Located just off Covert Lane coming away from Scraptoft on the outskirts of Leicester, is Ingarsby Tunnel (also known as Thurnby Tunnel or sometimes the Square Spinney).
The tunnel, originally built by the Great Northern Line, is 516 yards (471 metres) long. The tunnel first opened in 1882 and finally closed in 1964.
History of Ingarsby Tunnel
In 1882, the Great Northern and London & North Western railways opened a ten-mile spur from their main line into Leicester where it created a new terminus at Belgrave Road. The line opened for goods traffic on 2 October 1882, and for passengers on 2 July 1883.
The line’s most notable structure was a tunnel of 516 yards between Ingarsby and Thurnby, the former being the provider of its official name. Square Spinney, a nearby area of woodland, is another of its aliases.
At the time of the construction of the tunnel (and the nearby Ingarsby Viaduct), all bricks would of been made on site and also shanty towns would have formed to accommodate the workers and navi’s.
The bore is S-shaped, with trains travelling away from Leicester curving to the west as they entered and to the east on their exit. It featured two ventilation shafts.
Passenger service was withdrawn on 29 April 1957, though Summer Saturday Specials to Skegness continued until 9 September 1962. Goods service was withdrawn on 1 June 1964. Belgrave Road was served for another five years by a reopened chord from the Midland Main Line.
The Tunnel Today
The tunnel is filled in at the North entrance and the south entrance is covered by a 4-5m high sheet of metal. This is due to the tunnel being a bat refuge. Someone has cut an entrance hole in the corner of this sheet so the tunnel is accessible.
200 yards outside the entrance to the tunnel is a cast iron aqueduct that was built to divert a stream. But the stream as long been diverted.
Halfway into the tunnel is an air shaft, which can also be seen from the outside on top. The tunnel was built with two originally but as the northern one has been removed.
The tunnel has been blocked halfway, as the north entrance was demolished.
When De Montfort University had its campus at Scraptoft. They used to have parties in the tunnel as it wasn’t too far away.