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Report - - Queensbury tunnel, history and (big) pics | Underground Sites |

Report - Queensbury tunnel, history and (big) pics

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
(Let me know if the pics are too big & I'll link to smaller ones)

Construction began on the Queensbury railway tunnel on May 21st 1874. Carried out for the Great Northern railway company, the boring of the tunnel through the sandstone of West Yorkshire was done by 300 men under the charge of the Diamond Rock Boring Company.

Nearly 4 years later the tunnel was finally completed on July 21st 1878. The length of the tunnel is 2501 yards, or 1 mile and 471 yards. It had 5 ventilation shafts ranging from 112ft to 379ft. In other words it is one of the deepest railway tunnels in the UK. 8 construction shafts were used in the construction. Much of the work was done by blasting.

To summarise the above, it’s a big bastard.

One worker was killed during the construction when a metal cage used in one of the construction shafts was overwound at the top of the shaft, breaking the rope. The cage fell to the bottom of the shaft, through the wooden doors and landed on 3 workers, killing one. His father was also working in the tunnel. (To put that in context 22 men were killed during the construction of the Bramhope tunnel north of Leeds).

Being so deep the tunnel had its own problems. Many locos were damaged by huge icicles forming on the roof of the tunnel. Engines were sometimes left running in the tunnel to prevent their formation. Sometimes, smoke and steam would linger so densely in the tunnel that drivers failed to realise they were nearing the end of the tunnel at Queensbury station. To alert them to this a huge gong was installed, the arm of which was struck by the front of the train ! Amazingly the remnants of this fitting are still there in the tunnel.

I’ve visited here before, but couldn’t gain access. This time it was easy. The portal is my all time favourite tunnel portal, with a superb gothic feel to it.


Inside the tunnel it’s immediately obvious that the tunnel is very wet, and not too stable. At the bottom of each vent shaft are large piles of debris. More worrying are large sheets of brickwork that have peeled off the walls in 2 ton slices.


After the closure of the tunnel in 1955 it was used by both Cambridge and Leeds universities for the development of wire strain guages to measure the effects of lunar and stellar gravity on the earth. This finished, but around 1974 it was also used by Leeds University as a site for seismographs. I’d thought that all evidence of this usage would have gone, but it seems not. There are the remains of twisted racks of Dexion that could have housed the instruments, and large poly sheet covered wooden frames that presumably shielded the instruments from the water dripping down.

There are also some large pits (aside from the central drainage pits) one of which holds a very large concrete block. I guess this was part of the strain guage setup as it’s certainly not railway related.


As a bit of a treat there are still some tracks in one place.


The deepest of the vent shafts would be 380ft straight up! Unfortunately without a waterproof case for a camera there's no way of getting a pic.

At its southern end the tunnel emerges into the Strines Cutting, which has been deeply flooded for years. The flooding extends into the tunnel, making it dangerous to walk further due to the deep pits hidden under the surface.


The flooding starts at a point maybe one mile into the tunnel, it's difficult to judge distances underground. All the rubbish must have drifted in from the cutting end.


Snapped my companion setting up his vent shaft shot.

Recently it was suggested that the tunnel be filled with inert waste due to the treacherous nature of the shafts and tunnel itself. Rightly or wrongly it was decided that this would be too expensive so it has been left as it is.