East of Tring, Hertfordshire
date mid 1834 - late 1837
era Victorian |
category Railway |
ICE reference number HEW 48
An enormous amount of earth and rock was excavated by hand — 1.1 million cubic metres, enough to fill the new Wembley Stadium — to create the Tring railway cutting through the Chiltern Hills in Hertfordshire.
Still in use today by West Coast Mainline trains, Tring Cutting was the largest cutting to be constructed on the first major trunk railways in the county. It is 4km long and 12m deep and scythes through the chalk hills, allowing Stephenson's London to Birmingham Railway to reach the site of Tring station (just east of Tring) in its first phase of work.
The original London to Birmingham railway was designed for easy curves and shallow gradients, making heavy earthworks inevitable. In order to take a double track, the cutting was constructed to a width of 16m at rail level with a longitudinal falling gradient of just 1 in 330. The original side batters were 1 in 1 but were later steepened to allow additional tracks to be laid.
The cutting was dug manually, except where rock blasting was required. The spoil was removed using a network of barrow runs spaced regularly along the cutting, every 23m. From here the spoil was transferred to haul wagons for spreading.
The contractor, Thomas Townshend, had plenty of experience in such heavy earthworks, as he had worked on improvements to the Birmingham Canal in the late 1820s, which involved deep excavations.
Contractor: Thomas Townshend