Spring 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 spring update of Forgotten Relics.

Latchford Viaduct is not one of those attractive masonry delights that drape themselves across valleys in the middle of nowhere; it’s an austere three-span iron affair over the Manchester Ship Canal near Warrington.

It is though a prominent local landmark and we know quite a lot about it. For instance, the steel pin that forms part of the fixed bearing measures 5 inches in diameter and 3 feet 2 inches in length. There’s a lot to this structure which is why it weighs in at 1,220 tons. And the photos taken of it while the canal was being excavated are worth looking at.

If Latchford doesn’t do it for you, perhaps Balbirnie Viaduct will. It’s the latest to be captured by K-Burn during his extensive travels around Scotland. Now adopted for cycle path duties, it has clearly been in trouble over the years as evidenced by the strapping of the spandrels and restraining ties beneath the arches. It’s another example of a structure that never should have been: the need to cross the valley was driven only by an objecting landowner.

Best of the lot though is Hownes Gill Viaduct near Consett. The Stanhope & Tyne Railway original dealt with the ravine it passes over by means of two inclines, but these were deemed unsuitable from a capacity perspective when the Stockton & Darlington took over. Built in 18 months to a design by the ubiquitous Thomas Bouch, the structure extends for 260 yards and reaches a height of 162 feet. It demanded the manufacture and laying of 2,665,000 firebricks.

Construction of the Oxford Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway was an ill-fated enterprise due, for the most part, to a hole emerging in the company’s bank account. After a promising start in driving Dudley Tunnel, there was a prolonged hiatus while agreements were reached to finance the route’s completion. The tunnel’s five shafts - of which there is no longer any sign - claimed at least three lives. And a bridge spanning the northern approach cutting - carrying the turnpike road - collapsed, causing much consternation in the town.

James Trubshaw was the last of four engineers to build a tramway from the Caldon Canal to the limestone quarries on the Staffordshire Moorlands. His was more substantial than the others and involved the 480-yard Caldon Tunnel, explored independently by Paul Powers and Tarboat. It’s quite an unusual one, with a circular profile at both ends but egg-shaped in the middle. Most notable though is the mud; it’s deep and there’s lots of it. Take note; take waders!
New this month
Latchford Viaduct
Dudley Tunnel
as well as...
Civil Engineer Williiam Cudworth describes the construction of an iconic viaduct across a deep ravine in County Durham.
Caldon Tunnel
Balbirnie 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