Railway plan steams ahead

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KIELDER CASTLE A railway carriage has pulled into the North Tyne for the first time in 50 years as plans to create Europe’s first “green” steam rail line take shape.

The Kielder Partnership is investigating the possibility of reviving a section of the defunct Border Railway line as part of the Kielder Big Picture – a vision to make the area one of the north’s prime tourist destinations.

If the scheme goes ahead – dubbed the “Green Dragon Project” - the 25 foot long passenger carriage would ply a two mile stretch of narrow gauge railway between a new water ferry landing stage at Gowanburn and Kielder Castle, via Kielder’s historic 19th century viaduct.

Built in Shropshire and sporting a “Green Dragon Line” livery, the historic-looking carriage has seating, wood heating stove and a rear balcony and weighs in at five tonnes.

It has now gone on public display at Leaplish Waterside Park, off the C200, and will be a focal point for wider consultations about the scheme.

Paul Nichol, Kielder Partnership Officer, said:

“Although it’s early days, we thought it was important to allow people to see the scale of the carriage and the potential of the venture. The next stage is to commission a survey to look at the proposed route of the line and the feasibility of laying new rails. This will happen in the New Year. If it all comes to fruition, it will be a major step forward in improving access to this beautiful area, while being a sustainable tourist attraction in its right.”

The scheme is the brainchild of railway enthusiasts Jim and Kate Rees, of Stanhope, County Durham, who are working with the Forestry Commission and the Kielder Partnership to develop the plans.

They own the locomotive that would be used on the line, called the Green Dragon. Built in 1912, it was used in South Africa’s sugar cane fields and burnt organic waste in its furnace, rather than coal. Keeping with the green theme, it would be wood fuelled on its Kielder run, making it Europe’s first such environment-friendly service. Other rolling stock would allow disabled access and enable bikers to transport their cycles.

Note to editor

  1. The Border Counties Railway was once a thriving link between Edinburgh and Newcastle. It opened in 1862 and carried passengers and freight for 94 years before finally closing in 1956. A large section of the line between Bellingham and Kielder is now under Kielder Water, and many bridges and crossings between Kielder and Riccarton are now missing. However, some of the original track bed remains.
  2. The Kielder Partnership is an established public/private sector collaboration seeking to develop the North Tyne Valley and Redesdale as a sustainable tourism resource that contributes to economic expansion.
  3. For more information on the Kielder Big Picture contact Paul Nichol at the Kielder Partnership on 01434 220643.

Media calls to Richard Darn on 01226 246351. Mobile 0775 367 0038.