County Durham Heritage Railway confirms reopening for end of May
Visitors looking to enjoy the Weardale Area of Outstanding Beauty will have a new option from the end of this month when a popular heritage railway line reopens. The first passengers will be welcomed back onto the Weardale Railway from May 28 with trains initially running between Stanhope and Wolsingham stations. However, test or ‘shadow’ train runs already began on the line from Thursday (May 5) ahead of those first passengers services.
The full line runs for 18 miles between Eastgate in Weardale to the main railway network at Bishop Auckland in County Durham. Currently, 16 miles of that section has been restored for passenger and freight use, with a feasibility study for the reopening of the railway line to commuters getting the go-ahead in October 2021. : County Durham museum named one of best railway-themed family holidays in England
Weardale Railway was purchased by The Auckland Project in March 2020, bringing it out of administration. Since then, a programme of inspections, network assessments, maintenance and repairs to the infrastructure has been undertaken, along with improvements to the trains – with the aim of safely bringing the heritage line back into operation while ensuring the preservation of its long-term future.. In line with the railway’s reopening at the end of this month, The Weardale Railway has joined forces with Durham Police and Durham County Council to launch a safety campaign in the local community in order to raise awareness among the public that trains are returning to the tracks.
The initiative will incorporate visits to local schools and wider community venues to spread its message.
Chris Phillips – Neighbourhood Police Team; Kevin Richardson – Chairman, Weardale Railway Trust; Lily Gibbons – Pupil, Frosterley School; Jamie Clarkson – Community Safety Responder, Neighbourhood Police Team; Angelina Maddison – AAP coordinator, Weardale Area Action Partnership; Councillor Anita Savory – County Councillor for Weardale; Claire Gibbons – Senior Community Liaison Officer, The Auckland Project, Weardale Railway; Wayne Dixon – General Manager, Weardale Railway; Tom Hatton – Director, Weardale Railway Trust (Image: Janis Gascoigne)
Fosterley Primary School has signed up for the sessions, with schools in Stanhope and Wolsingham also supporting the initiative. Later in the year, pupils and teachers from participating schools will be invited to the railway to find out more about its history and day-to-day running. Wayne Dixon, General Manager at Weardale Railway, said: “We’re delighted to be able to announce a reopening date for Weardale Railway.
The route of the railway is beautiful, running as it does through the heart of Weardale, and we look forward to people being able to enjoy it from the safety of a train carriage.” What’s your favourite railway journey in the North East? Let us know in the comments below!
The Weardale Railway’s ‘bubble car’ diesel unit (Image: J Askwith)
Anita Savory, Durham County Councillor for Weardale, said: “Community safety is always paramount, it is vitally important that everybody is aware that the railway line is permanently in use again.” Jamie Clarkson, Community Safety Responder from Weardale Neighbourhood Police Team, said: “We already deliver other safety campaigns in the local schools so it will be great to include the railway safety to our portfolio.
If this campaign is successful in Weardale we will look to roll out the programme to the wider communities throughout County Durham.” Tickets for the first passenger services will go on sale later this month. For more information on booking and to keep up to date with developments, visit the Weardale Railway website.