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A Cycling Tour Along The World’s Oldest Former Railways

One of the historically resonant things about riding the Bowes and the Tanfield railway paths close to Newcastle is the proximity of the family-friendly Beamish, the ‘Living Museum of the North’. This 350-acre open-air museum houses a number of vital steam locomotives that after toot-tooted alongside these former rail traces.

It is a provided that North East England led the railway revolution virtually 200 years in the past, however what’s less well-known is that this was the second railway revolution.

North East England was on the forefront of the first one, too. Wooden railways, ‘waggonways’ with wood rails, had been used in the area no less than 20 years earlier than the English Civil War in the 1640s, and the world’s first passenger railway wasn’t the Stockton and Darlington line of 1825 however Kitty’s Drift, an underground railway beneath a Tyneside colliery that carried paying guests within the early 1800s.

Carlton Reid cycled the Bowes and the Tanfield railway paths, close to the household-friendly Beamish, a 350-acre ‘Living Museum of the North’ that recreates the atmosphere of yesteryear life

Carlton seen riding between remnant rails on the for-now defunct Bowes incline railway close to Gateshead

The bike ride saw Carlton set off from Newcastle’s Quayside. From there, he rolled over the Millennium Bridge beneath the ‘futuristic curves’ of the Sage Gateshead cultural centre, pictured above at sunset

The waggonways of Tyneside and Wearside – referred to as ‘Tyneside Roads’ and over which components of the Tanfield Railway have been laid – were technologically advanced, many requiring large embankments and valley-spanning bridges lengthy earlier than the civil engineering feats of George and Robert Stephenson.

The earlier and later improvements took place due to the extraction of squished vegetation pressed into place millions of years beforehand: coal.




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The nice Northern Coalfield was as soon as the beating coronary heart of the Industrial Revolution, however many of the once-teeming rail lines and horse-drawn waggonways that started to vein Durham and Northumberland in the 1600s to transport coal are now linear led light backwaters, their rails long gone.

However, on one stretch of the Bowes Railway path you can still see the stays of oak sleepers and may even trip between steel rails on a bridge that was once part of the Bowes incline railway. Stationary steam engines pulled carriages up steep valley sides on this 15-mile industrial line, the earliest part designed in 1826 by Stephenson Snr.

This picture reveals a steam locomotive at Causey Arch on the Tanfield Railway

A hen’s eye view over Causey Arch, with railway coal wagons to the left. The railway bridge was built greater than a hundred years earlier than the primary steam locomotives

The Causey Arch (pictured here by way of a drone as Carlton trundles throughout), in-built 1727, is the world’s oldest surviving single-arch railway bridge

Only part of this supposed Permanent Way nonetheless exists as a working rail line. Before they were mothballed a few years back, the road’s hill-climbing trains can be paraded periodically. Today there isn’t any signal of exercise, and I was in a position to journey between a brief stretch of rails after which on to the gravel-strewn remainder of what was once a busy colliery rail line.

I had began this ten-mile bike experience on Newcastle’s Quayside, rolling over the Millennium Bridge beneath the futuristic curves of the Sage Gateshead tradition centre. Almost all the route is on site visitors-free cycleways, a few of it tarmac but most of it gravel.

The Bowes Railway path – strictly talking, the previous Pontop and Jarrow Railway – leads to the Tanfield steam railway. This line, kept alive by volunteers, as soon as crossed the historically significant Causey Arch, a railway bridge constructed more than one hundred years before the first steam locomotives.

You would experience this undulating route on a mountain bike or, if you do not thoughts the loose stones, a street bike, however I opted for a combine between the two, a gravel bike.

Helpfully, the Cannondale Topstone has front and rear suspension. The entrance fork – known as ‘Lefty’ – has one prong, not two; it turns heads. Think a one-prong bike ‘fork’ can’t be protected? Fighter jet wheels use the identical cantilever principle.

