The Tyne Valley Line is a scenic route linking the two northern cities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle - both important rail hubs, with Newcastle serving destinations nationwide along the East Coast Main Line from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley, and Carlisle a principal stop on the West Coast Main Line for both Glasgow Central and London Euston. The Tyne Valley Line roughly follows the route of the River Tyne, and is 60 miles (97km) long, with the speed limit on the line being around 65mph. This makes the route 20-25% longer than the current longest route in TSW, but this could be shortened if needed, perhaps utilising the section from Newcastle to Haltwhistle or from Carlisle to Hexham - however for the best experience, I feel the full 60 miles would be best, even if this meant an increase in route price. The route Starting at Newcastle Central station on the East Coast Main Line, the route sees trains exit via either the 4-track King Edward VII Bridge or 2-track High Level Bridge, depending on starting platform and/or how busy the station is. For the most part, trains departing Newcastle for destinations towards Carlisle will use platforms 6 and 7, and trains returning from Carlisle and heading towards other destinations will use platforms 2 or 4. Any trains terminating or starting at Newcastle may use platforms 9 or 10, though use of platform 1 isn't unknown! Regardless of platform or bridge, all trains must nonetheless pass through King Edward Bridge North and South junctions, where trains are routed for the Tyne Valley Line. They then diverge left, and run a short section in tunnel, passing under the East Coast Main Line. Upon exiting the tunnel, the line heads past Norwood Junction - another link to the ECML, and Tyne Yard. Line speed drops to 25mph over this junction and does not increase until after Dunston station - once Tyne and Wear's least used station, only recently deposed by Manors station on the ECML. After this, trains pick up speed before the first major stop at the MetroCentre shopping centre, which contains a wealth of stores and also has a bus interchange for local buses, making it a popular stop! After this, the route goes past Swalwell Junction - which until recently was a crucial piece of infrastucture for reversing trains on a shuttle service from Newcastle - and then traverses a level crossing just before there is a stop at Blaydon staion - Blaydon being famous among locals for the unofficial anthem of Tyneside, which speaks about the old Blaydon Races. Having stopped there, one does indeed find themselves "gannin' doon the Scotswood Road" and reaching Wylam, the birthplace of the "Father of Railways" himself, George Stephenson, and in modern times home to the local Wylam Brewery! The route then continues into the scenic centre of England, where many market towns are served - such as Prudhoe (interestingly pronounced Prud-ah, a classic example of the Geordie twang in action), Stocksfield, Riding Mill, and Corbridge. One then passes the Fourstones paper mill before the next major stop at Hexham, which is home to various local stores (including Paxton's, an award-winning fish and chips restaurant!) and a large, active auction mart which sees cattle sales and car boot fairs on a regular basis. Leaving Hexham, the route continues past a level crossing at the site of the former Fourstones station, before calling at Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, and thence Haltwhistle - which claims (possibly incorrectly) to be the exact centre of Great Britain. The route then passes the Low Row signal box, through Brampton station, and thence past two more signal boxes at Brampton Fell and Corby Gates, before arriving at Wetheral station. The line then continues with no further stops to Carlisle. Just before the western terminus, the line links with the famous Settle to Carlisle line, then joins the West Coast Main Line for the final short run to Carlisle Citadel station (though referred to as just Carlisle today). Services The line sees roughly 6 trains per hour depart from and arrive at Newcastle, with 3 departing and 3 arriving in one given hour. The shorter of these is a slow stopping service from Newcastle (headcode 2Nxx) usually as far as Hexham. Services often do not start at Newcastle, and rather come from other stations from around the North East such as Whitby, Danby, Battersby, Nunthorpe, and Middlesborough. This service is an all-stops service, and the only one of the three that serves Dunston station, giving it an hourly service in each direction. This service takes around 40 minutes from picking up the train at Newcastle to it terminating at Hexham. There are two different services to Carlisle. One comes down from Morpeth, and after Newcastle makes stops at the route's 4 "core" stops - MetroCentre, Prudhoe, Hexham and Haltwhistle - before running fast to Carlisle. This service was formerly the Newcastle to MetroCentre shuttle train, sometimes coming from Morpeth or Chathill, with one train every other hour calling at Dunston, but recent timetable changes amended this so that this train began at Morpeth and ran to Carlisle, creating a second hourly Newcastle to Carlisle train. This service is extended to Chathill for one train in the evening, with a single return service from Chathill to Carlisle not long after. Journey time is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. There is also a direct service from Newcastle to Carlisle (headcode 1Nxx), with more