Alnwick branch line

The Alnwick branch line is a partly closed railway line in Northumberland, northern England. A heritage railway currently operates a mile of the line, which originally ran from Alnmouth railway station, on the East Coast Main Line, to the town of Alnwick, a distance of 2+34 miles (4.4 km).

Alnwick Branch Line
North east England
SuccessorNorth Eastern Railway
Line length2+34 miles (4.4 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Route map

Bridge Street
road overbridge
Railway overbridge
Alnwick Bypass
disrupts railway formation
Alnwick Lionheart Aln Valley Railway
Bridge 6
farm access crossing
Cawledge Viaduct
over Cawledge Burn
Greenrigg Halt
Edenhill Bridge
road overbridge
Alnmouth National Rail
East Coast Main Line

It opened on 5 August 1850 to both freight and passenger traffic. Passenger operations included direct Newcastle to Alnwick services, as well as regular shuttle runs between Alnmouth and Alnwick. As late as 1966, some of the Alnmouth to Alnwick shuttles were still operated by steam locomotives.


All Newcastle-Alnwick services and some local trains were taken over by diesel multiple unit trains from 21 April 1958, with schedules cut by up to 15 minutes.[2]


The passenger service was withdrawn in January 1968 and the line closed completely in October 1968, on cost grounds. The old railway embankment west of where the line crossed the A1 road now forms the rear boundary of some of the gardens on the Royal Oak Gardens residential development.

Preservation and revivalEdit

Aln Valley Railway
Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T no. 9 "Richboro", arriving into Alnwick Lionheart Station.
North East England
TerminusAlnwick Lionheart
Commercial operations
NameAlnwick Branch Line
Built byYork, Newcastle & Berwick Railway
Original gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Operated byAln Valley Railway Trust
Length1.5 miles (2 km)
Preserved gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened5 August 1850
Closed29 January 1968
Preservation history
1995Aln Valley Railway Society formed
April 2000Aln Valley Railway takes up residence at Longhoughton Station Goods Yard
1 July 2010Planning Permission granted for new Alnwick Lionheart station and reopened railway to Edenhill Bridge
27 February 2012Construction of Alnwick Lionheart station begins
28 March 2013Passenger rides begin
30 October 2013Alnwick Lionheart station officially opened
28 December 2017Passenger trains return to the original trackbed
HeadquartersAlnwick Lionheart

The Aln Valley Railway is a heritage railway based on the Alnwick Branch Line. Reconstruction of the railway is an ongoing project, the intention being to reopen the old branch line from the newly completed Alnwick Lionheart terminus station in Alnwick (not built on the site of the original station due to it being unavailable and there being new buildings on some of the trackbed into the town centre) to Alnmouth station. At present the railway carries passengers for approximately 1.5 miles (2 km) from the new Lionheart station along a 1.2 mile section of the original route to a temporary terminus station at Edenhill Bridge (see below).[3] The railway project is managed by the Aln Valley Railway Trust (AVRT), a registered charity.[4]

The new built "Alnwick Lionheart" terminus of the Aln Valley Railway. The A1 Alnwick bypass passes the site in a cutting immediately beyond the far boundary fence. 27 September 2015.

The project first emerged with the foundation of the Aln Valley Railway Society (since merged into the Aln Valley Railway Trust) in 1995 and plans were announced in 1997 to reopen almost the entire length of the original branch line. However this proposal would have required the construction of a costly bridge over the A1 dual carriageway bypass on the edge of Alnwick (and was later hindered further by the construction of a Lidl supermarket on the approach to the original station) and so plans were later revised and it was instead decided that a new station should be built on a site close to where the later A1 bypass truncated the original line.[5]

Between April 2000 and November 2014 the Aln Valley Railway also had a presence at Longhoughton goods yard, where rolling stock and other items were temporarily stored and prepared for eventual movement to the Lionheart site, once it became available.[5]

Planning permission was granted by Northumberland County Council on 1 July 2010 and the lease for the site signed on 22 February 2012.[6] The site first opened to visitors five months later on 14 July, but only to demonstrate the ongoing work alongside exhibits of rolling stock as well as an indoor exhibition area, café, souvenir shop and model railway;[7] the first train (an engineer's train) did not run until 3 November 2012.[8] Passengers were first carried 28 March 2013 using the railway's Wickham trolley,[9][10] a service which continued throughout the 2013 season. Later that year, on 10 September, the first trial steam service was operated (though not for public passengers)[11] and the railway was formally opened by the Duke of Northumberland on 30 October 2013.[12][13]

