No One Can Hear You Scream! 8th October

….. to Marsden Pipe Bridge

On our way in

Straight away we had a request from Trevor at the helm to adjust our tunnel lamp, to point it straight ahead. Mick did so, then we didn’t hear another word from Trevor for almost two hours.

Differing bricks and arches

Last time we’d both been on the back, our volunteer/guide gave us a fascinating running commentary as well as guidance to Mick at the helm. So much history and interesting facts was passed onto us. Sitting at the stern meant there was a limited amount you could see though. My photos were pants!

Sooty brickwork from the days of steam trains

This time sat in the bow I had my camera on handheld intelligent night auto mode along with the camera on my phone, both fully charged. Our volunteer Trevor, had turned out to be the author of a book all about The Standedge Tunnels (available from here), he’d become a member of the Huddersfield Canal Society in 1976 so if anyone knew their stuff about the tunnels he did. Just a big big shame there was about 50ft between us all. We did however buy a copy off him which he signed for us before entering the tunnel.


There are four tunnels in all through the hill, the canal being the first to be built and it was then used to remove the spoil from the construction of the railway tunnels, two of which are now disused. Each tunnel is connected, walkways cross above the canal, and the support van drives through another alongside.

Rocky and misty

The railway tunnel crosses over the canal twice through the hill and when a train passes mist collects in front of you which then gets dragged away with the motion of the train, quite eerie!

At the western end the tunnel was extended when the last railway tunnel was built, so you start off in a brick arch, then a flat roofed section.


All the way through different surfaces surround you, it’s like being in a 1970’s DR Who set at times, except this isn’t made from polystyrene!


Brick arches.

Bare rock that was blasted away, the drill holes for the dynamite quite visible towards the eastern end.

Arch meets rock

A mixture of rock and brick, sometimes brick above, sometimes below.

Spraycrete and rock

Then the creepier sections where concrete has been sprayed onto the bare rock to help stabilise it. This is very Dr Who or Star Trek, Captain Kirk would have set his phaser to stun! The spraycrete was done during the restoration of the canal.

At times the tunnel twisted in front of us, dug out from the ends and from the bottom of shafts the tunnel went off course several times. There are now several S bends

Rock bolts on the ceiling

Other places big bolts have been drilled into the rock face to hold it all back. The ends painted yellow so you can see them better, or know when one of them is going to scrape down your cabin side! There are numerous places where the sides of the tunnel look to jut out further then the gunnels of your boat!

I believe there are four wide sections, passing places. These tend to have wider brick arches helping to support the roof line. When boats were originally legged through the tunnel, it took four hours, this is where the boats going in different directions could pass. But the boatmen meeting elsewhere in the tunnels would refuse to go backwards to the next passing place, so two way traffic was abandoned. Official leggers were employed with traffic going in one direction for four hours before the direction changed. This then led to queues to get down locks at either end of the tunnel.

NO exit

Numerous gaps go off to the sides, some marked as exits, others marked with no exit.

As you approach each of the four adits a security light can be seen on the tunnel roof. Motion activated, the lights come on, a ticking noise can be heard as we passed. Apparently Tunnel Control would be able to tell that we’d passed each adit because of this. However not calling in would mean we didn’t know if there was a problem up ahead.

Walkways from the old rail tunnel to the new

The tunnel was built with quite a few air shafts. None of these can be seen now, well some are around 500ft deep! But you certainly know when you pass under most of them as this is where the water tends to get in. The further east we got the more water cascaded in. Waterproof coats did a good job, but when a flood hits the locker you are sitting on you also need waterproof trousers or better still a swimming costume! I got soaked twice and stood up for the last one, but still I was soaked through to my knickers!

Changes in height

But how was Tilly faring? I was glad we’d kept her confined to our end of the boat. I could see her most of the time and she could see us too.


Well who stole the sun?!

