Ashbourne Tunnel

(Photos 12 & 13 © National Railway Museum/SSPL)

Ashbourne became part of the network in 1852 when the North Staffordshire Railway built a branch line which terminated there. But as the 19th century drew to a close, the London & North Western held aspirations of finding a route south from Buxton - it did so by acquiring the Cromford & High Peak Railway and then driving a line to Ashbourne from a junction at Parsley Hay. In line opened in 1899. Six trains a day plied their trade between the two towns. There was plenty of freight too in the form of milk and minerals.

Immediately north of the new station, the through line climbed into Ashbourne Tunnel on a rising 1 in 60 gradient. Built to a generous loading gauge, both its portals and lining are fashioned from blue engineering brick. Frequent refuges are provided.

The passenger service was cancelled in 1954 but through freight services continued until 7th October 1963.

Acquired by the Peak District National Park and Derbyshire County Council, the trackbed now hosts the Tissington Trail - one of the country's first such ventures, opened in 1971. The tunnel was a later addition to the walk and is now owned and maintained by Sustrans. Lit and with a cycle-friendly surface, the tunnel is equipped with a sound system, intermittently playing the noise of an approaching train. This can come as something of a surprise!

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