calling points along the route than the Morpeth train. All 1Nxx services call at the "core" stops as well as Haydon Bridge and Wetheral - with Bardon Mill and Brampton both recieving just one train every 2 hours in either direction. Journey time is roughly 1 hour and 25 minutes. Some once-daily diagrams exist, such as: a Hexham service terminating at Newcastle (1156 2N22 HEX-NCL) an ex-Nunthorpe service to MetroCentre, also calling at Dunston (1520 2W43 NNT-MCE) which reverses at Swalwell Jn. to form a return to Stockton also calling at Dunston (1713 2N40 MCE-STK) a Newcastle-Prudhoe service (1808 1N73 NCL-PRU) which in turn forms a service from Prudhoe to Morpeth (1840 2A44 PRU-MPT) an ex-Battersby service which is functionally equal to 2W43 above (1949 2W55 BTT-MCE) which also reverses and forms a Morpeth service functionally equal to 2N40 (2008 2A46 MCE-MPT) After about 1800, trains from Nunthorpe may terminate at MetroCentre and form Morpeth services. To my knowledge, 2 services each way do this. A quick fun fact - there exists, for the enthusiasts out there, a possible 4 hour 30 minute journey from Carlisle to Whitby, on Sundays only (sometimes using a Pacer...!) Freight The Tyne Valley Line is far from a one-trick pony however; as it has a healthy freight selection to offer. One particular such example are common movements from Tyne Yard, just south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to Carlisle North Yard, just north of Carlisle. These two major hubs are commonly used by freight, and the Tyne Valley is a crucial link between them. The freight life on the line is so varied, you can find anything from engineers' trains to coal to aggregate, and even the occasional nuclear flask train coming through, so ultimately choosing just one or two workings would be difficult! Diversions Another potential feature of the route, perhaps as a special scenario, could be the TVL's tertiary but crucial use as a diversionary route during closures on the East Coast or West Coast mainlines, whether due to emergency closures or planned yearly maintenance in the autumn months. A special scenario could see an LNER/ex-Virgin Trains East Coast HST run the route non-stop from Carlisle to Newcastle or vice versa, on diverted London-Edinburgh services. A change of pace for the old IC125 sets for sure! Rolling stock Excluding the HST as mentioned above, there are various types of units and locomotives that are used on the line. Some of these are: British Rail Class 142 "Pacer" Pictured here at MetroCentre, the Class 142 is arguably the Marmite of the British train world. Many loathe it, many love it, but it's certainly unique! Built between 1985 and 1987 by BREL and Leyland Bus at Derby Litchurch Lane Works, the Pacer is a cheaper, more economical alternative to other units given its origins in the bus industry, although that comes with its drawbacks too - a bouncier and noisier ride compared to traditional bogied units, hence their nicknames, "nodding donkeys"! The Pacer is a good example of a "railbus" - a train that mostly consists of bus components adapted for rail regulations. Each Class 142 uses two solid axles instead of bogies, a decision based on the need by British Rail to find use for its unsuccessful HSFV (High Speed Freight Vehicle) project. Each Pacer unit is made up of 2 powered cars (a DMS and a DMSL) with aluminium alloy bodies and steel underframes, and each car is powered by a single Cummins LTA10-R 10 litre straight-6 diesel engine which produces 225HP at 2100rpm, giving a power output of 450HP per 2-car unit. The units use electro-pneumatic air-powered tread brakes with a 3-step controller, have a maximum permissible speed of 75mph, and are equipped with a Voith 2-stage hydraulic transmission, with the first stage being a torque converter before switching to a fluid coupling drive at 45mph. The units operate mainly on services to and from Hexham, though it is not uncommon for them to venture to Carlisle. All Class 142 units currently operated by Northern are scheduled to be withdrawn by 2020, and have already begun to be withdrawn and replaced by cascaded stock from other operators on the Tyne Valley Line. Regardless, the Pacer is still a common sight on the line, and has arguably been the savior of lines just like this one. The National Railway Museum appear to agree - having earmarked Northern unit 142001 for preservation! British Rail Class 156 "Super Sprinter" Seen here at Stocksfield station in old Northern Rail (ex-Serco) livery, the Class 156 has seen high praise throughout its life and is certainly a solid, reliable unit. Part of the renowned Sprinter family of DMUs, the Class 156 DMUs were built from 1987 to 1989 by Metro-Cammell at Washwood Heath, and like the Class 153 and 155 of the same family, the 156 features just one set of doors at each end of the unit, reflecting the longer journeys the 156 was intended to work. Each 156 unit comprises of 2 steel-bodied cars, a DMS and a DMSL, each powered by a 285HP Cummins NT855-R5 6-cylinder, 14 litre diesel engine, making for a total power output of 570HP per 2-car unit. They share the same 75mph permitted speed with the Pacers, use the same 3-step air-powered EP tread brake, and use a similar Voith transmission, but as bogied trains are smoother on journeys, hence why they often work the Carlisle direct services, although they can be seen operating on the Hexham stoppers and Morpeth trains too. Northern's class 156 units are currently being refurbished as part of their planned Northern Connect programme, and as the Pacers are withdrawn, the Super Sprinters are set to be a mainstay on the Tyne Valley Line for a long while yet! British Rail Class 158 "Express Sprinter" The latest member of the happy family on the Tyne Valley Line, the Class 158 sees a change of pace in its senior years on the British rail network! Pictured here in 2015 at Blaydon, with a Class 156 unit in tow, the Class 158 (as you can probably guess) is also a member of the Sprinter family. Built between 1989 and 1992 by BREL at Derby Litchurch Lane Works, the Class 158 was advertised by British Rail as bringing "new standards of comfort and quality to rail travel" on their cross-country Regional Railways services. 