Well, so far the majority of our activity has been focussed on the paperwork side, with the ‘Joint Vision’ document, mentioned in The March Update, now in its very final stages and hopefully only awaiting approval from the two organisations involved!
We are also hoping to meet again with the landowner to discuss the project further with them, and we are currently working on our documentation.
One big element of our plans which we are now making a conscious effort to communicate is the potential for the future of the route.
As mentioned way back in our Plans for the Butterwell Branch post way back in January, the route has been identified as a potential through route, but this might not happen for some years depending on funding. It is important to bear this in mind however, as from the SENRUG & ABTRA Joint Meeting (SENRUG Blog), there may come a time when ABTRA has to move on.
This may, however, present a good opportunity. A little known fact is that the Blyth and Tyne was once intended, in the mad days of railway competition to be B&T and the Wansbeck Railway to Scotland.
This would have been a very indirect route, with trains from the Waverley Line coming off at Riccarton Junction, south through what is now Kielder Water, and on to Reedsmouth Junction, where it would then run eastward towards Morpeth, bridging the East Coast Mainline (a bridge abutment can still be seen to the south of Morpeth station on the east side of the line); crossing the road (again another abutment can be seen on the main A192/Shields Road, near the former Black Swan pub, now a mini Sainsbury’s), then running on to join the Blyth and Tyne railway in the Stobhill area.
The reason behind this route was the desperation for the North British Railway (a Scottish company) to reach Newcastle as a destination. Frustrated by Hudsons’ North Eastern Railway, they sought to have their own line to Newcastle, via the Wansbeck Valley and connect to the still independent Blyth and Tyne. In the end they reached an agreement to join the Tyne Valley line near Hexham (via the Border Counties line), and the Wansbeck Railway became a quiet branch running through quiet countryside up until closure.
From the Wansbeck Railway was also the line to Rothbury, which presumably gave Lord Armstrong of Cragside and the people of Rothbury easy access to Newcastle once the branch was built.
So from this sets out the historical connection of the Wansbeck Railway and the Blyth and Tyne Railway, but what plans could there be for a railway revival there?
Well, should ABTRA become displaced from the Butterwell Branch, there might be the opportunity of materials and rolling stock that needs to find a new home. This could become dispersed around other heritage railways, or if the will to start afresh was great enough, perhaps a small section of the line could be revived.
As an isolated line (a mainline connection is highly unlikely, Morpeth is well developed, Kielder has a major reservoir and the bridge at Hexham over the Tyne no longer exists), the line would need to be in an attractive spot.
One such place could be the Rothbury Branch (Rothbury Station history HERE), which has the added bonus of major attractions at either end with Cragside and Wallington at the Rothbury and Scots Gap ends respectively, giving a line about 13 miles in length, running through very picturesque scenery.
Such a plan would require a very in depth study of course, but one worth thinking about should the group become displaced in the future…
For now, however, the group is 100% focussed upon the Butterwell Branch as that has the benefits of track already laid; and perhaps we can focus on the idea that we may be once again promoting the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne as a route to and from Scotland and Newcastle by much less competitive means!