Bowes Railway Path - Introduction

The Bowes Railway Path is to become a Regional Cycle Route 11
connecting NCN 14 in South Tyneside with NCN7 (C2C) in Stanley

Parts of the Bowes Railpath were severely damaged
during the storms in 2012 between Springwell and Tanfield Railway

Only suitable by mountain bikes with care.

This cycle route for most of the way follows the trackbed of the Bowes Railway which ran between Dipton in the west to the coal staithes at Jarrow on the River Tyne.

Today the Bowes Railway Path follows the track bed of this line between the Tanfield Railway at Marley Hill through Gateshead to Wardley - with a short detour around the Bowes Railway Museum at Springwell. From Wardley it continues as the Monkton Mineral Line through South Tyneside to Jarrow where it joins NCN 14.

The section in Gateshead is approx. 8.5 miles long and follows a roller coaster profile - see below - and is almost entirely off-road. There are several road crossing - some of which can be quite busy.

The track surface can vary between tarmac and rough ballast - the whole route is soon to be up graded and re-surfaced.

There are two summits at - Blackhams' Hill (500 ft). and Birkheads (550 ft.) with the lowest point in the Team valley at 50 ft.

Sections of this route are very rough and therefore quite demanding.
Mountain Bike tyre's recommended - definitely not suitable for racing or road tyre's

Direction signs have a green background with a horse symbol
denoting that the route is a bridleway and a bike logo with a blue
number 11 patch denoting the route is a regional cycle route

Bowes Railway History

Bowes Railway was originally a colliery railway built to carry coal mainly from pits in north west Durham to the Tyne at Jarrow. The earliest section was designed by George Stephenson and opened on 17 January 1826, making it one of the world's first modern railways. It was 15 miles long when completed in 1855.

Each end was locomotive worked, the six mile middle section consisting of rope worked inclines with very steep gradients.

At its peak, the Railway handled over 1 million tons of coal per year and remained virtually intact until 1968. Between 1968 and 1974, most of the line was closed until only the last 3.5 miles between Monkton and Jarrow staithes were operated by the National Coal Board.

However, the original 1826 section between the Black Fell bank head and Springwell bank head was acquired for preservation in 1976 by Tyne and Wear County Council.

This comprises Blackham's Hill West and East inclines, which are operated by a stationary haulage engine.

It is the only working preserved standard gauge rope hauled railway in the world.

In 1977, the Railway's Engineering and Wagon Shops at Springwell were added to the scheme, providing the facilities needed for maintenance.

The whole railway, including the buildings, machinery and rolling stock is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is managed by the Bowes Railway Company, Ltd. (Registered Charity Number 511691) on behalf of the current owners, Sunderland City Council and Gateshead Council

Click to go to the Bowes Railway web site

Gradient Profile

The Inclines between Birkhead and Kibblesworth and Springwell to Springwell Bankfoot were self acting, the loaded wagons going downhill pulled the empty wagons back up again by means of a rope connecting the two sets via a large horizontal pulley at the top of the bank.

The other inclines were powered by stationary engines which hauled and lowered wagons along the track.

Between Blackham's Hill to Birkheads the line falls over 450 feet into the Team Valley before climbing 500 feet on fairly steady gradients of between 1:15 to 1:20.

The climb up from Springwell Bankfoot is about 250 feet at a gradient of 1:24

For detailed guide notes select signs below

Tanfield Railway Path - eastbound to Wardley and NCN 14 at Jarrow

Wardley - westbound to Tanfield Railway Path