30 years down the line, they're still providing the good service they were intended to! Unlike the Class 156 and Class 142 units, the Class 158 was built in both 2-car and 3-car variants. The 2-car units are formed of 2 DMSL cars (since Northern operate no First Class service, no DMCLs are used). Only 9 units remain in original "true" 3-car configuration, as 8 were upgraded to Class 159s. Northern operate 8 of the remaining 3-car units, these being 158752 to 158759, and these are formed of a DMSL, a MS, and a second DMSL. All Class 158 units are aluminium-bodied and feature electro-pneumatic air-powered disc brakes, a marked change in direction from preceding units which used tread brakes. Most units use a Cummins NTA855R1 6-cylinder 14 litre diesel engine, although units 158815 to 158862 were built as non-standard to act as testbeds for the then-upcoming Class 165 and 166 units, and as such feature a Perkins 2006-TWH engine instead. Both engines offer comparable performance however, as they both create 350HP at around 1900 rpm. All units feature Voith transmission similar to the Class 142 and 156, however the change to fluid coupling drive comes at 57mph instead of 45mph due to the units' higher top speed of 90mph. Northern are refurbishing their Class 158 units, as well as units they have inherited from ScotRail and other TOCs, as part of their Northern Connect programme - and while a relatively rare sight on the line right now, they're becoming more and more common as time goes by, and doing a great job on both Morpeth trains and direct services! British Rail Class 66 Anyone who's run the Great Western Express route will know this already, and even if you haven't you'll probably recognise it! Seen here at Carlisle, the Class 66 is the most successful freight locomotive on the British network today. Built by Electro-Motive Diesel in London, Ontario, Canada and exported for use in the UK, the Class 66 was given a tough time by some enthusiasts due to their large numbers and foreign heritage, with some even going so far as to label EWS's new Canadian-built locomotives "The Red Death"! It's perhaps relieving to know then that the Class 66 is nowadays looked upon in a significantly better light, and is recognised and respected for helping to keep the UK rail freight market competitive - and have now earned the affectionate nickname of "Sheds" due to their unique roof profile! The Class 66 proven its worth elsewhere too, being exported to numerous European countries as the EMD Class 66 (or in Germany, the DB BR 266) for use there as well. In total, 455 Class 66 locomotives were built for UK use, from 1998 to 2011 and then 2013 to 2015, concluding with the construction of 66779, which was named "Evening Star" and painted in traditional green, paying tribute to the final steam locomotive built by British Railways. When this locomotive completes its active service, it will be taken into the NRM's National Collection - a fitting end for the most successful freight locomotive in British history. Most locomotives built from 1998-2004 are powered by an EMD 12N-710G3B-EC 12-cylinder diesel engine, which produces 3200HP, and powers 6 GM-EMD D43-TR traction motors. Their maximum tractive effort is 91,900 lb-ft, with a continous effort of 58,500 lb-ft at 16mph. All locomotives produced post-2004 feature the "T2" low-emissions spec engine, with a marginally reduced power output of 3150HP. The maximum permitted speed of the locomotive is 75mph, with the exception of Freightliner's 66/6 subclass, which has been re-geared to 65mph to allow for better tractive effort on heavy ballast and aggregate trains. The locomotives use a Westinghouse air brake. A lot of freight workings along the Tyne Valley use a 66, it being so successful, and the three main operators are Freightliner, DB Cargo, and GB Railfreight. Adding 2 new skins for the 66 and perhaps some new wagons to reflect the different workings seen on the line would make for a very healthy freight option for the line! Other features The route could also include the nearby Heaton TMD in Newcastle, allowing for more natural start/end points to journeys, such as empty stock workings to Newcastle for passenger services. As previously mentioned, some services exit out along the High Level Bridge instead of using the King Edward bridge, so more variety could be added there too. Also, there are a lot of farm crossings on the route, which means a lot of whistle-boards, meaning a lot of horn usage, no matter your traction! The Tyne Valley Line presents itself as a scenic and interesting route that offers plenty for both freight and passenger services. The missing link in rail simulation between east and west along the River Tyne, it offers a little bit of everything for the rail enthusiast who cares about scenery and substance!