The Railway and Whiteball Tunnel

The Whiteball tunnel is famous for many reasons, not the least for having been designed byBrunel, It's other main claim to fame is that it was the scene of the first ever speed of 100 mph,this was achieved by 'The City of Truro' in May 1904 (animation above).Sampford Arundel is very proud of it's long association with the railway, the historic BeambridgeInn, and of course the tunnel itself, some history and pictures appear on this page.
City of Truro, recent 'photo---------and early in the 20th Century
024 King Edward 1 steams out of Whiteball
Tunnel 1995 Our thanks to Martin Bane for
allowing us to use this picture
      On the Centenary of it's record-breaking
100mph run City of Truro, May 2004 'photo
by John Burgess
Some notes from Samford Arundel Parish History,Written by C.W.Green 1981-82

Some Brunel links
About Isambard Brunel     About the Tunnel and railway
More about the great man    Rail History
Many pictures
Until l876, the main road through Beam Bridge and White Ball was a turn-pike road, under the Taunton Turnpike Trust.
A toll house and gate stoodin 1840 between the turning to Sampford Arundel and the Westford Stream.Stables stood on the other bank, and the Beam Bridge Inn, to whichthey and the surrounding meadows belonged, on the opposite side of the road.
When the railway was built to this point (1842), the stables were moved besidethe inn, the road realigned to go under the railway, toll house and gate to where it stood till the 1970s. The gate was removed in 1876.During the construction of the White Ball tunnel (1842-4), Beam Bridge wasthe terminus of the line from Bristol. Passengers were taken over White BallHill in carriages, resuming their train journey to Exeter at Burlescombe. Afew years later (c.l851),eight railway cottages were built on the narrowstrip of land between the main road and the railway.
The old coaching roadwas still the main road until the fly-over and White Ball Diversion was madein 1963.Many references have already been made to the construction of the Bristoland Exeter Railway and the White Ball Tunnel (1842-44). Though the hundreds ofnavvies who worked there during these years, may not have been very welcome inin the tap room (especially when they were paid on Saturdays), the comings andgoings of so many surveyors, engineers, contractors, and what were then called"people of the better sort", must have brought very welcome additional businessfor the proprietor of the inn. We so not know what accommodation the inncould offer, or whether Brunel, the railway's chief engineer, stayed there onone of his flying visits. As is well known, Beam Bridge became the terminuswhen the line from Bristol was opened to this point on 1st May, 1843, passengersbeing taken in coaches over White Ball Hill to resume their journey toExeter at Burlescombe. How much time these passengers in transit had topatronise the Beam Bridge Inn we do not know.In an age which produced so many great engineers Brunel was outstanding for theextent and scope of his achievments and particularly in the development of railwaysbridges and ships. Part of his greatness lay in the originality of his ideas and themeticulous attention to detail in their execution. In these years he was alwayson the move, supervising the many projects for which he was responsible, especiallyin the West Country. He travelled everywhere in the "Flying Hearse", the popular name for the unusual black carriage which he designed "to accommodate his plansand engineering instruments and all creature comforts including an ample stock of the cigars which he now smoked continuously, while the seat was arranged to extendinto a couch so that he could snatch an hour or two's sleep if the occassionoffered"(L.T.C.Rolt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, p.105) Rolt went on to say, quoting from from a memoire by Brunel's friend St.George Burke(page .117) "I believe that he scarcely went to bed he was a constant smoker and would take his nap in an armchair very frequently with a cigar in hismouth and if we were to start out of town at six o'clock it was his frequent practice to rouse me out of bed at three when I would invariably find him up and dressed...No one-would have supposed that during the night he had been poring over plansand estimates and engrossed in serious labour which to most men would haveproved destructive of their energies during the following day."

We used to call them "Old Chuggers" as they laboured up Wellington Bank with a heavy load,This is 40145 67, pulling passengers and about to enter the Whiteball Tunnel