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Explore Whickham Sunniside Swalwell Dunston Blaydon NE16
Tanfield Railway - The World's Oldest Railway 1725 - 2014

Tanfield Railway


The World's Oldest Railway

With an unparalleled history dating back to 1725, spectacular scenery and a truly unique atmosphere, it is no wonder that the Tanfield Railway is the North East's biggest and most popular steam railway. Less than half an hour from Newcastle and within easy reach of Tyneside, Wearside and County Durham, steam trains run every Sunday and Bank Holiday on a picturesque six mile round trip from Sunniside in Gateshead to East Tanfield near Stanley. Great for families and history fans alike, Europe's oldest working engine shed and the world's oldest railway bridge as well as riding on the world's oldest railway makes a visit a must for anyone with an interest in our proud railway heritage. Tanfield Railway has also been voted the North East's No. 1 picnic site.

A great day out

A Great Day Out at Tanfield Railway
With picturesque scenery, lovingly restored locomotives, Victorian carriages and an aire of years gone by the Tanfield Railway offers a great day out for all of the family. Tanfield Railway is the world's oldest dating back to 1725 giving an unrivalled history which simply oozes from the entire site. No railway enthusiast can truly lay claim to that title unless they have paid a visit to a line which laid the foundations for the modern railway network.

The comfortable cafe at Andrews House is in the peaceful surroundings af a typical countryside station from 100 years ago.

At Marley Hill is Europe's oldest working engine shed, visitors can soak up the atmosphere of a genuine working shed and see the latest progress on overhauls and restorations carried out by the volunteers.

Causey Arch station is ideally located to visit the world famous arch, the oldest railway bridge in the world, as well as a series of walks in the secluded valley surrounded by industrial heritage.

Trains run every Sunday from December 26 to the last weekend in November and on some other days throughout the year. Click here to view the timetable at the Tanfield Railway website.

Afternoon Tea

Why not enjoy afternoon tea on the train?

Afternoon Tea at Tanfield Railway
Enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea on board a Victorian carriage hauled by a vintage steam locomotive as it passes through the picturesque Causey valley on the world's oldest railway. Tanfield Railway's smartly dressed waiting staff will serve a selection of sandwiches, scones and home made cakes with plenty of tea throughout the journey.

Cream tea services operate every Sunday between mid March and early September departing from Andrews House station. Pre-booking is essential as all food is made to order for each train. For dates, times and to download the booking form, click here to visit the Tanfield Railway website.

Santa on the Original North Pole Express

Christmas Santa Train at Tanfield Railway

Visit Santa on the Original North Pole Express

The Tanfield Railway offers an unforgettable Christmas experience aboard the North Pole Express on a four mile return steam train ride through stunning winter countryside to see Santa Claus in his magical grotto. Passengers should keep a look out for deer and other seasonal wildlife in the picturesque Causey Valley. Hot drinks and mince pies for adults are included in the warm and welcoming tea room whilst children receive soft drinks and snacks as well as a quality small early gift from Santa Claus.

Pre-booking for this hugely popular event is essential as no North Pole Express tickets are available on the day. Trains leave from East Tanfield station and travel to the North Pole, the station is signposted from the A6076 Sunniside to Stanley Road. North Pole Express trains run Saturdays and Sundays from late November through to Christmas and on December 23rd and Christmas Eve.

Tickets are available from the Tanfield Railway or by calling 0845 463 4836. For ticket costs, timings, and to download the santa form please click here to visit the Tanfield Railway website.

History of the Tanfield Railway - the world's oldest railway

History of Tanfield Railway
No one can say with any confidence when the world's first railway was laid, simple rails have been used to guide vehicles for centuries, definitely as far back as the middle ages and possibly even in ancient Greece. What is certain is that in the first years of the 1600s a Nottinghamshire businessman called Huntingdon Beaumont came to Northumberland and laid rails from collieries near Blyth to a shipping point on the coast. His waggonway using wooden rails and wooden wheels on wooden waggons hauled by horses was not a financial success. It did however provide the spark which was to see the progression from primitive wooden rails over short distances to a railway network which would change Britain and the world forever.