During his journey, Carlton saw ‘a number of puffing locomotives’ in motion and stopped to photograph them alongside the way

Old picket sleepers can still be seen on the Bowes Railway path at Springwell, close to Gateshead

Carlton’s Cannondale Topstone gravel bike by an indication for the quaintly-named Cranberry Bog Road, a minor street to Beamish museum, close to High Urpeth

And the know-how is far from new: the primary bicycle made with a mono-fork was the Invincible of 1889, at the top of the steam age. And talking in regards to the steam age, there are a number of puffing locomotives to see on this ride, together with an entire bunch at Beamish museum on relocated tracks. And, for the real thing, steam trains also run throughout summer time weekends on the Tanfield Railway.

In four years’ time, the Stockton and Darlington line will have fun its 200th anniversary however, amazingly, in the identical yr the Tanfield Railway will probably be blowing out the flames on a cake adorned with a further 100 candles.

In-built 1725 to transport coal to the Tyne with gravity and horse flesh, the Tanfield Railway, the world’s oldest, was a cartel formed by three rich industrialists, one in all whom – Sir George Bowes – was an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

The Bowes Railway path (pictured) – strictly speaking, the previous Pontop and Jarrow Railway – leads to the Tanfield steam railway

The centrepiece of the Tanfield Railway is the Causey Arch, erected in 1727 and now the world’s oldest surviving single-arch railway bridge.

Ralph Wood, a local mason, was so not sure his bridge would stand he threw himself into the burn below, a fatal drop that the native authority in the present day averts with fencing and ‘you are not alone’ notices.

Just over a mile from Causey Arch is the Beamish museum. Popular with families since it opened in 1971, Beamish has costumed staff and volunteers bringing history to life: it began the development for regional ‘residing’ museums.

Colliery buildings at Beamish, which accommodates brick-by-brick reconstructions

Beamish Engineers working on a working replica of Puffing Billy, the world’s oldest surviving steam locomotive. The unique – housed in London’s Science Museum – was inbuilt 1813 by engineer William Hedley for Wylam Colliery, to haul coal wagons to the docks at Lemington on the River Tyne. Puffing Billy influenced George Stephenson to build Locomotion No 1 and, later, the Rocket

Visitors to Beamish can hop on ‘Buffing Billy’ for a brief rail ride on the Pockerley waggonway

A drone shot of Carlton on a piece of the Bowes Railway path, near Birtley

The Angel of the North may be seen in the space. Carlton stated he felt Antony Gormley’s iconic sculpture was watching his ‘every move’ all through

Carlton Reid crossing the Tanfield Railway near Causey Arch – a line saved alive by volunteers. In case you loved this information and you would love to receive much more information with regards to linear led light price assure visit our web site. The museum’s expansive parkland has recreations of a Georgian corridor. An Edwardian city that was used as a backdrop for the current Downton Abbey movie. There’s also an early 1900s colliery and adjoining pit village, and – rising behind fencing – there’s quickly to be a 1950s extension full with post-battle prefab homes and a cinema.

Beamish contains brick-by-brick relocations of historic buildings, however the adjoining Beamish Hall is authentic. It isn’t a part of the museum today, but it’s why, in 1970, the founder and first curator selected this site.

The hall is a mid-18th-century country home built on much earlier foundations. It was the museum’s first storeroom, following its previous makes use of as a National Coal Board building after which a residential faculty. The corridor was converted to resort use in 2000.

Carlton is pictured here cycling past the Angel of the North on his method dwelling from his waggonway wanderings

After a surprisingly hilly bike ride (former railways are usually flat) and some hours strolling round Beamish in robust sunshine, I used to be too tired to do something much however collapse within the shade. Those with more stamina may need once swung by way of the trees on the lodge’s high ropes course. However, as a result of coronavirus lockdown, Beamish Wild closed down after 10 years of operation.

I have it on good authority that, even when open, you couldn’t see the Angel of the North from the rope course, but from a prone position on a grassy financial institution, I may see Antony Gormley’s iconic sculpture thanks to my trusty DJI drone. I used this eye-in-the-sky to take many of the pictures illustrating this article.

In fading light, I rode back to Newcastle via the Angel, now silhouetted in opposition to the darkish orange sunset, however still watching my each transfer.

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