Uncover an Obscure Devon Military Railway

The historic Rowtor Target Railway on Dartmoor, UK.(Image: Tim Symons)

The wild, windswept expanses of Dartmoor are home to a number of forgotten narrow-gauge railways from time past, from derelict mining tracks to military target railways. One of the best known of these obscure tramways is the Rowtor Target Railway, a 500-yard-long line half concealed by the long grass of the rugged Devon upland, and quietly maintained by local enthusiasts. Find out more about the Rowtor Target Railway here.

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Rediscovering Britain’s Forgotten Military Arrows

A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two.(Image: Martin Vaughan. A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two)

Across rural Britain, from southern England to the west coast of Scotland, lie myriad giant concrete arrows left behind after the dark days of World War Two drew to a close. Military historians will likely be well acquainted with them, but for many hikers who stumble across the concrete oddities amid often barren moorland, their existence may come as an surprise. Find out more about these intriguing wartime relics in our 2017 feature: The Giant Concrete Directional Arrows of Wartime Britain.

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Rediscovering Britain’s Forgotten Military Arrows

A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two.(Image: Martin Vaughan. A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two)

Across rural Britain, from southern England to the west coast of Scotland, lie myriad giant concrete arrows left behind after the dark days of World War Two drew to a close. Military historians will likely be well acquainted with them, but for many hikers who stumble across the concrete oddities amid often barren moorland, their existence may come as an surprise. Find out more about these intriguing wartime relics in our 2017 feature: The Giant Concrete Directional Arrows of Wartime Britain.

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The Juniata Shipwreck in Inganess Bay, Orkney

The wreck of the Juniata, Orkney, Scotland.(Image: Ian Balcombe. Wreck of the Juniata, Orkney Islands)

The waters of northern Scotland’s Orkney Islands are littered with shipwrecks. One landmark hulk, clearly visible from Kirkwall Airport, is the wreck of the Juniata, which was reportedly launched as the Sprucol at Sunderland in 1918 and acquired her new name two years later. There’s also been some confusion surrounding the identity of the Inganess Bay wreck, as photographer Ian Balcombe points out:

Originally launched in Sunderland in 1918 as the Sprucol, then renamed Juniata in 1920. Some people are still confused about the identity of the wreck. This is partly caused by the huge concentration of shipwrecks in the area. In this case, a second wreck, the Loch Maddy lies further out and in deeper water. This second wreck was carrying either Oregon Pine or Greenheart, a type of wood, some of which was salvaged in the 1960s and used in a local bar, The Bothy.

Juniata shipwreck in Inganess Bay, near Kirkwall Airport, on Mainland Orkney.(Image: Oliver Dixon)

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The Locarno Ballroom on Slateford Road (Edinburgh)

The Locarno ballroom and music hall on Slateford Road in Edinburgh, Scotland.(Image: Thomas Nugent. The former Locarno ballroom on Slateford Road)

Its original purpose as one of Edinburgh‘s many dance halls may be a thing of the past, but The Locarno ballroom on Slateford Road survives today as a pool and snooker club. Though rather faded in its elegance, the building’s stone facade is an unmissable landmark amid the area’s traditional Victorian tenements, beckoning passers-by (even those of us too young to remember the popular music halls of the early-mid 20th century) to cast our minds back in time.

The Locarno, Slateford Road.(Image: Thomas Nugent)

One contributor to the EdinPhoto website writes: “I’m sure that the dance hall in Slateford Road was called ‘The Locarno’. It was built above a garage and a terrace of shops, the most westward of which was a chip shop… The street frontage was of a glossy black glass-like material. I think, too, that there was a pool hall in the upper premises.”

Another adds: “The Locarno in Slateford was… a popular place. It changed its name to Paulenas at one time, then back to Locarno.”

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Avro Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” (Preserved Forward Fuselage)

The preserved forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster DV372/PO-F "Old Fred" at the Imperial War Museum Lambeth in London.(Image: @planedailymag. Forward fuselage of Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” at the IWM)

Despite its enduring fame and popularity among aviation enthusiasts, the iconic Avro Lancaster bomber didn’t survive the Second World War in large numbers. Many examples of Bomber Command’s mighty flagship were, of course, shot down over Occupied Europe, written-off in training accidents or while returning home, appallingly damaged, from raids across the North Sea. Many more were scrapped without ceremony after the conflict, all but forgotten by a war-weary public with little interest in or appetite for their preservation.

