North Sunderland Railway: Northumberland’s Abandoned Seahouses Branch Line

north-sunderland-railway-seahouses-station-2 (Image: Susan Calvert via

Situated some 45 miles north of Newcastle, the tiny Northumbrian village of North Sunderland may not seem like the most likely place to unearth a long abandoned railway. But it was through here that a privately built, single track line passed on its way from nearby Chathill Junction to the harbour village of Seahouses.

At just four miles long with only a handful of tiny communities to serve, the eponymous North Sunderland Railway, which opened in 1898 on standard gauge track, was never an especially profitable line. But it nevertheless reflected a golden age in British transportation history when the country’s railways spanned some 23,000 miles.

When the line was incorporated in 1892, taking advantage of new light railway legislation, it was anticipated that a combination of tourism and fish from the busy port at Seahouses would more than cover the line’s operating costs. But in reality it wasn’t to be. (Watch the video above.)

north-sunderland-railway-station (Image: British Pathé via YouTube)

The light railway’s poor financial performance meant that only two stations were constructed – a through station at North Sunderland (above) and a terminus at Seahouses. A third station at Fleetham and a proposed branch line to Bamburgh remained unbuilt.

north-sunderland-railway (Image: British Pathé via YouTube)

Despite its financial woes, the North Sunderland Railway’s small steam locomotive ‘Bamburgh’ hauled an assortment of coaches and freight wagons along the route for more than 50 years.

north-sunderland-railway-seahouses-station (Image: British Pathé via YouTube)

Above, Bamburgh is seen pulling into the station at Chathill. The east coast mainline tracks, originally built by the North Eastern Railway, are to the left. The branch line platform, bearing the sign ‘Chathill for Seahouses’ was to the east of the mainline. The spot where the light railway track was laid is now wasteland.

north-sunderland-railway-abandoned (Image: Susan Calvert via

By 1939 management of the light railway had passed to the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), which also controlled the east coast mainline running through Chathill Station. Finally in 1951, after decades of financial difficulties, the North Sunderland Railway officially closed. It was abandoned completely the following year, a decade or so before the Beeching Axe fell on many of the country’s doomed branch lines.

seahouses-station-disused (Image: Rose and Trev Clough, cc-sa-4.0)

The route of the abandoned light railway remains clearly visible on Google Earth, branching off the mainline north of Chathill and running through open farmland to Seahouses. The terminus station (above) is barely recognisable today. Its platforms, goods sidings and engine shed have long since been removed and the space has been partially repurposed as a car park.

north-sunderland-railway-station-2 (Image: British Pathé via YouTube)

The trackbed between Seahouses and North Sunderland is now a public footpath, after which the route becomes overgrown and inaccessible. Several small bridges have been infilled and the tracks have long since been removed, though the brick-built platform of North Sunderland station reportedly remains intact, if somewhat overgrown.

Keep Reading – Explore the Peak District’s Forgotten Bamford and Howden Railway


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