The first preserved steam service

Following the virtual completion of the initial plans for Lionheart station, the railway began works to extend the line onto the original trackbed of the Alnwick Branch Line (which passed the site in a cutting and thus had to be partially raised so as to allow trains to gradually descend from the station) in October 2015.[14] On 28 December 2017, a public passenger train from Lionheart station ran along a section of the original branch line for the first time[15][16] since the line closed nearly 50 years previously. From August 2018, passenger trains regularly ran the short distance from Lionheart station to Alndyke Farm Crossing, just beyond Bridge 6.[17]

In July 2018, the AVRT was awarded a Rural Development Programme for England grant (using funds jointly provided by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) together with 20% match funding from Sustrans which constitute a total of £146,600. The grant has been used to cover the costs of groundworks and track materials to extend the running line over the Cawledge Viaduct to a point just before the line passes under Edenhill Bridge, and has also covered the costs of constructing a new station at this location, Greenrigg Halt, together with a run-round loop.[18] A railway coach – BG No. 31407 – is being used to provide facilities for the new station, which is almost complete (2021).[19]

Though it remains the goal of the AVRT to reopen the rest of the line through to Alnmouth, for it to continue beyond Edenhill Bridge, it must obtain a Transport and Works Act Order.[5] Further planning permission will also be required and a lease will have to be negotiated with Network Rail for the final section of the former line into Alnmouth station, which ran alongside to the East Coast Main Line.

Rolling stockEdit

Steam locomotivesEdit

  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T no. 9 Richboro, built in 1917. Operational.
  • Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST no. 3799 Penicuik, built in 1935. Stored undercover at Lionheart. At present, the locomotive is privately owned and the AVR are not permitted to restore it.
  • Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST no. 60 built in 1948. Works number 3686. Built for the National Coal Board with cab and bunker cut down to a smaller loading gauge for working the Lambton Drops, a coal staith in Sunderland. Operational and on long-term loan (private owner)
  • Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST no. 48 built in 1943. Works number 2864. War Department 75015. Stored undercover at Lionheart.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T no. 20 Jennifer, built 1942. Works No 1731. Operational and on long-term loan (private owner)

Diesel locomotivesEdit

Diesel Multiple UnitsEdit

  • Class 144 144004, introduced in December 1986. Moved to the Aln Valley Railway 15 December 2020. Formerly in service with Northern Trains. Vehicles 55804 (DMS), 55827 (DMSL).[20]
  • Class 144 144016, introduced in March 1987. Moved to the Aln Valley Railway 16 and 17 December 2020. Formerly in service with Northern Trains. Vehicles 55816 (DMS), 55852 (MS), 55839 (DMSL).[21]


Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML
Point Coordinates
Western end – Alnwick railway station 55°24′36″N 1°41′56″W / 55.41000°N 1.69889°W / 55.41000; -1.69889 (Western portal)
Approx. midpoint 55°24′02″N 1°40′17″W / 55.40056°N 1.67139°W / 55.40056; -1.67139 (Approx. mid-point)Coordinates: 55°24′02″N 1°40′17″W / 55.40056°N 1.67139°W / 55.40056; -1.67139 (Approx. mid-point)
Lionheart railway station complex 55°24′08″N 1°41′11″W / 55.40222°N 1.68639°W / 55.40222; -1.68639 (Lionheart railway station under construction)
Eastern end – Alnmouth railway station 55°23′47″N 1°38′28″W / 55.39639°N 1.64111°W / 55.39639; -1.64111 (Eastern end - Alnmouth railway station)



  1. ^ Boost for railway as major funding agreed - Northumberland GazetteNorthumberland Gazette; Retrieved 2018-19-08
  2. ^ Railway Magazine June 1958 p. 432
  3. ^ "Home - Aln Valley Railway". Aln Valley Railway. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  4. ^ "THE ALN VALLEY RAILWAY TRUST, registered charity no. 1063332". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  5. ^ a b c "About Us - Aln Valley Railway". Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_Mar2012" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_Jun2012" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  8. ^ Branch Line News (1174): 420/12. 8 December 2012.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  9. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_Mar2013" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_Apr2013" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 July 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  11. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_Sep2013" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  12. ^ Daniel, Brian (7 October 2013). "Northumberland steam rail link set to reopen after 45 years - The Journal". The Journal. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_Nov2013" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Aln Valley Railway Newsletter November 2015". Archived from the original on 19 January 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_December_2017" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Aln_Valley_Railway_Newsletter_February_2018" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Aln Valley Railway July - August 2018". Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  18. ^ "Latest - Grant Funding Awarded - Aln Valley Railway". Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  19. ^ Nigel, Devereux (24 July 2018). "Aln Valley Railway bags £146k grant for new halt and run-round - Heritage Railway". Heritage Railway. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  20. ^ "Aln Valley Railway to receive donated Pacer train". 29 January 2020. Archived from the original on 29 January 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  21. ^ "Aln Valley Railway to receive donated Pacer train". 29 January 2020. Archived from the original on 29 January 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2020.


External linksEdit