Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Tunnel


IMG_2662The day had finally arrived for our passage through The Standedge Tunnel which is the deepest ,longest and highest tunnel in the UK . We had been told that our passage through wouldn’t be until 11.30 as boats from the East always comes through first. But we were surprised to get a phone call just after 08.00 from Canal and River Trust to say that there were no boats coming through from Marsden in the East so could we be ready to go in an hour.

IMG_2654The Crt guys arrived just after 09.00 and proceeded to measure every part of Inca . They did our air draught our beam our depth and anything else they could think of . We had already removed our cratch cover and rear cover . The Solar panels had been dropped down and we were ready to go.

IMG_2660Heath and safety seems to rule here . With Carolyn and Curly deciding to stay down in the boat I had to put on all this gear. It felt just like being back at work again and that’s not good !!!.

IMG_2664You are not allowed to go through the tunnel by yourself and have to have a Canal and River Trust employee on board with you . They are not Pilots but are called Chaperones . I guess that ever anything went wrong you wouldn’t have any comeback on the trust. Anyway our Chaperone was Terry (on the left) and a new guy who he was training. Terry said that he had been through the tunnel over a thousand times.

There are in fact 4 tunnels at Standedge with one being the canal and the other 3 railway although only one railway tunnel is now used.

IMG_2668The canal tunnel which was completed in 1841 is only wide enough for one narrowboat for much of its length and to save on cost, as in some other canal tunnels in England, a tow-path was not provided in the tunnel. As canal boats were horse-drawn, the boats had to be legged through the tunnel – a process where one or more boatmen lay on the cargo and pushed against the roof or walls of the tunnel with their legs. Professional leggers were paid one Shilling and six Pence for working a boat through the tunnel which took one hour and twenty minutes for an empty boat and three hours with a full load

IMG_2671 As well as the Chaperone there is also a crt worker who drives his van through one of the disused rail tunnels to check out our progress. There are also communications in four places to call in to the tunnel manager to say we are OK and ask if it’s alright to proceed.

IMG_2673Off they go to find out where their mate who is driving the van is, as he hasn’t shown up at this point.

IMG_2677The Standedge Tunnel is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. It is 5,500 yards (5,000 m) long, 636 feet (194 m) underground at its deepest point, and 643 feet (196 m) above sea level. 

IMG_2676We stopped at another point and saw this smoke ,but didn’t have a clue where it came from

IMG_2669After closing in 1944 The canal tunnel was the beneficiary of a £5 million restoration project as part of an effort to re-open the entire canal. Several rock-lined parts of the tunnel were found to be unstable. Where possible, these were stabilised by rock bolts, (one can just be seen at the top of this picture) or where impractical, concrete was used to stabilise the rock face. The tunnel re-opened in May 2001.

IMG_2679After one hour and twenty minutes which we were told was a very good time for coming through we left the tunnel at Marsden in the pouring rain . It was a good trip through and no damage was done to Inca on the low ceiling and all the rocks that stick out . It’s been a hard old slog coming up the 32 locks from the junction to Diggle and it will be just as Hard going down the other side which is 42 locks to Huddersfield . We decided to moor up after we came out at Marsden and spend the night there before moving on.

                                                                                                                   Happy Days


  1. Phew, I expect you were relieved to emerge back into the daylight after all that concentration.
    Glad you made it through without damaging Inka, what an experience.
    How's Carolyn she must be feeling exhausted after 32 locks and daunted by the thought of 42 more?
    Ann nb Oakfield

  2. Thats our boat in front of you waiting for the tunnel. Hope you're having as much fun as we are. In Saltaire now!

  3. Fabulous. Say no more. Well done Inca.

  4. Good stuff Gary, hope Carolyn & Curly enjoyed it too. Brilliant place to take a Narrowboat it seems.

    1. Hi. Ade , A most enjoyable trip through and something a bit different to most tunnels , worth doing if you get the chance.

  5. Not for me, sunshine! I can handle 30 minutes or so through Harecastle, but an hour and a half and having to stop, not a chance! And as for knowing it has bolts holding the rock in place - get a grip! What kind of madness is that!!!

    1. Hi Marilyn , going through the tunnel is no problem , it's the getting there and down the other side thats the problem .I can say for sure that we will never do the Huddersfield narrow again . If it wasn't for the tunnel experience I doubt they would get any boats on it .

  6. Great pics and write up as per Gary, what i want to know is about the mysterious smoke, what do you think it was ? was is derv smoke, wood smoke,local tramp campfire smoke or even ghostly steam train smoke ? I hope you get a rebate off your licence for their use of your electric if thats what they plugged into lol

  7. Hi Lewis ..
    Not a clue what it was ,but I think I will go with your suggestion that it could have been Ghosty steam train smoke as it came from the disused steam line . Can't see anything that said the tunnels are haunted but a lot of men lost their lives building them !

  8. Glad you enjoyed it Gary, we had Terry as our chaperone too and I had no time to be worried about being so far underground as he was so entertaining!

    1. Hi Debby . I was amazed at how enthusiastic Terry was even though he had been through over a thousand times . He new every single inch of that tunnel and he is a credit to Canal and river trust ! .