Today is the day for our transit. There was another boat to go from Diggle but nothing to come from the Marsden end so the pilot was going to take the other boat first and then come back for us. Normally there would be more than one pilot and they would leave at 45 minute intervals. We were ready for the off and filled with water by the time he arrived for us at 1015. We had to turn the gas off, take a large fire extinguisher and I had to tog up with crash hat, hi-vis jacket and life jacket before we were ready for the off.
Ready for the off.
With the gates shut we start the trip. The Standedge Tunnel is the longest canal tunnel in the UK and second longest in the World with one in France a little longer. Ours is 3 miles 418 yds long. It is the highest and deepest canal tunnel in the world though as it is 645 feet above sea level and 638 feet below the surface at its deepest. The difficulties of building the canal was so great that they didn't construct a towpath. The boats had to be 'legged' through with the boatmen laying on their back and walking along the walls is in the picture of the gates. The fast trip through by legging was said to be by David Whithead and his wife in 1914 with a time of 1 hour 25 mins. Which was about what we did it in with our engine!
A lot of the tunnel is cut through the rock and black powder and pick axes were used as the canal was started in 1794. The rest of the canal was completed in 1799 but the tunnel took another 12 years to complete. It was originally engineered by Outram but the cost and time and the fact that he was also working on other canal building schemes meant that the work was not done here to a high standard and the work dragged on. The tunnel was started at both ends and after Outram resigned and Tomas Telford took over he realised that the two ends were not going to meet up and managed to correct it.
Brick lined section. The brick lined lengths seemed to be the lowest in height but were generally wide. The rock cut bits were generally higher but were very narrow and harder to pass through. There were also lengths that had been cement washed to prevent loose material falling down and these parts looked like you were passing through a glacier. The length of the boat meant that you had to anticipate turns as you avoided bends and protruding boulders from the walls.
Checking in. There are four tunnels through the hill. The first was the canal and it is also the lowest. There are two single track railway lines too that are now not in use and a double track line that is still in use. The abandoned tunnels are used for utilities and you can drive down them. The canal was used to move waste out as they were building the railway tunnels so they are joined by adits. We were followed by another C&RT member in a vehicle to keep their eye on us as we passed. A couple of times we had to come to a stop when our pilot stepped off and called in our position on the phone.
North Portal Standedged Tunnel.About an hour and a half we were out the other side. The rain had stopped, and whilst the sun wasn't shining the wind had dropped, and all because we were back in Yorkshire of course! We also learned that this weekend there is a Jazz Festival on in Marsden so we are going to stay a couple of nights here. Just after the the tunnel entrance/exit there is the original transhipment warehouse that was used as the terminus until the tunnel was completed. It is now a visitor centre.
Transhipment Warehouse/Visitor Centre. Normally tunnels are a little boring, or an anti climax but the variety and the concentration needed to pass through meant that the time just flashed past and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was pleased to say I didn't scrape any of the paint work either. We moved down the canal a little and found moorings just before the first lock and close to the Railway pub and the station where we will celebrate with a meal tonight and see what jazz we can get in.