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History Tanfield Railway claims to be the oldest working railway in the UK. The line runs for approximately three miles, between East Tanfield in County Durham, and Sunniside in Gateshead. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact date, but it is estimated that the first section of track was laid in the early 1600s, when a businessman named Huntingdon Beaumont commissioned the construction of a line from collieries near Blyth to a shipping point on the coast. The first line, however, did not last very long since it was built entirely out of wood; although the primitive railway was effective over short distances it soon became a costly affair as the wooden rails needed to be regularly replaced due to the harsh and boggy conditions that area often experiences. The Tanfield railway (which was originally known as a waggonway) that continues to exist to this day was built in 1725; it emerged one hundred years earlier than the first public line between Darlington and Stockton. Railways took the greatest hold in the North East of England, rather than canal ways, due to the deep valleys and hills in the region. Over the years Tanfield has become home to a growing collection of industrial steam engines and carriages; most of the stock dates from the 19th Century. The Marley Hill engine shed, built in 1854, is still used to store restored engines. There are currently three fully functioning machines at the site. Although the line to the shed closed in 1962, it continued to service other collieries railway locomotives in the North East. Part of the reason Tanfield Railway was preserved is attributable to the Marley Hill shed remaining open up until 1970. The vintage tools and machinery stored inside it are still capable of restoring an entire locomotive. A turntable also still exists at the site; this is long enough for most of the locomotives being stockpiled or restored. This turntable is known for being easy to turn by hand, if the load is evenly balanced. Presently, alongside operating the public railway, Tanfield works closely with Beamish Open-Air Museum; one of the locomotives restored at Marley Hill shed is displayed at Beamish Colliery. Our Version of Events Having picked up the buzz for trains back in New Zealand, we decided to head over to Tanfield Railway after hearing a rumour that a number of old locomotives and carriages are sat there slowly rotting away. We arrived in the afternoon – two suspicious looking characters – after a good morning exploring various parts of Newcastle and Gateshead, but luckily it wasn’t too busy (we thought it might have been since the site comprises part of an active public railway). After guessing where the abandoned trains were, using the very convenient public site map, we set off with the cameras and tripods. Several minutes later and we’d managed to get up to the trains and carriages without incident; although, the surrounding boggy land the railway workers had problems with back in the 1600s still appears to exist. As far as we could tell, most of the old cars and locomotives are stored in long rows (around six or seven of them), so exploring them and remaining hidden from the staff who operate the public line and workshops is made easy. For the most part, the site is good for a quick visit if you have nothing better to do, or are passionate about trains and the 19th Century; we found it particularly interesting. But, if you’re looking for something ‘epic’, you’re probably not going to find it here. Having said that, it does have an told turntable and we did manage to get inside one of the ‘protected’ first class carriages. For a brief moment we were able to bask in the former luxurious atmosphere made exclusively for the ‘finer citizens’ of the north. However, although the seating was particularly comfortable, we reached a unanimous decision that it was far too dusty and the toilet was broken to a degree that made it unsuitable for extended newspaper reading sessions. It looks like we’ll be sticking to Virgin Trains… One day, when we can actually afford a ticket. Explored with Ford Mayhem. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: