Regards, Clive Smith
The two power cars 43290 & 43299 looking rather shabby at the station.
Clifton Downs Tunnel
Mark Dennis Howells
I have often looked at photographs on your excellent website when undertaking pre site visit reconnaissance in my role as a drainage engineer for Network Rail on the Western Route.
The photographs on your website are an excellent source to see what was at certain sites before the advent of continuously welded rail across the Western Route which required larger ballast shoulders that unfortunately often covered many drainage assets.
My role often takes me to Devon/Cornwall and I have the pleasure of covering the entire geography of the Western Route. I’m due down on the 4th/5th January to inspect the St. Dennis Branch and parts of the Newquay branch.
As part of my duties I have a large team of maintenance and renewal staff working on drainage assets including many sites in Devon & Cornwall. Photographs are taken frequently and almost always provide a different perspective than would be available to the public.
If it would be of interest, I have extensive records of mostly infrastructure related photographs dating back to 2009 when I joined Network Rail.
One of our upcoming jobs in February 2022, which is slightly off patch, is the refurbishment of the former 6ft drainage system through Clifton Down tunnel on the CNX in Bristol.
My team and I have walked the entire length of the tunnel and can only find a single drainage catchpit at the Clifton end of the tunnel, this has a 375mm internal diameter vitrified clay pipe which flows into the tunnel freely towards the Sea Mills end of the tunnel.
I have enquired with our records department who have unfortunately come back with only limited information.
I’ve got an active enquiry with the Great Western Society in Didcot via Richard Antliff on the same subject.
However, I’m hopeful that your membership might have some photographs or records of the tunnel or it’s drainage system.
Any help much appreciated.
Mark Dennis Howells BEng (Hons) MPWI MIAM
Senior Asset Engineer (Drainage & Lineside)
Many thanks for your most interesting enquiry - it's made me look a bit more into what I thought was just a long straight tunnel, however, digging a little 'deeper' I find that it had vent shafts both to the surface in Clifton Downs Park and outwards level towards the Avon Gorge. This information with the help of Wikipedia. I have further found, with the aid of Google Earth Street view what I must assume is the vent chimney located in Clfton Downs, about 45 yards north of the junction between Upper Belgrave Road and Pembroke Road - I have an image courtesy Google Earth of the vent/chimney which I attach.
The Cornwall Railway Society is a group of enthusiasts which has been in existance for over 40 years now - the website is really a 'Scrap Book' of varous pictures collected by members over the years. Obviously, as well behaved railway enthusiatswe do not encourage any pictures inside the fence - we are lucky in that we get various views taken by railwaymen who have ligitimate business to be on railway property. So if you would be wlling to let us have some interesting views not normally possible to the general publc we would be more than grateful.
As far as Clifton Downs tunnel is concerned we used to live at Calne and took many trips from Chippenham to sample to 'glories' of the Severn Beach line . Severn Beach I believe has gone considerably 'up market' nowadays . In my time 1965-69 it comprised of a run down fun fair and a few houses.
Our journey took us everytime through the tunnel - double track at the time, the Hallen Marsh to Filton line was freight only. The line to Pilning had unfortunately just closed. One advatage, a big advantage, at the time were the Heritage DMU's with their drop down windows and of course - if the driver was obliging and kept the curtains back views forward from the front seats.
I attach one of my views taken of the tunnel mouth from the station end which shows very clearly the straight bore. The other view is of what I believe to be vent chimney- it looks as if it once had a plaque on it - no doubt this was removed during the war years - parhaps the chimney has been 'capped' as it looks as if a tree is peering out of the top?
I do hope that you can obtain more information on the history of the tunnel, and even, fi you have the time show us pictures of the evidence of the vents - especially the horizontal one out through a cave.
Maybe your letter to us and its publication in our news will generate some interest and hopefully contacts. I hope that our readers will reply however limited their knowledge.
I hope you don't mind us publishing your letter;
With Kind Regards,
Keith Jenkin , Webmaster.