Burdale Tunnel

(Pictures 7-12 © Mike Elliott)

This tunnel through the Wolds is 140 yards longer than originally planned, falling short of a mile by just 16 yards. Work started in 1847 from its southern end and working faces either side of four construction shafts but in a little over a year only 150 yards had been cut. Difficulties were experienced with flooding and rockfalls, but the greatest obstacle was financial. Work on the line stopped when the Malton & Driffield Junction Railway teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

Intended to form part of a mainline from Newcastle to Hull, the route was eventually resurrected on a more modest scale. Burdale's southern portal, which had already been built for two tracks, only ever hosted one. The bore shrinks 30 yards beyond the entrance but opens out again at several locations. Eight 9-foot diameter shafts were eventually dug to aid construction, three being retained for ventilation purposes.

The tunnel's operational history was chequered. On 21st August 1866, a labourer fell from a carriage as it headed south through the bore. He survived, albeit with serious injuries to his face, head and elbow. After receiving pain relief in Malton, he was taken to Driffield Cottage Hospital where doctors amputated his arm. And a guard smashed his head on a bridge at the northern end whilst riding on the tender.

The line shut up shop in 1958 and Burdale was bricked up three years later. In the late Seventies, a collapse occurred just north of the tunnel's second ventilation shaft - around half-a-mile in. The mid-80s saw another fall block the tunnel towards its southern end, creating a sealed section in the middle. After long periods of rainfall, water levels in the tunnel can reach depths of 12 feet.
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Feb 09

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