June 8, 2021

Tunnel Vision

Andrew, Our Development Officer, has been in touch with West Calder High School who expressed interest in our Outdoor Learning opportunities.  A site visit was arranged & following further discussions the school decided that this would present an ideal opportunity to fit in with their Skilled2Work initiative.  Andrew put together a suitable project that he and the school felt would suit students in the 14 – 18 year range.

This was to build two new tunnel entrances for our 7 1/4” public running track.  This would give the students the opportunity to work on a small civil engineering construction, experience a live construction setting and give them confidence of building ‘hard’ skills.  Working as a team as part of an intergenerational group, the students will learn construction skills whilst taking part in physical activity.

This is not just an exercise. This is a real challenge and the team will be building an important feature for our site.

This is what the tunnel entrance looks like at the moment…….

This is the planned end result, which should look….

…something like this.

Andrew designed & built the entrance to the bridge in 2019/20.

From West Calder High School came three members of staff (Jack, Stevie and Allan) and 8 students.

The project consists of building a concrete box and arch at each end of the tunnel.  Five concrete sleepers placed side-by-side on top will form the roofs of the boxes and they will be covered with a membrane and earth.  The concrete front wall will then be faced with a stone wall and stone arch.  Later we may fit doors to provide secure storage.

The Programme:

  • Briefing and purpose.
  • Checking of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), tools, materials, site safety.
  • Photos for beginning and at each stage of construction for evaluation.
  • Removal of vegetation.
  • Demolish existing walls by hand and electric tools.
  • Clean up of blocks for reuse and move to storage and debris clean up.
  • Dig out foundations of side and end walls.
  • Measure for wall position. Discuss strength of construction and drainage considerations.
  • Mortar mixing.
  • Concrete block wall construction. Side walls with blocks flat for double strength. End wall single vertical layer with wall ties.   Block cutting, building, maintaining lines and heights.
  • Arch building.
  • Natural stone wall building.
  • Evaluation photos.






And the students verdict on progress so far?  ‘It’s great, the atmosphere at AMEC is friendly & the members are just big kids at heart!’


Day two: Total concentration!  These students have never done this before and they are already taking it seriously and building beautiful straight and plumb walls.




Day three:  It is hands on and the students are getting some expert training from Alan.  A bit of scratching of heads over the measurement, but they soon have it sorted.  Meanwhile, work goes on at both ends of the tunnel.

It is a neat and tidy job and it is coming along nicely.  Best of all the students are enjoying the work.



Day four:  The last day before the end of term which means the last day of the project.

Today’s main task is to bring more blocks down to the worksite.  The students decided to form a chain and slide the blocks down a chute.

The time is up. The walls are in place at both ends of the tunnel, the drainage pipes are installed and it has been a tremendous experience for us all.

Just time for a quick train ride!




In summary:

  • 10 students aged 14-18 took part receiving a total of 100 hours of hands-on construction experience.
  • The students agreed that they had learned new skills; Block cutting, making mortar, building, measuring, handling manual and electric tools.  They leave this activity with new experience and a greater appreciation of construction methods, as well as having outdoor physical activity and experience of working with others.
  • Given the limited time that was available, we did not expect completion of the construction.  It was not in itself a target, as it can be completed by ESME members, but the activity was a complete success and helps us to understand the objectives and needs of future projects.

Andrew hopes to attract interest from other schools in the area as this programme develops.  If you are interested to find out more, why not email Andrew: development@edinburgh-sme.org.uk