Winter 2017

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 Winter update of Forgotten Relics.

Britain’s great rivers have tested engineers throughout the Ages. Whilst not on the grandest scale, Laira Bridge across the Plym posed its share of challenges as a result of the limestone bedrock being considerably deeper than expected. To install the caissons for the bridge piers, around 80 feet of sand, mud and clay had to be penetrated. This generally offered stiff resistance but, on one occasion, yielded so rapidly that a wrought iron column sunk 42 feet in just four seconds.

River Brue Bridge near Glastonbury formed part of the Somerset Central Railway which was notable for its lack of structures. According to the engineer, “its chief feature is that there is nothing to see upon it”. Things became a little more interesting in 1903 when the river crossing, known as Aqueduct Bridge, was replaced with an elegant hogback girder span which is now bedecked in vegetation. Paul Twyman has been to check it out.

The repurposing of former railway tunnels has mostly involved their conversion to host cycle paths, with around 60 now doing so. But not the 183-yard Sneinton Tunnel, a product of the Nottingham Suburban Railway. This one echoes to the sound of gun fire, having found function serving a shooting club. Its refuges have been bricked-up to mitigate the risk from ricochets.

Overshadowed by the nearby two-mile colossus connecting the Rhondda and Afan valleys, Gelli Tunnel - built for the same line - is easy to overlook at just 163 yards. Penetrating a steeply-graded spur of land, it has spent its lifetime attempting to withstand lateral forces, driving the installation of a two-brick thick secondary lining to help out the pre-existing stonework. Today, as Lenston found out, it’s still faring well apart from a small collapse just beyond the strengthened section.

The navvies who pushed Lydgate Tunnel through the Pennines had coal measures to contend with, and associated noxious gases. To counteract them, fresh air was pumped down a borehole from the surface. At 1,332 yards in length, the structure was no mean feat, yet it was excavated in just 17 months at an average rate of 17 yards every week. We record the trials and tribulations presented by its construction.

New this time
Laira Bridge
Sneinton Tunnel
as well as...
How engineers overcame the challenges presented by coal measures to drive another lengthy tunnel through the Pennine hills.
Gelli Tunnel
River Brue Bridge
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 add more structures on a seaonal basis. We hope you enjoy your visit and come back to see more Forgotten Relics soon.

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