Four parallel tunnels make up the Standedge Tunnels in northern England. These four tunnels are comprised of three railway tunnels, and one canal tunnel. All of the tunnels are linked by cross tunnels to provide access and escape routes for the people who use them. Perhaps most importantly is the historic significance of the tunnels. The canal tunnel was built in 1811, and the railway tunnels, particularly the central tunnel, was completed in 1848 by the London and Northwestern Railway. All of the tunnels provided important transportation routes.
The canal tunnel is known as the highest, deepest, and longest tunnel int he area. Amazingly, it lies 636 feet underground. Once the tunnel was completed after 17 years of man hours, it provided a through route. The canal tunnel is wide enough for a narrow boat to pass. Interestingly, engineers created wider areas throughout the tunnel to provide passing lanes for people. This contributed to a safer route for people to use. Today, a lock chain is used to prevent two-way traffic from becoming a problem. The last boat to use it was a commercial boat in 1921. This tunnel was officially closed in 1944, and it deteriorated as a result. Restoration efforts have enabled people to use it once again.
Three railway tunnels run parallel to the canal tunnel, and to each other. The 1848 tunnel is the most well-known of them all. It became notorious for its intense traffic during peak travel hours. It has a length of 3 miles, and it is level throughout its length. This is important because water troughs were built along the sides to provide steam locomotives with water supplies without having to stop for any length of time. The busy nature of the tunnel required the construction of the parallel tunnel in 1871. Both of these tunnels became important business routes.
Although all 3 railway tunnels are still maintained, the 1894 tunnel is the only one that remains in use. Perhaps most importantly, this tunnel serves as an escape route for emergency situations. It provides an emergency escape for important rescue personnel such as police, ambulance drivers, and fire fighters. Consider this importance during the height of traffic in northern England. The ability to quickly get from one area of England to the other, could mean the difference between life and death. Connector tunnels make this feat possible.
The visitor centre is located at the Marsden end of the tunnel. It contains fascinating information regarding the history of the tunnels. Exhibitions highlight past and present uses. The exhibitions also detail the restoration efforts and methods used by builders over time. People who visit this centre will learn plenty about the history of transportation. During the 1800's it took much longer to construct safe and usable tunnels for people to use. Thirty-minute boat trips are booked to give visitors a first-hand glimpse into what travelers of the past used to experience during the height of their usage.