From our second meeting with the landowners, we came away with a need to change direction slightly due to a commercial user being lined up for the Butterwell section of the branch. This is, however, possibly a good chance to look again at our ideas and see what might be possible.
From the discussion, it became apparent that the most likely section that would be available for ABTRA use would be the section between the A197 (Rotary Parkway) and the A1068. This section was identified on our line walk of 25.02.17 as one requiring substantial work to bring back to an acceptable standard to run trains. It does, however, have certain advantages in that the line is not planned to have any use in the very near future, and at the southern end is very close to the High Street area of Ashington with its associated facilities and public transport links.
Adjacent to this site is a large field, with a nearby road access already available (Lintonville Terrace). This field features as space for our ‘New Hirst’ station area, more details below!
Closed in May 1966, the original Hirst Station (Ashington Colliery), served miners’ trains running on the Ashington Colliery Company network of lines, running north to New Moor, and then either Linton or Ellington. A new Hirst platform is intended for a similar ABTRA ran service to a rebuilt ‘New Moor’ somewhere near the end of the line on the southern side of the A1068 (the original New Moor had platforms staggered either side of the road). The new Hirst would, however most likely be built directly on the main track alignment, and adjacent to the field side (east of the track), to allow for potential car parking. Similarly the station at New Moor would be entirely sited on the southern side of the A1068.
The intention throughout is that any work done would allow the line to reconnect at both ends, onto the rest of the Blyth and Tyne at the Ashington end and crossing the A1068 at the New Moor end, both to the benefit of ABTRA and the wider community.
What also may prove possible is the establishment of a railway museum at the Hirst station site. A working title for this is the ‘Northumberland Rail Museum’ or ‘NorthRM’, which would not be specific to just the Blyth and Tyne area but the broader rail history of Northumberland. Such plans are at a very formative stage as yet but the intention is that such facilities provide attractions beyond just a train ride, such as on the excellent Keighley and Worth Valley Railway with attraction at many of its stations.
One other ‘benefit’ of arriving earlier on the south section is the planned new chord toward Woodhorn Museum (See the past post: Plans for the Butterwell Branch here). In this plan, a train would start at say Hirst station (nearest Ashington Town Centre), run north to New Moor, run round (change direction and come south again), then take a new curve to the east heading towards Woodhorn Museum, to terminate similarly to the existing Woodhorn Narrow Gauge Railway on the outskirts of the Museum site.
This would offer a train ride with two attractions situated at both ends of the line, and would hopefully bring a higher footfall in time to Ashington itself, as well as Woodhorn Museum itself. Longer term the hope would be to reconnect the line over the A1068 allowing perhaps an extension of the running line should circumstances allow, and to eventually reconnect at the Ashington end to the rest of the Blyth and Tyne line. Both of these connections if and when available would allow a ‘through route’, not seen since the 1990’s.
We hope to meet soon with Northumberland County Council (NCC) to discuss our aims and see what might be feasible with them, and we will continue to collaborate with SENRUG on our plans through our Joint Vision.
We will next meet as a Committee in early June and will hopefully have a new way forward.
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