Alston based South Tynedale Railway has today announced a £5.5 million
development project that includes just over £4.2 million awarded by the Heritage
This biggest ever investment by the South Tynedale Railway (STR) will protect and
enhance railway and industrial heritage in the remote and beautiful upper South Tyne
Valley. It will also build long term environmental sustainability into the Railway’s business
plan, open up employment opportunities, develop a stronger education programme for
visitors of all ages and expand skills training in the charity’s volunteer and paid workforce.
In addition to acknowledging the tremendous encouragement given by the team at the
Heritage Lottery Fund in developing a successful bid, Brian Craven, STR Deputy
“Some time ago we realised that, if we are to continue to build on the success of thirty
years of development, we had to do new and different things. We have to attract new
visitors and more of them to the lovely South Tyne Valley and our Railway. When we
reviewed how we work we recognised that we were spending far too much on resources
like power, fuel and other essential utilities and we must do something about that. Our
customers tell us that our excellent volunteers provide a great visitor experience. So we
must ensure that, in turn, our volunteers get the most they can out of their hobby. Alston is
a remote town and the STR is important to its economy. We are keen to work with others
to do still more to extend quality employment opportunities to local folk. This project will
fulfil all of these aims and more”.
What, then, is included in this exciting project? There are several large capital
developments. Firstly there is a mile and a quarter of railway to build from the temporary
terminus at Lintley to reach the village of Slaggyford in Northumberland. There the STR
will transform the station site by repairing the wooden buildings, reconstructing a replica
North Eastern Railway signal box with equipment rescued from Battersby in North
Yorkshire, and reinstalling level crossing gates to ensure both road and railway are safe to
use. The village will benefit too. New fibre optic cabling essential for the Railway’s
signalling needs, could bring fast broadband to the village through joint work with locally
In Alston the grant contributes towards long term repairs to the 160 year old historic wall
that kept the rivers Nent and Tyne away from the Railway. It was storm damaged a little
over a year ago and temporary repairs will now be made permanent ensuring another
century and more of life.
Alston Station will get a new roof spanning platform and tracks and a second platform for
the first time in Alston Station’s history. Along with all of the STR’s other buildings, except
for the Grade 2 Listed Station House, the new roof will be fully fitted with solar pv panels.
This major electricity generation scheme will cut fuel bills and leave power enough to heat
newly super-insulated workshops. The Railway has also obtained two almost new batteryelectric
locomotives from Transport for London. They will be regauged to fit the STR’s two
feet wide track. Powerful enough to pull passenger coaches, they will be used on the
building work. The greatest good is that their batteries will be charged from the Railway’s
own solar power supply.
An historic steam engine built by Hunslet in Leeds in 1937 and housed in Alston since the
1990s will be sent away for overhaul. When it returns it will be equipped to burn waste
wood briquettes and will be a rare example of a ‘sustainable energy’ steam engine. It will
join another Leeds engine ‘BARBER’ that is returning to Alston in 2014. Together these
two will be the first British-built steam locomotives on the line and will be used alongside
British diesel and electric engines.
There will be an enlarged education programme based at an expanded heritage centre at
Alston Station emphasising opportunities for children and adults to learn about our
industrial heritage and its effects on the Pennine landscape. Importantly, the project gives
scope to develop and train the volunteers that run the Railway and make the best use of
the huge variety of skills they bring with them and pass them on to the next generation.
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North-East, Ivor Crowther, said:
“South Tynedale Railway is an important reminder of our transport heritage and is a
fantastic example of the bygone and glorious age of steam. We were really impressed with
the dedication and passion that the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society
demonstrated towards this conservation project and also its commitment towards nurturing
volunteers, providing educational sessions to local schools and passing on valuable
knowledge and skills. We know that this project will make a huge difference to the local
area and visitors will be enjoying the site, and the wider natural heritage of the North
Pennines, for many years to come.”
A project team, including a Railway Manager, is included and recruitment will start soon. A
new cafe will allow expansion of the catering business and offer local employment year
round. Rain water collection will fuel our coal burning steam engines. There is more that
the project will deliver - too much to list here in full, many just small but important changes
to the way the business will work.
Richard Graham, South Tynedale Railways’s Chairman and Alston resident added, “This is
a huge opportunity to build the economy and wellbeing of the South Tyne Valley. We are
really pleased that the Heritage Lottery Fund has shown such faith in our small but
flourishing organisation and I am looking forward to leading our enthusiastic team as we
get to work on the project”.
Published: Tuesday 04/02/2014
By Visit Northumberland