The cycle route continues with its history trail as the Longendale Trail is abruptly ended by the gates of the closed three mile long Woodhead Tunnel. The Tunnel, which passes 200 feet beneath the Pennines, once connected the Dunford Bridge Railway Station (at the other end of the tunnel) with the station here at Woodhead. And it still does in a way.
The original tunnel, built in 1845 with the cost of many lives, was joined by a second tunnel in 1852, but both were eventually replaced by a single electrified tunnel in 1954. During the 1840's and 1850's, the navvies ('navvy' comes from 'navigator' - and at the time of the building of the original tunnels there were over a quarter of a million navvies in Britain) constructing the original tunnel lived in unsanitary stone and mud huts, and supplies had to be brought over the moors to them. Much later, in the next phase of tunnel work in the 1950's, the 'Tunnel Tigers' as they were now known had a prefabricated village including a cinema, bar, and their own hospital. But the death tolls were high, and many died in collapsing tunnels - simply getting the job done fast was the goal.
Yet the building of the railway tunnels was a great technical accomplishment and provided the first rail link between Manchester and Sheffield. For many years it provided for the transportation of goods, coal and other materials between Lancashire and Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, as well offering a convenient way for people to travel between the cities. But as the railways were partly to blame for the demise of the canals, so did road transportation lead to the passing of the railway. In 1970, passenger trains were withdrawn, and on the 17th of July, 1981, freight transportation ended too.
Inside the tunnel