High-tech mission to find out if Derbyshire rail tunnel is world's oldest
AN archaeological group is embarking on a quest to find out if a Derbyshire railway tunnel is the oldest in the world.
Cameras and laser-scanning devices will be used by Derbyshire Archaeological Society to help unleash the secrets of the tunnel, which formed part of The Butterley Gangroad railway built in 1793.
The investigation has been made possible thanks to a £17,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Society member Trevor Griffin, who is leading the excavation, said it was hoped the project would reveal some exciting finds.
He said: "Only a small part of the tunnel is blocked, right at the end, so we are going to create a small hole in the blockage with all the correct equipment so we do not disturb anything that might be inside.
"We are then going to use small cameras and laser-scanning devices to see inside the tunnel in the darkness.
"That'll show us exactly what's in there and give us a better idea of the date when it was built.
"The tunnel may be the world's oldest railway tunnel and it would be great to have it right on our doorstep.
"It going to be very exciting to find out what's in there after all these years."
As well as finding out the secrets of the tunnel, the team hopes to piece together the background of some of the people who worked on and lived near the railway line, which was located in Crich, Fritchley and Bull Bridge.
The line was in operation until the 1930s and the society wants to involve school children and young people in the research.
Mr Griffin said: "We are all hoping to find some of the original track. That would be a great find for us. It would give us a more clear picture about the history of the tunnel, and in turn, the whole railway.
"The Butterley Gangroad is the oldest Derbyshire railway of which substantial remains survive.
"We know that the whole route – except the tunnel – was rerouted at some point in the 1800s but the tunnel was left alone as part of the route because it couldn't be moved.
"We are very pleased to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident that this will attract many younger people to help find out more about this little-known but exciting heritage on their own doorstep."