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Rail journey gives a glimpse of our past

World War II anti-aircraft machinegun tower.
World War II anti-aircraft machinegun tower.

Anyone who travels the East Coast train line is privy to some spectacular sights.

Returning from Sheffield a few weeks ago, I was reminded how remarkable the route is from the approach to Newcastle and up to Berwick. Impressive bridges mark the beginning and end of this stretch.

Between Gateshead and Newcastle, Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge gives views of the Millennium ‘blinking eye’ Bridge, the Tyne Bridge and architectural feats that reflect the changing face of the area, from Newcastle’s Gothic cathedral to the regenerated Baltic Mill and the spectacular Sage.

The much-reduced route once boasted over 20 stops, including Annitsford, Longhoughton and Belford. One of the few remaining is Morpeth Railway Station.

Built in 1847 and still boasting its original buildings, its Scottish baronial style makes it quite unusual. Although some features are reminiscent of other stations in the North East, the lancet-arched Gothic windows, orbed roof finials and lavish first floor ‘oriel’ bay window make the building a special feature.

A few minutes up the track, a lesser-known piece of architecture can be spotted. For less than a minute, just prior to Acklington Station, you can see one of three World War II anti-aircraft ‘double decker’ gun towers.

The original light machine gun mount can be found if you locate the tower on foot and climb its narrow external staircase. From the train it looks rather like an ugly, concrete space invader.

A little further on, the coastline attracts the attention, with views of St Cuthbert’s Cross, St John the Baptist Parish Church spire and the colourful walls of Lovaine Terrace.

Upon entering Berwick the train crosses the Tweed via the Victorian Grade I listed Royal Border Bridge. Also designed by Stephenson, this viaduct is best seen from Berwick’s Royal Tweed Bridge or Old Bridge, and the council has taken to illuminating its 28 arches to mark special occasions.

So between an iron bridge in Newcastle and a stone bridge in Berwick, the architectural treats and surprises, spanning hundreds of years, should make any passenger feel a little less exhausted at the end of their journey.