Thurgoland Tunnels, near Penistone, South Yorkshire, November 2018

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1. The History
Thurgoland Tunnel is a double-bore abandoned railway tunnel between Penistone and Wortley. Its total length is 924 feet. The original tunnel, a single bore carrying two tracks, was opened in 1845 on the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway between Manchester Store Street and Sheffield. It is characterised by a curve of 60 chains radius on a falling gradient of 1 in 131. In 1855 the tunnel suffered a collapse close to the south portal which resulted in the line closing for ten days and saw 500 men involved in its repairs. Maximum clearance was only obtained by reducing the normal six-foot spacing between the tracks. Stone was used for both its lining and portals although no refuges were included in the tunnel’s construction.

Electrification of the Woodhead route was given the go-ahead in 1936 but in 1948, because of the clearance problems the original construction caused for the planned LNER electrification, a second single-line tunnel was built for the ‘up’ line with the old tunnel converted to carry the down line. The project commenced in 1947 just before railway nationalisation and the creation of British Railways. Hence each of the new ‘up’ tunnel portals have twin dates; "LNER 1947" (in the central parapet panel) and "BR 1948" below in the keystone. The tunnel required the excavation of around 70,000 tons of rock and earth. Work got underway in November 1946, but due to the poor rock and labour shortages the headings didn’t meet until January 1948. Electric working began in 1954 via Class 76 Bo-Bo and Class 77 Co-Co locomotives. It ceased in 1981 when the Woodhead route was closed, although the tunnels continued to carry trains until May 1983 due to the local Sheffield–Huddersfield trains being diverted via Barnsley.

Class 47 loco on the ‘down’ side about to enter the old tunnel pulling a Sunday diverted Manchester Piccadilly to London St Pancras express (© Roger5450):

45153425285_342f560915_z.jpg Thurgo new 3 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The up tunnel, being much newer, has since been re-utilised for a walking/cycling trail, whilst the down bore has been back-filled at the southern end and a wall built at the northern portal.

A Class 76-hauled coal train emerging from the new tunnel heading north in October 1980 (© Roger5450):

45153424865_ed9ae164a6_z.jpg Thurgo new by HughieDW, on Flickr

2. The Explore
After parking-up and a twenty minute yomp across fields on the public foot-path we found ourselves at the northern portal. There was a way in, but it was a bit of a climb and we weren’t too sure of the drop the other side. Hence, we decided to head via the new tunnel to have a look at the southern portal of the old tunnel. I had read that it had been filled up with rubble. Much to our delight they hadn’t finished the job that well and there was room to climb in and then slide down the earth bank into the tunnel. Half-an-hour later or so we emerged a tad muckier than we started and headed back to the car.

3. The Pictures

The northern portal of the old tunnel comes into view:

31124181337_736c60f208_b.jpg 20181126_190557 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And a closer view of the shuttered norther portal of the old tunnel:

46013402672_f006cd3f89_b.jpg img9619 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Left tower detail of the north portal of the old tunnel:

46063234891_5081a8c044_b.jpg img9620 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Southern end of the new tunnel, showing the two date stones mentioned above:

45151244255_89d0d0d69b_b.jpg img9625 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And the tunnel itself:

45151329525_46ea311edb_b.jpg img9622 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44247215100_27bb14dca2_b.jpg img9623 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Two tunnels: the new one on the left and the old one on the right:

45338575864_9c0ce57fc3_b.jpg img9642 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Looking back at the filled-in south entrance:

46013012542_f470a7c46e_b.jpg img9639 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The southern portal:

45338749484_3a90674156_b.jpg img9627 by HughieDW, on Flickr

A bit of graff at the south end:

31124066477_bdcd52b5da_b.jpg img9641 by HughieDW, on Flickr

44246973820_5d23aa68dd_b.jpg 20181126_190849 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Looking back south down the tunnel from the middle:

45338678274_e009634ded_b.jpg img9635 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Looking back from the north end towards the south:

45997678442_9bccbdf56d_b.jpg img9629 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And the shuttered north portal from the inside:

46013067192_ff03f61e85_b.jpg 20181126_190934 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And back out again:

46013065992_1be0e5eddf_b.jpg 20181126_191012 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Hugh Jorgan

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Nice write up and history. The tunnels are in not bad condition. Always like it when they turn abandoned railways into cycle paths and they have done with the new tunnel.

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