Head of Steam, Darlington Railway Museum
The Darlington Railway Centre Museum is located on the original route of the Stockton and Darlington Railway which opened in 1825 as the first steam powered passenger railway and it has a reputation of being haunted. On Wednesday 17 March 2010 the following by Mike Hallowell entitled ‘On track of station ghost’ was published in the Shields Gazette.
At some I’ve received a welcome fit for a king, and at others a less than enthusiastic response. The Head of Steam Museum in Darlington, is definitely in the former category.
The museum is in the North Road Station, a historic building at the epicentre of the town’s rail service.
There is a ghost story attached to the premises that has gained almost iconic status in Darlington, and I thought it was about time I got to the bottom of it.
Hence, one Sunday morning, I went there with my co-author Darren W. Ritson to find out the true story behind the legend.
The tale revolves around an employee at the station called Thomas Winter, who committed suicide in February 1845.
He had been suffering from depression due to a complaint that had been made about him by a rather obnoxious passenger.
Consumed by a sense of hopelessness, he entered one of the cubicles in the gents’ toilets and shot himself.
Just under a decade later, James Durham, a watchman at the station, entered a cellar which doubled as a “bait room” and a coal house.
Almost as soon as he walked into the room, he observed a stranger coming out of the coal house, and looked at him keenly.
The man, he noted, was dressed in a smart coat with metal buttons and sported a “Scotch cap”. With him he had a large, black Labrador dog.
Without warning, the man launched an attack upon Durham. The watchman, quite naturally, fought back and threw a punch at the mysterious assailant.
To Durham’s astonishment his fist went right through the man as if he wasn’t there and collided with the wall, scraping his knuckles in the process.
The stranger then “clicked his tongue” at the dog, and both man and beast walked back into the coal house.
Durham immediately followed.
Both the stranger and his canine companion had disappeared.
The watchman was a devout man of impeccable character, and those who knew him were in no doubt that his experience had been a genuine one.
He had, it was believed, encountered the ghost of Thomas Munro Winter.
It was this very room where Winter’s body had been taken and wrapped in a shroud.
The cellar entrance is now bricked up, but a glass panel situated where a trapdoor used to be, enabled us to peer down into the room which has essentially remained unchanged for well over a century.
A new caf has just opened in the station, and eventually Darren and I went there for an early lunch. The food was superb.
We discussed the case at length over a bacon sandwich to die for, and pretty much concluded that the story of the North Road ghost was legitimate.
David Tetlow, the museum manager, kindly showed us the entrance to the cellar which, although no longer accessible, still looks the same from the outside as did in the mid-19th century.
You can visit the Head of Steam website.