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.
Forgotten Relics' autumn update features incursions into two rarely-visited bores.
Lenston has enjoyed a wander through Hawthorns Tunnel in the Forest of Dean which was brought into service during the Second World War as a munitions store. In fact this was probably the most action it ever saw as, bizarrely, the railway through it was never fully opened: the Great Western invested its money and then walked away. It seems no-one is entirely clear as to the reason.
In deepest Shropshire, the Severn Valley Railway had to venture underground in its quest to reach Shrewsbury. The local council had insisted that Bridgnorth Tunnel must be driven without any shafts being sunk, but it eventually relented and, for several months, the townsfolk enjoyed a spectacle of great industry in the middle of the high street. On 2nd September 1859, after a junction was made between the headings, the engineer was hoisted up from the workings to be greeted by rapturous crowds.
Torksey Viaduct proved a cause of considerable friction between a Board of Trade inspector and the engineering fraternity, the former having entertained doubts about its design and the quality of workmanship. He had though failed to recognise the structural importance of continuous girders over its two main spans and was left with no choice but to climb down when this was pointed out to him. We recount the tale of how this early example of a box girder bridge eventually became operational.
Like Hawthorns Tunnel, Ingleton Viaduct never truly realised its potential. Had the line it formed part of not been the squabbled over by the mighty beasts of the London & North Western and Midland railways, it would have enjoyed a key role on the shortest main line between London and Scotland. However the Midland was compelled to push the Settle & Carlisle line up the backbone of Britain, relegating Ingleton Viaduct to a minor role on a lightly-trafficked rural railway.
Rick Garside has been fighting through County Durham’s undergrowth to seek views of two grand viaducts on the Lanchester Valley line. Built to serve ironworks in the western hills, the route climbed 730 feet from a junction alongside the River Tyne and boasted a ruling gradient of 1:66. Whilst only carrying a single line, there is no denying the elegance of Pont Burn Viaduct’s ten segmental arches, each 60 feet in span and helping the structure to extend for almost 250 yards.
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.