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225th Anniversary of the World's Oldest Railway Tunnel

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  • 225th Anniversary of the World's Oldest Railway Tunnel
  • With an ÂŁ1.17 England County definitive stamp
  • Featuring an image of the world's oldest railway tunnel
  • Along with a Fritchley, Belper postmark (1st January, 2018)
  • And the Derbyshire Archaeology Society logo


Issue Date: 01/01/2018

Issue Name: 225th Anniversary of the World's Oldest Railway Tunnel

Producer: Buckingham Covers

 

The 1st January 2018 sees us celebrate the 225th anniversary of the world's oldest railway tunnel, Fritchley Tunnel in Crich, Derbyshire. It is believed to be the World’s oldest railway tunnel. It was established by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society in 2014. The historic Fritchley Tunnel can be traced back as early as 1793, two years earlier than the previous record holder, also in Derbyshire, on the Peak Forest Tramway. The Society were able to show that the tunnel had been built at that early date as part of a railway that used to transport limestone down to the Cromford Canal, a railway later known as the Butterley Gangroad.

 

  • 225th Anniversary of the World's Oldest Railway Tunnel
  • With an ÂŁ1.17 England County definitive stamp
  • Featuring an image of the world's oldest railway tunnel
  • Along with a Fritchley, Belper postmark (1st January, 2018)
  • And the Derbyshire Archaeology Society logo

 

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 225th Anniversary World’s Oldest Railway Tunnel

This horse-operated railway was built by Benjamin Outram one of the founders of what later became the Butterley Company, a major industrial concern, the limestone was used in the manufacture of cast iron products. The railway closed in 1933 and the tunnel was eventually filled in at each end and no one really knew if had survived.

The Heritage Lottery Fund made a grant of ÂŁ17,900 to the Society in 2013 in order to carry out archaeology and research on the Butterley Gangroad and to determine if the tunnel still existed and if it did date back to 1793. Archaeologists successfully excavated and recorded the tunnel and were able to prove that it was indeed the original structure.

A History of the Butterley Gangroad

The Butterley Gangroad was built in 1793 and is the earliest Derbyshire railway of which substantial remains survive. It was engineered by Benjamin Outram, a founder of the Butterley Company, a large Derbyshire engineering firm who provided the ironwork for some of Britain’s most iconic buildings, including Vauxhall Bridge and the roof of St.Pancras Station. The railway was originally horse-worked and carried limestone down from the quarries to the canal to be taken by boat to a tunnel under the Butterley Works from where it was lifted up a shaft into the ironworks for use in making iron.

In 1813, William Brunton, an engineer at the company, had a primitive steam locomotive built at the works, which was tried out on the Butterley Gangroad. It was described as a “Horse for the Crich Railway” and used mechanical legs to propel itself along at 2.5mph, in the manner of ski sticks. So the railway is also one of the earliest to have experimented with steam traction. The line was progressively re-aligned and modernised as an industrial narrow gauge railway that used steam engines from 1869 until closure in 1933. 

 

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