It once carried thousands of passengers daily – but the trains and tracks are long-gone from the old Riverside Branch railway line.
The suburban route dated back to 1879, a time when the shipyards and factories of the Tyne were developing rapidly.
Opened by North Eastern Railway along the Northern bank of the river, the line’s seven stops between Byker and Willngton Quay served the ever-growing industries and communities there.
The line was actually a loop added to the main Newcastle-Coast route, which had opened in 1839.
Rail enthusiast and photographer Trevor Ermel explains: “The Riverside Branch – as it was known by British Rail and by enthusiasts – deviated from the suburban line that ran from Newcastle to the Coast via Wallsend .
“It left the main line just after it crossed the Ouseburn Viaduct at Byker and followed the course of the Tyne, mainly serving shipyard workers.
“It rejoined the main line at Percy Main. The stations on the loop were Byker, St Peter’s, St Anthony’s, Walker, Carville, Point Pleasant and Willington Quay.”
Described as “for the most part, tunnels, bridges, cuttings, retaining-walls, and embankments”, the building of the Riverside Line was a major engineering challenge and had been eight years in the planning and construction when it opened on May 1, 1879.
Originally a steam service, the trains on the line were electrified in 1904, becoming diesel in 1967.
Running a regular hourly service for decades as shipbuilding boomed on the River Tyne, things began to slacken off on the line in the post-war years mirroring the slow-down in the industry.
Passenger numbers began to dwindle and St Anthony’s station closed in 1960, while Byker station had closed six years earlier.
The Beeching Report of 1963 recommended the Riverside Line should close, only for it to be reprieved a year later.
Come the early 1970s, however, there were again calls for its closure. The line cost around £100,000 a year to run, but made only £15,000. Meanwhile, a road had been built linking some of the locations that would be affected.
On April 17, 1973, it was decided the line would finally be axed. The last passenger trains would run on July 23, 1973, with the final goods trains five years later.
Today, a popular walk and cycle way lines much of the route where the trains of the old Riverside Branch used to run.
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