The Alston line was a 13.5-mile (21.7 km) standard-gauge branch line railway that operated in the counties of Northumberland and Cumberland in England. Starting at its junction with the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway line at Haltwhistle, the line ran to the town of Alston. An 1846 Parliamentary Act authorised a line as far as Nenthead, providing an outlet for the lead mines in the Alston area, and plans were made to connect with railways further south. When the decision was made to terminate the branch at Alston, a further act was needed in 1849.
Initially the line opened in stages: from the junction to Shafthill (later renamed Coanwood) in 1851, and from Alston to Lambley in 1852. The full opening of the line awaited the construction of Lambley Viaduct, and was achieved later in 1852.
Rundown and closure
In the 1950s freight services were withdrawn from Coanwood, and all the intermediate stations were unstaffed. After the locomotive shed closed in 1959 and the line's goods services were withdrawn in the early 1960s, the line operated with a Class 101 Diesel Multiple Unit based at Blaydon and ran as a siding, a simple railway with no signals other than those at the junction, from Haltwhistle. Railbuses were unsuccessfully trialled in 1965. Although the line was marked for closure in the Beeching plan, the lack of an all-weather road kept it open. A link between local roads, including a temporary level crossing over the branch, was built in the Lambley area. This enabled Ribble Motor Services to run a replacement bus service. The line closed officially on 3 May 1976, with the last train working two days earlier.
Despite efforts by the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society to take over the line, the track was lifted soon after the closure.
The branch line today
In 1983 a narrow-gauge railway opened between Alston and Gilderdale, and has since been extended northwards. Known as the South Tynedale Railway, this 2-foot (0.61 m) gauge line now runs 4 miles (6.4 km) from Alston to Lintley Halt, and regularly runs a steam service with a couple of German-built Henschel engines, Helen Kathryn and Thomas Edmondson.
The journey includes a viaduct over the River South Tyne. Construction of the next section of track, a mile stretch from Lintley to Slaggyford, is under consideration, and funding is being sought with hopes of completion by 2015. With this, the STR will be around 4 miles in length.
The track bed has been severed at two points close to the Haltwhistle junction, by the A69 Haltwhistle Bypass and the removal of a former bridge on a minor road nearby.
- R.V.J.Butt, (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1
- S.C.Jenkins, (2001). The Alston Branch. Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0-85361-574-3
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- "South Tyne - Haltwhistle to Alston". Bridges on the Tyne. Retrieved 2013-06-27.