Colwall Tunnels

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Colwall Tunnels
Location Colwall, Herefordshire to Malvern Wells, Worcestershire
Coordinates 52°05′02″N 2°21′02″W / 52.08391°N 2.350527°W / 52.08391; -2.350527Coordinates: 52°05′02″N 2°21′02″W / 52.08391°N 2.350527°W / 52.08391; -2.350527
Status One disused; one operational
Start Colwall railway station
End Malvern Wells railway station
Work begun 1853
Opened 17 September 1861
Closed 2 August 1926
Rebuilt 1924 - 1926
Reopened 2 August 1926
Owner Worcester and Hereford Railway (original)
GWR (Post Grouping)
Network Rail (current)
Operator Great Western Railway
London Midland
Character Passenger
Length 1,567 yd (0.890 mi)
No. of tracks 1
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The Colwall Tunnels are a pair of railway tunnels that connect Colwall and Malvern Wells on the Cotswold Line, passing under the Malvern Hills in the Welsh Marches region of England. The first tunnel was opened in 1861 by the Worcester and Hereford Railway. Due to its inadequate specification, a replacement tunnel was brought into service in 1926, and remains in use today.

Colwall Old Tunnel[edit]

The route of the Worcester and Hereford Railway involved some serious engineering, and in particular how it could cross the Malvern Hills.

The tunnel had to be dug through very hard rock using manual methods available at the time. Local engineer Stephen Ballard was appointed to complete the work. At each end the tunnelling progressed by ten feet a week. However, once the igneous Malvern rock was reached, daily progress averaged 15 cm (six inches) a day. Two ventilation shafts were provided to the tunnel. Its maximum depth below the surface was about 600 ft.

Spring waters caused problems to the construction. The water later fed the Malvern water bottling plant at Colwall. In 1907 part of the tunnel collapsed blocking the line.

In 1939 the disused tunnel was refurbished with ling and a concrete floor so that it could be used as an Admiralty munitions storage facility. A narrow gauge track was laid within the tunnel to move the stores to either end of the old tunnel.

Today the tunnel forms part of the Malvern Hills Site of Special Scientific Interest and is inhabited by a colony of about 700 hibernating lesser horseshoe bats,[1] but otherwise disused and inaccessible. The Ledbury Area Cycle Forum is promoting a project to reopen the disused tunnel as a recreational and utility facility for cyclists and walkers.[2]

Colwall New Tunnel[edit]

By the 1920s it was clear that the old tunnel was too narrow, low and steep (with a gradient of 1 in 80) to accommodate the emerging specification of rolling stock. So a new, wider tunnel was constructed adjacent to the old one. The build was completed between 1924 and 1926, much faster than the first tunnel due to the advance in tunnelling tools and techniques. It was opened on 2 August 1926, and remains in use today.


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