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Totley Tunnel

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Picture published in 1894.
Totley Tunnel East.
Totley Tunnel West.

6,226 Yards. Totley Tunnel - Midland Railway

Totley Tunnel is a 6,230-yard tunnel on the former Midland Railway Manchester-Sheffield line between Totley on the outskirts of Sheffield and Grindleford in Derbyshire, England.

It was completed in 1893 and was the longest mainline railway tunnel within the UK that ran under land for its entire length.

The contractor for 10.5 miles 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 headings were driven outwards from the base of each shaft, water flow increased to some 2,250,000 gallons per day. At the Padley (Grindleford) end, the situation was little better, work stopping for several weeks until a drain was laid.

At about 2,000 yards a spring was encountered which flooded the workings at 5,000 gallons an hour. 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 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, 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 of the tunnel half way 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 twenty-four 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.

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.


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