At the present time the railway runs for 3½ miles from Alston to Lintley on the route of the former British Rail Alston branch line. The South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society is continually aiming to develop and improve the railway and the experience that we offer to our visitors. Some of the projects listed below are in progress and will be finished in the near term whilst others are part of our longer term vision.
Lintley to Slaggyford extension – When you are standing on the platform at Lintley Halt watching the engine run around to take the train back to Alston have you ever stopped to wonder how far the track actually goes as it disappears into the trees?
The answer to that question is “not far enough”. The Permanent Way team have laid track a short distance beyond Lintley to accommodate works trains once the building of the extension of the line from Lintley to Slaggyford commences. In parallel some work has also been done on the station building at Slaggyford to maintain its integrity ready for when trains return in 2017.
The completion of the extension to Slaggyford will be funded through a mixture of grants, including the £4.2 million Heritage Lottery Fund Grant announced in February 2014, along with many corporate and personal donations of all sizes. Personal donations are still being accepted and can be made online here.
Barber restoration – Barber, the iconic Harrogate Gas Works engine built in 1908 has just completed a full restoration to its inter-war condition with the intention of running passenger services on the South Tynedale Railway and with an active life of 20 years before further major works are required.
It had originally been hoped to have the restoration completed and Barber running from Alston late in the 2013 season but due to the extent of the work required Barber’s return to steam postponed until August 2014. Due to further delays at workshops over sourcing a few final components this event has again had to be postponed.
The Barber Return to Gala will now take place from the 2nd to the 5th May, details of which can be found on our events listings.
Heading back to Haltwhistle – The Alston branch line was fully opened in November 1852 and ran from its junction with the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway at Haltwhistle for 13¼ miles to its terminus at Alston. With minimal changes over the years the line continued unbroken along the same route for almost 125 years until its closure in May 1976.
The extension of the line to Slaggyford, detailed above, is the first step towards the complete restoration of a rail service from Alston to Haltwhistle along the route to Haltwhistle. As part of this process negotiations with British Railways Board (Residuary) Ltd. have secured a seven metre wide strip of land at Haltwhistle station following the line of the Alston branch and allows negotiations to start with Network Rail to secure access for South Tynedale trains to the one-time bay platform at Haltwhistle.
The image to the right, taken from the footbridge over the tracks at Haltwhistle station, shows a British Rail class 101 diesel multiple unit sat in the bay platform in the mid 1970s in the years just before the closure of the branch line. Hopefully in years to come, it will be possible to retake this photograph showing Thomas Edmondson,
Barber or one of the other South Tynedale locomotives in full steam waiting to depart for Alston.
Sustainability and its Future at the Railway – South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society, as part of its Heritage Lottery Funded project and its investment in sustainability, has installed a 210kW self-contained Biomass heating system. It supplies heat and hot water through underground, super-insulated pipes to the heritage Engineering Workshop, Alston Station and Station House, and is capable of heating further buildings if required. The system burns processed wood waste pellets which are supplied locally. The ash is emptied regularly as part of its general maintenance, as wood ash can be used for fertilizer, this will be spread throughout the gardens and landscape here at the railway, meaning that there is zero waste. The system is designed to perform for 20 years with regular annual maintenance, without any major upgrade. Woodwaste pellets are a renewable energy source, from local forests and woodlands, and are burnt in an environmentally friendly way, which cleans the emissions to the highest European standards. Pellets are delivered by wagon over a distance of less than 15 miles away, and blown into the storage hopper. An auger drive feeds the pellets into the boiler room on demand from the boiler burner unit, which is fully automatic.