Kettleness Railway Tunnel

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Part of the coastal line to Whitby, closed in the late 1950’s.

The 250m long tunnel is gently curved, still in very good condition internally and open at both end, the collapsed section is just a small side tunnel and may well just be back-filled escape tunnel.
You emerge on to a very overgrown trackbed on the cliffs edge, i’ll continue along to the Sandsend tunnel another day.

Kettleness Abandoned Railway Tunnel 6
Kettleness Abandoned Railway Tunnel 2
Kettleness Abandoned Railway Tunnel 4
Kettleness Abandoned Railway Tunnel 5

33 thoughts on “Kettleness Railway Tunnel

  1. If you havenet already been through the sandsend tunnel (which is 1 mile long) i’d advise caution as the tunnel entrance on the Kettleness side isnt in the best of condition (it is leaning towards the sea but is not an imediate threat as that part isnt covered by land).

    As i live nearby in Whitby i have been through the tunnel countless times so know what to expect along the way, there are 2 air shafts (a good 100ft high) and 2 side tunnels leading out onto the cliffs (do not in any circumstances go through these as they are a boggy deathtrap and may collapse if any of the beams are disturbed), water comes down the two air shafts like waterfalls and the water drains towards sandsend so some of the tunnel is boggy but not inpassible (wellies required).

    As the tunnel is getting old some of the brick walls (just the brick bits) inside are crumbling a little but i dont think the tunnel will suffer any major collapse for another 20 or so years.

    If you do go through e-mail me and i’ll join you, its always fun to go through.

    • Went through both tunnells yesterday starting from Kettleness
      Kettleness northern portal is a little boggy at the entrance but once inside was pretty firm.At the other end as you walk between the two tunnels its hard to believe you are on an old track bed but the clues are there if you look.I made my way through the trees and overgrown vegetation until i soon came across the Sansend entrance which, as previously descibed on here, has partially collapsed despite previous efforts to shore it up with some old rail.I had a look in the side tunnells but not too far as was on my own.The second one reminds me of old mining tunnells shored up with wooden beams,though in this case railway sleepers.The ventilation shafts are huge and the last part of the tunnell very boggy.Watch out for uncovered drains on the tunnell edges !Well worth a look but you need to be able bodied to get out at the other end.I took pictures so if anyone is interested let me know

    • Hi there me and a few others recently visited kettleness and we spent all day trying to find the tunnel but we struggled, is there a precise location of the tunnel on the map?

  2. Yes, i know what you mean about the entrance. I went down a little way a few weeks ago. Just waiting to get back some photos for the site as i was using film that day rather than digital.

  3. I go through regularly. Actually I do recommend going through the side tunnel. You can only get through one – the second one as you head towards Sandsend. It is completely dangerous. Obviously. But brilliant. Even in snow outside the water in the side tunnel is surprisingly warm. You sink at least 2 or 3 feet into it all so it’s hard going. But all in all a genuinely ludicrous day out.

  4. I too have a big interest in these structures, (the wife thinks i’m sad). It started about 18 years ago when I twagged school to visit falsgrave railway tunnel. I have since been through Ravenscar and kettleness, visiting sites of the viaducts on the way. I have been to both port holes of sandsend tunnel but never been through. As I now know its passable, how long does it take to walk through as my torch only lasts about fifteen minutes?!

  5. I think you’ll need a new torch !

    I’ve never been all the way through yet, but looking on a map its at least a mile.

  6. for a light, you could use either an 18v torch that takes cordless drill batteries, ie dewalt, makita etc, or alternatively (and maybe overkill) take a car battery and a headlight. I intend to go through these tunnels in a couple of weeks, since the wife will be away (she’d freak out at the idea), should be fun! I ended up here after reading about how many miles of railway has been removed, browsing google earth and remembering taking a walk up to the sandsend entrance a few years back.

  7. If you love tunnelling expeditions, there is no better disused tunnel than Burdale Tunnel in the East Riding of Yorkshire. This magnificent feat of engineering was bored through the chalk dales on the Malton to Driffield branch line.It is in the middle of nowhere, is just under 1 mile in length and boasts an ornate east portal. Well worth a visit !

