The Railway Magazine


IT WAS the remoteness of communities in the South Tyne Valley that led to the railway which served them surviving long enough to become one of northern England’s last rural branches.

The final British Rail train from the Cumbrian market town of Alston began its journey to Haltwhistle at 9.09 on the evening of May 1, 1976. Its departure, accompanied by a bagpipe lament and the crack of detonators, marked the closure of the 13 mile-and 12 chain-route after almost 125 years of service. The death knell had been postponed until work on a new ‘all weather’ road was completed.

While a census showed that on average it was lightly used, Northumberland County Council argued the line was an important alternative to negotiating steep hills and narrow roads during the course of a normal winter, when it tended to attract a greater number of passengers. The Transport Users’ Consultative Committee concluded its closure would present a hardship. Forty-three years later the area’s comparative isolation still presents challenges, not least of all when it comes to attracting visitors to the 2ft-gauge South Tynedale Railway, which operates five miles of the old line.

Unsustainable losses

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