Cowburn Tunnel

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Cowburn Tunnel
Western portal, Cowburn Tunnel.jpg
Western portal
LineHope Valley Line
LocationEdale, Derbyshire
Coordinates53°21′07″N 1°52′00″W / 53.35194°N 1.86667°W / 53.35194; -1.86667Coordinates: 53°21′07″N 1°52′00″W / 53.35194°N 1.86667°W / 53.35194; -1.86667
Work begunOctober 1888
OpenedMarch 1893
OwnerNetwork Rail
Length3,702 yards (3.385 km; 2.103 mi)
Route map
Cowburn Tunnel within Peak District.svg
Location of the tunnel within the Peak District

The Cowburn Tunnel is a railway tunnel at the western end of the Vale of Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District of England. The tunnel is 3,702 yards (3,385 m) long.


The Midland Railway awarded the contract to J.P. Edwards of Nottingham.[1] Construction work started in October 1888 when a ventilation shaft was sunk in Cartledge Meadow near Edale.[2] The tunnel was engineered by the Midland Railway, under Colborne, part of a 1,700-foot (518 m) moorland between Kinder Scout and Rushup Edge. Tunneling also started at the other end near Chapel-en-le-Frith and the breakthrough between the two sections was made on 18 July 1891.[3] The lining out of the tunnel and laying of the rails was completed by March 1893, when the workmen were dispersed.[4]

A single ventilation shaft, accessible via the moorland north-west of Mam Tor, is 791 feet (241 m) deep, making it one of the deepest railway ventilation shafts in the country. The shaft was constructed in 1894 over the course of two years. Men lived on the rough exposed moorlands to dig the shafts without any modern machinery and were lowered into the shaft using a winch mechanism. 102 men worked eight-hour shifts day and night to excavate, mason and brick the shaft. It was eventually completed on 16 March 1896. Currently the shaft remains open, but protected by a large brick enclosure (pictured).[5]


It takes the Hope Valley Line west out of Edale valley, to emerge near Chapel Milton, 2.5 miles (4 km) east of Chinley railway station.[6]

Unusually, the tunnel is not built at a constant gradient: in fact, the summit of the line between Dore and Chinley lies within the tunnel, about a quarter of the way from the eastern end. From the summit, the tunnel falls at 1 in 100 (1%) eastwards and 1 in 150 (0.67%) westwards. Nevertheless, when the headings met, they were no more than 1 inch (25.4 mm) out of line in the vertical direction, and met exactly in the horizontal direction. Only one vertical shaft was used. Although the workings were much drier than they had been for Totley Tunnel, on one occasion the headings filled with water to a depth of 90 ft (27.4 m) and work was carried on in a diving bell.



  1. ^ "The Dore and Chinley Railway". Derby Mercury. England. 29 August 1888. Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  2. ^ "The Dore and Chinley Railway". Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald. England. 20 October 1888. Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  3. ^ "Dore and Chinley Railway. Important Progress". Sheffield Independent. England. 20 July 1891. Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  4. ^ "The Dore and Chinley Railway". Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald. England. 15 March 1893. Retrieved 29 October 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  5. ^ Hancock, Ted (2019). The Hope Valley Line Dore to Chinley: Volume One From the Dawn of the Railways to the End of the Grouping in 1947. Pynot Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 0956270697.
  6. ^ OL1 Dark Peak area (Map). 1:25000. Explorer. Ordnance Survey.