  8. I thought Burdale was completely bricked up, or has it been broken into?
    i have been interested in railway tunnels since i came to a steel doored tunnel on a family walk as a teenager, i’m only now starting to take a real interest in them tho…

  9. I’m desperately trying to find any current info on Burdale Tunnel. All I’ve been able to find out is that it’s been bricked up since 1961 and has had ‘significant roof falls’ in 1977. I know that a colony of rare bats currently reside in there, and the 1977 info suggests somebody at least has been inside since it was sealed. Just wondering if some wildlife organisation has access, and if so, from where? as the brickwork has always been complete when I’ve seen it. There are ventilation grilles quite high up but they look extremely secure and would certainly require a ladder to reach, but if anyone knows of anyone who has been inside since 1961, I’d love to hear from them.
    Doubt it’d be passable though, even when it was being built there were pronlems with water, there being natural springs close by.
    Apparently, the southern portal was built double track, but narrowed after a few yards due to lack of funds when built in the 1850’s.
    Some have suggested that the problems building the tunnel nearly bankrupted the railway even before it opened – oh, and it was built by Charles Dicken’s (yes, that one!) brother!

    • I went into Burdale Tunnel with two friends in 1983 from the southern Portal through wooden doors which have now been replaced by a brick wall. The tunnel was totally dark and after about half a mile we encountered a roof fall that blocked the tunnel. There has since been another collapse nearer the south end and the centre section of the tunnel is now sealed off and apparently floods to a depth of 12 feet after heavy rain. At that time we explored quite a few tunnels including Queensborough, Gildersome and Sandsend. Exciting times if a little scary!

      John Carmichael

      • 1988 around when I went to – once without a torch
        And then went back for a full adventure with a torch
        Very scary – it reminded me of Jason and the Argonauts
        With those giant wooden doors

  10. I walked part of the way into Burdale tunnel in about 1995. This is a VERY dangerous tunnel and I can’t stress enough how it is highly recommended you DO NOT ENTER this tunnel. When I went through it, I entered from the Burdale end, via the wooden doors which were there then. Shortly afterwards, they were replaced by the brick wall and security grille which are there now. One of the vertical smoke vent shafts has collapsed into the tunnel, leaving a massive cavity in the chalk above and a huge pile of bricks on the tunnel floor. We didn’t risk going over this pile as there were loose bricks hanging precariously from the roof and water was cascading down from everywhere. A small stream runs through the tunnel and I have it on good authority that the whole lot actually sits on an underground lake. The brickwork is incredible; there’s an absolute fortune in bricks here – but the cost of removing them would be prohibitive. Good job – this tunnel is a jewel in the crown of the pre-Beeching days of the railways and long may it remain. The nearby quarry is access only to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust members by the way and is the home to some rare Orchids – so please don’t go there! So – nice tunnel, very wet and muddy inside and incredible dangerous. I actually couldn’t wait to get back out – and I love places like this.

  11. Cheers for the info. From what I can glean from websearches there appear to be siezmographs installed within also.
    I am currently studying industrial heritage to degree standard and would appreciate any photographic evidence distinguishing this tunnel from the many others in the region.
    If it could be regarded as unique then perhaps a case can be made for its preservation.
    There is so little literature relating to any of the structures on the old Malton – Driffield route. Perhaps I could add to this when I come to my dissertation, should there be enough source material.
    I will check back periodically and will post contact details should anythig be forthcoming. Thanks for the reply. Warning heeded.

  12. On the Subject of Burdale Tunnel we visited the Wharram (Malton) End portal of the tunnel yesterday whilst visiing the deserted medievil village of Wharam Percy. From what Class 37 has described the stream runs right through the tunnel, and its completly flooded the track bed. What is interesting is the evidence of the problems and bankrupcy during the tunnel build, as at Burdale, the Tunnel Portal is clearly built for a double track (The same design as GROSMONT Tunnel portals), however, we were suprised to find the Wharram portal was only built for a single line and was much smaller in size and certainly half the height. The Line originally was supposed to be a double track mainline as a major freight route to Newcastle. But due to the Geology of the area, the builders could not meet the requirements, and the tunnel was a major problem. The Line was named “The Malton Dodger” because it followed the valleys of the wolds, and certainly was not straight for long!

  13. With regard to the buildings on the line, because of the financial problems with the lines construction, building of the stations and buildings went to local contractors, hence the stations on the line look like farm dwellings, certainly different from the NER designs on the Whitby – Sandsend / Forge Valley Line

  14. i have read so much about the Sandsend tunnel that i am planning a trip up there soon. My question is What is the exact location of the portal(s) and any adice on access routes, parking, overnight stay’s?

  15. If you attack it from the north you can park at Kettleness NZ830156 and walk to the open northern portal of Kettleness Tunnel at NZ838154 which is easily seen from the Cleveland Way footpath.

    The southern portal of Kettleness and northern portal of Sandsend are both open but only easily accessable by a journey through either tunnel. The short length of track-bed between the two is overgrown but passable.