Among them was ED932, AJ-G “G for George”, the aircraft flown by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC on the famous Dambusters raid of May 1943, codenamed Operation Chastise. Like other surviving Dams raid aircraft, ED932 had been extensively modified to carry Barnes Wallis’ famous Upkeep “bouncing bomb”, and could never be fully returned to conventional status. As such the Type 464 (Provisioning) Lancaster was only used occasionally on operations after Chastise, mainly employed for trials and training duties. G for George was scrapped at RAF Scampton on July 29, 1947.

Today, less than 20 complete Lancasters exist around the world (mostly in Canada) with four preserved in the UK. But there are many surviving parts, wrecks and significant fuselage sections, including the forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster Mk.1 DV372, known to crews as “Old Fred”. The bomber, which was coded PO-F and served with No. 467 Squadron RAAF, makes for a superb exhibit at the Imperial War Museum’s Lambeth branch in London. Old Fred flew 45 missions with 467 Squadron and affords visitors a close-up glimpse of the forward section that’s not easily visible on complete airframes.

Read Next: The Forgotten Yorkshire Airfields of No. 4 Group, Bomber Command

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Avro Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” (Preserved Forward Fuselage)

The preserved forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster DV372/PO-F "Old Fred" at the Imperial War Museum Lambeth in London.(Image: @planedailymag. Forward fuselage of Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” at the IWM)

Despite its enduring fame and popularity among aviation enthusiasts, the iconic Avro Lancaster bomber didn’t survive the Second World War in large numbers. Many examples of Bomber Command’s mighty flagship were, of course, shot down over Occupied Europe, written-off in training accidents or while returning home, appallingly damaged, from raids across the North Sea. Many more were scrapped without ceremony after the conflict, all but forgotten by a war-weary public with little interest in or appetite for their preservation.

Among them was ED932, AJ-G “G for George”, the aircraft flown by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC on the famous Dambusters raid of May 1943, codenamed Operation Chastise. Like other surviving Dams raid aircraft, ED932 had been extensively modified to carry Barnes Wallis’ famous Upkeep “bouncing bomb”, and could never be fully returned to conventional status. As such the Type 464 (Provisioning) Lancaster was only used occasionally on operations after Chastise, mainly employed for trials and training duties. G for George was scrapped at RAF Scampton on July 29, 1947.

Today, less than 20 complete Lancasters exist around the world (mostly in Canada) with four preserved in the UK. But there are many surviving parts, wrecks and significant fuselage sections, including the forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster Mk.1 DV372, known to crews as “Old Fred”. The bomber, which was coded PO-F and served with No. 467 Squadron RAAF, makes for a superb exhibit at the Imperial War Museum’s Lambeth branch in London. Old Fred flew 45 missions with 467 Squadron and affords visitors a close-up glimpse of the forward section that’s not easily visible on complete airframes.

Read Next: The Forgotten Yorkshire Airfields of No. 4 Group, Bomber Command

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The Civil Crypt in Laeken Cemetery, Brussels

The Civil Crypt in Laeken Cemetery, Brussels.(Image: P.J.L Laurens. The Civil Crypt in Brussels’ Laeken Cemetery)

The Laeken Cemetery on the northern edge of Brussels is one of the most famous burial grounds in Belgium. Beneath the adjoining Church of Our Lady of Laeken is the final resting place of the Belgian royal family. But the haunting space pictured above is not the Royal Crypt of Belgium. Rather it’s the Civil Crypt, an eerily intriguing scene snapped by P.J.L Laurens.

Read Next: Doom & Dust: 10 Creepy Crypts, Catacombs and Charnel Houses

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Gates of Hell: The Darvaza Gas Crater

The Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan is known to locals as the Gates of Hell.(Image: Tormod Sandtorv. Darvaza gas crater, known as the Gates of Hell)

It could be the scene of the final showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. But this desert inferno rages in a galaxy far closer to home. In the sparse Karakum Desert of Central Asia is a crater 230 feet in diameter, which was been on fire for almost half a century. As Atlas Obscura reports, the hole is known to locals as the “Gates of Hell”.

Visitors to the Door to Hell in the Karakum Desert report "mixed emotions", including spiritual experiences.(Image: Tormod Sandtorv. Visitors to the site report “mixed emotions”)

In a landscape as remote and inhospitable as the Karakum Desert, the Gates of Hell cast an eerie glow that can be seen for miles around. But this fearsome oddity, which is 100 feet deep and located near the village of Darvaza, in Turkmenistan, isn’t entirely natural.

