Report (Permission Visit) - Standedge Canal Tunnel by boat 2009 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report (Permission Visit) Standedge Canal Tunnel by boat 2009


28DL Member
28DL Member
I won't give a historical preamble here as it has all been done on previous Standedge threads. But I don't think there is a documented passage through the canal tunnel by boat on this site. So here goes.

My boat, Dreamcatcher, was steered through the tunnel by my good friend Martin Clark who runs the excellent Pennine waterways Website Pennine Waterways - Canals of the South Pennines - UK canal information, history, photographs, virtual cruise

Although he was involved in the restoration of the Huddersfield canals and had been through the tunnel twice before, he had never steered a boat through. At that time I was severely disabled, and as he had helped me through nearly all the Huddersfield locks, as a reward I handed him the tiller. He did well, only clouting one overhang, which is pretty good compared with the experience of others.

British Waterways, as was (now Canal & River Trust), insist on one of their staff being on board each boat that passes through the tunnel. The cabin top must be cleared of anything high such as chimneys. Canvas cratch covers are wound off the front corners of the cabin top as this is where the boat might hit a projection. Hard hats and life-jackets must be worn (though the water is only about 4ft deep at most).

It is by no means a straight passage. Apart from a slight chicane in the middle, the boat has to be wriggled around several rocky projections. Of course the longer the boat the harder this is. We were 57ft, which wasn't too bad.

The passage took 50 minutes.

A tunnel light on the front of the boat is of course compulsory, but we also had a hand-held 12v searchlight on the back of the boat, that showed up the tunnel features and enabled some hand-held photography:


Waiting in the rain to enter at Diggle


Reinforced concrete cover, where the railway crosses


Then into brick lined sections....


.....that keep changing profile...


.... again and again.....


... and again


A BW van accompanied us on the parallel old railway tunnel, connected by these passageways.


Rock faced sections. Varying profiles and projections. Very beautiful in places


Our guide knew what kind of rock each section had been hewn out of


Imagine the work that went into hacking all of this out of solid rock by hand. Drill markings can be seen in some places


Projections needed steering around


Another cross-passage


Concrete lining


We asked the BW guide what this old beam was for. He said they don't know, so they left it there just in case!


Another cross-passage. The van driver shouted, "You OK?" We were.


A spectacular rock lined section. A geologists dream?


The active railway line above and to our left. Sometimes trains can be seen passing.


Ladder to another cross-passage


More brick-lined profiles


Rock to be avoided.... almost!


The light at the end of the tunnel


Power cables above


A low bit


Nearly there


Well done Martin! Steered all the way through with only a couple of minor touches, and paint is sacrificial, especially on Dreamcatcher.


Tunnel end. Its not raining this side..... and then to the pub. Good job well done. Cheers Martin.

Hope you enjoyed the (entirely legal) trip.



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Nice pics, really interesting. Funny, I was reading Terry Darlington's "Narrow Dog To Wigan Pier" where he describes going through the tunnel, he kept crashing the boat and had to let his wife steer.


Oxygen Thief

Staff member
I think I just worked out the picture from Fudge's report...

All four tunnels are linked by cross-tunnels or adits at strategic locations within the tunnels. The adits allowed the railway tunnels to be built much more quickly by allowing 'waste spoil'(sic) to be removed by boat and reducing the need for shafts for construction.
Of the railway tunnels, only the tunnel built in 1894 is currently used for rail traffic. Closed in 1943, the canal tunnel was re-opened in May 2001


Staff member
This might explain it OT


Basically two dis-used train tunnels run parallel to the right of the canal tunnel, hence the van driving through

The pic you queried is one of the connecting drainage tunnels

On the left of the canal tunnel is a live rail line which still runs today


Regular User
Canal tunnel is the highest, deepest and longest in the UK. And the cost of travelling the 3 mile tunnel from Marsden to Greenfield via train is the most expensive bit of track in the country... about £8 for that journey.

The Franconian

28DL Regular User
Regular User
I like this place, I want to go here: Everybody reading this, send me some money please.
Legging through the tunnel, horses over the hill

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