Discover preserved railways on your doorstep

South Tynedale Railway (s)
South Tynedale Railway (s)

An outing to a beautiful part of the country without expensive tourist traps could be the ideal solution for days out in the summer holidays.

The Eden Valley, around Penrith, is a gentle Lake District without the cost.

Engine shed (s)

Engine shed (s)

Among its many attractions are a collection of preserved railways, all run by fantastic enthusiasts willing to share their love of the steam age.

One of the smallest, and most family friendly, is a restoration project at Kirby Stephen, open at the weekends from 10am until 4pm.

At first glance, visitors may think “what on earth....?”, because the approach to Stainmore Railway Company is next to a scruffy scrapyard, but anyone being put off will miss a mini treat, particularly if youngsters are in tow.

Stainmore Railway Company is a million miles from being what the ad men call “a visitor experience”. There is no admission charge to the Victorian station where the railway’s education officer Sue Jones and her friends go out of their way to ensure young visitors will not be bored.

As well as its museum, there is a buffet car and picnic area. The volunteers man steam and diesel stock, and visitors are asked to pay a small fee if they have a ride.

The railway also boasts a traction engine, hand-built by younger steam enthusiasts, so children can have a close look at the workings of a steam engine.

The restoration project is on the A685, less than a mile from Kirkby Stephen town centre. The SatNav is CA17 4LA

For more details, go to, ring 017683 71700 or

Stainmore’s cheery band are at the earliest stages of their restoration journey. The story was much the same at the South Tynedale Railway in the late 1970s and early 80s at nearby Alston where a group of volunteers stepped in after British Rail closed the line in 1976.

Initial plans to preserve the line intact were not to be, but the volunteers’ prompt action saved the track bed, and it was decided to construct a narrow gauge railway. It opened for passengers 30 years ago, in July 1983, and today has highly successful and profitable operation. It is the highest narrow gauge railway in England.

In true railway tradition, the volunteers loved steam and four years later the preservation society’s first steam engine began a regular passenger service. The locomotive was named Thomas Edmondson, after the inventor of the ticket system used on British railways for more than 150 years.

The collection of rolling stock for the railway has been acquired from around the world, and its journeys are so popular the railway runs what has become known as shoppers’ specials.

The railway operates from the station at Alston, and is well signposted, about a quarter mile north of the town on Hexham road. Sat Nav CA9 3JB.

The route runs from Alston in Cumbria to Lintley in Northumberland via the South Tyne Viaduct, the Gilderdale Viaduct and the Whitley Viaduct.