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- Category: B
- Date Added: 10/07/2003
- Local Authority: Scottish Borders
- Planning Authority: Scottish Borders
- Parish: Cavers
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NT 52451 1183
- Coordinates: 352451, 601183
Circa 1860 for the North British Railway. Former railway tunnel with round-arched entrance portals to N and S; skew-arch viaduct crossing road with reversed S-plan and diagonal wing walls and circular drainage culvert set within brick wing walls. Rock-faced ashlar wing walls with red engineering brick terraces to rear; brick lined tunnel. Red engineering brick viaduct and culvert inset into earth embankment.
S ELEVATION: to centre, arched tunnel entrance with ashlar voussoirs, projecting band course and plain spandrels, parapet inset into hillside. To right, vast abutment of red engineering brick (comprising of irregular terraces holding hillside back) and inset bricks laid to form sloped wall, all with rock-faced ashlar supporting wall to ground with pain coping. To left, lesser abutment of similar style to that on right.
N ELEVATION: to centre, arched tunnel entrance with ashlar voussoirs, projecting band course and plain spandrels, parapet inset into hillside. To left and right, small brick retaining abutments inset into hillside.
INTERIOR: brick lined tunnel with ballast base (sleepers and track removed); drainpipes for drainage system lead to under ballast drainage channel.
VIADUCT: single segmental-arched skewed viaduct set across road, each elevation identical (see below).
E AND W ELEVATIONS: to right, large curved retaining wall (with slightly projecting plain coping) advancing and descending in height. To centre, diagonally set arch with flush 4-brick banded voussoirs and slightly projecting parapet with a heightened straight section (following the line of the embankment) carrying track bed over arch. To left, further diagonally set retaining wall (with slightly projecting copes) advancing from embankment. Drainage holes (missing bricks at regular intervals in structure) ensure track and retaining wall stability. Open ironwork fence flanks former viaduct track bed.
CULVERT: to north, large round brick lined drainage pipe with flush 3-brick banded voussoirs with rock-faced band to exterior, all set within plain brick spandrelled wall with projecting sloped brick wing walls advancing at flanks; exiting on S side of railway embankment.
Statement of Special Interest
This viaduct was formerly part of the 'Waverley Route', which ran between Edinburgh and Carlisle. This particular section of line was called The Border Union Railway and was under the control of The North British Railway. The terrain becomes inhospitable and where the tunnel and bridge are sited was described as one of the most 'desolate stretches of the line'. It is also one of the highest points of the route and a tunnel was constructed through the hill. The Whitrope tunnel is the second engineering feat of the line (the first being the Shankend Viaduct, listed separately); it is 1208 yards long and was constructed by gangs of navvies working in hard and demanding conditions. There were extremes of temperature and also vast amounts of water. 400 gallons of water poured every minute from the tunnel during construction. Due to the nature of the hill (called Sandy Edge), a vast drainage system channelled water into downpipes that led to a large central drain under the tunnel?s ballast. The south portal exited the hill at a point where the rock was soft and unstable (a stream was sited above the tunnel mouth). This led to vast retaining abutment being built. The dangerous nature of the tunnelling did lead to casualties; formerly a plaque commemorated the navvies' task and 2 graves are located above the south portal. This tunnel is the 4th longest in Scotland and boasts a constant gradient of 1 in 96 for almost ? of a mile. To the south of the tunnel, the hill continues to ascend to Whitrope Summit. After this (1/4 mile S), there is a stream and a minor road for the railway to cross. A large embankment called the Whitehope Culvert was built and Whitrope Viaduct is part of this. The viaduct is known by several names. It crosses the B6399 and is also known as Bridge 200 or The Golden Bridge. The latter name came into being because of the navvies's fondness for alcohol and the amount of time they spent in the Whitrope Bar (1 ?-miles south). The navvies lived in small shanty towns which moved as the railway was extended and visits to the bar were popular during leisure time. Although the track bed for the railway was straight, the Whitrope Viaduct is skewed. This leads to both elevations appearing the same. The stream adjacent to the road was also a problem and this was diverted through a culvert built under the embankment. The surfacemen's cottages also survive in the Whitrope area and currently the Waverley Route Heritage Association are relaying track here and reinstating copies of the mile posts that once served the line. The bridges and viaducts on this route are becoming fewer (due to demolition) and the few that remain are good surviving examples of not only the Borders railway engineering but also fine testaments to the builders and workers employed in their construction.
1st Edition (10560) ORDNANCE SURVEY MAP (circa 1861) showing Whitrope Tunnel and Viaduct (at Whitrope Culvert). 2nd Edition ORDNANCE SURVEY MAP (circa 1896) showing as above. RVJ Butt, THE DIRECTORY OF RAILWAY STATIONS, p220 and p261. Additional information on www.wrha.org.uk; www.qube.scottishborders.com; www.thewaverleyroute.co.uk and www.railscot.co.uk
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