Standedge Tunnel

Its a Sunday afternoon in the Peak District. Gone, NickUK and myself are lying low in the darkness. The torches have been switched off. The tripods weighed down. The exposures and apertures are set. 
Most people who made their way into the peaks on this Sunday are either walking in the hills or escaping the rain in a warm pub. But not us.

The wind is slowly picking up. The two light beams are coming closer and the rails are starting to vibrate. 
Maybe another few seconds. 

Suddenly the noise of the engine and the squeaking of the wheels is reaching us. The three shutters are opened in anticipation of the two seconds that we have been waiting for some time.
A last push of air and the train passes the small arch we are hiding in. A few seconds later and we can see the rear lights leaving the tunnel at some speed. 

The adrenaline is slowly dropping again and we realise that a few hundred tonnes of steel have just moved past us at a distance of just a meter. 
The shutters are closed and we compare our pictures. The tripods are moved and we wait for the next train.

We are in the standedge tunnels, sat next to the only one left that is still in operation. 
The standedge tunnels are four parallel tunnels that run beneath the Pennines. They consist of two disused rail tunnels, followed by a canal tunnel and the live tunnel. It is 5,029 metres (16,499 ft) long and 194 metres (636 ft) underground at the deepest point, making it the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in the UK.

The canal tunnel was the first of the four constructed. Work begun in 1794 supervised by a young and inexperienced surveyor. 123 thousand pounds and 17 years later, in 1811, the canal was opened and was used by an average of 40 boats a day. In 1921 the last boat passed through the tunnel and in 1944 it was officially closed, as parts of it had collapsed and blocked the way. In 2001 a 5 million pound restoration project was started and since 2009 boats can pass through again.

 The three rail tunnels were built in 1848, 1871 and 1894, with the last one still in operation today. The construction of the tunnels was eased through the canal as the stone could be driven out on boats.  The rail tunnels are level for their whole length providing the only section of level track on the line where water troughs could be installed to provide steam locomotives with fresh water supplies without the requirement for the train to stop.
The two smaller rail tunnels are still maintained and are used as an emergency escape for the train tunnel as well as an emergency route for ambulances and fire trucks.

We walked the tunnel back and forth. The 10km took us a good 4 hours and were an amazing end to a very eventful weekend. Shouts to NickUK and Gone for the awesome time and the scary moments in the car.

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