(Image: Stefan Krasowski)

The Door to Hell, as the crater is also known, was “opened” in 1971 by Soviet geologists seeking to harness the region’s extensive oil and natural gas deposits. When the scientists tapped into the cavern of natural gas outside Darvaza, the ground collapsed beneath them, swallowing their drilling rig whole.

The Darvaza gas crater, ignited by Soviet scientists drilling for natural gas in 1971.(Image: Stefan Krasowski)

In a bid to stymie the possible release of toxic fumes, the Soviets started a fire that they hoped would burn off the gas within a few days and avert an environmental catastrophe. But almost 50 years later, the blaze continues to rage, putting the nearby village of 350 inhabitants – around 160 miles from the capital Ashgabat – firmly on the map.

The Gates of Hell have burned for almost 50 years.(Image: flydime)

According to the Mail Online in 2012: “In April 2010 the country’s president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, visited the site and ordered that the hole should be closed but this is yet to happen.” Two years later, National Geographic published a Q&A with the first person to descend into the Gates of Hell.

The Door to Hell(Image: Tormod Sandtorv. The “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan)

The crater is now part of a nature reserve and is a well-known regional tourist attraction. Adventurers and eco-tourists have reportedly flocked to the site in their thousands. The area around it is also popular for wild camping. CTV News reported that visitors felt “mixed emotions” at the site. One person said: “It takes your breath away. “You immediately think of your sins and feel like praying.”

(Image: Stefan Krasowski)

The Karakum Desert lies south of the Aral Sea and east of the Caspian. The area covers much of present-day Turkmenistan, a Central Asian country that is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Rough camping at the Darvaza gas crater.(Image: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen. Rough camping at the Darvaza gas crater)

Read Next: 9 Mythical & Ancient Civilisations That Met Sudden Destruction

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Disused Tunnels Beneath Bristol Temple Meads Railway Station

Forgotten tunnels beneath Bristol Temple Meads railway station.(Image: Newage2. Forgotten tunnels beneath Bristol Temple Meads railway station)

Earlier this week, while hurrying to catch a train at Temple Meads railway station in Bristol, South West England, I noticed two parallel, long abandoned rails set into the cobbles at street level, which disappeared into an equally disused tunnel portal leading, presumably, to some sort of station undercroft. A quick Google search took me to an article published last month on the Bristol Post newspaper website, titled: “We take a walk through the secret tunnels hidden under Temple Meads railway station”. Clearly, the secret tunnels have been rediscovered!

The abandoned tunnels under Temple Meads railway station in Bristol include disused coal storage areas, wine cellars and an World War Two air raid shelter.

Disused railway tracks are set into the maze of tunnels beneath Temple Meads station, once transporting goods between the different storage areas and the surface.(Images: Newage2)

According to the newspaper, the abandoned tunnel network beneath Temple Meads station is so extensive that new sections keep on being discovered. The passages date back 178 years to the vast building’s construction. When Temple Meads opened on August 31, 1840, with a service from Bristol to Bath, a major storage facility was needed for the goods – mostly coal and wine – that would be brought in by train and dispersed around the region. A century later, during World War Two, the space would also find use as an air raid shelter.

(Images: Newage2)

The Bristol Post wrote that around 10 million people use Temple Meads station each year and most had no clue about the “winding maze of tunnels beneath their feet.” According to the newspaper: “[The tunnels] were once an important part the Bristol station, being used for storing wine and coal and even an air raid shelter – but only for the high and mighty.”

(Images: Newage2)

It added: “The first narrow pathways were built in the late 1830s when work first started on the station. Over time more tunnels were created as new sections of the station were built, and throughout the 1800s and 1900s they were used for storage.”

(Images: Newage2)

Tales of paranormal activity inside the forgotten tunnels are now predictably a part of the station’s folklore. But it’s fair to say that the spectres of long-disused wine cellars and a vast coal storage facility still haunt the gloomy space. The air raid shelter, meanwhile, was reportedly reserved for high ranking Bristolians. Nowadays the tunnels can be accessed by all on Bristol Doors Open Day, when members of the public are able to take a look inside.

(Images: Newage2)

In addition to the rails that disappear into the tunnel mouth adjacent to the station access road, a network of narrow gauge tracks were used to transport goods through the maze of tunnels beneath Temple Meads’ busy platforms, enduring within a hidden world little changed for decades.

Related: The Abandoned Low-Level ‘Victorian Platform’ of Glasgow Central Station

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