Of all the colliery railways in North East England, the Earl of Durham’s Railway, later called the Lambton Railway, was one of the most notable. Developed from an early mid-Durham waggonway, the main line stretched some fifteen miles by 1860, from Sherburn House, near Durham City, to Sunderland, with branches to Lumley, Cocken and Frankland, and Houghton-le-Spring. Originally much of this system was operated by rope-worked inclines, like most colliery railways at this period; but in 1852 the Earl had obtained running powers over what was to become the North Eastern Railway’s line between Penshaw and Deptford, with a link down to Lambton Staithes on the River Wear; later these powers were extended to reach Harraton and North Biddick Collieries and to South Dock in Sunderland. The old rope-worked route to Sunderland was abandoned about 1870, eventually leaving only one incline still in use. This was the self-acting, gravity-worked incline at Belmont which effectively divided the main line into two parts. To handle the extensive long haul work, a fleet of six-coupled tender locomotives was developed, some even being built at the large Lambton Engine Works at Philadelphia, near Houghton-le-Spring. In 1896 the Earl sold out to Sir James Joicey, also a major coal owner, and the organisation was reconstituted as Lamb-ton Collieries Ltd. By 1910 the firm was raising over four million tons of coal a year.
This opened in 1822 from Hetton Colliery (NZ3647) via Byer Engine (NZ3549), Flat Engine (NZ3650), Warden Law Engine (NZ3650) and North Moor Engine (NZ3754) to Hetton Drops (NZ3957) on the River Wear at Sunderland. It used rope haulage, self-acting inclines and Stephenson locomotives. Coal also came from Eppleton Colliery (NZ3648) and Elemore Colliery (NZ3545). In later years a branch was made to Silksworth Colliery (NZ3754). The Hetton Railway was taken over by the Lambton Railway in 1911 and closed in 1959.