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 autumn update of Forgotten Relics.
Forgotten Relics’ winter update brings a little sunshine with the launch of our Flying High viaducts video, shot mostly in the warm light and spectacular colours enjoyed during October.
It charts the history of seven eye-catching structures across the North of England whilst viewing them from the unique platform of a drone. It’s rare to look down on these grand old structures; doing so provides a completely different perspective on how they’ve settled in their landscapes. Smardale Gill (pictured left) is particularly striking, its railway being forced to cross a steep-sided valley as Scandal Beck turns sharply beneath it.
Bilton Viaduct, crossing the River Nidd near Harrogate, did not make the cut but does feature as one of our galleries. Engineered by Thomas Grainger, its seven segmental arches are fashioned from neatly-dressed ashlar blocks, although today they are rather lost amongst the heavily wooded valley sides. A Sustrans cycle path - now occupying the deck - offers views over the tree canopy.
On the Port Road through Dumfries & Galloway, Luce Viaduct is a random hodgepodge of whinstone and red-brick repairs, but remains a significant local landmark. In December 1861, it was almost the scene of a disaster when a miscreant made a “diabolical attempt” to derail an Up passenger train by placing a timber baulk across its track.
K-Burn has been underground and round the bend to explore the tightly-curved Colinton Tunnel, south-west of Edinburgh. To be honest, the bore has little to recommend it - it’s just a brick tube - but the attractive south portal has a tiny headwall which drops down on one side to meet the rising cutting slope. Very unusual.
Somewhat greater in scale and appeal is Spinkhill Tunnel on the Lancashire Derbyshire & East Coast Railway, which was conceived as a cross-country conduit for coal before economic reality bit off its extremities. Not much was written about the tunnel’s construction - the limelight being almost exclusively hogged by the notorious bore at Bolsover, excavated as part of the same contract. Spinkhill has though stood the test of time; Bolsover was backfilled after sinking by eight feet!
It’s that time of year again. In a shameless attempt to feed the family and pay the gas bill, on sale now is our 2016 Forgotten Relics calendar featuring the spectacular Larkhall Viaduct on its cover. You can order a copy via PayPal or by sending us a cheque - this page has all the details. Alternatively, just click the 2016 Calendar link in the sidebar.
Thanks for your support, enjoy your Christmas festivities and here’s to a peaceful New Year.
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.