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Tanfield Railway

Home > Sunderland > Day Trips | Escape the City | Family | Kids | Picnic Spots
by Margaret Waters (subscribe)
A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
Published May 14th 2014
Tickets at the ready for a Tanfield Train Ride

Imagine stepping back in time to the days of the steam train and rustic passenger carriages as they trundled their way through wooded countryside and lush pastures? It's easy to envisage that bygone era when life seemed to travel at a slower pace.

Tanfield Railway is a great day out for all the family and this year it is celebrating its 175 anniversary, making it the oldest railway line in the world.

early iron pic


To celebrate the occasion, a range of events to delight rail enthusiasts, local history buffs and music lovers are planned throughout the summer of 2014. So whether you fancy a carnival, exhibition, or evening event, here's a few to whet your appetite

May - Iron175

June - British Legion celebration of 70th Anniversary of D-Day &
Tanfield Carnival - packed with entertainment for all the family.

July & August - An exhibition of railway history from the Tyneside town of South Shields.

Please click on the link above for more information.


Originally built to carry the coal mined in the coalfields of County Durham in the North East of England, Tanfield Railway is named after the village of the same name and is part of a coal mining heritage dating back to the 1750s, before the age of steam.

Horse drawn carts originally used the wooden wagonways to make it easier to transport the coal across rough terrain. Iron rails were later used as economic necessity became a trigger point for invention, resulting in the creation of the first iron railway in the world.

Stephenson's Rocket drawing
Stephenson's Rocket drawing courtesy of Wikimedia

Later would come northern engineer George Stephenson's creation of, arguably, the world's first locomotive, 'The Rocket' but the scene was set and Tanfield is rightly proud of its place in the Industrial Revolution.

Situated near Beamish and Stanley, about 10 miles south of Newcastle upon Tyne and north of Durham city, the attraction has working steam trains which run along a three mile track from Sunniside in Gateshead to East Tanfield via Causey Arch in County Durham, an area of natural beauty which was once owned by the National Coal Board. The original line closed in the 1960s when the nearby pit closed down and tracks were taken up.


After laying dormant for a number of years, the railway was brought back to life by local enthusiasts and has now been a crowd-pulling tourist attraction for more than three decades.

Evolving from a few engine sheds at Marley Hill in Gateshead, new tracks were lain and stations built in the 1980s, giving visitors an authentic experience of a 19th Century steam train ride.

Arriving by car, you'll find a free customer car park, an authentic old railway station, (Andrew's House Station) which houses the ticket desk, a tea room/coffee shop, gift shop and toilets as well as a single track railway line.


A visit to the engine sheds, where you can view working engines and those under renovation, is a must on every rail enthusiast or schoolchild's wish list, even modern day kids find this part irresistible.

picnic time
Picnic Time
room to run
Room to Run
 

Down another path there's an outdoor area with picnic tables and beautiful views of the Durham countryside, with emerald green fields as far as the eye can see - and plenty of space for youngsters to run off some energy.

The trains are operated by enthusiasts and generally run at set times every Sunday and Bank Holiday throughout the year with other special events thrown in for good measure so the chances are there will be something going on whenever you grab a weekend break.

I went there as part of a family group and the delight on the children's faces when they realised they could have a picnic and run around on the green fields was only surpassed when they saw the steam train arriving on the platform.

The carriages had old wooden seats and family compartments, like the type I always loved when I was a kid.


There are a range of single, return and group tickets available and the attraction offers an affordable day out for the family. A return ticket will give you all day use of the trains and facilities and offer the best value for money.

TICKET PRICES are as follows:
Adult - £9
Child - £5 (Under 5s go Free)
Senior/Concession - £6
Family (2 Adults and 2 Children) - £23


After buying your ticket, you can wait on the station, enjoy a cream tea or wander around the grounds of the attraction until your train is due. Volunteer guardsmen in traditional uniform will check your tickets before you board then just wait for the whistle.


We chugged along at about 10-20mph, passing through some beautiful countryside and did a round trip back to where the cars were parked, but you could get on and off along the way if your ticket allowed it. Yet more ticket collectors in black uniforms officiated at each stop, adding a sense of authenticity to the process. All that was left to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.


You can also enjoy afternoon tea on board a Victorian carriage with traditional home made fare such as scones, cake, sandwiches and tea served by staff in period dress at weekends and bank holidays throughout the summer of 2014. Tickets cost £17.00 per adult with seniors and children's tickets costing £13.00 with under fives FREE.

Afternoon tea operates most Sundays and Bank Holidays between 30th March and 31st August departing Andrews House station at 2.15pm.

The ticket price also includes unlimited train travel for the whole day so feel free to make a day of it and remember to pre-book your afternoon tea as food is made to order according to tickets sold.

Tanfield Railway can be reached via the A1(M) and the A693 from Chester-le-Street, then take the main A6076 road between Stanley and Gateshead and follow the brown tourist attraction signs to the main entrance for Tanfield Railway.

Set your SatNav postcode for - NE16 5ET

Or you can reach Tanfield Railway by public transport and cycle routes.

Some of the paths between the station and engine sheds are a little uneven and may not be suitable for visitors with walking difficulties.
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Why? Great family day out, a slice of local history, great for railway enthusiasts, picnic spots, countryside
When: Weekends and Bank Holidays all year round, plus special events
Phone: 0845 463 4938
Where: Old Marley Hill | Gateshead | Tyne and Wear | NE16 5ET
Cost: Adult £9,Child £5, Family £23
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