On the 25th February 2017, our full Committee walked the line from Ashington (under the A197 bridge) along the former colliery/disposal point branch all the way to Butterwell (near the East Coast Mainline), after gaining permission from the landowner to do so.
Although we are yet to develop a more detailed plan, we confirmed an outline plan together at the end of our walk.
The attached photos show the southern nosy section of the branch and the part which has been longest disused, the area here having suffered from theft, as well as from age and weathering. This is also the section that is most isolated; with the branch disconnected at the Ashington end (near the Ashington ASDA/Front Street), as well as at the crossing at the A1068.
North of the A1068, aside from a short section of lifted track, the branch is largely complete all the way to Butterwell. The track here has seen a great deal of heavy use, and is consequently well worn but perhaps still has an element of life left in it. This would comprise Phase 1 of our plan.
At the disposal points, the opportunity exists that the concrete hard standings used for coal/vehicle movements could offer an ideal parking area, and a heavy duty road access too. Also, especially at the Butterwell end the area is in rather nice countryside, with the added benefit of views to passing trains on the East Coast.
All of our proposals include the ‘future proofing’ of freight use returning to the branch, so as a group we would not preclude any reconnection to previous lines (such as at Ashington). These have developed from previous plans which you can view on our past post ‘Plans for the Butterwell Branch’
Our rough plan therefore is a 3/4 Phase plan, which would include:
Phase 1: Develop secure sidings/shedding facilities/running platform at Butterwell Disposal Point (D/P) (sympathetic to other site users); also to begin repairs to the line and eventually reach the Potland Burn D/P. The other potential is to use the Linton Colliery site for sheds/sidings. This would give us an operating line between Butterwell and Portland Burn (the latter near the site of ‘New Moor’ halt, New Moor Halt.)
Phase 2: Across the A1068 towards Ashington. This section would involve crossing the A1068 road, which is likely to be costly, and dependent upon permission being given for a rail crossing on this road. One solution longer term could be to re-align the road slightly and bridge the railway in this area, elimanating a level crossing, as well as the two sharp bends in the road here; but this would require a high level of external development. As stated earlier, the line here has suffered with the passage of time, but once Phase 1 was well underway/complete, clearing vegetation encroachment etc could begin with a view to longer term restoration. The plan here would be to create a terminus station near to Ashington, along the lines of the former miners’ station but perhaps relocated onto the inside of the ‘V’ created by the Butterwell Line and the line to Lynemouth Power Station. (Hirst Platform).
Phase 3: A new curve could be built, in time, curving from the Butterwell Branch towards Woodhorn Colliery (Woodhorn Chord), then running parallel to the Lynemouth mainland to the Museum. This would, in our view offer a mutually attractive proposition for both the railway and the Museum; with standard gauge steam hauled trains offered in addition to the present Woodhorn Narrow Gauge Railway. Depending upon a range of factors, if the station was built close to the present Lynemouth Power line, it could offer an ‘interchange’ with the mooted ‘ Woodhorn Park and Ride’ idea when the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne Railway re-opens. There could also be freight potential on this line, with Lynefield Park, the rail connected former smelter site being able to use the new chord to take their trains northward to Butterwell and onto the East Coast. This element of the plans would be a very long term plan as it involves a great amount of new construction.
Phase 4 would be even longer term to potentially reach Newbiggin by the Sea, but again this would depend upon Phase 2 & 3 being successful.
We hope this has been informative, and at our next Committee meeting we will be further discussing our ideas.
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