I’m kind of used to bridges stealing it, although I do tend to duck when that happens. Tunnels are worse as they usually time their theft of the sun with me requiring to use shore based facilities, very inconsiderate! Yes I know I can see in the dark but I’d rather not have to when visiting my box.

Rock and arches

Apparently Tom moved this tunnel once, before I came to be second mate. He bumped into it two times, She is quite proud of that. But today they were not where they should have been, I could see them, slacking at the front! They’d left it to Hard Head Tom to move the outside today.

BUMP, scrape, BANG!!! I sat on the floor not wanting to see what Hard Head Tom was doing to the outside, well lets face it I was really the only one who could see everything properly. BANG!!! How many more times!

Can anybody hear me!!!

I screamed at She and Tom to go and sort it all out, but they couldn’t hear me. Maybe I could do something? But black stuff was over the emergency bathroom gap, how was I meant to escape if I needed to!

Brick profile changing

BANG BIFF Scrrrrrrapppe!

In the end I decided that there was nothing I could do but to curl up on the bed and pretend everything was okay. Maybe this was going to be it for the rest of our lives! I certainly didn’t sleep. Who’d be able to sleep with no sun to warm your back and all that noise!

Light at the end? Or the trip boat?

As we approached the last adit I could see the lights from the trip boat ahead, quite a distance off.

Hi John

A torch light was flashed from the adit. John, the volunteer who’d driven through in a van was waiting for us. He informed us that the trip boat was in the tunnel, but we should just keep going.

After at least a year of my life Tom came through the bedroom, he had a hard head to put on too. Gradually the sun fought it’s way back into the cabin pushing away the tunnel. I could tell Tom was back moving everything, it got quieter and lighter.

Handing the equipment over

Mick had walked through for the very last part of the tunnel. This was so that the boat could be stopped at the tunnel portal to hand all the safety equipment to shore with ease. A plastic crate of first aid, life jackets and a large fire extinguisher were handed ashore. Just a case of retrieving the light from the bow.

Back in the sunlight

We pulled in to where the little shuttle boat moors, it had just headed to the top of the locks to drop people off near the station.


Time to thank Trevor who admitted he’d bumped Oleanna a couple of times! There was nothing to see on the port side, but then he did favour starboard side in the tunnel.

No smile just yet

As we pushed off past the visitor centre a train sped past and into the rail tunnel, the sun shone brightly, as much as the tunnel is fascinating it was good to be back in the light.

We pulled in at the top of the locks, the first stretch a touch shallow for us so we hoped that further towards the lock would be better for NB Idleness. A quick check up and down the starboard cabin side of Oleanna, a couple of lines which when rubbed vanished. Our passage may have been a touch noisy at times, but other than a couple of new scrapes on the gunnels there was not one scratch. Thank you Trevor for looking after Oleanna, maybe I should have repainted the grab rails earlier in the year after all.

Soggy bum!

Time to check on Tilly, get changed and have lunch. All was fine with our little thug, who within half an hour of arriving used her on board facilities. Well I couldn’t hold on any longer and you weren’t letting me out!

This way out!

What a great day. Thank you to all the volunteers who make the passage through the longest, highest, deepest tunnel on the network possible.

0 locks, 3.76 miles, 1 tunnel, 3 miles underground, 1hour 48 minutes, 1 more wonder of the waterways for Oleanna and Tilly, 3 boats, 3 volunteers, 2 crew in the front, 2 soaked boaters, 17 years, 1 screaming cat, 2 nav lights in tact, 2 more scrapes on the gunnels added to the 5678 which were already there.

9 thoughts on “No One Can Hear You Scream! 8th October

  1. davidss2013

    Thank you for a comprehensive set of pictures. To me, they show clearly why CRT don’t let every single boater and partner in there by themselves.
    The first timers, legging it, clearly had either nerves of steel, or a strong fear of appearing ‘weak’ in front of their working colleagues.

    Thanks again.

    1. Pip Post author

      Thank you. Just the thought of legging it through for four hours and then starting back again! We have such an easy life

Comments are closed.