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Monday, 29 March 2010

Bath's Lost Underground Railway

Unseen since 1973, here it is at last. The contractors, Hope and Clay, have just a few feet to go now before they're down to the original level of the trackbed. Pleasingly, the excavation hasn't filled with water. As for the portal, it seems to have survived its burial rather well ...
Given the location, it's just about the most minimal structure possible. The same can't be said for the access shaft built when the cutting was filled - a supporter has suggested that this be retained and moved to a position opposite NCN 24's William Smith monument south of Midford where it can form a balancing counterpart.
Despite the minimalist design, it doesn't mean that the structure misses out on coping stones, or detailing. In the afternoon, the sun finds its way into the cutting. In the dark of the tunnel, the remains of plant fronds that once grew towards the light now wander in the darkness towards the block wall that sealed it. The wall stays for now, as the tunnel may have a few bats in it, and this is not yet a good time of year to disturb them.
It appears that the concrete block wall has not been 'Stuck' to the portal, making its removal rather more easy than if the contractors who filled the cutting had attached it more strongly. In fact they seem to have taken reasonable care to ensure the portal survived undamaged.

Sandbags act as markers for the contractors as they finish excavating the wing walls ... the cutting sides are already somewhat dressed with topsoil. In due course they'll be put to grass, cowslips and blue butterflies.
On the down side of the old line, the support wire for the signal post seen in this image emerges from the fill, one end anchored in the ground and the other perhaps still attached to the felled post. Behind the camera, the contractors still have much earth moving to do.

20 comments:

Derek said...

Thanks so much Mark - takes me back to 1973 and standing there watching it be filled. I never thought I would see this again.

stonebears said...

The portal looks in fabulous conditions. Some thanks should be given to those who buried it!! Did they have some foresight of the future? Keep up the good work with the blogg, for those of us who live away from Bath it is great to have the continual update. Thank you

stanley mayer said...

There you are i have been waiting to see you fore a long time.(lol)
Nice one Mark its a bit of a shock as i haven't ever seen the Devonshire tunnel before only photos.
Thank you fore keeping us updated.
it's just great.
roz and stan.
stanleymayer@hotmail.co.uk

raven said...

At last, the project starts, Hope and Clay have not only dug out the tunnel portal but have almost 'dusted it off' as though it was never buried at all.
This is the type of high quality workmanship that is sadly lacking from most projects nowadays - well done to them on a sympathetic approach to exhuming the portal.
Lets hope this is the start of things to come for the project - cant wait to walk/cycle the whole route!

Worthing Wanderer said...

These pictures are amazing! I am very excited about coming to explore here when the path opens again!

Dave F. said...

This looks superb!

It looks like H&C cleaned the stonework with a toothbrush.

Are they fully down to track level?
That portal looks to small to get a choo-choo train through it :-)

Keep up the good work!

Blockbell said...

Absolutely mesmerising.

Will have to make a pilgrimage soon to this hallowed site.

Anonymous said...

What a great way to start the day, to see these wonderful pics. I was a keen cyclist in Bath before retiring to Penang, Malaysia and I am so looking forward to coming to Bath again to see this wonderful sight. I have always had the railways in my blood and it will be a joy to behold.
Thanks to all for making this possible!
Maurice
March 30, 2010

Moonraker said...

What an achievement. We hear of so many railway restoration projects, most of which come to nothing. I can't wait to see the trackway fully open again! Congratulations to all concerned for making this happen. Congratulations to to H&C for taking such care with our beloved railway. Stand & Deliver!

Steve L said...

Fascinating photos. A brilliant reminder that sometimes we do things that have consequences far into the future. Such good news that the entrance looks so well preserved.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant photographs Mark, thank-you so much for sharing them with everyone. Hope and Clay are doing a fantastic job, please pass on our thanks to them.
We are looking forward to September 2011 and cycling along the entire route.

AnalogueAndy said...

Wow! Seems amazing to see it emerge and to think we were stood above it just a couple of weeks ago for the ceremony. A really fantastic start.

Wurzel said...

Wow it is great to see it finally being opned back up.
I remember as a kid looking up from inside those grates before they filled them in.
I just can't wait to come back home and finally be able to walk through the tunnels as I did as a young teenager.
Only this time being all legal and not having to go through large steel doors

John Yeo said...

Thanks for these photos, Mark. I find it all quite emotional. It's such an exciting situation after all these years of campaigning. I have writtn to Hope & Clay congratulating them on doing such a careful job.

Blockbell said...

By the way, where *does* the spring water from the tunnel go now?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the Updates! I'm looking foward to visiting your project the next time I come to Bath!

Euro-Trek'er
-Washington, State

mervyn Small said...

Graet, at long last, Thanks Eddy for the updates
Mervyn Small

Eddy for the day said...

@Blockbell: the spring water still takes its original course, being gathered by a drain in the tunnel and then on in the direction of what was the loco sheds close to Green Park. At some point, the pipe switches from the up side of the old line to the down side and it can be seen in old photos of the viaduct across the Lower Bristol Road.

The local paper has an article from the summer of, I think, 1968, when children played in a gravity-fed 'Fountain' that broke out beneath Claude Avenue bridge for a good few weeks. Not as grand as the fountains of Versailles perhaps, but more constant, and, as anyone who's visited Versailles would attest, a good deal less whiffy.

Over the years the length of functioning pipe has been shortened piecemeal, and the creation of Linear Park will have removed much of it.

When Devonshire Tunnel's cutting was filled, more drainage was installed beforehand, and the water is probably that which now surfaces rather untidily to one side of what is now Linear Park, a little way below Maple Grove bridge.

Water features benefit wildlife, one reason that it would be good to make this into a feature.

Chris Warren said...

I am absolutely thrilled to see the work continuing at such a pace. It is amazing to see the stonework in such fantastic condition. In response to the comment about the quality of the workmanship that is just not replicated today, well the Bath Extension, as it was known (oo-er missus)bankrupted the Somerset and Dorset joint Railway company due to the immense engineering challenges the landscape south of Bath presented itself with. All the structures had to be heavily engineered to take the freight and passenger trains that intensely used the line. If you were a driver or fireman on the footplate coming up the 1:50 gradient approaching the tunnel,the trains, usually double headed (two locos at the front coupled together) and banked (one pushing up the rear, oo-er again)there was an immense amount of smoke and noise. As the train went into Devonshire tunnel, the close proximity of the chimney to the roof of the bore sent a shower of sparks and a blast of sooty smoke straight onto the footplate with resulting consequences for the crew! In fact a bucket of water was usually handy to soak a piece of cloth in so the crew could cover their faces. Not sure what the life expectancy was for S&D footplatemen but it was a pretty grim place to be.

This is a wonderful tribute to all of those who worked the line. Thanks to everyone for making this happen.

Blockbell said...

Thanks for that answer about the water, Eddy. It will certainly need to go somewhere. But what a typically thorough and sensible solution it was to pipe it all the way down to the shed!