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Harton E4

  • Builder: Siemens

  • Built in: 1912

  • Worked for: Harton Coal Company

  • Current Status: Static Exhibit

The Harton Coal Company decided to electrify its railway systems which were serving its collieries in the South Shields area, this work was completed in 1908. A fleet of electric locomotives were supplied by Siemens of Germany, the Harton Coal Company had a number of German shareholders and Siemens were the world leaders in electric railway locomotives at the time.


The lines radiated outwards from the Low Staiths on the River Tyne, outwards to Westoe colliery, St Hildas colliery, Harton colliery as well as a line running out towards Boldon pit. The railway connected to the famous Marden Rattler which brought coal up from Whitburn colliery. The railway was absorbed along with its ten electric locos by the National Coal Board in 1947, the electric railway survived until 1989, sharing part of its route with the newly constructed Tyne & Wear Metro.


E4 is a BO-BO electric loco, built by Siemens-Shuckert in 1909, using four 35 KiloWatt electric motors, taking power from the overhead lines. She was specifically designed for the Harton electric railway and was used to shunt wagons of coal around this extensive system in South Shields. The use of electric traction shows the forward-thinking nature of many colliery companies. She remained in use until 1982 before being retired. Little had changed during her 73 year electric life, except gaining some high visibility stripes, an NCB livery and a new pantograph, using those from scrapped Sunderland trams. It arrived at Middle Engine Lane in 1982 and has since been restored to its original appearance. In 2000 it acquired a set of batteries in a connected wagon allowing it to give demonstrations. Currently, E4 is a static exhibit in the museum requiring a new set of batteries before it can be used again.

A deep green electric vehicle with yellow and black chevron print buffer plate. Three men stand around it working. Photo is old and faded like the 1980s. Photo by Richard Swales

Electric Locomotives

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