Totley Tunnel

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Totley Tunnel
Totley Tunnel western portal.jpg
Western portal
Line Hope Valley Line
Location Grindleford, Derbyshire
Coordinates 51°18′47″N 1°34′17″W / 51.313033°N 1.571322°W / 51.313033; -1.571322Coordinates: 51°18′47″N 1°34′17″W / 51.313033°N 1.571322°W / 51.313033; -1.571322
Work begun 1888
Constructed Thomas Oliver of Horsham
Opened 1893
Owner Network Rail
Design engineer Parry and Storey of Nottingham
Length 6,230 yards (5.70 km; 3.54 mi)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Location of the tunnel within the Peak District
Eastern portal SK306801

Totley Tunnel is a 6,230-yard (3.5 mi; 5.7 km) tunnel on the Hope Valley line between Totley on the outskirts of Sheffield and Grindleford in Derbyshire, England.


The engineer for the tunnel was Parry and Storey of Nottingham and the contractor for 10.5 miles (16.9 km) of the railway, including the tunnel, was Thomas Oliver of Horsham, West Sussex. Work began in 1888 with the construction of three brick-built surveying towers along the proposed line of tunnel, followed by a number of vertical shafts to the level of the rails. The Duke of Rutland had decreed that no more than one ventilation shaft should be sunk through his moors (and that work should cease from August to October, during the grouse shooting season). Initially four permanent and three temporary shafts were sunk near to the Totley end. The latter were cut through shale, and water was encountered in the first eight feet. The permanent ones took longer, encountering beds of ganister, coal and rock.

As the initial 10 by 9 feet (3.05 m × 2.74 m) headings were driven outwards from the base of each shaft, water flow increased to some 2.25 million imperial gallons per day (10,200 m3/d or 118 L/s). At the Padley (Grindleford) end, the situation was little better, work stopping for several weeks until a drain was laid. Then at about 2,000 yards (1,800 m) a spring was encountered which flooded the workings at five thousand imperial gallons an hour (23 m3/h or 6.3 L/s). A raft had to be used to inspect the workings. Shortly after this the shale became drier and work proceeded toward Totley, the headings finally meeting in 1892.

The tunnel was the proving ground of a number of boring machines for the shot holes, using gelignite to blast the rock. No limit was set on the amount, and in all some 163 long tons (166 t; 183 short tons) were used. The atmosphere in the workings was hot, as well as humid, with compressed air used for ventilation, though, for a time at the Padley end, a turbine was installed in the Burbage Brook to drive a fan.

During the construction of the tunnel a natural cavern was discovered that was several hundred feet in area so it was decided to incorporate this into the design and a large air shaft was installed to the surface at this point. The entrance to the cavern can still be seen now on the Up side (towards Sheffield) of the tunnel halfway through.

Because of the damp conditions, there were outbreaks of typhoid, in addition to diphtheria, smallpox and scarlet fever, not helped by the fact that accommodation was scarce, and the workers were living often twenty to thirty in a house. Working 24-hour shifts, as soon as one man got out of his bed, another would take his place, with little in the way of washing or sanitary facilities.

It was completed in 1893[1] and at the time was the second longest railway tunnel in the UK. (The older Severn Tunnel is 1.3 kilometres (0.81 mi) longer) Totley Tunnel is now the longest wholly underland tunnel in the UK. After the two High Speed 1 tunnels opened in 2007 it became the fourth longest mainline railway tunnel in the UK.

Because of its length, in addition to the Midland's normal block system, signal wires were installed which, when cut, caused alarms to ring in the signal boxes at each end. The same system was used in the shorter Cowburn and Clay Cross Tunnels.

The tunnel falls from the Hope Valley towards Totley, starting level, then falling on gradients of 1 in 150, then 1 in 176 and 1 in 100.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Labrum, Edward A (1994). Civil Engineering Heritage. Eastern and Central England. Thomas Telford House, 1 Heron Quay, London E14 4JD: Thomas Telford Ltd (for the Institution of Civil Engineers). p. 13. ISBN 072771970X. 
  2. ^ Nock, O. S. (June 1971). "Some results of route rationalisation". Railway Magazine. Retrieved 2017-05-18. 
  3. ^ British Rail Mainline Gradient Profiles. Ian Allen. pp. M15. ISBN 9780711008755. 
  • Edwards, B., (1985) Totley and the Tunnel, Sheffield, Shape Design Shop
  • Plans Relating to Dore & Chinley Railway: Section of strata in heading of Dore and Totley Tunnel, Derbyshire Record Office, File ref. D4107/5/1

External links[edit]