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Tanfield Railway


RCD’s Overview

The Tanfield Railway is another railway that can legitimately claim to be the world’s oldest railway, dating back to 1725. Today it’s a heritage railway that runs from East Tanfield (just 8 miles from Newcastle City Centre) to Sunniside (south west of Gateshead). It runs on part of a former horse-drawn colliery wagonway which in due course became a rope and then a locomotive hauled railway. The railway operates a passenger service on Sundays, plus selected other days, as well as occasional demonstration coal, goods and mixed trains. Its locomotives are preserved industrial steam locomotives, and the line runs three miles between its southern terminus at East Tanfield, to its northern terminus at Sunniside. The railway’s Marley Hill engine shed, between the two, dates back to 1854 and is reputed to be the oldest still operational engine shed in the world. East Tanfield station is just a couple of miles from the Beamish Open Air Museum, and a day trip to both can easily be undertaken.

The support group is the 'Tanfield Railway Friends' (see 'Information on the Suport Group' below).


Happening This Month:

  • Go to 'Homepage' and click into 'Railway Club Calendar'

Key Facts (where and when)

Extent of Railway (where to where):

East Tanfield (County Durham) to Sunniside (Gateshead)

Principal Visitor Centre:

East Tanfield Station DH9 9UY

Period of Operation*

- March to October (Sundays and Bank Holidays)

- Late November and December (Special event trains)

 [* This is a summary. Please go to the railway’s website for definitive operating days] 


Key Facts (what you’ll see)

Services usually steam or diesel?


Type of Steam / Diesel Locomotives Used:

Small industrial steam locomotives

Length of Line:

3 miles

Time taken for a round trip:

1 hour

Number of trains per day:

Up to 5 in each direction

Number of Stations:

4 stations


Adult Rover: £13.50. Senior Rover: £11.70. Child Rover: £9.80. Family: From £28.35

Time to allow for Visit:

1 to 2 hours





Picnic/Play areas:


Preservation Established:


Car Park Facilities:

Free parking at East Tanfield station and Andrews House station/ Marley Hill engine shed


Key Facts (Galas/Events/Dining)

Dining Trains:

- Afternoon Tea                                                                               

Event Trains:

- North Pole Express: Late November and December

- Mince Pie Specials: Post Xmas December 

Principal Galas:

- None currently advertised




Telephone:                                                           07508 092365


Social Media:                                            

                                                                             Also on Twitter/ Instagram/ YouTube/ Flickr/Blogspot



Brief History of the Railway and its Preservation  

The North East of England can rightfully claim to be the birth place of the modern railway. The process started with waggonways, built to transport coal from the Northumberland and Durham countryside to riverbanks, primarily on the Tyne. They created a revolution in engineering terms, as advanced skills in civil and mechanical engineering were required in their building. The Tanfield Waggonway was built by an alliance of coal-owning families who joined together to create a transport system for coal from their inland collieries in County Durham, to the staithes on the River Tyne at Redheugh, just west of Gateshead. The coal could then be transported down river and ultimately be loaded into boats capable of navigating the North Sea coast to the south of England. The Tanfield Waggonway, built in 1755 partly upon a route established in 1725, was longer and more heavily engineered than others that existed at the time, in due course being converted to a locomotive hauled standard gauge railway. In 1854 a further route was built running east to west linking Burnopfield colliery in the west with Kibblesworth colliery in the east, crossing the Tanfield railway at Marley Hill, where connection was made. The Tanfield Railway was in continuous use until its closure in 1964. Attempted preservation of at least some aspect of the railway followed, concentrated at the Marley Hill Engine Sheds. Steam locomotives were fired and open to public view at Marley Hill by 1973, and the first passenger trains ran in 1975.


Steam Operational Locomotives:

(1) Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST - No.2

(2) RSH 0-4-0ST – ‘Sir Cecil A Cochrane’

(3) Andrew Barclay 0-6-0ST - No. 1015 ‘Horden’

(4) Robert Stephenson 0-6-0ST - NCB No. 49


Diesel Operational Locomotives:

- Armstrong Whitworth - No. 2 (D22)

- FC Hibberd - Hall Construction ‘Planet’ (3716)

- John Fowler - No. 6 (4240010)

- Ruston Hornsby - TIC No. 35 (418600)

- RSH - No. 158 ‘Husky’ (7901)

- Lister Blackstone Type RM2 (53162)


Steam Locomotives Under Overhaul:

(1) Robert Stephenson 0-6-0T - ‘Twizell’

(2) Black, Hawthorn & Co 0-4-0ST - ‘Wellington’

(3) Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST - ‘Renishaw Ironworks No.6’


Steam Collection (Tyneside): In various states of condition

- Armstrong Whitworth D22

- Black Hawthorne 266, 748

- Hawthorne Leslie 2711, 2859, 3056, 3513, 3575, 3732, 3746, 3872

- Robert Stephenson 2730

- RSH 7007, 7035, 7098, 7409, 7760, 7763, 7796, 7800, 7944, 6980, 7697, 7746, 7901, 7078, 8201

- RWH 2009


Steam Collection (Non-Tyneside): In various states of condition

- Andrew Barclay 1015, 1193, 1659

- AEG 1565, Bagnal 2779, Baguley 3565, BE 2508,

- Clayton B1886B and B3141B

- FC Hibberd 3716

- Hudswell Clarke 1366, 1672, 1823 DM1067 DM1119 DM1170

- Hunslet 6612, 2577, 2607, 7332

- John Fowler 4240010

- Lister Blackstone 53162 and 54781

- RSH 7430

- Ruston Hornsby 418600, 244487, 323587

- Sentinel 9559

- Siemens 862

- Smith 24065


Diesel Collection: In various states of condition

- AEG 1565, Armstrong Whitworth D22, Baguley 3565, BE 2508

- Clayton B1886B and B3141B

- FC Hibberd 3716

- Hunslet 2577, 2607, 7332, 6612, 3872

- Hudswell Clarke DM1067, DM1119, DM1170

- John Fowler 4240010

- Lister Blackstone 53162 and 54781

- RSH 6980, 7078, 7697, 7746, 7901, 8201

- Ruston Hornsby 418600, 244487, 323587

- Siemens 862

- Smith 24065



Name of Support Group:

Tanfield Railway Friends (formerly Tanfield Railway Association)

Annual membership fee:

Adult: £12. Senior: £8 Junior £8. Large Family: £25 Life: £155


Benefits of membership:                                  

-          Discounted travel (50% saving) on the Tanfield Railway

-          Discounted rates for members’ social events


How to Join:                                                Go to


What They Say About Volunteering:

Whether serving tea, selling tickets, replacing sleepers, doing joinery, painting, maintaining plant, machining parts, being a guard, cleaning locos, repairing exhibits, gardening, helping visitors, or keeping the place tidier – all the tasks needed to maintain and operate the Tanfield Railway are carried out by volunteers. We always need people who are skilled or adaptable, regardless of age, who can give time (regularly or not), and are willing to learn while enjoying working with others. Whatever your background we should be able to find a satisfying and rewarding volunteering opportunity for you – perhaps you too could one day be a steam engine driver.


How to Volunteer:                                               Go to


How to Donate:                                                    Email the railway as to how to make donations


WHY JOIN:  Help to maintain this historical railway


Those interested in this railway may also be interested in the following railway societies also listed on this



Traditional Railway Societies:

- Industrial Railway Society

- North Eastern Railway Society

- RCTS (North East branch)

- Stephenson Locomotive Society (Newcastle branch)

Model Railway Clubs:

- Newcastle & District Model Railway Society

- A19 Model Railway Club

- Jarrow Model Railway Club

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