(Photo 8 © Saxicola Torquata)
With Stoke and its environs bypassed by the railway network, 1845 saw the Staffordshire Potteries and Churnet Valley railways join forces under the banner of the North Staffordshire Railway to promote two main lines. One connected the Manchester & Birmingham Railway at Congleton to the Grand Junction Railway at Colwich whilst the second would run from Macclesfield to join the Midland line near Burton-upon-Trent.
The company was formally incorporated in April 1845 and six months later the Derby & Crewe Railway was absorbed into the scheme. The three North Staffordshire acts were passed in June 1846, with seven years permitted for completion of each line.
£1.2million was allocated for construction of the route through the Churnet Valley, taking in Leek, Cheadle and Uttoxeter. One drain on that capital came in the form of the 497-yard Oakamoor Tunnel, passing to the west side of the village from which its name is taken. Passenger and goods traffic first passed through it on 13th July 1849.
A delightful crossing keeper's cottage stands at the entrance to the southern approach cutting, which rises steeply on the Down side. At the end of it, the small stone-built portal has a parapet that comes to a central point above a substantial squared string course. Set back on the Up side is a small triangular wing wall.
Inside, the brick lining - horseshoe-shaped in profile - is penetrated by occasional outcrops of rock close to track level. The alignment curves to the west on a radius of around 50 chains. On the Up side are two rows of cable hangers, as well as cut-out numeric tablets, many of which are missing.
The structure was notoriously wet and, without maintenance, time has inevitably taken its toll. The brickwork is badly spalled in places and repair work shows itself throughout. Towards both ends, dozens of small holes have been cut into the lining. A couple of bricks deep, their function is difficult to determine.
The north portal is similar in design to that at the south end but the approach cutting is shallower, resulting in longer wing walls at both sides.
Oakamoor Tunnel suffered closure in January 1965 along with the rest of the route southwards to Uttoxeter. Now fenced off at both ends, it acts as a bat hibernaculum and is looked after by Staffordshire County Council.
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