Preservation Early Years

Chris Donald, Stuart Manley and His Grace, Duke of Northumberland, at the launch of the Aln Valley Railway Trust held at Alnwick Castle in 1997

The Aln Valley Railway Trust and its supporting Society were established to re-open the branch line from Alnmouth station, located on the main Edinburgh-London line, to Alnwick – primarily as a heritage railway tourist attraction. Plans for the railway were launched in 1997 with the intention of bringing main-line steam back into Alnwick Station. However this would have involved the construction of new bridges over the A1 dual carriageway to the east of Alnwick and South Road in the town – the old Great North Road. Although much funding was obtained, in the end it was not enough.

0-4-0ST Penicuik being unloaded at Barter Books, Alnwick

A core of dedicated supporters resurrected the project by proposing to construct the line in stages, rather than in one go. A number of the old railwaymen’s cottages at Alnmouth Station (now sadly demolished to make way for a new car park) were purchased to be converted into offices and a hostel. Unfortunately the planning authority turned down the proposals due to lack of suitable access.

A further set-back occurred in 2002 when an application was made to Northumberland County Council to convert the trackbed east of the A1 into a footpath. This would have scuppered the plans for the railway. Although the county council approved the footpath, the order was overturned after a public inquiry in 2007. Before that, however, in 2006 permission was granted for the construction of a supermarket on part of the old Alnwick station site. This resulted in the loss of the only useable platform and the filling in of the trackbed on the station approach.

The Trust reconsidered its options and decided to construct a new station for Alnwick in a field east of the A1 next to the original trackbed. At the same time, the old station yard at Longhoughton, alongside the East Coast main line not far from Alnwick, was used  to store track components, railway infrastructure and items of rolling stock. The local planning authority approved the plans in the summer of 2010, which allowed the Trust to commence negotiations with Northumberland Estates, the landowners, for the lease of the field and trackbed. In February 2011, the railway received a grant of £129,000 from LEADER which, along with additional funding from the Duke of Northumberland, kick started the project.

The Lionheart site under construction in 2012. Photo possible thanks to 202 Sqn, RAF Boulmer

Construction work started in March 2012 and short shuttle rides commenced early in 2013.

Over the next few years, with limited finances, the line was extended in stages. For 2020, thanks to another LEADER grant and support from Northumberland County Council in constructing an adjacent footpath/cycleway, it has reached a new halt at Greenrigg Bridge, about halfway to Alnmouth. To get past that bridge, a Transport and Works Order will be required as it carries a public road. Unfortunately this is not cheap, so much more funding will be required. Once obtained, the line will proceed down to the rear of Alnmouth station, with access to the main line for passengers.