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Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders

Date 2007

Event ID 578436

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


One of the longest railway tunnels in Scotland at 1208 yards, containing the summit of the former Waverley

Route 1006 ft above sea level near its south end with an approach gradient from the north of 1 in 96. It is located in desolate country three miles south of Shankend Viaduct and accommodated a double track. On 2 July 1862, the day after the line was opened, ‘passengers looked out on a snow covered landscape dotted with the rusting abandoned equipment’, which was auctioned from 5– 7 January 1863. Special trains stopped at the south end of the tunnel and at Shankend viaduct for the sales which took place as soon as the trains arrived.

The contract for the tunnel at this remote location under difficult ground and weather conditions was overspent. The tunnel, excavated through old red sandstone conglomerate resting on clay slate, stratified sandstone and beds of shale interspersed with thin bands of limestone and sandstone, required partial lining with brick and stone. The appalling wetness of the site, which turned the ground into slurry, caused the contractor many problems. Measurements taken at three shafts in the tunnel workings showed that 425 gallons of water per minute were cascading into the tunnel. A force of 230 men, working at ten faces, cut through the rotten strata. Keeping them relatively dry and getting enough air to them were major problems for Ritson and 2 ft square air boxes were installed worked by fans attached to pumping engines. These had to be steam operated as the horse gins had insufficient capacity. The engineer was John F. Tone and the contractor,

William Ritson. The line closed in 1969 and is now owned by the Forestry Commission. The Waverley Route Heritage Association, formed in 2001, is taking an active interest in reopening the tunnel, now made more difficult by recent roof falls.

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.

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