The Great Central Railway was the last of the mainline railways to be built by the Victorians, it connected Marylebone Station with Manchester and ran through the centre of the country. The line was built to a very high standard, avoiding sharp curves and steep gradients, allowing for the trains to have a much smoother ride. In building the London Extension, the Great Central Railway had ambitions to extend the line to coast and into France. With this, they designed the line so that it could be adapted into the Continental gauge, allowing freight trains to run directly from Europe. The project massively over-ran and eventually cost 3.5 million to construct.
The Catesby Tunnel was originally planned as a cutting, but due to it running through a wealthy land owners estate, it was insisted that the cutting be turned into a tunnel. It was designed as an ‘egg shape’ tunnel with eight ventilation shafts along its length. It was lined with Staffordshire Blue brick, and over 30 million were used in the 3km length. The tunnel began to decline in the 1950s when the line was suffering from both economic difficulties and through a merger with the Midland Main Line. The decision was made to shut the line to passenger traffic, starting with the express service. With the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, the line was eventually closed closed in 1969. This was the largest single closure of the Beeching Era and caused som controversy as it was the most profitable freight line in the county.
The tunnel now stands derelict and empty, although there have been a number of proposals to reopen the lines in the past 20 years, although these have not come to fruition.