'Tyneside roads'

From the mid 1600s onwards, waggonways and the Tyneside coal industry became linked so closely that they were known throughout the rest of Britain as 'Tyneside Roads'. A network of lines linked collieries on both sides of the Tyne to the river.

It is no coincidence that the North East was the area where waggonways took greatest hold, canal building was impossible due to deep valleys and steep hills. What set the rail systems of Tyneside apart from all others was its use of the flanged wheel - a key element of the modern railway as we know it.

A revelation

When the Tanfield Railway - or waggonway as it was known at the time - was built in 1725 it was a revelation. Its massive engineering was unlike anything else in its era, or even since the Roman Empire. It was a triumph of engineering over nature, a clear signal that a new industrial age was upon the world and that railways would play a massive part.

First laid down more than a quarter of a century before the first railway* officially sanctioned by government, over 75 years before the first steam locomotive and a whole 100 years earlier than the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the Tanfield Railway is the world's oldest railway.

* Although known as the Middleton Railway, even the act of parliament which permitted its construction described it as being constructed in the style of a Tyneside waggonway. No Tyneside waggonway had required a similar act as they operated on land either belonging to the colliery owners or under a system of 'wayleave' where payments were made to land owners for the passage of the waggonway.


Why not become a member of the Tanfield Railway?

If you enjoy your visit to the Tanfield Railway and want to know more, why not become a member of the Tanfield Railway Association - the official supporting body of the world's oldest railway. Members receive 3-4 editions of The Tanfield magazine each year which provides news and information on what's happening on the railway and can also join in with regular social events. Association members also receive discounted train travel on the Tanfield Railway. The membership form can be downloaded from the Tanfield Railway website... click here to visit the website.


Volunteering at Tanfield Railway

The Tanfield Railway is operated and maintained by volunteers

Since a group of friends got together in the late 1960s and decided that something must be done to save the North East's railway heritage - the Tanfield Railway has depended upon passionate volunteers. From driving the locomotives to staffing the ticket office, from the machining in their workshops to the signalbox and from guard to tracklaying, all of the tasks needed to maintain and operate the Tanfield Railway are carried out by volunteers.

Whatever your skills, Tanfield Railway can find a satisfying and rewarding volunteering opportunity for you and perhaps you too could one day be a steam engine driver.

Why not download the volunteering form from the Tanfield Railway website and you could help ensure that the world's oldest railway will still be running for the next 280 years. Click here to visit the volunteering information page at Tanfield Railway website.

Group and Educational Visits

Planning a group visit?

A day out at the Tanfield Railway is ideal for groups from girl guides to coach parties. They can offer packages including guided tours of the railway and hire of their buildings as well as a pleasant train ride. Groups can take advantage of the saloon carriages and reserve a carriage specifically for their party, complete with a guide if required.

Discounts are offered for groups of over 25 on any timetabled operating day and discounts are also offered for coach parties. Why not get in touch with Tanfield Railway to discuss what you're looking for in detail. Contact details are listed in the right column on this page, or you can visit the Tanfield Railway website by clicking here.

Educational Visits ... A Day to Remember

Days out of the classroom should be '(N)ICE' (that overworked word!)

Not (all) Information, Curriculum and Education... BUT

Inspiration, Creativity and Enjoyment!

At Tanfield Railway, they aim to provide both sets of ICE, but believe that one size does not fit all! They do not issue a standard package of 'information', but would like to work with you to build in your personal requirements.

By prior arrangement, school parties can enjoy a full day's activities, including riding behind a steam locomotive, visiting the engine and carriage sheds, walks in Causey Woods with a visit to the famous arch, as well as making use of a school's resource box and art and craft materials on site.

As the railway is run by volunteers, groups can be accompanied by people who are not only knowledgeable, but enthusiastic about their subject ... without being railway anoraks!

There are toilet facilities at Andrews House Station and the Engine Shed and of course their set of vintage carriages provide a huge umbrella should it rain! Hot drinks can be provided for staff in the Refreshment Room.

