A little refresh on our ideas for the Butterwell Branch.
Our current main project is the Butterwell Branch, this is the former Colliery line from Ashington to Linton Colliery (originally built in the 1890’s), extended in the 1950s westward to a drift mine, then finally to Butterwell in the late 1970s, and complete with a mainline connection at Butterwell Junction on the east coast mainline.
At present the line is disused, with the recent ending of coal traffic from local opencasts to site to be shipped away by rail. There is potential that there may be a return of coal traffic but this is dependent upon new opencasts being approved.
So this brings us to where ABTRA is involved. The track and infrastructure is remaining in place for the potential return of coal traffic or any other traffic appearing; however, as can be seen on the section just north of Ashington, the track is slowly being reclaimed by nature.
The ABTRA plan at present is to use the track that is in-situ, and operate trains over it, thereby not only preserving and maintaining the infrastructure for future potential freight, but to also keep the route available for its future as a strategic corridor route from Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth and Tyneside, onto the East Coast via a new curve, and on towards Berwick and Scotland (see the plans here: http://wp.me/p7JgS7-1t).
To do this, we are proposing a phased re-opening, possibly starting with a lightweight rail vehicle such as ‘Buzz’ at the Aln Valley Railway, and gradually expanding as resources allow. The ultimate aim would be steam/diesel locomotives and appropriate carriages reflecting the Colliery passenger services of the Ashington Coal Company on a line they actually ran on!
The hope is that over time the stretch southwards from Butterwell Disposal Point (on the road between Linton Village and Longhirst) will progressively re-open, eventually crossing the A1068, and on to the northern edge of Ashington.
Once that is re-opened the next phase, should it prove to be viable is to build a new curve (or chord), to connect the Butterwell Branch to Woodhorn Museum. In operation, this would take a train starting at Butterwell and heading south over the A1068, then take a left hand turn at a junction, and curve eastward towards Woodhorn Museum. (There could be a possibility that this phase may prove viable to start at Woodhorn and extend towards Butterwell but this is yet to be discussed at Committee level).
The new chord would allow passengers to join the train at the edge of the Museum site, and travel as miners and the local public did until 1964 behind a steam loco and wooden bodied carriages to and from the colliery (similar to those running on the nearby Tanfield Railway). It also affords an opportunity to actively help preserve surviving locomotives and rolling stock from the area in the area it originally worked.
The new chord would also have a second function and allow a potential freight route from the Lynefield Park (former Smelter site) direct to the east coast mainline, potentially attractive for freight operators.
We are working closely with SENRUG to ensure our plans do not conflict with the future plans of a through route (see link below), and are keeping in mind a ‘retreat plan’ should the route be required for its future use.
Thus there could soon be a ‘private railway’ running a mixture of heritage trains, alongside freight and possibly charter operations running in via the mainline connection and Butterwell, the potential of a revived connection at Ashington Junction (near the high street), and also a potential new one near Woodhorn Museum.
If you’d like to see this plan come to fruition, please join us as a member (our prime source of funds), or for more information please follow our Facebook page, we are also on Twitter our link is: @ABTRA_NLAND, thanks, Ryan.