The first railway bridge on the Wear, it lies alongside the Wearrmouth road bridge just downstream. Designed by Thomas Harrison for the North Eastern Railway Company, it is part of the Durham Coast railway route from Newcastle to Sunderland and Teesside and is also used (since 2002) by Tyne and Wear Metro trains and carries two tracks. Sunderland station is situated through a tunnel at the south end of the bridge. Its arch is lower than the road bridge, and both bridges stand about 86 feet above high water. Before it was built the railway from Newcastle and the branch from South Shields terminated at Monkwearmouth station on the north side of the Wear.
There is a station on the Tyne and Wear Metro at the north end of the bridge called St Peters which gives views across the bridge to the tunnel and also of the adjacent road bridge. Until the late 20th cnetury the river near here was a hive of industry with coal staiths, shipyards and various engineering works in a two mile stretch of the Wear. Little remains of this but ships entering the port can be seen from the bridges. A footpath runs underneath on the north side in both directions.