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.
Welcome to the summer and another collection of Forgotten Relics.
Actually, one notable relic has recently been remembered. Torksey Viaduct, a very early example of a box girder bridge, is now inviting walkers to test its mettle by offering a new route across the River Trent. Designed by John Fowler, it proved a controversial structure when work concluded in 1849. Our video report on its official opening tells the story.
Jordan Thompson has been to see another viaduct with a brighter-than-average future. This one, over Cawledge Burn in beautiful Northumberland, could soon resume its intended role if the Aln Valley Railway finds the funds needed to restore part of the former Alnwick branch. Fingers crossed.
Thrapston Viaduct is staring at uncertainty, despite its recent acquisition by a company of the same name. Today the existing brick structure - built by the Midland Railway - looks as good as it did in the 1920s when it replaced a timber viaduct. But why would somebody buy it?
In the case of Barry Island Tunnel, the answer to that question is to accommodate a gun club. Visited by Lee McGrath, this 280-yard bore last saw a train in 1973, by which time half of its western entrance was blocked by a raised siding. It’s a very odd arrangement, spoiling the view of an otherwise attractive stone portal.
Wenlock Edge, a 19-mile limestone escarpment in deepest Shropshire, was penetrated by a short tunnel at Presthope on the route from Buildwas to Craven Arms. Interest is provided by its S-shaped alignment and the effects of considerable water ingress on its brickwork. Bits of it are peeling away. Like Torksey Viaduct, the tunnel was also a product of John Fowler but, unlike his contentious box girder bridge, plans to use it as a public link have so far come to nothing.
In a first (and probably last) for this website, we review a new book that photographically captures the last few years of the Bradford & Thornton Railway. But what's unique about this publication is that the images - all 112 of them - are in colour. It takes us on a wonderfully evocative trip along a line which, thanks to John Fraser, was triumphantly engineered. Much of it has gone now, of course; that's why this book is of particular value.
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.