Monday, November 05, 2007

Blackheath Railway Tunnel

If you're observant as you walk up to Blackheath from Charlton as you enter the Standard you'll notice a gap in the run of houses on your left along Charlton Road. Looking off to your right you'll see that there's a road, Invicate Road, running almost directly opposite it. It looks almost as if the road used to cross Charlton Road and run between the houses.

If you check it out on Google Earth you'll see it really clearly indeed. There's a very obvious gap running in a straight line all the way south to Shooters Hill Road.

It puzzled me when I noticed this at first and I wondered if it might be some old road or railway that had been removed.

However a Google Earth session shows that the north end of the gap lines up with where the rail tunnel emerges back above ground. It's also easy to image a curve linking up the southern end with the entrance into the tunnel to the east of Blackheath station.

As far as I know that railway has always been in a tunnel. However could the gap above it be because it was dug using the cut and cover technique? That is rather than tunnelling you dig a big trench and then build a roof before covering it back over.

Looking around on the internet I can find mention of some kind of accident in the tunnel in 1850 but with no details. The station dates back to 1849 so that does suggest that the railway never ran above ground.

Does anyone know?


Paul Webbewood said...

There was an unsuccessful planning application last year to build houses on this site. Network Rail refused permission to build directly over the tunnel, although the applicant maintained it was structurally OK to do so, and so the proposed houses would have been built at an odd angle.

Charlton Average said...

I know someone who lives close to the tunnel and they can hear the trains going through it and feel the vibrations they cause. Living over it would surely be worse, so maybe that's a lucky escape.

Do you know if Network Rail gave a reason?

There must be houses over the southern end of the tunnel, around Liskeard Gardens, so I wonder why they're their and not over the northern half.

Anonymous said...

Dear Charlton, sorry to read you are thing of leaving Charlton, but good luck wherever you go.

With reference to your question on the Blackheath Railway Tunne. An uncle of mine used to live in the area, so I asked him of he knew the answers, the following is extracted from his reply.

"I always understood that this line was not built upon because the Railway Tunnel ran underneath and was not strong enough to support any buildings.
If it is the same line of sight then it goes alongside what used to be the Roxy Cinema now Marks and Spencer. and crosses St.John's Park and is under the wide green pathway beside what used to be the Vicarage, When the Roxy Cinema was open you could sometimes hear the trains rumbling along underneath, or presumably alongside underneath."