Two examples of old, antique British railway structures built prior to 1840, a tunnel and a bridge, now have protected status. This is thanks to a recent decision in the country by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
In 2014, the Guinness Book of Records named the Fritchely Tunnel one of the globe’s oldest railroad tunnels still left in existence. Built in 1793, the Fritchley Tunnel is 25 meters long and is constructed of sandstone blocks. It was built to be a section of the Butterley Gang Road and was constructed by Benjamin Outram.
Outram, according to Tony Calladine, the head of designation of the East from English Heritage group, was an important man that had great influence in developing railroads in Derbyshire and all over England. Calladine says that Outram was one of the first people to realize that the railroad could be used to create a nationwide transportation system to tie the country together. Many of his ideas were later adopted all over the country.
The tunnel was first used by wagons pulled by horses that were bringing limestone from the quarries and it acted as a way for the wagons to pass through what was then a busy street junction.
The horse drawn wagons were part of a horse run railway that linked the Cromford Canal with the limestone quarries in Crich. However, in 1813 the horse drawn wagons were replaced by a steam engine. It was used until 1933 by steam engines until a time the tunnel wasn’t needed anymore. The tunnel had been sealed up, but was rediscovered in 2013. Now, the old tunnel will be considered a monument and is safe from being destroyed as it was given a Grade II-listed protection status.
The other railway structure is the eldest cast-iron railway bridge that is still located in its original location, and it too is now a protected structure. Called the Crawshaw Woods Bridge, a Scottish engineer named James Walker designed it and it was built by the Stanningley Ironworks to be used by the Leeds and Selby Railway.
The Leeds and Selby Railway was one of the first railway lines when railroads were just getting started in the area and so it is both nationally and intercontinentally significant because all of the railroad structures built before 1840 are amongst the earliest in the entire world. The Crawshaw Woods Bridge is said to be a rare survivor from this era and is considered one of the Victorian age’s greatest accomplishments, says Tony Calladine.
Both railroad enthusiasts and antique lovers in Britain and beyond will be thrilled to have these two examples of Victorian rail structures still surviving and now protected for future generations.