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The Alston Branch. While the 13 mile Alston branch is featured elsewhere in this gallery, we felt that it was worth making a special feature of its viaducts following Bob Prigg's exploration of the route in March 2007. The first of these viaducts is Alston Arches, which is featured at the end of Group 19, q.v. Between Haltwhistle and Alston, there are no less than 9 or 10 viaducts on the line, depending on which source you read. This must be a national record for a remote rural railway. We believe that the confusion arises because one of the viaducts – that immediately south of Slaggyford station – consists of only 2 spans and is a mere 23 ft. long. However, that is still enough to make it a viaduct rather than a bridge, if our understanding of engineering definitions and terminology is correct.

In the following pictures, we work southwards along the line from Lambley. It is a credit to Northumberland County Council that the whole of this scenic and heavily engineered railway, with only a couple of minor diversions, is now open to the public as the South Tyne Trail.

On a critical note, our photographic committee is planning to send Bob back to the area to record the viaducts that he missed, although, thanks to Nigel Callaghan's contributions, these number only five. Mind you, with so many viaducts on the line, perhaps Bob can be forgiven for missing a few ... (Only joking, Bob; please keep the pictures coming in! Webmaster.)

Above: Lambley Viaduct viewed from the south, i.e. heading from Alston to Haltwhistle. Described as 'one of the most impressive railway viaducts anywhere on the Tyne', this huge Victorian engineering feat consists of 13 spans rising to 100 ft. It was built in 1852 and restored in 1996 by the North Pennines Heritage Trust (NPHT), which now owns it. The viaduct is open for walkers and cyclists. Energetic visitors can use a stairway down to river level, where the views are even more imposing. March 2007. (Bob Prigg)

 
Above: A close up of Lambley Viaduct from river level. The restoration was supervised by Charles Blackett-Ord, who co-wrote a history of the viaduct, published by NPHT; click here for details. Saving this huge structure for posterity was no simple matter: for example, the lime used in the re-pointing had to be imported from France. March 2007. (Bob Prigg)
 
Above: Lambley Viaduct again. The intense low sunlight has bleached out some of the detail in the facing stonework, but this photograph gives a good impression of the towering scale of this structure. It owes its existence to the highly profitable lead mines around Alston, which lured the railway there in the first place. March 2007. (Bob Prigg)
 
Above: A final view of Lambley Viaduct, this time from the parapet looking northwards. Walkers cannot get views like this from traditional field paths; only the nation's old industrial monuments can reach such lofty, unnatural places. We owe a great debt to organisations like the NHPT which have not only preserved this Victorian infrastructure, but also found new uses for it. March 2007. (Bob Prigg)
 

Above: Burnstones Viaduct is situated about 3 miles south of Lambley. It is grade 2 listed, 295 ft. long and 32 ft. high, and carried the railway over the Thinhope Burn and the A689 Alston to Brampton road. After Alston Arches and Lambley, this was the third most significant of the line's viaducts. However it has an idiosyncrasy: there is one arch more on its western side (6) than its eastern (5). This is because it is a double skew structure: the burn flows one way imparting one skew, while the valley road is crossed in the other direction to create the second skew. Where the two skews meet, a blind arch is the result. 21 April 2005. (Nigel Callaghan with architectural details by Ralph Rawlinson)

 
Above: Knar Burn or Barnesford Viaduct is situated about a mile north of Slaggyford station and is best viewed during the winter months, i.e. before the foliage hides it from view. It has 4 spans and rises to a maximum height of 47 ft. 9 in. above the water. 21 April 2005. (Nigel Callaghan)
  
Above: Thornhope Burn Viaduct, near the tiny community of Lintley, was also known as Lintley Burn Viaduct, although NER sources suggest that the former was the official name. It consists of four spans rising to a height of 45 ft. March 2007. (Bob Prigg)
  
Above: Alston signal box on the South Tynedale Railway, which has revived steam services (albeit narrow gauge) over the southernmost part of the branch between Alston and Gilderdale. An extension is planned to Slaggyford, which will extend the line to 5 miles. The South Tyne Trail accompanies the narrow gauge railway all the way, although tired walkers might wish to 'let the train take the strain' on reaching the little station at Gilderdale. March 2007. (Bob Prigg)