Tanfield Railway

The World's Oldest Railway

By the late 1960s it was becoming apparent that steam was soon to be a thing of the past on our railways. Not just on high profile main line passenger trains, but even on the varied colliery and industrial railways that were such a major part of the North East landscape.

The region that gave the practical and efficient railway to the world was in danger of allowing that legacy to disappear and be forgotten. Railway museums and preservation schemes were appearing elsewhere in the country, but nothing north of Yorkshire was on the horizon.

A small group of like-minded people agreed that something ought to be done to redress the balance. They began looking for a location that could form the base for a collection of locomotives that were built and worked locally.

The first locomotive to steam at Marley Hill in preservation was Malleable No.5 from the Beamish collection and the group also worked on the repairs to the museum's North Eastern Railway 'C' Class locomotive.

In 1977 the first passenger trains were run on half of a mile of track between Marley Hill and Bowes Bridge. By 1982 track had reached Sunniside, a mile from Marley Hill.

The railway between Andrews House and Causey was opened in 1992 and the following year the first trains made it to East Tanfield, although a platform there was not opened to the public until 1997. Throughout this period locomotives, carriages and waggons were restored, buildings erected at stations and workshops built at Marley Hill to form a complete operational railway.

Since 1997 development of more buildings at Marley Hill to store the now extensive collection has taken precedence as well as the growing task of maintaining the operational railway. Construction of a new station building at East Tanfield was begun in 2012 and completion is hoped for by the end of 2015. Plans exist for further development at both East Tanfield and Marley Hill and in the future there could be potential to extend the railway along the former Bowes Railway track bed, West to Byermoor.

All of this has only been made possible thanks to the dedication of the hundreds of volunteers who have given up their time and energy over the years, and of course our visitors, who by paying to ride our trains ensure that the railway will survive for future generations.

We aim to allow public access to the site & the collection nearly every day of the year.   We run passenger trains every Sunday, plus other days - see Events

More Information here


The Tanfield Railway is operated and maintained by volunteers.

Since a group of friends got together in the late 1960s and decided that something must be done to save the North East's railway heritage, the Tanfield Railway has depended upon passionate volunteers.

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!

Register your interest now