesy of the Darlington Centre for Local Studies

John Murphy ran into the ruined paint shop and saw Albert lying unconscious beneath an engine.

Within minutes Albert's father, Joseph, had heard the news and come rushing out of the main body of the workshops on the other side of Whessoe Road, where he was employed as a labourer. He helped get the badly injured lad taken to Greenbank Hospital. There he died at 11pm.

The Northern Echo: From The Northern Echo of August 20, 1908, reporting on the opening of inquest into the fatal crash which killed Albert HudsonThe Northern Echo's report from 1908 of the accident

To add insult to Albert’s fatal injuries, 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 paint shop". Mr Raven, later Sir Vincent, was the chief mechanical engineer of the North Eastern Railway, and was such a revered figure that he had his own saloon carriage to transport him in style around the railway network.

The Echo reported: "Scores of people visited the place of the collision. The smash has left 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'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.

The Northern Echo: The Northern Echo's report of August 18, 1908, telling of the fatal crash at the Hopetown engine shedThe Echo's report of the inquest in 1908

"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 their Albert.

The NER spent £1,000 patching up the engine shed. Today the line side elevation still bears the scars of 1908.

The Northern Echo: Architect William Peachey, designed the engine shed and the Zetland Hotel in Saltburn

The shed was built by railway architect William Peachey (above), who is one of Memories’ favourite 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 train shed.

In Darlington, Peachey's Baptist Church in Grange Road is an imperious slice of Italian flamboyance, 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 Peachey 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 Northern Echo: The engine shed in its working days. Picture from the Ken Hoole Collection at the Hopetown museumThe engine shed in its working days. Picture from the Ken Hoole Collection at the Hopetown museum

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

It was one of the S&DR’s last projects before it completely disappeared into NER in 1863, and originally had four lines running into it. Within five years, it had been outgrown as the North Road shops grew up beside it and it found alternative use as a paint shop. In 1884 its wooden roof was strengthened so it would support skylights which enabled painters like Albert Hudson to see what they were painting.

The Northern Echo: A Class G5, 0-4-4 tank locomotive, No 67305, at the engine shed on May 20, 1957. From the John Mallon Collection at the Hopetown museumA Class G5, 0-4-4 tank locomotive, No 67305, at the engine shed on May 20, 1957. From the John Mallon Collection at the Hopetown museum

It was patched up after Albert's fatal accident in 1908, but in 1911 the paintworks were moved to NER’s new Stooperdale plant, and its status was relegated further to that of 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 because it was out of the way, it survived the closure of North Road Shops in the 1960s and the clearance which allowed Morrisons’ supermarket to take over.

However, its status fell further as it was surrounded by scrap vehicles in various stages of dismantlement and decay. Now, though, Darlington council has had it restored as part of the Hopetown project and it is becoming the home of railway preservation groups.



The Northern Echo: The 1861 engine shed at Hopetown, Darlington

The 1861 engine shed at Hopetown, Darlington