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Causey Arch

The world's oldest surviving railway bridge


Co Durham
Red Wheel Site:
Transport Mode(s):

Tanfield Railway, Stanley NE16 5ET

NE16 5ET
Visitor Centre:

About Causey Arch

The Causey Arch is a bridge near Stanley in County Durham. It was built in 1725-26 by stonemason Ralph Wood, funded by a conglomeration of coal-owners known as the "Grand Allies" (founded by Colonel Liddell and the Hon. Charles Montague) at a cost of £12,000. Two tracks crossed the Arch: one (the main way) to take coal to the River Tyne, and the other (the bye way) for the returning the empty wagons. Over nine hundred horse-drawn wagons crossed the arch each day using the Tanfield Railway.

The world's oldest railway bridge, it is a scheduled Ancient Monument and is Listed Grade 1.

At the time the bridge was completed in 1726, it was the longest single span bridge in the country, a record it held for thirty years until 1756 when a bridge was built in Pontypridd, Wales.

Wood was haunted by the collapse of his earlier timber bridge. Fearing that this arch would also collapse, he committed suicide by jumping from the top of it. An inscription on a sundial at the site reads "Ra. Wood, mason, 1727".

Use of the Arch declined when Tanfield Colliery was destroyed by fire in 1739. However, the Arch was restored and reinforced in the 1980s. There are a series of scenic public paths around the area and the Causey Burn which runs underneath it. The cliffs near the bridge are a popular spot for local rock climbers. Causey Burn itself flows into Beamish Burn which then flows into the River Team eventually discharging into the River Tyne.

The arch was used by a branch of the Tanfield Wagonway dating from 1724. This later became the Tanfield Railway and has continued in operation as a heritage railway. It can therefore claim to be the oldest working railway in the world.

By road: Off A6076 (East Tanfield) or A692 (Sunnyside)

By foot: Footpaths pass through the wooded gorge link the car park and picnic area to the Arch. One path leads down to the valley bottom. This route takes you alongside a massive man-made earth embankment before following the Burn upstream to the Arch, crossing a series of footbridges on the way. An easier alternative route takes you alongside the Tanfield Railway and onto the course of the original wagonway before reaching the Arch. There is an extensive rights of way network linking Causey Arch with the Beamish Valley.


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