Bowes Railway was built as a colliery railway to move coal from the mines to the North West of Durham down the coal staithes at Jarrow for ongoing shipment via the river Tyne.The first part of the route to operate was designed by George Stephenson opening on the 17th January 1826. The route as finally finished in 1855 was some 15 miles long and was operationally interesting as the ends of the route were worked by conventional locomotives the centre 6 miles which had severe gradients which had to be worked with roped inclines. During its busiest era it handled some 1 million tons of coal per year. In 1968 most of the route was still extant but by 1974 only the last 3.5 miles between Monkton Colliery and Jarrow staithes were still in operation by the National Coal Board. Fortunately the section from Black Fell bank head to Springwell bank was preserved in 1976, this being part of the original 1826 route and includes Blackham's Hill West and East inclines that are worked by a stationary engine, thus making it the only preserved standard gauge rope worked preserved railway in the world. The railway, including its buildings and associated machinery and rolling stock are a Scheduled Ancient Monument.