Modernisation of passenger train services in the areas served by Darlington began in 1956 with the introduction of the early Metro-Cammell Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) design now known as Class '101'. They were built at that Company's factory at Washford Heath in Birmingham, and a new maintenance facility was constructed at Darlington to service and repair them to the east of the main line and opposite the steam sheds located just north of 'Bank Top' station. Soon the familiar green 'sets' with their cream chevron and illuminated destination and code boards on the front became a familiar sight on the one time Stockton and Darlington lines to Teeside and Saltburn, Bishop Auckland, Penrith and Middleton-in-Teesdale. Long, dismal lines of NER branch passenger steam locomotives accumulated and rusted in the station yards at Gainford and Winston awaiting the cutter's torch. This first generation of diesel trains with mechanical transmission might not have been the most reliable devised but the one bonus that they did offer the railway enthusiast (just so long as the driver didn't make the unfriendly gesture of lowering the blind!) was a view forward of the tracks - or backwards if the 'First Class' compartment was at the front of the train and the 'Non-Smoker' compartment was at the rear. Of course by this date no local passenger services remained on the Kirkby Stephen to Tebay and West Auckland to Barnard Castle lines.
Freight services however remained steam hauled right up to their rerouting via Carlisle and Tyneside in July 1960 after which only the 'Specials' were steam hauled up until the closure of the line over the summit in 1962. As far as I know no diesel locomotive ever travelled over the route. Only the parts of the system that lingered after 1962 with a limited freight service ever saw diesel locomotive traction. It is interesting to think that diesel locomotive passenger haulage at Kirkby Stephen East will first be introduced more than fifty years after the original closure by the Stainmore Railway Company!
The DMU sets used over Stainmore were generally three or two car trains and only two were required to maintain the three trains a day service. The first train left Darlington at 06:53 with a service at 10:50 and the last train at 4:34. The early train arrived at Penrith at 8:23, returning at 10:55 and then 3:17 with the last train for Darlington leaving at 20:30. It is hardly surprising that such a skeletal service attracted little custom even in 1960
The green Metro-Cammells had limited power but made plenty of noise (and exhaust too on cold damp days) grinding up the steep gradients to the summit. Downhill of course it was a different matter, they were soon up to the 50mph line maximum and bucketing along alarmingly as they almost free-wheeled down the banks.
In the John Birkbeck's photograph here, taken in 1963 after the Stainmore line on the right was already closed, the Tees Valley Junction signalman hands the 'tablet' to the driver of the Darlington to Middleton-in-Teesdale service as it swings onto the single line branch. This was a tricky manoeuvre in a Metro-Cammell DMU cab requiring fine judgment. For a few seconds it meant releasing the 'dead man's handle' and moving away from the train controls to walk across the cab and open the opposite window just in time to grab the pouch from the hands of the waiting signalman.
Following the withdrawal of passenger services and the closure of the line over Stainmore summit in January 1962, Hartley quarries continued to provide limestone traffic for the line and there was for some years a residual goods traffic to Kirkby Stephen too. These services were worked by motive power from Carlisle, and as Kingmoor Depot was one of the last sheds to retain steam locomotives they operated up to Hartley Quarry until 1966 or 1967.
This service through Kirkby Stephen then remained as a diesel freight working until the line was finally closed from Warcop on 31 October 1974. Workings on these trains was typically handled by Kingmoor Type 2 or Type 3 diesel motive power, often a Cass 31 or Class 26.
After 1974 the line between Appleby and Warcop remained in use for the occasional movement of troops and equipment to and from the military camp, sometimes with Type 4 main line diesel motive power gingerly making the trip from Appleby up the truncated branch.
A 'Big Beast' for the Stainmore Line! A Class 40 diesel electric locomotive shunting at Hartley Quarries
The signalman at Tees Valley Junction hands the single line 'tablet' to the driver of a Merto_Cammell DMU in 1963