Brierley Tunnel

Brierley Tunnel

The Hull, Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and Dock Company – known as the Hull & Barnsley to save breath and ink – boasted several tunnels including two of more than 1,000 yards in length. Built as a conduit for South Yorkshire coal, wagons first rolled on 20th July 1885.

At Brierley near Hemsworth, westbound trains reached the summit of an eight-mile climb before scuttling into a 684-yard tunnel. Emerging, they would then start their descent into Barnsley through a deep cutting, curving to the south.

The tunnel is brick-lined, straight and includes a single ventilation shaft close to its centre. A plentiful collection of refuges was provided on both sides although these became redundant on 7th August 1967 when this section of line was closed.

In October 1994, Wakefield MDC invited tenders for the infilling of the eastern half of the tunnel as part of construction works for the Hemsworth bypass. The approach cutting was infilled and the tunnel pumped full of concrete from the portal to the shaft.

Today the extant western half is muddy but otherwise remains in fair condition. Around half-a-mile to the west, an overbridge has been replaced by an embankment, resulting in an impassable swamp forming between there and the tunnel.

Despite suffering from under exposure, the portal is a hugely imposing structure. Bats pass through it in the winter to take up residence.

July 2010