Preparatory work has begun on a project which will see trains return to a long-closed section of railway in East Yorkshire.
Goods services on the line connecting South Cave with Drewton Tunnel - formerly part of the Hull & Barnsley Railway - last ran in April 1959. But by the end of this year, two-and-a-half miles of track will have been relayed to transport chalk from a quarry at the western end of the tunnel to a new freight terminal close to South Cave’s old station.
It is hoped that the scheme will lead to a significant reduction in the number of lorries using minor roads around the Riplingham and High Hunsley area. The terminal will have easy access to the A63/M62 via the A1034.
Contractors are currently clearing vegetation from the old trackbed through Weedley Dale whilst tonnes of rubble have already been removed from the 132-yard Sugar Loaf Tunnel, effectively the western entrance to the quarry.
Planning permission for the scheme came with stringent conditions to minimise the environmental impact of the railway’s construction and operation. The track will use bullhead rail reclaimed from a disused tunnel in Manchester where it is holding up a 450-yard section of roof. Five thousand biodegradable sleepers are being manufactured from recycled plastic milk cartons at a local processing plant.
The downhill movement of loaded chalk wagons to the terminal will be gravity-assisted whilst empties are to be hauled back to the quarry using a revolutionary Forced Output Optimisation Locomotive. The contract to build a fleet of four of these shunting engines has been awarded to a workshop in Darlington.
Extraction of chalk is likely to continue until 2020, at which time the quarry will be reclaimed and landscaped. Phase Two of the project will see a theme park built on the site. Provisionally called ‘The Drewton Xperience’, it will continue to make use of the reopened railway, with horse-drawn Wickham trolleys bringing visitors in from a ‘Park & Ride’ facility on the converted freight terminal site.
Initial plans include the world’s longest subterranean rollercoaster, running the entire 2,114-yard length of Drewton Tunnel, going up and down four of its ventilation shafts. Design work for the ride, sponsored by the Health & Safety Executive, will be carried out by a consortium led by Lada Cars.