It’s full steam ahead for the rejuvenation of the old Northumberland railway line


Motor driver Kenny Middlemist rolled back the years as he took his locomotive across a Northumberland railway viaduct.

He drove the first steam train to cross the Cawledge Viaduct since the Alnwick branch was closed to steam passenger trains in 1966.

The event was a milestone in the advancement of the Aln Valley Railway project, which aims to restore the line between Alnwick and Alnmouth.

In addition to providing a heritage attraction to boost tourism, the project – managed by the Aln Valley Railway Trust – also aims to develop the rail corridor as a sustainable transport link and as a recreational and educational resource for the local community. and visitors to the Region.

Kenny Middlemist was the last steam-era walker on the Alnwick line and, like his father before him, was based at the Alnmouth locomotive shed.

He was the trains firefighter on the last day of steam train service on the Alnwick line in 1966.

That day, 53 years ago, Kenny was a member of the crew of the K1 62011 locomotive, which worked mornings. The Alnwick-Alnmouth line saw the last steam passenger trains on a branch in the northeast.

Kenny now lives in Hipsburn, Northumberland and is a volunteer driver on the Aln Valley Railway.

Train driver Ken Middlemist

After successfully passing his boiler test, the opportunity was taken to use the 102-year-old Richboro locomotive on a work and inspection train running the full length of the Valley Railway line. Aln between Lionheart station, near Alnwick, and the approaches to the site of a future stopover at Greenrigg.

This involved the train traversing the seven spans of the 135-meter-long Cawledge Viaduct, which Kenny described as a “very emotional” occasion as Richboro, pulling a single car, tread carefully on the recently laid rails to the current limit of the line.

The train was used to test the journey of the car, one of its bogies of which was recently refurbished, on the newly extended rails to Greenrigg.

Due to the construction of the A1 bypass which cut off the original track on the outskirts of Alnwick and the costs associated with the construction of an upper bridge, a new station is being developed at a site adjacent to the Lionheart Enterprise Park.

The plan calls for heritage steam and diesel locomotives to carry trains of up to four cars between the two sites. A cycle path will run alongside the railway line, connecting the National Cycle Network to Alnmouth.

Once the line has been completed and the infrastructure in place, it would be possible to schedule connection services with passenger trains on the main line.

A feasibility study showed that the railway would break even with 10,000 passengers per year. With the popular attractions of Alnwick Garden, Alnwick Castle and Barter Books close by, it is hoped that the Aln Valley Railway project could be of great benefit to the local economy.

The railway welcomes donations to its Sleeper Appeal to fund the last few meters of track at Greenrigg. Donations can be sent to Neil Brison, Retail Manager, Aln Valley Railway, Lionheart Station, Lionheart Enterprise Park, Alnwick NE66 2EZ.


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