THIS week 150 years ago, the Darlington & Stockton Times reported that the Merrybent & Darlington Railway’s bridge over the River Tees was just about complete.

The trestle bridge was constructed by Messrs Hopkins, Gilkes and Company of Middlesbrough – the company which also built the famously ill-fated Tay Bridge near Dundee.

The single track bridge was 75ft long and supported by two piers made of cast iron cylinders filled with concrete and encased in brick. “Owing to the nature of the strata, it was found necessary to sink these cylinders by means of pneumatic apparatus to the rock which underlies the bed of the river at a depth of 30ft,” said the D&S.

The line ran off the Barnard Castle railway at Merrybent, over the Tees, past Barton station – as we said a fortnight ago, the only station on the entire national network never to have sold a passenger ticket – and up to the quarries of Scotch Corner. It opened in 1870, never made any money, and closed in 1878. The only picture we have ever seen of its bridge was sent to us many years ago by Stan Cardwell MBE, the renowned rambler whose family can be seen skating on the Tees in front of it in the 1940s (we do not recommend this activity, however tempting it may seem).

The bridge was demolished in the mid-1960s, and now the A1(M) Darlington by-pass follows the trackbed of the Merrybent railway, crossing the river at the same place.