At the present time the railway runs for approximately 5 miles from Alston to Slaggyford on the route of the former British Rail Alston branch line and our future plan is to completely restore the line and reconnect Alston with 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.
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 negotiations with Network Rail to secure access for South Tynedale trains to the one-time bay platform at Haltwhistle are ongoing.
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.