Alston's South Tynedale Railway announced a £5.5 million development project this week, made possible by a £4.2 million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund. So what exactly will this development project set out to do ....

railway at lintleyAlston's South Tynedale Railway announced a £5.5 million development project this week, made possible by just over £4.2 million being awarded to them by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

So what exactly will this development project set out to do ....

This exciting new project includes extending the railway line a 1¼ miles from the current temporary terminus at Lintley to Slaggyford and the transformation of the Slaggyford station site to reconstruct a replica NE Railway signal box with equipment rescued from Battersby in North Yorkshire, as well as reinstalling level crossing gates at the station. The village will benefit too as new fibre optic cabling essential for the railway's signalling needs, could bring fast broadband to the village through joint work with Cybermoor. Alston Station will get a new roof spanning platform and tracks and a second platform for the first time in Alston Station's history.

Along with all of the STR's other buildings (with the exception of the Grade 2 Listed Station House), the new roof will be fitted with solar PV panels. This major electricity generation scheme will cut fuel bills and leave enough power to heat the newly super-insulated workshops. The railway has also obtained two almost new battery electric locomotives from Transport for London, which will be re-fitted for the narrow gauge track. Powerful enough to pull passenger coaches, they will be used on the building work, but their greatest asset is that their batteries will be charged from the railway's own solar power supply.

An historic steam engine built by Hunslet in Leeds in 1937 and housed in Alston since the 1990s will be sent away for overhaul. When it returns it will be equipped to burn waste wood briquettes and will be a rare example of a 'sustainable energy' steam engine. It will join another Leeds engine 'BARBER' that is returning to Alston in 2014. Together these two will be the first British-built steam locomotives on the line and will be used alongside British diesel and electric engines.

The grant will also help towards repairs needed to the 160 year old historic wall that kept the rivers Nent and Tyne away from the railway. It was storm damaged a little over a year ago and temporary repairs will now be made permanent ensuring another century and more of life.

The project will also open up employment opportunities, as well as the scope to develop and train the volunteers that run the railway and make the best use of the huge variety of skills they bring with them and pass them on to the next generation. There will be an enlarged education programme based at an expanded heritage centre at Alston Station emphasising opportunities for children and adults to learn about our industrial heritage and its effects on the Pennine landscape.

In addition to acknowledging the tremendous encouragement given by the team at the Heritage Lottery Fund in developing a successful bid, Brian Craven, STR Deputy Chairman said, "Some time ago we realised that, if we are to continue to build on the success of thirty years of development, we had to do new and different things. We have to attract new visitors and more of them to the lovely South Tyne Valley and our Railway. When we reviewed how we work we recognised that we were spending far too much on resources like power, fuel and other essential utilities and we must do something about that. Our customers tell us that our excellent volunteers provide a great visitor experience. So we must ensure that, in turn, our volunteers get the most they can out of their hobby. Alston is a remote town and the STR is important to its economy. We are keen to work with others to do still more to extend quality employment opportunities to local folk. This project will fulfil all of these aims and more".

Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North-East, Ivor Crowther, said: "South Tynedale Railway is an important reminder of our transport heritage and is a fantastic example of the bygone and glorious age of steam. We were really impressed with the dedication and passion that the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society demonstrated towards this conservation project and also its commitment towards nurturing volunteers, providing educational sessions to local schools and passing on valuable knowledge and skills. We know that this project will make a huge difference to the local area and visitors will be enjoying the site, and the wider natural heritage of the North Pennines, for many years to come."

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