A tenebrous journey of 5 kilometers for 2 hours under the Pennine mountains

Sailing underground through Standedge, the longest channel tunnel in the United Kingdom

In the 18th century, before the invention of the railway, the UK began building water canals to transport goods by ship.

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The great advantage of England is that it is a relatively flat country if we compare it with other European countries such as Spain, Switzerland, France or Italy. However, between the north of England and the south of Scotland there is a mountain range, the Pennines, whose highest peak does not reach 900 meters. To get around this obstacle, at Standedge, in the north of England, four tunnels were dug. The first of these was a channel tunnel, that is, a tunnel for driving ships through an underground waterway.

The Standedge Canal Tunnel was authorized by the British Parliament in 1794 to allow passage of the Huddersfield Canal under the Pennines. The tunnel was excavated from two different directions, having to make a correction at the end to connect both parts, which were found on June 9, 1809, after 15 years of hard work. This deviation is what motivates that inside the tunnel you cannot see the end when you enter. The first ship to sail through the Standedge Tunnel did so on December 10, 1810.

The other three Standedge tunnels, all of them railway, were built parallel to the channel tunnel. The first two, with only one track, were completed in 1848 and 1871 and are now in disuse, one of them being used as a service tunnel for the old channel tunnel thanks to the galleries that connect both. In 1894 the fourth tunnel was inaugurated, with space for two tracks and which is still in use. Despite the rise of the train, the channel tunnel was in use for more than a century. The last transport of goods through it was in 1921, and in 1944 the tunnel was closed to traffic when maintenance work ceased. One last ship crossed it in 1948, before falling into half-light for half a century.

Many years later, and after some restoration works -because the accesses to the tunnel had been blocked-, the tunnel was reopened in May 2001, becoming a tourist attraction. A few days ago, the DownieLive channel released a fascinating video of a boat tour of this tunnel, with a length of more than 5 kilometers, so that the journey in real time lasted two hours:

You can see here some captures of this interesting video. We start with one of the accesses to the tunnel. Note that the conduit is not exactly large in relation to the size of the ship. This allowed sailors to push the boats by putting their legs on the walls, when there were no motor boats.

One of the ventilation ducts of the tunnel. Currently, diesel engines are not used inside the tunnel, due to the poor ventilation of the very long gallery.

One of the passageways connecting the Standedge Channel Tunnel with the parallel railway tunnel, now disused. Now that railway tunnel is used as a maintenance track for the channel tunnel, taking a vehicle that accompanies the boat in case there is a problem.

The tunnel radically changes its appearance along the way. Here we see one of the parts that are made of masonry.

Here we see another part of the tunnel carved directly into the rock.

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