The world’s oldest railway has received nearly a quarter of a million pounds to help it adapt to Covid-19 and improve the experience of visitors thanks to the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
The Tanfield Railway, which runs steam trains between Sunniside in Gateshead and Tanfield, near Stanley, has received £245,500 from the Culture Recovery Fund to help weather the storm of coronavirus and come back stronger.
The volunteer run line, which predates the Stockton and Darlington Railway by a century, will use the funding to overhaul a Victorian passenger carriage, pilot new heritage events and improve outdoor areas. The funding, the largest single amount ever awarded to the Tanfield Railway, will also help to cover the costs of increased cleaning, safety equipment and digital resources required to ensure that the railway can operate in the post-coronavirus landscape.
Tanfield Railway is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.
Tanfield Railway Commercial Director, David Watchman said: “Just like many heritage-led organisations, the coronavirus pandemic created a whole host of challenges. We’ve always been a very self-sufficient operation, but these unprecedented times mean that funding from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund is going to play a crucial role to our long-term survival.
“We’ve had very generous support from the public during the pandemic, but this funding will help us to provide a better experience for our customers, and safeguard North East railway history.”
Among the projects to benefit from funding is the overhaul of an 1885-built Great Northern Railway passenger carriage. The rare vehicle will be rebuilt back to its original style with individual passenger compartments, which were removed during modifications in the 1930s. The changes will help to increase the number of socially distanced seats available on trains.
A new ‘welcome’ building at Andrews House station on the railway is planned to make the staging of living history style events feasible with coronavirus related restrictions in place. The first events are planned to take place in early 2021.
Resurfacing of footpaths and new outdoor seating areas will also be provided at stations along the three-mile railway and at the line’s 1854 engine shed; the oldest working building of its type in the world.
The funding is also expected to ensure that plans to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Tanfield route in 2025 are not unduly hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post covid.”
The Tanfield Railway is currently operating a limited steam train service each Sunday with pre-booked tickets available – click here to book.