Kielder Viaduct

An information plaque on one of the viaduct columns provides a brief overview of its history: In 1969, after being in use for 100 years, this railway viaduct was preserved for the public by the Northumberland and Newcastle Society through the generosity of many donors. The viaduct was constructed in 1862 to carry the North Tyne Railway and is a notable example of Victorian engineering. It is a rare and the finest surviving example of the skew arch form of construction. This required that each stone in the arches should be individually shaped in accordance with the method evolved by Peter Nicholson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a pioneer geometrician in this field.

The viaduct is decorated with crenelated ramparts and arrow slits to appease the Duke of Northumberland.  The line passed in front of his hunting lodge at Kielder Castle and he insisted that its design should be consistent with the castle’s Gothic style.

Later known as the Border Counties Railway (BCR), it ran from Riccarton just over the Scottish Border all the way down the North Tyne Valley to Hexham.  Opening in stages between 1858 and 1862, commercial traffic was limited from the outset and the thinly populated Borders meant that passenger numbers were always small. The line closed to passengers in 1956 and the tracks lifted in 1963.

From the banks of the North Tyne

The view from atop the viaduct

Keep walking south for just under a mile, following the route of the abandoned line and you are confronted with open water.  This is where the BCR is submerged beneath Kielder Water, not reappearing until Falstone, some six miles south and beyond Kielder Dam.  Much else lies beneath – Plashetts Colliery, the station, parts of the old village, various farms and HMS Standard.  Sadly, a prolonged drought will not reveal ghost villages as the buildings were destroyed before the valley was flooded.  Nor will the superstructure of some long lost battleship emerge – HMS Standard was a shore based  assessment and rehabilitation centre for naval personnel diagnosed with personality disorders.  Whatever inspired the reservoir’s civil engineers, it wasn’t the lost city of Atlantis.

The end of the line

Beneath the viaduct there is a neat little device called a blackbox-av.  Wind the handle to provide a charge and you can listen to the Viaduct Voices – short stories told by locals about the railway, the wildlife and a time before the coming of the reservoir.  The voices are appropriately faint and distant – much like Hendersen’s Bridge on Raasay.

Viaduct Voices


  1. Tish Farrell · November 29, 2020

    You can’t beat a railway viaduct for landscape grandeur, can you – (unless it’s Telford’s Pontcysyllte aqueduct). That first shot is tre-mend-ous, Robin

    • northumbrianlight · November 29, 2020

      Indeed you can’t, Tish and, the Pontcysyllte is magnificent. It is quite unnerving to cruise that aqueduct on a narrowboat, there being no guard rail on the non-towpath side. Speaking of which, you just sent me off on a Google Earth wander. As a small sprog I remember being equally unnerved by the mere proximity of a large railway viaduct. Mum and dad used to take us on picnics in a field along Batemill Lane between Peover and Goostrey where the mainline railway crosses the Peover Eye. I would never venture anywhere near base of the viaduct.

      • Tish Farrell · November 29, 2020

        Peover. Goostrey. Those are names and places from my past. I’ve just been looking up the internet pics. I remember that viaduct. But there’s also something lurking in the back of my mind about Goostrey – of the ‘something nasty in the woodshed sort.’ Was there some sort of forbidding hospital there? I can’t see any likely ‘worrying’ locations on the net pix. Whatever it was has probably been redeveloped.

      • northumbrianlight · November 29, 2020

        That sounds interesting but I don’t remember anything. Mum always said I would drive her to the asylum but that was Parkside in Macclesfield 🙂 Turns out Alan Garner lives in Goostrey – do I remember you telling me that a while back. Of course Peover is not something I could ever bring myself to pronounce correctly – Pee-over was always more appealing 🙂

    • Sue · November 29, 2020

      I do agree, Tish!

      • northumbrianlight · November 29, 2020

        This one is lucky to survive, Sue – the next one north at Saughtree was dismantled many years back 😦

      • Sue · November 29, 2020

        Oh, right

  2. restlessjo · November 29, 2020

    I love viaducts, Robin. Not sure that I have actually seen this one. And I like the blackbox idea. On a sunny day 🙂 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · November 30, 2020

      Me too – especially ones you can walk over. There are some interesting videos on YouTube – this is one of the more professional versions:
      Hope you are keeping ok – all the best, Rx

      • restlessjo · November 30, 2020

        Love the video, Robin! We were last at Kielder on a damp day with friends staying at Bellingham in a caravan. A more memorable time before that was shoveling snow with our months old son fast asleep inside the car. 🙂 🙂

  3. J.D. Riso · November 29, 2020

    The Viaduct Voices box is a unique idea. It must be a little eerie to sit and listen to the stories. 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · November 30, 2020

      Yes, it’s a great idea – could have done with being slightly louder but that could be down to my ears 🙂
      This takes you back too:

      • J.D. Riso · November 30, 2020

        That is fabulous. Those wrestling outfits, wow. 😂

      • northumbrianlight · November 30, 2020

        Great isn’t it 🙂 I remember this world – not rural Northumberland but, steam engines,the way people dressed and carried themselves, they are all very familiar.

  4. sustainabilitea · November 30, 2020

    And has the unintended consequence of providing stunning photos, especially that first one. Happy end of November, Robin.


  5. socialbridge · December 3, 2020

    This is the perfect post for a social bridge person, Robin. I just loved it. What a stunning viaduct.

    • northumbrianlight · December 4, 2020

      Many thanks Jean, glad you enjoyed it. I am researching the line at the moment – next stop/post will probably be the ominously named Deadwater, the first/last station in England on the BCR.

      • socialbridge · December 4, 2020

        What a name! You’ll have to fill us in on the background to it.

  6. Pit · December 8, 2020

    Great perspectives!

    • northumbrianlight · December 8, 2020

      Many thanks Pit – I trust all is well with you and yours.

      • Pit · December 8, 2020

        Yes, we’re glad to say that all is well here, in spite of the difficult times. And I hope you and yours are doing fine, too.
        Stay healthy,

  7. Pit · December 8, 2020

    Thanks! 🙂

  8. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Azinhal, almost ends in tears | restlessjo
  9. Pingback: Kielder Viaduct – The Bridgehunter's Chronicles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s