Shillamill Tunnel

(Photos 1-5 © Andrew King, photo 6 © Crispin Purdye)

A 5½-mile section of disused railway between Bere Alston and Tavistock is the focus of a reopening scheme as part of a residential development at the northern end of the old line. If it is progressed, work will be required on 12 underbridges, six overbridges, three culverts, 13 cuttings, 11 embankments, a 12-arch viaduct and a double-track tunnel of 603 yards.

Opened in 1890 and operational for 78 years, the latter structure plots an S-shaped course, passing beneath farmland and three highways. The northern portal is supplemented by a retaining wall to its west side incorporating a single arch. Inside, masonry sidewalls give way to a brick roof arch. Unlined areas are found deeper into the tunnel as well as a partial stone lining. Exposed rock backs several brick refuges. At the south end, vegetation is engulfing the portal.

Any attempt to reopen the tunnel will involve three areas of activity - the control of water ingress at both ends, descaling of sizeable sections of lining and replacement of the drainage system.

(Crispin Purdye's photo, taken from Geograph, is used under this
Creative Commons licence.)

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July 10

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