    The southern portal of Sandsend is at NZ853141, again its easily seen from the Cleveland Way footpath, however theres a perhaps 7-8ft wall so a ladder or someone to give you leg-up is needed to enter or exit there.

    You can just park at Sandsend for that end.

    Whitby is probably the easiest option for accomodation as there are many B&Bs, some friends of mine own one if you want a personal recommendation 🙂

    • Did Kettleness tunnel last week, completely missed it the first time, I asked a guy in Kettleness hamlet and he explained where I had gone wrong. Spotted it on the return journey to Whitby. It was the hottest day of the year too !!!

  16. Been to both entrances to Burdale Tunnel today. Malton end now very difficult to get to due to vegetation/fallen branches and waterlogged trackbed. Driffield end no probs, metal grill in wall is hinged and has no lock on it… would need small ladder to gain acess but once inside there are steps down the other side…

  17. Been in the Burdale Tunnel many times as a teenager (about 12-15 years ago). South entrance used to have big steel doors. They were locked but the doors were bent from countless kids (like my self) pulling open a gap to squeeze through. Only ever went in about 50 yards as it was very intimidating for a 15 year old!! Lots of bats, dripping water and what I think was a collapsed section of roof about 50 – 100 yards in, but can’t be sure as it was dark and my friend was shutting the door behind me as a joke!!! Spent quite a few happy summer days up at the tunnel and around but was dissapointed to find it bricked up one year.

  18. My great great great grandfather, James Smith was a stonemason/bricklayer employing 15 men who helped build the Burdale tunnel. The familes who worked on the tunnel lived in wooden huts called “Rail Cottages”. Must have been a very hard life for all concerned. I have visited the Burdale tunnel from the Burdale end but I could not find it from the Wharamend. Can anyone give me directions as to how I can locate it?

  19. I live near to Drewton tunnel on the Hull and Barnsley line, never been in myself but wondered if anyone here has? I know the western portal has nearly dissapeared now due to landfill work, but the eastern portal is in very good condition.

  20. I went through Drewton tunnel recently. It’s a bit difficult to find, the west portal is half- buried in a quarrying area, but passable. The east end is fenced off and a difficult climb for the inexperienced. The tunnel itself is on private land and the western end has about 100 yards of 2 ft deep wet clay inside the tunnel after that though, the tunnel is an excellent explore and in good condition. The best way to get to it is from the wolds way which runs near to sugarloaf tunnel which is near drewton tunnel. Plan your journey beforehand on multimap. And make sure you bring boots for the mud.

  21. Does anyone have any photos of the inside of the Kettleness tunnel? I’m a novelist, and I want to set a scene there. I think I’m probably not fit enough to get into the tunnel myself (though advice welcome) but I’d love an account of what it’s like there, and some pictures.

  22. Ho I a. Wanting to visit the kettleness tunnels.could anyone give me help to find it.postcodes etc . Please. Greatly appreciated

  23. 5th Nov 2016
    Just been through both tunnels, it was a welcome break from the horrendous weather up top.
    Both tunnels are exactly as described in previous notes and comments, but still impressive.
    The path between the portals is a little more overgrown than some photos might show, but still very easy to navigate.
    The Sandsend tunnel was however, incredibly wet at boggy about 2 thirds of the way, but still passable.
    in the torch-light you can see the ‘ghost’ sleepers still on the track bed through the tunnel.
    Going back soon with the other half. I know how to treat a lady.

  24. Been in these tunnels hundreds of times from a child. Not a great deal has changed in the past 30 odd years, aside from the north portal of Sandsend Tunnel – this collapsed in the late 80’s ( I think), today, the inner walls are showing some pretty bad swelling, indicating another collapse – when it does go, it will no doubt seal the Sandsend Tunnel completely. As of March 5th 2023, I’ve been back again, and into all three adits. One Adit in the Kettleness Tunnel is a small crouch down and brings you out onto a small plateau. The first adit of the Sandsend Tunnel stinks of diesel, and is a dead end, the second adit in the Sandsend Tunnel brings you out on the cliff side, both adits are very thick with horrible gloopy clay; the second adit is flooded at the cliff end of it; with a small very lose shale exit, which is looking very dangerous and will collapse. Its not worth the crawl, or the risk..

    One of the air shafts in the Sandsend Tunnel is accessible with a bit of hard work and can be abseiled down, but im not giving the location away on how to access it.

    Latest video is on YouTube under the channel name ‘bastardsquad’ (once its uploaded)

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