Report - Spinkhill Tunnel, Derbyshire, March 2018

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28DL Regular User
Regular User
Jan 15, 2013
1. The History
Depending on the reports you read Spinkhill Tunnel is either 497 or 501 yards long! It was originally opened by the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway (later the LNER) on 21st September 1898. It was the only tunnel on its Beighton Branch which ran north westwards from Langwith Junction to Beighton Junction. See below for a track map:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

Trains from the south approached through a vertically-sided rock cutting into the south portal built predominantly of brick but featuring stone copings and oversail. The tunnel then curves to the west and then straightens. The rails then emerge out of the north portal which is more substantial than the south one. As with most tunnels the construction was not accident free. On 14th January 1896, a labourer was moving a wagon in the tunnel when he lost control of it due to defective brakes, resulting in his shoulder being crushed. However this was not a fatal accident fortunately.

The tunnel officially opened on 21th September 1898 and was absorbed into the Great Central’s empire nine years later. The Beighton Branch lost its local passenger traffic at the outbreak of the Second world War. It remained open for excursions, diversions and coal transport. Archive picture below:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

The line through the tunnel was finally closed on 9th January 1967. The track was lifted although the tracks to the north remained in use until 1984 for wagon storage and shunting at Westthorpe Colliery, Killamarsh.

The tunnel is now pretty much stripped. Towards the north end are two brackets on the west sidewall which might have held a gong, providing an audible indication of Spinkhill’s Home signal. The tunnel is generally dry except for the the northern entrance. Overall the tunnel is in good condition structurally, save cracks that have appeared in one of the buttresses at the north portal.

The tunnel is privately owned and, over the winter, is used for cattle storage. In the last three years a series of large concrete blocks have been placed at the north entrance of the tunnel in an attempt to keep people from entering the tunnel.

2. The Explore
After a fail at Millmoor Football ground in Rotherham (demo team and huts now on site) myself and two non-members reverted to Plan B and piled down the M1 to Spinkhill Tunnel. When we parked up and made our way down the bank and along the muddy track-bed the tunnel soon came into view through the undergrowth. Much to our surprise there was a series of large concrete blocks blocking the north portal. None of the pictures I saw on-line document this. The last picture I could find was from February 2015 and the entrance was open. It must have been some effort getting these huge Lego concrete blocks down there. For some bizarre reason on the top fourth layer, instead for putting blocks all the way across they left two spaces (see picture below). This, fortunately for us, meant we were able to scale the wall and drop down on the other side in the tunnel. We then immediately faced a water hazard which we negotiated with a strategically placed log. The tunnel itself is in good nick and we had a good hour or so down here. The far end has a wire fence 20 metres into the tunnel to keep livestock penned in at the southern end but a hole in it meant we could slip out and have a look at the southern portal. Overall a nice little wander.

3. The Pictures

Road bridge near Spinkhill over the branch line:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

Old railway post:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

The entrance appears out of the mist:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

More former trackside debris:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

Central drainage channel near the north portal:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

Obligatory “knob” graffiti:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

by HughieDW, on Flickr

And in we go:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

by HughieDW, on Flickr

Looking down towards the south entrance the curvature of the tunnel can clearly be seen:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

Iron-bearing mud seeping through bleed holes in the tunnel:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

One of the many refuges in the tunnel:
by HughieDW, on Flickr

Southern end of the tunnel in sight:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

by HughieDW, on Flickr

And out we pop:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

Full-frontal of the southern portal:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

by HughieDW, on Flickr

by HughieDW, on Flickr

by HughieDW, on Flickr

This shot looks like a Cure album cover…

by HughieDW, on Flickr

And back to the northern portal again:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

by HughieDW, on Flickr

One last look at the northern portal:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

…and back on the road to nowhere:

by HughieDW, on Flickr

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