Construction and commercial history
The tunnel was built by the GWRGreat Western Railway in 1876-77 as part of the Kidderminster Loop Line, the specification for which required it only to be of single track width. As built, the tunnel was lined with red brick and was 19ft wide. In 1876 two workmen were killed and two seriously injured during its construction.
Unfortunately the sandstone through which the tunnel passes deteriorates on contact with air, and within 10 years part of the arch had given way under the weight of sand. Over the next 20 years, further small sections of the tunnel were relined, but in 1908 the decision was taken for the tunnel to be fully relined with two rings of blue bricks set in cement. The work began on 12 June 1910 and was completed on 20 October 1910. For safety, an occupation instrument was installed at the Bewdley end of the tunnel, linked to the Kidderminster Junction and Bewdley South signal boxes. After the last train of the day had cleared the section, withdrawal of the occupation key would prevent the release of the electric train staff at either end until work in the tunnel had been completed overnight and the occupation key replaced.
While the tunnel was still owned and managed by BRBritish Rail or British Railways, the SVRSevern Valley Railway in preservation had made use of it for rolling stock movements via the main line connection at Kidderminster ever since the first rolling stock arrived in 1967. The tunnel became SVRSevern Valley Railway property at the end of 1972 as part of purchase of the southern section of the line between Alveley Sidings and Foley Park. After that time the boundary with BRBritish Rail or British Railways's property was adjacent to Stourport Road Bridge, a short way north of the tunnel. Use of the tunnel for rolling stock movements continued as before.
Once it was owned by the SVRSevern Valley Railway, regular passenger services through the tunnel would not become possible until the opening of services to Kidderminster in 1984. However there were ways for passengers to travel through the tunnel before that time:
- From the mid-1970s incoming and outgoing rail tours would go via the tunnel, crewed by BRBritish Rail or British Railways between Bewdley and Kidderminster.
- In the late 1970s and early 1980s BRBritish Rail or British Railways ran a few summer and Bank Holiday DMUDiesel Multiple Unit specials between Kidderminster and Bewdley.
- At the same time, occasional 'top and tailed' gala special trains ran from Bewdley through the tunnel as far as the boundary. These could be operated by SVRSevern Valley Railway crews as they were entirely on SVRSevern Valley Railway property.
The track through the tunnel was replaced as part of a major refurbishment during the winter of 2011-12. In order to simplify future maintenance the existing jointed track was replaced by continuously welded rail (CWR), resulting in the absence of the traditional 'clickety-click' from the wheels as the train passes through the tunnel.
Both portals of the tunnel are included in the Wyre Forest District Council Local Heritage List, the eastern portal as item SVR014* and the western portal as item SVR014A.
- Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 18 March 1876
- Marshall (1989) p. 92.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 109, "Relaying of Bewdley Tunnel, 1910", John Marshall