Page Updated 25/04/13


Kirkby Stephen East (KSE) station is located at the southern end of the town adjacent to the infilled bridge which previously carried the A685 road across the railway. It was built in 1860-61 at the joint expense of the two railway companies which met at this point. These were the South Durham and Lancashire Union (which ran from Spring Gardens Junction, through Barnard Castle and over the Pennines to Tebay on the West Coast Mainline) and the Eden Valley (which ran from KSE through Appleby to Clifton Junction, south of Penrith, on the West Coast Mainline). The engineer for both of these railways was (Sir) Thomas Bouch (1822-80) who is undoubtedly (and unfortunately) best known for his ill-fated bridge across the Firth of Tay. However, his wonderful wrought and cast-iron bridge which spanned the Belah Gorge, just north-east of Kirkby Stephen, was undoubtedly one of Britain's most imposing railway bridges until it was tragically destroyed in 1963. 

Although Bouch was responsible for determining the basic form and layout at KSE, he employed a little known Edinburgh architect, Hector Heatley Orrock (1831-1862), to design the fine detail. The construction of the building was let in January 1860 to a local contractor, James Jones, although there was some delay in proceeding with the work because the local population were unhappy with the sole access to the site which was via a set of steep wooden steps from the road bridge. Thus, the station was still incomplete when the South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway opened in August 1861.

In 1862, both railways became part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&D) and, the following year, the S&D itself became part of the North Eastern Railway (NER). From the very early days of train operation, there were problems with limited clearance into the building and, as a result, substantial alterations were made in 1883-4. By this time, Hector Orrock had sadly died and this work was therefore undertaken to the design of the NER's architect, William Bell. From this point, few further changes were made by the NER or its successor, the London and North Eastern Railway, although the nationalised British Railways removed the roof covering the Tebay/Penrith trainshed in the 1950's.


A 1964 view of the station from the west which clearly shows the Tebay/Penrith trainshed minus its roof. The locomotive shed is also clearly visible in the background on the left-hand side of the photograph.

Photo by John Charters 


The Building and its Evolution

The building is of particular interest in that Thomas Bouch conceived its layout based on his ideas of an interchange station between the two railways. It consisted of an island platform with access from the road bridge. An office range ran down the centre of the platform and this was flanked by a pair of trainsheds, both covering a single track. Each trainshed roof spanned between the office range and a line of cast iron columns and spandrel panels, while its trusses were a composite timber and wrought iron variant of the 'Euston' truss.

The office range itself was constructed in a local red sandstone (not the Brockram stone as stated in a number of railway documents) with a contrasting pale yellow/gey sandstone for the quoined door and window architraves. A rusticated archway in the middle of each platform frontage led into a central Booking Hall which was separated by panelled screens from a Waiting Room and Booking Office. Much of the interior was taken up by the Refreshment Rooms. Fortunately, Hector Orrock's drawings for the building have survived in the Public Record Office and it can be seen that much of the building was constructed as per his design. However, his plans for the very elaborate ceilings in the Booking Hall and Refreshment Rooms appear to have been abandoned. Only a small piece of the original ceiling cornice survives, but this is much simpler than shown in the drawings.  

The alterations carried out by the NER architect, William Bell, did involve some internal reorganisation of the office range, but their primary aim was to replace the Orrock/Bouch trainsheds with a slightly larger design which gave improved clearance for passenger carriages. Bell replaced the cast-iron colonnades by stone walls (matching the style and materials of the original office range) which provided much better shelter from the joys(!) of the Pennine weather. His main alteration to the office range was to enlarge the Booking Office by one bay to cope with the needs of the parcel business. This was achieved by resiting one of the internal cross walls so as to encroach one bay into the former Refreshment Room, while cutting through one of the window cills to form a new doorway into the Booking Office.


The new doorway into the enlarged Booking Office made by NER architect William Bell during the alterations of 1883-4. As can be seen, it retains the original window opening above the transome, but is then widened below.

Photo by Mike Thompson 


One of the ornate carvings in the Booking Hall which were made by a local craftsman. Fortunately, one remained (along with the drawings in the Public Record Office at Kew) to provide a pattern and these replicas were manufactured in 3 pieces as per the surviving original. 

Photo by Mike Thompson 

It appears that William Bell's trainsheds reused nothing from the original roof trusses. Instead, they employ wrought-iron trusses of a type Bell used in a number of smaller station trainsheds as opposed to the arched roofs employed at his larger stations. Examples of these trainsheds included Bishop Auckland, but this, and others, have sadly been demolished and KSE now has the only such surviving Bell trainshed. The ends of the trainsheds were finished with glazed gable screens flanked with stone piers, the introduction of which involved a minor alteration to the end elevation of the offices.

Further alterations included glazed awnings at both ends of the station, but these have long since been removed, so what remains today is largely KSE as it would have appeared in 1884, except for the loss of the Penrith/Tebay trainshed. The roof was removed in approx 1954, but the outer wall remains.

The Present Building

This consists of Orrock's 1861 office range and platform, the Darlington trainshed and the bulk of the wall of the Penrith/Tebay trainshed, together with a workshop within the site of the Penrith/Tebay trainshed.

