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No light at the end of disused Bridgnorth railway tunnel

By Toby Neal | Bridgnorth | Nostalgia | Published:

Here we go to throw some light on a little bit of Bridgnorth's underground history – the town's railway tunnel.

Way in. The old railway tunnel entrance, off Bramble Bridge, seen here in June 2008.

With the closure in September 1963 of the Severn Valley Line running north of the town, the tunnel running under High Town became redundant, and a look in the Bridgnorth Journal of Friday, April 7, 1967, shows its fate as the entrance was being closed up.

We no longer have the original print so have had to copy the photo direct from the page. The caption read: "Soon Bridgnorth's half-mile long railway tunnel will be finally closed up, and the ghost trains will be left to rattle through the darkness alone, save for the occasional British Rail inspector.

"Builders were busy this week putting the final touches to the walls at both ends of the tunnel which runs from Bridgnorth railway station to reappear on the north side of the town above the carpet works.

"Perhaps one day a new use will be found for the tunnel, for it seems a shame that such a large, dry area should go unused."

In April 1967 the tunnel entrance was closed up, as seen in this picture used in a contemporary Bridgnorth Journal.

The photo shows that there was a door, no doubt to allow continued access.

The same month another part of the town's railway infrastructure disappeared. A demolition team pulled down the bridge over the road on the section of track which went from the railway station into the tunnel.

The low bridge had been a traffic hazard for many years. Hollybush Road was closed while the demolition work went ahead.

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The 550 yard-long railway tunnel dated from early 1860s, and the line through it was not straight, but in the shape of a flattened "s".

The tunnel has occasionally made the news in the years since. In March 2003 emergency services were scrambled after reports of a fire in the tunnel between Bramble Ridge and Friars Street following reports of smoke coming from the tunnel.

Concern

And there was particular concern as a group of youngsters had been seen going in to the tunnel, but had not been seen to re-emerge.

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However the youths, who had been playing in the tunnel, were later accounted for.

It is rumoured that when the railway tunnel was in use the glasses and tables of the Swan pub above would rattle as trains passed underneath.

Will it ever be used again? Thanks to the efforts of enthusiasts Severn Valley Railway was triumphantly revived, running from Bridgnorth southwards as a visitor attraction, and from time to time somebody suggests a revival of the line northwards to the Ironbridge Gorge, which would mean running trains through the tunnel under the town once more.

The railway and the tunnel entrance, probably not long before the bridge was demolished and the tunnel closed up in April 1967. The photo was taken by Ray Pringle-Scott, who was a Sergeant instructor at the School of Photography at RAF Cosford.

Indeed, according to information on the internet the SVR was given first refusal on the tunnel, but not surprisingly the scheme was deemed impractical.

The technical challenges would be formidable, to say the least, and Bridgnorth Golf Club would be unlikely to be keen on having a railway line running amid the bunkers and greens, to say nothing of the enormous expense of such a project.

The tunnel is secured to prevent access, and in any event the southern entrance is now in a private garden.

However its condition is generally said to be good, but with some localised spalling of the brickwork.

According to the internet the structure remains part of Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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