Rebirth for East Yorkshire railway

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.

The cleared trackbed close to Weedley Tunnel.
Photo: Mark Dyson

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.

Sugar Loaf Tunnel has been cleared of rubble in preparation for track laying.
Photo: Mark Dyson

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.

An artist's impression of 'Plummet' - a thrilling ride which will use four of Drewton Tunnel's ventilation shafts.

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.

Story added 1st April 2009

Back to the top