Summer 2017

It's easy to take for granted the awesome endeavours of 19th Century railway pioneers which thread us through, around or over the nation's natural barriers. It was an age of speculative adventure, built on innovation, will power and elbow grease.

But many magnificent creations were abandoned during the industrial vandalism of the Fifties and Sixties. Forgotten Relics of an Enterprising Age celebrates some of them.
Operating Notices

Welcome to the Summer update of Forgotten Relics.

Tunnels are difficult and expensive to build. Not often then do you find one that was started but not finished. Kyle May’s visit to the Walton-on-the-Hill tunnels was therefore quite an eye-opener.

So convinced was the Cheshire Lines Committee that its new connection to Huskisson docks in Liverpool would need to be four-tracked, work was begun on second bores for its three tunnels before the line had even opened. But they were soon abandoned, our adventurer’s progress ending abruptly at sandstone rock faces. It’s an impressive confrontation.

Catesby Tunnel shares one characteristic with those at Walton-on-the-Hill: it was excavated full size without a heading being driven. An exceptional structure built in super-quick time, it looks set to have some functionality restored as part of an aerodynamic test facility, serving the automotive industry. Planning permission was granted in February. We took the opportunity to capture its varied features before 1.7 miles of tarmac gets laid.

Repurposing Thackley Old Tunnel has been a non-starter since an 83-yard section of it was filled with concrete in 1992. Prompting that intervention was the development of cracks and bulges which had the potential to affect the live bore on its north side, a conduit for Leeds-Bradford trains. In terms of defects, history was repeating itself 25 years later so a further 67 yards had the foam concrete treatment last summer. Having descended a shaft into the darkness, the new blockwall soon loomed.

Headfield Viaduct has something for everyone: 14 masonry arches, a plate girder bridge and two grand spans across the River Calder on a severe 60° skew. The latter offer rare examples of a Schwedler truss which the line’s engineer, William Beswick-Myers, first encountered during his three years studying at the University of Berlin. Although similar to a bowstring, these trusses have a horizontal middle section to their upper boom, allowing a reduction in the number of diagonal members.

The line up the Wye Valley from Grange Court Junction to Hereford benefited from the considerable prowess of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was a heavy route to engineer, with one-and-a-half miles of tunnel and four viaducts over the river. These had a chequered history as a result of flood and mishap. Their original timber spans were replaced by iron girders in 1898; today, only the piers remain, reminding us that the great engineers overcame all that nature could throw at them to push the railway’s social revolution into new areas.

More colourful nostalgia is revealed in the pages of the Great Northern Outpost, the second in a series of books from Willowherb Publishing charting the demise of West Yorkshire’s Queensbury Lines. The deep research of authors Alan Whitaker and Jan Rapacz has unearthed dozens of evocative images and the stories behind them. The atmosphere might be gloomy, but it’s a vibrant trip with the richest possible commentary. Read more about it here.

New this time
Headfield Viaduct
Catesby Tunnel
as well as...
Despite its great history, another section of this disused Yorkshire tunnel has been infilled to ensure the ongoing security of its operational neighbour.
Walton-on-the-Hill tnls
River Wye viaducts
You can reach pages about these relics by clicking on their name. Across the site, new content is identified by a symbol whilst updated pages have a .
Main site areas
The site has stories about some of our more notable railway relics, with a hike through their history and reminiscences from those who worked there. You'll also find galleries showing dozens of bridges, viaducts, tunnels, earthworks, stations and junctions.
News
stories
Online coverage of our disused network.
Bridges & viaducts
Great structures spanning a gap.
Tunnels & earthworks
Holes blasted
through hills.
Stations & junctions
Destinations torn from the timetable.

All the site areas are available via links in the tab bar and right hand column.

We add more structures on a seaonal basis. We hope you enjoy your visit and come back to see more Forgotten Relics soon.

Back to the top