Summer 2015

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.

Engineering audacity was plentiful throughout the Victorian era but rarely was it more ambitious than in the case of the Great Central’s London Extension, costing the equivalent of £7.4 billion. Its navigation of Nottingham’s urban sprawl was accomplished through a series of tunnels and covered ways, the longest of which ran for almost 1,200 yards beneath Mansfield Road. We take a look inside before the adjacent shopping centre’s redevelopment renders such incursions impossible.

Thomas Coates’ incursion into Clayton Tunnel near Bradford was rapid and disastrous. One of the navvies employed to build it, he fell more than 100 feet down a shaft when the engine used to lift and lower skips was accidentally put into reverse. Workmate William Elliott was thrown to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries. The sorry saga and the inquest that followed it were recorded by local newspapers whose reports we bring to you.

Offering a fresh perspective on our disused tunnels is John Pilkington who uses heat from the infrared part of the spectrum to capture some fisheye views of Northamptonshire’s Oxendon and Kelmarsh tunnels. With a conventional camera, he’s also ventured into Allt-y-cefn Tunnel on the branch to Newcastle Emlyn which the Great Western built with apparent reluctance, taking ten years to complete the seven-mile line.

More enthusiastic were the GWR’s exertions on the Truro & Newquay Railway, largely as it helped to thwart the expansionism of its rival, the London & South Western which had its sights set on west Cornwall. The route includes a couple of noteworthy structures including the elegant concrete arches of Goonbell Viaduct which Philip Male and Alex Daniell have been examining. If the Historic Railways Estate gets its way, this fabulous addition to the landscape will soon be blighted by the erection of palisade fencing. HRE clearly owns shares in a company that manufactures the stuff.

Burnstones Viaduct is magic: view it from the east and you see five arches, but go around the other side and it has six. This is not because Paul Daniels designed it. The structure has to cope with two conflicting skews - one caused by a road, the other by a river. As a result, it has a tapering blind arch to make the geometry work.

We don’t often cover culverts, but Jordan Thompson has found another one on the Cornhill branch in Northumberland which is certainly worthy of some bandwidth. Further up the line, he’s also photographed a cattle creep and a long-forgotten cutting with fabulous retaining walls. Our former railways really are rich in engineering; it’s such a shame we don’t celebrate more of it. Enjoy.

New this month
Burnstones Viaduct
Mansfield Road Tunnel
as well as...
How a workmate's recklessness resulted
in two navvies plunging to their deaths at
a construction shaft.
Allt-y-cefn Tunnel
Goonbell Viaduct
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.
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'll add more relics over the coming months. We hope you enjoy your visit and come back to see more Forgotten Relics soon.

Back to the top