Haie Hill (Bullo Pill) Tunnel, Forest of Dean, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Team Sieni
N 51° 47.350 W 002° 29.194
30U E 535412 N 5737713
Quick Description: A tunnel in the Forest of Dean. The longest railway tunnel in the world at the time of its construction (1810) and the oldest railway tunnel in the world to have taken passenger trains.
Location: United Kingdom
Date Posted: 3/14/2009 1:16:05 PM
Waymark Code: WM60XN
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Crystal Sound
Views: 19

Long Description:

The Bullo Pill railway was originally a horse drawn railway. It received its act of parliament in 1809 [1] and was completed in 1810. Given that the Stockton to Darlington railway (of Stephenson's Rocket fame), which was the first locomotive-drawn railway, did not open until 1825 this makes it very early indeed. The railway carried coal, and other products such as stone and iron from the Forest of Dean to the small port of Bullo Pill. A passenger service also ran on the railway in later years.

The railway was taken over by the South Wales Railway in 1851, and the tramway was replaced with broad gauge (7ft 0¼ in) track, which required enlargement of the tunnel. The Great Western Railway took over in 1863 and the route was converted to standard gauge in 1872. The line closed to passenger traffic in 1959.

Some claim that the Haie tunnel was the first railway tunnel. However, it is likely to have been preceded by smaller tunnels on the tramways built around that time. It was the longest railway tunnel in the world when it was created, but could only have held this status for six years as the much longer Pwll Du tunnel opened in 1816. It is very probably the oldest tunnel to have taken passenger trains.

Both portals are on private land and cannot be approached closely, but are visible (only just, in the case of the Eastern portal) from public rights of way. The Eastern portal is at the end of a steep stone lined cutting and largely obscured by trees, and can be reached by a very steep walk up and over the hill on public footpaths.

Both portals are bricked up, with, as is common practice, an opening at the top to allow bats to enter and roost.

The Western portal is near the village of Soudley, which houses the Dean Heritage Centre, a very interesting museum on the subject of the Forest of Dean. You can park in the car-park there for a fee, but it may be better to pay the full museum entrance fee and get free parking and a visit to the museum too. We had a very good meal at the cafe there. There is also a small free parking area a little further West down the road near a pond.

The railway is named after Bullo Pill, the port on the Severn Estuary used by the Forest of Dean Tramroad Company for exporting forest coal and stone. It's an unusual name. "Pill" is a local word meaning a tidal inlet. The OED gives the etymology as Old English (Anglo Saxon) - but some internet sources state it to be Welsh or Irish.

Links and references:

  1. Railways in the British Isles, 1607-1829 By Brian Mills
  2. Branch Lines around Ross on Wye, by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith. Middleton Press. ISBN 978 1 906008 30 7
  3. Bullo Pill Railway Wikipedia
  4. Dean Heritage Centre official website.
  5. Bullo Pill Forest Web, The Royal Forest of Dean Community website
  6. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: Pill [OE pyll, var of pull, pul pool, creek] A local name on both sides of the Bristol Channel, in Cornwall etc., for a tidal creek on the coast, or a pool in a creek etc.
  7. WM7AHH Pwll Du Tunnel

Construction: Rock & Mortar

Condition: Blocked Off

Rail Status: No

Current status: Closed / Blocked

Original Use: Freight

The "Other End": N 51° 47.257 W 002° 28.270

Tunnel Length: 3,192.00

Suggested Parking Area: N 51° 47.602 W 002° 29.395


Website: [Web Link]

Date Built: 1809-10

Date Abandoned: 1959

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SidAndBob visited Haie Hill (Bullo Pill) Tunnel, Forest of Dean, UK 2/2/2008 SidAndBob visited it

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