Wakerley Ironstone Co. Ltd (from 1915)
Partington Steel & Iron Co. Ltd (from 1918)Discussions with Bell Broshad began in October 1907 with some trial holes but quarrying did not start until November 1911. A siding agreement withLNWR (London and North Western Railway) was dated July 1913. The quarries ran for a short while before the lease surrendered and was taken over byWakerley Ironstone Co. Ltd from 1915. Gravity was used to help the loaded tubs of Ironstone reach the tipping dock and two horses hauled the empty tubs back to the pits. For some reason the earlier tipping dock was abandoned and a new one built at the eastern end of theLNWR sidings, possibly because of an improved gradient to the railway.During the operation of the quarry a row of four Calcining Kilns were built by prisoners-of-war and next to them an engine room containing a horizontal boiler. It’s believed the kilns were never actually used and in fact only two of the four were ever completed.
From 1918 and now in the hands of Partington Steel & Iron Co. Ltd the quarry was extended the opposite side of the Harringworth Road and the tramway tunneled underneath. Around this time a second tipping dock was added to the newer eastern one and this is evident today as the original one is faced with stone and the new addition is red brick. The quarry became mechanised in later life making use of a Bucyrus Class 14 Steam Shovel and a Ruston Steam Transporter.
The quarry closed somewhere around 1921, the track was taken up and the bridge under the road filled in, everything else was left which is unusual as normal practice is to restore the ground at closure. Today both tipping docks are clearly visible, as is the deep cutting of the quarry. The railway sidings adjacent to the LNWR main line are also evident and there are some remains of the weighbridge at the top of the ‘new’ tipping dock.
Sadly the Engine Room has crumbled but all four calcining kilns dominate the landscape for miles around and are in remarkable condition.
Apologies for the gratuitous use of Sunstars but my Tokina glass has a 9 bladed diaphragm which makes 18 pointed Sunstars so I couldn’t resist it…
Abandoned railway tunnels can be a bit dull after you’ve done a few, as a rule they are dark, straight and mostly featurless. I’ve had my fill I suppose and they don’t really ‘blow up my skirt’ anymore, however Catesby presented itself as an opportunity and it was rude to say no…
Catesby Tunnel is a little more interesting than your average tunnel, mainly ‘cos its a big boy. I believe it’s somewhere around the fifth longest, behind stuff like Rhondda, both Woodhead’s, and Standedge.
Interesting features that also set this tunnel aside from many are the culvert that runs the entire length of the tunnel under the tunnel floor, accessed by catchpits (yes I stupidly crawled in there with no waders, up to my waist in freezing water to get the shot below), the three large Rest Cabins built into the up-side wall (one found to contain a sadly ransacked GeoCache) and the five air-shafts that these days spectacularly pour water down into the already flooded tunnel (the north end was knee hight on this visit).
Not many photo’s as I managed to flood my 40D and it packed up for a few hours….
Some history, copyright © Graeme Bickerdike/Forgotten Relics
The 2,997-yard structure was cut by T Oliver & Son of Horsham as part of the Great Central’s ‘London Extension’ construction contract No.4. It passes through the upper beds of the lower Lias and the lower beds of the middle Lias. 27 feet wide and 25 feet 6 inches high, Catesby is straight throughout and on a rising gradient of 1:176 to the south, with the summit of this section reached as daylight resumes.
Its creation demanded round 290,000 cubic yards of mining. Work to sink the first shaft began on 18th February 1895 and the last length was keyed in on 22nd May 1897 – a remarkably quick average rate of 110 yards per month. Progress was greatly accelerated by the use of Ruston steam navvies (cranes).
The tunnel was mostly driven from nine construction shafts, each equipped with wooden headgear which was used to lower materials to the men working beneath. None though was permitted within 500 yards of the north portal due to the landowner’s wish that the privacy of his residence, close to the workings, be maintained. As a result, 264 yards through very heavy ground had to be constructed by means of a 12x10ft bottom heading and break-ups. This proved liable to breakages and one part completely collapsed. The surrounding strata was under significant pressure which resulted in a heavy lining of seven rings in the arch and side walls, with six rings in the invert. These were divided into 10-foot sections.
Cut-and-cover was used for the first 44 yards from the north portal. The length adjoining this had so little ground above it that the two crown bars were laid from a trench on the surface.
The remainder of the tunnel proved relatively light work and was driven full-sized without headings. Here the lining is mostly five rings thick with a four-ring invert, all faced with Staffordshire brindle and built in lime mortar. Around 30 million bricks were swallowed up by the structure.
Very little water ingress was experienced, amounting to around 80 gallons per minute. Chases were built into the back of the brickwork at intervals, leading to pipes built through the side wall at rail level. Water was then discharged into a culvert in the six-foot, accessed via deep catchpits.
Ventilation is provided by five shafts. Four of these are 10 feet in diameter but the northernmost – 1,250 yards from the entrance – is 15 feet wide to provide greater air flow. The landowner did not want his view blighted by rising smoke either! The first belch from coal traffic occurred on 25th July 1898.
Trackworkers were relatively well served with regular refuges provided on both sides and three rest cabins built into the Up side wall. One is located directly opposite the tablet that marks the “half way” point.
Both lines through the tunnel were inspected by the local ganger twice each day. In the winter of 1906, this role was carried out by Joseph Turner, as it had been for the previous 18 months. At about 4:20pm on 4th January he completed an examination of the Down line.
Half-an-hour later, a London-Manchester express with upwards of 50 passengers on board entered the south end of the tunnel at around 60mph. As it approached the fifth shaft, a rail broke beneath the locomotive and all five coaches behind it derailed, ripping up 450 yards of track. The last carriage became detached and came to a stand foul of the adjacent Up line as a goods train was approaching. Only prompt action by the driver, who put down a detonator, and the guard, who sounded the whistle, prevented a collision.
Catesby Tunnel retired from operational service on 3rd September 1966 since which time the permanent way has been removed. Water ingress compounded by a blocked drain just north of the fifth shaft means that, in places, it is flooded to a depth of a foot or more. Calcite makes it presence felt with some extraordinary formations.