THE first length of track has been laid on an ambitious heritage railway development.
And a delighted representative from the Aln Valley Railway scheme has told the Gazette: “It is something that we have been looking forward to for a very long time.”
Dreams of reopening the branch-line from Alnmouth to Alnwick reached an important milestone earlier this year when a lease was signed between the Aln Valley Railway Trust and Northumberland Estates.
Since then, it has been full steam ahead with the project.
Last Saturday, the Railway’s engineers laid the first sleepers and rails on the ballast, at the site of where the development’s new Alnwick (Lionheart) station will be.
On top of this, work has started on the erection of the locomotive and repair depot.
The building’s steel frame is now complete and fixing of the cladding will proceed, weather permitting.
In the near future, further track materials will be arriving at Lionheart, both from the National Railway Museum at York and from the Tanfield Railway.
It is envisaged that the Alnwick (Lionheart) station site, in Lloyd’s Field, which is adjacent to Lionheart Enterprise Park on the outskirts of Alnwick, will be open to visitors in the summer, with an exhibition area, cafe and shop, as well as car parking.
By autumn, it is hoped that sufficient track will have been laid in the station for short shuttle rides.
Roger Jermy, press officer for the Aln Valley Railway, said: “We are delighted.
“We have been very lucky with the weather, which has given us the ability to lay the first small section of track.
“It is something that we have been looking forward to for a very long time.”
The project has four phases, with the last stage being the final link to Alnmouth Station, which would also allow passengers to join the Aln Valley Railway from the East Coast Main Line.
The creation this year of the new station with visitor and maintenance facilities is phase one.
The second phase will be to join the original route as far as the Cawledge Viaduct while the third part of the scheme will be to extend the track to Greenrigg Bridge, before the final push to Alnmouth Station.
An appeal has also been made to businesses and individuals to donate any items which could be used in the project, such as redundant office equipment.
This can include things such as filing or display cabinets, notice boards, old but still-serviceable overhead or slide projectors or materials such as hanging or box files.
To help, contact Roger on 01665 606168 or Dudley George on 01665 604502.
For more information and to get involved with the project, including details on how to sponsor a sleeper on the track, visit www.alnvalleyrailway.co.uk