Report - - Totley Tunnel and Cavern, Sheffield, May 2012 | Noteworthy Reports | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Totley Tunnel and Cavern, Sheffield, May 2012


The Green Giraffe
28DL Full Member
The Totley Tunnel Cavern, Sheffield

Visited with Gone, Fishbrain, Sho, Millhouse, Tweek and NickUk


Pic by fishbrain

"What you doing there lads?" It must have been an unusual encounter for the train conductor. Four faces pressed against the window of the train, each of us holding a torch and shining it into the darkness of the second longest train tunnel in the UK. This was more than a year ago. We were on our way to Sheffield and had heard about a large natural cavern, hidden somewhere half way along the Totley railway tunnel. Unsurprisingly we didn’t manage to spot any such feature. The train was moving too fast and we were sat on the wrong side of the carriage.


Over the following weeks some effort was made on trying to find reliable information. It seemed like most sources agreed on the fact that a cavern existed, it was however the details they disagreed on. Some suggested it was a small room, large enough to just fit a few people in, others talked about a huge secret complex, used for storing documents during WW2. With no leads to follow, other projects became more interesting and the mysterious cavern was forgotten.


That was until a few weeks back when I came across it again on the map. We decided to head out and have a look at it ourselves. Fighting our way through the bushes we were finally stood in front of the eastern portal. We knew that commuter trains had stopped operating, but with no access to freight timetables we gave ourselves an hour to observe the traffic. As it turned out they were driving at totally random intervals. With time passing fast we set off. Separated by 22yds, the distance between the alcoves, we progressed towards the middle of the tunnel. Sometimes running, we would hide in one of the few rooms or an alcove when a train came rushing towards us. It was tweek who probably had the most intimate encounter, squeezed into an alcove full of shit as a freight train went past less than a metre from him.
A major fuck up on my side in respect to the distances led to us believing that we must have either passed the entrance or it didn’t in fact exist. It was only when we got back home that we realised how close we had been.



Our second attempt was more successful. We knew what to expect, had the correct distances and had an effective system allowing us to progress fast and safely. With fewer trains running that night, we made it to our previous turnaround point in a fraction of the time. We were in new territory now. Would we find something, and would it be worth it? We clocked up the kilometres, approaching the 3km mark. It would have been a long walk in town, but in the dark tunnel, with no goal in sight it became endless. Walking became a routine of stepping from sleeper to sleeper looking over the shoulder every few metres.
The routine was suddenly interrupted by a loud “Siiiiiiiiiiiiiick†coming from fishbrain who was leading the way. We had made it!



Whilst it isn't the most impressive place, it is definitely up there with the most memorable adventures. Not knowing what to expect, planning the approach, getting shit scared and finally being rewarded was worth every bit of effort.

Bit of History:
Throughout the nineteenth century there were several plans to improve the link between the large industrial cities of Sheffield and Manchester. The greatest achievement of this was the construction of the Totley tunnel - 3 miles and 950 yards long. In October 1888, work began at both Totley and Grindleford.
Four permanent shafts were sunk within a mile of the Totley end. These were used both for ventilation and as a base for the excavation of the headings. The main problem was water, which flooded into the tunnel. In June 1889, 26,000 gallons of water were being pumped away each hour. A contemporary newspaper report from the Manchester Guardian declared "every man seemed to possess the miraculous power of Moses, for whenever a rock was struck, water sprang out of it". At times access was only possible through rafts. As a result a drain was built into the floor of the tunnel.


Cross section of tunnel, showing the drain beneath

During the construction of the tunnel a natural cavern was discovered that was several hundred feet in area. The owner of the Moors had demanded that if a tunnel was built below his grounds, no shaft shall protrude into his land. However, after completion it was found that the air flow was not sufficient. As such a fifth shaft was constructed above the cavern.
The tunnel is still the longest non-electrified tunnel in the UK.

http://www.villagepublications.co.uk/bradway/win02/localhistory.htm and “Totley and the Tunnel†by Brian Edwards


The Dole railway line, with the tunnel on the left
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Dieselkid 63

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
May I predict the next message from Danial asking for blueprints, hole in the fence access info, freight train timetables etc etc :p
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