Northumberland steam rail link set to reopen after 45 years

A steam railway in Northumberland which closed 45 years ago is to be officially reopened later this month

The Aln Valley Railway, which will run between Alnwick and Alnmouth
The Aln Valley Railway, which will run between Alnwick and Alnmouth

A steam railway in Northumberland which closed 45 years ago is to be officially reopened later this month.

The Aln Valley Railway provided a link between Alnwick and Alnmouth up until 1968.

For almost 20 years, volunteers have worked towards the reopening of the railway.

Later this month, their blossoming project will be officially opened by the Duke of Northumberland.

The line linking the two communities was built in 1850 but closed in 1968. The project to reinstate it was set up in 1995.

After a series of setbacks, including failed funding bids and a rival proposal to designate the route of the line as a path, those involved have in recent times secured the land for the railway from the duke, the necessary planning permission, finance and rolling stock.

Work began on the project around a year ago, with track being laid at the Alnwick end of the line.

A museum has been constructed along with a cafe and model railway.

And on October 30, the Duke will perform the official opening of the railway at the Alnwick Lionheart station site.

The ceremony will be attended by special guests including Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, and founding chairman of the railway Stuart Manley, who with wife Mary owns Barter Books, the famous second-hand bookshop in Alnwick.

Also present will be Jack Forsyth, the last surviving driver on the original line.

There will be a buffet and drinks reception with guests being able to have a short ride from the recently constructed Alnwick station platform.

Bosses are hoping that their steam locomotive Richboro will pull the rides, with one of the railway’s diesel locomotives on standby should it be needed.

The day will also mark the launch of the railway’s “Let’s get to Alnmouth” appeal.

Project stalwart Ken Middlemist, who worked as a fireman on the old railway, last night said: “A lot of people are surprised at what we have done.

“We are just a construction site at the moment.

“We are quite a way on, it was just a thought because we are getting people coming from all over the world, from as far away as Australia.

“It was just a thought, we should put something on for the appreciation of everybody that has done what they have done up to now.”

The original Alnwick to Alnmouth line opened in 1850 to both passenger and freight traffic.

It was closed on cost grounds in 1968 and the track was lifted shortly afterwards.

Since the 1960s, the trackbed into the former Alnwick station has become unavailable as a result of the construction of the A1 Alnwick bypass, the demolition of a bridge over South Road, and the building of a supermarket.

Several business concerns, including Barter Books, now occupy the old station building.

The Aln Valley Trust is reopening the branch in stages, with the construction of the Lionheart station the first step.

The trust gained access to the site in early 2012 and this summer offered the first short rides to the public.

Shortly, finances permitting, a start will be made on the creation of a curved track on a steep gradient to connect the Lionheart site with the original trackbed to Alnmouth.

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