Nestled in the beautiful Causey Valley in the North East of England, The Tanfield Railway dates back to 1725 making it the oldest working railway in the world...
My first memory of The Tanfield Railway was when I was about six years old. I was with my mother, walking along the pathway that runs alongside the track. It was a really nice day; which is pretty unusual for the North East of England. I heard the noise of the train running along the track, and saw the plumes of white steam and grey smoke rising from it. The train passed us, and I remember shouting at my father from the pathway, hoping that he’d hear me. No chance; he was on the footplate driving it.
The Tanfield Railway in North East England claims to be the oldest railway in the world and was originally built to transport coal to the River Tyne for shipment. However, as the age of steam passed the railway fell into disrepair and the tracks were lifted and abandoned.
During the 1970’s, my dad and a group of other railway enthusiasts and volunteers raised the funds required to restore the railway, and gained and lovingly repaired a small number of steam locomotives and carriages, as well as carrying out the mammoth task of re-laying some of the track. The first stretch of the railway had its official opening ceremony in 1982.
I find there is little more charming than sitting in a Victorian era carriage and being pulled along by a true wonder of engineering, and experiencing the sound of the locomotive working to get up a steep gradient or the smell of the smoke and ash in the air. Further along the line, you can hop off the train at Causey Arch, the oldest railway bridge in the world, and enjoy a calming walk through the woodland, viewing the local wild animals and flowers. The railway also boasts the best picnic site in the region, and you can site and enjoy lunch looking over Andrew’s House Station and Marley Hill engine sheds. Marley Hill is an original working engine shed and is open to the public, whilst still being used for it’s original purpose.
The railway now has a new generation of young volunteers working alongside the old; it is very much a living railway. I think that the working atmosphere of this amazing piece of industrial heritage is a testimony to how sometimes old things can go on and provide function and joy to many, just as our analogue cameras continue to do the same.