Bolsover tunnel - May 23

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BikinGlynn

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BolsoverTunnel

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Had a hour to kill up this way so thought Id do a nice solo wander through a railway tunnel... or not

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At 2,624 yd (1.5 mi; 2.4 km) it was the 18th longest railway tunnel in Britain prior to its closure in 1951.
The tunnel was opened by the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway (later part of the Great Central Railway and subsequently the LNER) in March 1897. As originally planned, this was a highly ambitious scheme, as its name suggests, but only the central section between Chesterfield Market Place and Lincoln, together with a branch from Langwith Junction to the outskirts of Sheffield, were ever built.

The tunnel hit problems during construction which were never satisfactorily resolved throughout its life. Chief among these was heavy water ingress. This was tapped to supply the nearby town of Bolsover and at 200,000 gallons (909,218 litres) per day was sufficient to supply its needs. The water problem was exacerbated by mining subsidence. Traffic, notably coal, east of Langwith Junction was heavy, but little materialised on the Chesterfield to Langwith section. These three factors, plus an estimated cost of £1 Million (in 1951) and uncosted concerns over the nearby Doe Lea Viaduct made the decision to close the tunnel easy. In its later years so much propping was needed and so much distortion of parts of the walls occurred that the line was singled from Scarcliffe to Bolsover South.

The section between Chesterfield and Langwith Junction (by then renamed Shirebrook North), was closed to passenger traffic by British Railways in December 1951. Bolsover South and Scarcliffe stations were closed completely.
The section from Chesterfield Market Place through Arkwright Town and onto the GC main line remained open to goods traffic until March 1957.

The explore.

Ok Ill start at the beginning, I thought about doing chesterfield tunnel as I only had a few hours before a wild camp in car & day up the peaks on bikes so I dropped @HughieD a mess asking if he knew if it was still accessible & would be worth my time. one of the messages back grabbed my attention "if u want something a bit more challenging, Bolsover looks good, u may need a ladder though!" this was literally a few hours before I headed up but challenge accepted.

I had no idea what to expect really but it started with getting into the cutting, it looked a bit er steep but there was plenty of trees to climb down.

my route down

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Once down there it was a fairly easy bit of nettle bashing to take me under the footbridge.

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At this point realised Id lost my tripod as I was using a different bag to carry ladder & it wasn't very well secured. doh! I wasn't going back for it so decided Id pick it up on way back & everyone on here would have to suffer with some crap phone pics, in retrospect this wasnt a bad thing as it would of inevitably came out later & may not of been retrievable.

the route ahead

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It was rather pretty down there if Im honest & at this stage I was enjoying clambering over stuff & watching the birds however after 50 yds or so things started to get a bit wet & muddy.
I had been warned it was a bit of a swamp but though for some reason I could stay dry, I teetered round the edges as much as possible but was very quickly disappearing over my ankles in stagnant mud.

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At this point I made that mistake of thinking its definitely drier on the other side so made my way across these fallen trees somehow without falling in.
Needless to say on the way back I realised it was much easier to just wade through.

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Eventually with a lot of sweating, swearing & dead duck avoiding I got my first glimpse of the portal.
This place really feels like something from Jurassic park, with water running down the cliffs on either side & roots & god knows what waiting to trip you up underfoot.

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I was proper wet & muddy now so was now determine to get in so out with the grappler & rope ladder.

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Lucky first shot with grappler... well 4th actually but standing up to my nuts in water the first 3 didnt even go near the hole so they dont count :rofl

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Once Id scrabbled inside things didnt really get much better, schoolboy error my head torch was dead but no matter I have my good bike light.
the first 50m or so is a hands & knees crawl, up & down, with a fair bit of water coming in through ceiling.

