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Saturday 1 October 2016

Colwall Tunnel

Colwall Tunnel actually refers to a pair of tunnels which run through the Malvern Hills. The first was constructed between 1856 and 1861, and remained open until 1926, when a more modern partner was built alongside it. The old tunnel was later repurposed during the Second World War to act as a storage depot for Admiralty munitions. The second tunnel was built between 1924 and 1926 and remains in use to this day. Spanning 1,567 yards, the Colwall tunnels remain some of the longest tunnels on the British railway network.

The eastern portal of the two tunnels lies around a short bend south of the old Malvern Wells (GWR) station, while the western mouth of the tunnels emerges shortly before the present-day Colwall station. This bend makes the eastern tunnel entrance difficult to see from anywhere except the hills directly above it, or a public footpath which cuts under the line just before the tunnel entrance.

Colwall Tunnel

This selection of pictures shows what the tunnel has looked like through the ages, from the heyday of GWR steam to the modern day.

The Tunnel Approach

'Down Goods near Malvern Wells (GW)'. Used courtesy of Ben Brooksbank via Creative Commons.
This lovely shot of the Colwall Tunnel shows a GWR 'Cathedrals Express'  train from Hereford entering Malvern Wells on its way to Great Malvern, Worcester, Gloucester and London.
'Approaching the Malvern end of Colwall tunnel, viewed from a train', 24/10/1964. This picture clearly shows the brown platelayer's (permanent way) hut that accompanied the junction. Just visible behind it is the white hut/guard room built for the Admiralty personnel responsible for the munitions store in the old tunnel during the war (right).
The pedestrian underpass at Fruitlands.
Skid row: the buffers of the old siding on the Tunnel Approach
A view westwards along the tracks.
The view towards the tunnel with the ruined brown permanent way hut in view. Just visible in the middle distance on the ground is a corrugated iron cover for a water tank that captured the flow from the springs in the old tunnel.
The reverse view back towards Malvern.
The Tunnel Mouth

'D7050 Malvern Wells with Hereford - London train, 15.6.1966'
The tunnel portal at the eastern end of Colwall tunnel, pictured in the late 1970s.
The disused original Colwall tunnel, also taken in the late 1970s.
The View from Above

'34046 Malvern Wells 1Z38 ret. RTC charter 17.49 Worcester Shrub Hill - Bristol, 17.5.14'
'Malvern Wells with 15.15 Paddington - Hereford, 30.6.1965' This shot provides a more definitive view of the buildings listed above; the Admiralty hut nearest the front, then the water tank cover and finally the permanent way hut at the back.
'4161 Malvern Wells with (18.24 or 18.45) Ledbury - Worcester, 28.6.1965'

1 comment:

  1. Other points of interest re the old tunnel are the history of its ventilation shafts - one of these collapsed in 1907, and why was a new, offset tower built over the one at upper Colwall? - and the pumping engine that was originally installed to supply water to premises above the tunnels whose wells had gone dry as a result of building the tunnel.