A PIECE of North East industrial heritage is to be transformed into a top visitor centre.
The 188-year-old Bowes Railway has received £341,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The site, in Springwell Village, will undergo vital improvements to introduce of much-needed learning and training opportunities, as well as creating a tourist attraction.
Former Sunderland Councillor Graham Hall, vice chairman of the Bowes Railway Company, said: “This HLF grant is pivotal in maximising the use of the site and making it an even more attractive venue for visitors.
“Our proposed new museum activities along with outreach and educational work will be priority.”
Repairs will be made to the 1904 Brakeman’s Cabin and Bait hut, and creating a viewing platform for visitors.
The railway company also plans to bring in a full-time engineer training manager, to implement a wide-ranging heritage training programme.
Bowes is the only operational example of a full gauge-powered and self-acting gravity incline railway in the world.
The site is kept alive by dedicated volunteers.
The HLF grant will ensure it can expand its volunteer programme and provide training to support activities including engineer maintenance, event management and guided tours.
Ivor Crowther, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “The Bowes Railway played a central role in the industry history of the area creating jobs and economic prosperity at the time.
“The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to support this project as it will bring people together to record, share and conserve this important part of the North East railway heritage.
“Creating a heritage training hub on-site will help local people and visitors alike gain valuable new skills, and ensure everyone can play a part in the railway’s future.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said she was “thrilled” with the HLF investment.
“This is an enormous opportunity to bring tourism to our area, as well as giving important skills and learning experiences to all those interested in promoting the railway’s past and in the development of its future.”