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  1. History Tanfield culvert was built in 1723 as owners of nearby coal mines needed a way of moving material from their pits to the Tyne (see Tanfield Railway). From the river it could then be loaded onto ships and transported to large industrial cities in the South. As the surrounding land was not suitable for a canal, and two sections of the Causey Burn had to be crossed, the mine owners were forced to build a wagon way to reach the river. At one of these sections, the culvert was constructed; it was dug out by hand, and the land above was raised higher by manually adding thousands of tons of soil. This ensured it was capable of supporting a railway line. Later, in 1725, at the second problematic section of the stream, a large single span bridge was constructed using the Roman compression arch concept, alongside large abutments to the valley sides. Today, the surviving Grade I culvert and archway are, in effect, open to the public; the former is a road, while the latter is a pedestrian walkway. Both the culvert and the archway were built using the same sandstone. If entered from the Western portal, the first part of the culvert comprises an arched stone section. Further on, wooden support beams, which were placed inside the tunnel to help prop up the rock and earth directly above, are still in situ. The floor is largely uneven and rocky throughout, until the wooden boardwalk section is reached at the halfway point. Finally, towards the end there is a large modern concrete structure, presumably created when the bank required reinforcement work, when the railway was replaced with a road. Our Version of Events Back in the safety of the north, and away from the chaos of London, we decided to return to the Tanfield area and check out an old culvert a couple of us had spotted there many years ago while climbing near Causey Arch. We arrived bright and early (early for us at least) and wadered up in a nearby car park. From there we walked over to the stream. As there were a few walkers around giving us confused looks, we played the ‘we’ll pretend to be fishermen’ card. However, our plan didn’t seem to work at all; if anything, they stared even harder. At the stream’s edge, the sun was beginning to come out from behind the world famous overcast cloud that often seems to be a permanent feature of the North East. It was a pleasant change from all the rain we’d been experiencing of late. Unfortunately, however, our time getting a tan was cut short as the number of people watching us was growing at an alarming rate, to the extent that a small crowd was beginning to form. So, wasting no time, we jumped straight into it and headed directly for the Western portal to get out of sight. The first section was incredibly rocky, so going was slow to avoid falling over and filling the old waders up with water. A couple of sofas also lay ahead and required a spot of climbing; they made a perfect gathering place though, while we waited for the welly-wearers among us to catch up, as it offered some convenient seating. Of course, we did fail to take into account the fact that old sofas don’t fare well in wet conditions, and as we made the mistake of using them for their original purpose we very nearly ended up in the drink. After our near-mishap, we avoided the seating and chose to stand as we watched the others. They were struggling hard to avoid breaching their wellies; the water was millimetres away from spilling over. They almost made it too, until an unexpected drop cause an unavoidable deep area. Once we were all past the sofas, the stream suddenly became much shallower and less rocky, and our progress through this section quickened. From this point on we found ourselves beneath archaic wooden supports. Water trickled from the ceiling and the beams, causing sporadic droplets to fall on us as we walked. It smelt earthy and damp in this part, and there’s something oddly satisfying about that combination, it smells good. The odour continued right up to the boardwalk section, where old wooden sleepers have been lain out perfectly on the floor. We were surprised to find a floor like this; you would have thought the floor would rot very quickly being in a river, and yet, it’s been there for years. The final section of the tunnel finished with the large concrete arch. From memory, the ceiling felt much higher in here and, although it’s modern, there is something about it that gives it a dramatic sort of feel; there’s the sense that’s it’s a bit boring, but somehow it’s also very impressive at the same time. If you don’t like spiders, however, you might find this section less appealing because, for some unknown reason, there were hundreds of them here – all different shapes and sizes, and lots of legs and eyes. Explored with Ford Mayhem, Meek-Kune-Do, The Hurricane and Box. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19:
  2. History Tanfield Railway claims to be the oldest working railway in the UK. The line runs for approximately three miles, between East Tanfield in County Durham, and Sunniside in Gateshead. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact date, but it is estimated that the first section of track was laid in the early 1600s, when a businessman named Huntingdon Beaumont commissioned the construction of a line from collieries near Blyth to a shipping point on the coast. The first line, however, did not last very long since it was built entirely out of wood; although the primitive railway was effective over short distances it soon became a costly affair as the wooden rails needed to be regularly replaced due to the harsh and boggy conditions that area often experiences. The Tanfield railway (which was originally known as a waggonway) that continues to exist to this day was built in 1725; it emerged one hundred years earlier than the first public line between Darlington and Stockton. Railways took the greatest hold in the North East of England, rather than canal ways, due to the deep valleys and hills in the region. Over the years Tanfield has become home to a growing collection of industrial steam engines and carriages; most of the stock dates from the 19th Century. The Marley Hill engine shed, built in 1854, is still used to store restored engines. There are currently three fully functioning machines at the site. Although the line to the shed closed in 1962, it continued to service other collieries railway locomotives in the North East. Part of the reason Tanfield Railway was preserved is attributable to the Marley Hill shed remaining open up until 1970. The vintage tools and machinery stored inside it are still capable of restoring an entire locomotive. A turntable also still exists at the site; this is long enough for most of the locomotives being stockpiled or restored. This turntable is known for being easy to turn by hand, if the load is evenly balanced. Presently, alongside operating the public railway, Tanfield works closely with Beamish Open-Air Museum; one of the locomotives restored at Marley Hill shed is displayed at Beamish Colliery. Our Version of Events Having picked up the buzz for trains back in New Zealand, we decided to head over to Tanfield Railway after hearing a rumour that a number of old locomotives and carriages are sat there slowly rotting away. We arrived in the afternoon – two suspicious looking characters – after a good morning exploring various parts of Newcastle and Gateshead, but luckily it wasn’t too busy (we thought it might have been since the site comprises part of an active public railway). After guessing where the abandoned trains were, using the very convenient public site map, we set off with the cameras and tripods. Several minutes later and we’d managed to get up to the trains and carriages without incident; although, the surrounding boggy land the railway workers had problems with back in the 1600s still appears to exist. As far as we could tell, most of the old cars and locomotives are stored in long rows (around six or seven of them), so exploring them and remaining hidden from the staff who operate the public line and workshops is made easy. For the most part, the site is good for a quick visit if you have nothing better to do, or are passionate about trains and the 19th Century; we found it particularly interesting. But, if you’re looking for something ‘epic’, you’re probably not going to find it here. Having said that, it does have an told turntable and we did manage to get inside one of the ‘protected’ first class carriages. For a brief moment we were able to bask in the former luxurious atmosphere made exclusively for the ‘finer citizens’ of the north. However, although the seating was particularly comfortable, we reached a unanimous decision that it was far too dusty and the toilet was broken to a degree that made it unsuitable for extended newspaper reading sessions. It looks like we’ll be sticking to Virgin Trains… One day, when we can actually afford a ticket. Explored with Ford Mayhem. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: