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British Industrial History

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Dove Holes Tunnel

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2,420 Yards. Dove Holes Tunnel - Midland Railway

Dove Holes Tunnel is a tunnel built by the Midland Railway between Peak Forest Signal Box and Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire.

Begun in 1860, it took five years to build. The navvies lived where they could, in huts or crevices in the rock.

Six pumping stations were needed to keep the workings clear of water, an underground river being encountered at one stage. This was diverted but burst through again. On being diverted a second time, a local curiosity, the Barmoor Clough "Ebbing and Flowing Well", partially dried up.

Being on the edge of the Derbyshire White Peak the tunnel was partly though gritstone and partly through limestone, which gave considerable problems.

1872 June 19th. Partially collapse. 'In consequence of a sudden and unusually heavy fall of rain, a serious slip occurred on the 19th of June last, at the northern mouth of the Dove Holes Tunnel, on the Buxton and Manchester line. The tunnel itself sustained but little injury, but the covered way by which it was approached was partially destroyed, and the cutting beyond was for some distance blocked up. The line was again opened for goods traffic on the 28th of July, and it is expected it will be open for passenger traffic shortly.'[1]

1940 It partially collapsed

Beside the frequent expresses, it was heavily used by goods trains and there was a considerable uphill gradient in the southbound direction. Moreover, several trains may have been held in the loop before it, to allow an express to pass. By the time two or three had gone through, all accelerating hard, one could cut the smoke with a knife. The crew of a following goods train at around 10 mph, would have to crouch down with handkerchiefs over their faces. Meanwhile they had to hold the speed steady enough not to cause wheel-slip, and not to snatch the train, causing a coupling to break, which would strand them in the fume-laden darkness.

Apart from damp rails, it was extremely hot in summer, while, in winter, long icicles would form from the roof. The first engine through in the morning would break them off (the crews staying well inside the cab), but when diesels came into use there were a number of broken windscreens. After one driver suffered serious injury the Buxton snow-plough was fitted with ice clearing equipment. The heavy traffic took its toll on the tunnel lining. On one occasion a locomotive emerged with a pile of bricks on top of its firebox.

Since the line to Rowsley closed in 1967 the tunnel has remained in use as a goods line serving the quarries in the area.

In 2004 the Derbyshire County Council carried out a feasibility study into reopening the line from Rowsley, in which its recommendations were split between running directly to New Mills, reinstating the tunnel as a passenger line, or running into Buxton and using the ex-LNWR line, which would mean reversing the train.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Morning Post - Friday 16 August 1872