Darlington Trainshed

This is little altered from its appearance as modified by Bell in 1883-4. It retains a raised ridge skylight/ventilator with much of its original tinted glass, while its northern roof slope - clad with slates on timber planking - retains a large laylight extending most of the platform length. Its southern roof slope, which had no laylight, retains its timber cladding, but the slates have ben replaced (during its use as a Bobbin Factory) by corrugated iron sheeting. Bell's gable screens also survive - that at the east end is still glazed, but the one at the west end is mising some of its glazing bars and is partially clad over. Finally, a lightweight wall was inserted below the east gable screen by the Bobbin Factory, but this has not done any damage to the original structure. 


A current view taken in the Darlington trainshed showing a replica poster board, seat, totem and Nestle's Milk Chocolate Machine. At some point in the future, we hope to be able to clean the stonework and fit replacement flagstones on the platform. Photo by Mike Thompson.

Office Range

This remains substantially as designed and a number of original features survive such as Orrock's panelled timber screens in the Booking Hall. An interesting original feature in some of the rooms is the provision of panelled shutters which fold back into an unusual right-angled shape so as to form part of both the the window reveal and architrave when not in use. The toilets (originally men's toilets) at the western end of the block retain their original exposed timber roof and cubicles. 

The chief alterations made by the Bobbin Factory were to block up a few door and window openings at the eastern end with concrete blockwork and to drive two small doorways through the north wall to give direct access into the toilets from the Darlington platform (access was originally through a door at the western end beneath the glazed awning). These changes are easily reversible.

Penrith/Tebay Trainshed

All that survives of this is the south wall, shortened at the eastern end and lowered in height by approx. one metre. However, it retains five out of its six original windows so that its restoration and a replacement roof to Bell's design is a practical proposition. 

The Significance of the Building

Despite the loss of the Penrith/Tebay trainshed roof (approx. 1954), KSE still remains an interesting and, for its period (1860-1), an unusual example of a small town station planned principally for use as an interchange. It was therefore built on a much more ambitious scale than the traffic of the town alone would have warranted. While a number of Hector Orrock's original stations for the South Durham and Lancashire Union and Eden Valley Railways survive - particularly Lartington and Appleby East - these are basically Tudor-Revival villas of a decidedly domestic character and, for example, devoid of anything in the way of platform roofing. At KSE, however, the functional requirements of the railway junction have been placed foremost in the design and provide an apparently unique example of Thomas Bouch's ideas on the matter. This is of some importance because Bouch was very much an innovator, not only in bridge design but also, for example, in the introduction of the world's first 'roll-on - roll off' ferries (acros the Forth and Tay).

While it may be regretted that Orrock and Bouch's two original trainshed's have been lost, its 1883-4 replacement in some ways provides an additional level of interest, especially as no directly comparable work by the very prolific NER Architect, William Bell (1844-1919), now survives.

In addition, other than the work undertaken for Thomas Bouch, very few designs by Hector Orrock are known. The only other structure attributed to him is a Gothic memorial in the village of Denholm, near Hawick. The son of an Edinburgh surgeon-dentist, James Orrock, Hector only began practising independently as an architect in about 1857. It is likely that Bouch was one of his earliest patrons and the unfortunate Hector died in February 1862, aged 31, having had little opportunity to establish himself.

Other Surviving Structures

Although the locomotive sheds sited near the station have ben demolished, significant railway buildings to survive to the east of the infilled masonry-arch A685 roadbridge include (i) the original Goods Shed, (ii) a horsekeeper's house (for the railway stable) and (iii) 'Stenkrith House', a mildly Gothic villa of 1871 designed by the Darlington architect, William Peachey, to house the railway's Locomotive Inspector.

To the west, there is a footbridge (thought to have been designed by Bouch) which carries a public footpath (335008) over the railway, the back wall of the original signlbox situated on the southern side of the trackbed adjacent to the footbridge and some remains of the later 'Junction' signalbox. It is the intention to rebuild both of these signalboxes.

The Future

Substantial work has already been undertaken by volunteers on the station building and it is intended to restore the structure, as and when funds permit, to its early 1950's condition with the office range and the two trainsheds as per Bell's 1883-4 design. Any assistance with this work, either in terms of volunteer labour, equipment or materials would be greatly appreciated.

Acknowledgements/Further Reading

Many thanks to Bill Fawcett for his expert assistance in preparing these notes. If you would like further information, please see Bill's excellent series: 'A History of North Eastern Railway Architecture' Vols 1-3 produced by the North Eastern Railway Association (their website can be found under 'Related Links'). In addition, a new biography of Thomas Bouch has recently been published. 'Thomas Bouch' by John Rapley is available from Tempus Publishing, Stroud, Gloucestershire. Alternatively, both the 'North Eastern Railway Architecture' series and the Bouch biography are available from our shop at KSE. 

The album below illustrates some of the restoration work undertaken on the building to date: 


The album below illustrates the work undertaken on the Wheelchair Ramp and Car Park (April - October 2009): Construction of the Car Park was supported by generous grants of £750 from 'Rothera & Brereton, a trading division of The Paper Company Ltd' and £500 from Eden District Council. Work on the Wheelchair Ramp was supported by a generous grant of £750 from the Holehird Trust. 


The album below illustrates the restoration of the Station Master's Office since the work began in Mid-February 2010.  


In December 2011, we started restoration work on the Gable End and roof at the eastern end of the building. The album below illustrates the progress to date. 


Back to home page