And so it came to pass that God gave Winch and me a day off, so we climbed aboard the trusty ExplorMobile and headed out into the countryside of middle England to look for Morlocks in the Time Machine…
We never did see a Morlock in the drain but we did find Mountain Bikes, Monster energy cans, big fish (including a laid back Pike who was over 2 feet long), fanny plasters, Golden Nuggets (of the turd variety) and some nice brick porn.In the 1850’s they drained the local Holme Fen which dropped the water levels locally and in 1852 they started work on the culverts to divert Bury Brook under the town, finally finishing in 1854. At the outfall Bury Brook joins High Lode which forms part of the Middle Level Navigation which eventually joins the OldRiverNene after a mile.The main reason for the trip was the actual junction of the tunnels and the remaining underground workings of the water powered town clock. The clock is still there but in 1920 was converted to run on electricity.The main tunnel carries Bury Brook (clean-ish) water and the side tunnels are stinky CSO’s. For anyone who says otherwise then don’t believe them!
If you are planning on doing the whole culvert and reaching the outfall (approx 700m) then be a smart boy like Winch was and wear Chest Waders, lazy boy here wore Thigh Waders and suffered wad0r breach halfway through, never a good thing when you are surrounded by floaters and are over 1000 meters from dry land. I poured several gallons of shitty/pissy water out each wader when we got back to the car, much to the amusement of the bemused locals who were probably wondering why two blokes were walking down the high street in 26 degree heat dressed in black rubber ;-p
I’d like to go back when there’s a LOT more water going through, the shots would be better and all the turds will have been flushed out…
Props to Dsankt, Otter & Loops for finding this place back in 2008
The ‘Money Shot’, in fact there’s two angles here cos I can’t decide which one I like the most, the first one is neat because of the water and the second one neat because of the arches.
Been trying to find the perfect lighting rig for the GoPro Hero2 for months and never found anything I was happy with so this was a visit to a short but sweet local culvert to try something else out…
4 x 64 LED lights on a handheld frame running at a supposed 5500K (doesn’t look like 5500K if you ask me) and the GoPro was mounted on the Chesty harness.
This is a lot of light in a small space but the Hero2 still struggles to keep up so its reached the end of the line, he’s going on FleaBay very soon and I’ll drop some shekels on a Hero3 Black Edition 🙂
There’s a handful of stills at the bottom shot on the Canon on the way back through, check the pesky flies that quite artistically fooked the long exposure shots up :-p
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….
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.