Tanfield Railway looks forward to working with you to provide a day to remember.


David Dickinson at Tanfield Railway
The Tanfield Railway can truly make your special day that extra bit special. What could be a better way to celebrate a special birthday, anniversary or other occasion than with a steam train ride? Or what about an unusual venue for a meeting or to entertain your clients? Perhaps you're looking for that period location for your photographic club to capture that perfect shot?

Tanfield Railway offer a range of options to hire a carriage or a full train on one of their scheduled operating days or even to hire the whole railway. Their beautiful Victorian carriages with steam drifting past the opening windows or balcony with a view over the picturesque countryside offer a perfect setting.

A unique flavour

Hiring your very own carriage or even a complete train provides an affordable way to bring a unique flavour, and smell, to your event.

Tanfield Railway want to work with you to tailor their service to your day so they can offer a range of different options from a single journey to a full day and they can also offer to provide a full package including catering. Why not get in touch to discuss your special day.

The master shot

Tanfield Railway are experts at recreating scenes from the past and with Europe's oldest engine shed at Marley Hill which simply oozes atmosphere, stunning scenery and wonderfully recreated stations, they can help you capture that master shot. Their recreations of the coal trains which once rumbled throughout the North East are legendary for the spectacular sights and sounds which they produce. They can offer options to exclusively hire the full railway for photographic purposes or they can provide packages based on certain areas such as Marley Hill. They also have the facilities to organise night time photographic sessions.

Stock Lists

The Tanfield Railway is home to a unique collection of locomotives, carriages and waggons. Almost all of them have a fascinating history working in and around the coal mines, shipyards, gas works and other industries of the North East.

Together as a collection of industrial railway heritage the collection at the Tanfield Railway is recognised as being of national importance.

All of the vehicles at the Tanfield Railway were brought to the line to save them from scrap and although they have restored dozens of vehicles over the years there is still much work to do for the dedicated volunteers.

As restoration work can't always be carried out in public areas, not all of the vehicles listed are on public display and some of them are dismantled as work progresses. However if you do wish to see a particular vehicle, Tanfield Railway invite you to get in touch.

The stock list, which will be developed over time, is available at the Tanfield Railway website. Click here to visit the Tanfield Railway website.

How to find Tanfield Railway

The Tanfield Railway is within easy reach of all major towns and cities in the North East of England. The railway's main entrance for Andrews House and Marley Hill Engine Shed is situated alongside the main A6076 road between Stanley in County Durham and Gateshead in Tyne & Wear.

By Car ... Just 15 minutes from the A1

From A1 Northbound:

Exit at junction number 63 signposted Beamish. At first roundabout take second exit signposted Beamish. At the second roundabout continue forward signposted Beamish. Follow Beamish signs at third roundabout. At the fourth roundabout continue ahead and then turn right following Tanfield Railway signs then follow brown signs all the way to the entrance, which is located off the A6076 on the left hand side.

From A1 Southbound:

Exit at the A1 at the Lobley Hill intersection and follow the A692 up Lobley Hill Road, continue up Watergate Bank following the A692. Follow the road through Streetgate and into Sunniside until you get to a set of traffic lights, at these lights you will see the 'Tanfield Railway' tourist signs. Follow this road (A6076) for approximately ¾ miles and the entrance is on the right hand side.

Sat Nav Post Code: NE16 5ET

Using public transport ...

By rail:

The nearest main line railway stations are Newcastle Central and Durham. The Tyne and Wear Metro system also serves Gateshead Interchange and Newcastle Central for easy bus connections on most days.

By bus:

For more information on bus services stopping at the Andrews House entrance to the site and in Sunniside for a short walking distance from Sunniside station, please contact:

Tanfield Railway Website Links

Special Events:
North Pole Express:
Groups / Corporate:
Stock Lists:

   Tanfield Railway   Information:
Tanfield Railway
Marley Hill Engine Shed
Old Marley Hill
NE16 5ET
General Enquiries...
0845 463 4938

0845 463 4836

Mechanical Engineering Queries...
General Enquiries...

North Pole Express Enquiries...
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Marley Hill