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The water ingress has produced some nice bits of calcite & cave pearls

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Not actually much in the tunnel but the steel supports are quite nice, these are 254 x 254 x 89 UC or imperial equivalent if anyone is interested :hmm

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more water pouring in

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At this point my bike light started malfunctioning as Id got mud in charge port so it kept shutting down ffs, I don't think I missed anything spectacular further on but time to retreat with the aid of phone torch bloody armature underground that I am!

this view is taken immediately inside entrance where the backfill is strangely missing from a area showing how high up you are.

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Bit of fauna caught my eye as I now waded briskly back through the swamp.

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I found a slightly different route up the cliff side to escape the clutches of the cutting.

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& thats ya lot, after retrieving my tripod a swift visit to maccies to try & wash the best I could in their sink & a bag of filthy clothes which got left outside my car for the night & job done, quite a fun way to spend a few hours but poss not the most sensible thing Iv done on my own. If anyone wants a guide dont bother messaging I have no intention of ever going back.
 
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Bloody Hell BG you are a true Superhero ........ Thanks for the posting - i had never even heard of the place and thanks to your graphic description i dont think i will ever see it either. Well worth it though just for the first two pics ......
 
Bloody Hell BG you are a true Superhero ........ Thanks for the posting - i had never even heard of the place and thanks to your graphic description i dont think i will ever see it either. Well worth it though just for the first two pics ......
thanks tbh I hadnt either till @HughieD mentioned it, it was certainly a adventure.
 
Since the tunnel had been abandoned, why the props? Was there some thought that it might have been re-opened at some date in the future? And why the filling up of the bore with all that 'muck'? Seems counterproductive. I know National Highways has this mad scheme to fill in every bridge on any disused railway - for fear of the line being re-opened. But this line went in 1951.
 
Since the tunnel had been abandoned, why the props? Was there some thought that it might have been re-opened at some date in the future? And why the filling up of the bore with all that 'muck'? Seems counterproductive. I know National Highways has this mad scheme to fill in every bridge on any disused railway - for fear of the line being re-opened. But this line went in 1951.

yeah all a bit odd. as mentioned above the props were introduced to stop a complete collapse of the tunnel / hill but I dont get the backfilling?
Maybe it was backfilled right to the top at one time & the water ingress has eroded the top back down?
Bits were about 1,5ft high but then parts I could walk in so all very random.
 
yeah all a bit odd. as mentioned above the props were introduced to stop a complete collapse of the tunnel / hill but I dont get the backfilling?
Maybe it was backfilled right to the top at one time & the water ingress has eroded the top back down?
Bits were about 1,5ft high but then parts I could walk in so all very random.
The only reason I can think of for the backfilling was to add to the job the props were doing. And shrinkage with time makes sense. Are there any buildings or roads above the route of the tunnel that might have suffered subsidence? If not, why worry?
 
Since the tunnel had been abandoned, why the props? Was there some thought that it might have been re-opened at some date in the future? And why the filling up of the bore with all that 'muck'? Seems counterproductive. I know National Highways has this mad scheme to fill in every bridge on any disused railway - for fear of the line being re-opened. But this line went in 1951.
More likely to prevent them collapsing and leaving a big hole above
 
Was the cause established?
Simply weather conditions, heavy rain regularly causes underground collapses in these mines, this one was big enough that the surface collapsed.
Not the first time there has been a surface collapse either.
 
Simply weather conditions, heavy rain regularly causes underground collapses in these mines, this one was big enough that the surface collapsed.
Not the first time there has been a surface collapse either.
Considering there has been mining in the UK going back to and before Roman times - apart from natural causes - there are plenty of opportunities for
such collapses. And don't forget those darned badgers!
 
Credit to you, Glynn, that's a lot of effort for not that much reward.

Agree with the comments above, looks like the BRB Residuary engineers (the bit of British Rail that still exists and looks after structures on dismantled lines) have propped the crown of the arch with UCS's then backfilled the tunnel. Ideally you'd consolidate the backfill in layers 300mm thick but of course you can't get a big earthmover into a tunnel to do that, so it's much less compacted than it would ideally be.

100% I wouldn't buy a house built over that, the props and backfill are a massive red flag.
 

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