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Wapping and Crown Street Tunnels
Edge Hill, Liverpool, UK
Wapping and Crown Street Tunnels
associated engineer
George Stephenson
Charles Blacker Vignoles
Joseph Locke
date  1826 - 1829, opened 15th September 1830
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Tunnel  |  reference  SJ364898
ICE reference number  HEW 953
photo  donation
Wapping Tunnel (centre tunnel in the picture) was the first railway tunnel in the world to be driven under a metropolis. The Crown Street Passenger Tunnel (right) was the first to be cable-hauled. They are both at the western end of the original Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the world’s first inter-city line (opened 1830).
Detailed plans for the double-track Wapping Tunnel were made after July 1826 by George Stephenson, Charles Blacker Vignoles and Joseph Locke. Thomas Langridge Gooch was the draughtsman. It was designed to take rail traffic up the hill to Liverpool from Wapping Dock.
Work began in October 1826 with the digging of vertical shafts — the 'eyes' (used to raise the spoil from the main tunnelling works). Shafts were dug at around 61m intervals down to the projected floor level of the tunnel, about 6m south of the tunnel line. Shaft lengths varied from 6m to 27m, depending on terrain variations. Horizontal shafts, 2.4m square, were then dug from the eyes. Tunnelling proper began in January 1827.
At first, Vignoles was in charge of construction but he resigned on 2nd February after Locke found an error in his setting out. Locke then took over construction supervision.
Wapping Tunnel is 1.9km long and has a cross-section of 6.7m by 4.8m high. It was completed before the railway was ready and it was decided to open the tunnel to the public as a tourist attraction, so the walls were whitewashed and gas lighting installed. When the railway service commenced, the cars were were cable-hauled through the tunnel as part of the cable-hauled incline section of the line. Locomotive haulage began in May 1896. Trains ceased to use the tunnel altogether in 1965, when the Park Lane goods yard closed.
The Crown Street Passenger Tunnel (on the right in the photograph) is much shorter at 266m. It measures 4.5m across and is 3.65m high. It too brings trains up an incline, to the passenger terminal at Crown Street. The whole incline was cable-hauled, including the part through the tunnel. Trains departing from Crown Street proceeded by gravity through the tunnel to the 12m deep Edge Hill cutting, where the static engine house that worked the cables was located. The Crown Street terminus was abandoned in 1836 when the new terminus opened at Lime Street.
The third, larger diameter tunnel in the picture is the Crown Street Goods Tunnel, constructed a little later (1846-7). It led up to the original goods yard at Crown Street. It's larger because it was designed for trains with a locomotive.
Research: PD
"The Liverpool & Manchester Railway Project 1821-1831"
by R.E. Carlson
David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1969
"In search of Wapping Tunnel, Liverpool" by J.S. Webster
Civil Engineering Technician, Vol 5, No 2, June 1977, 11-12
"Rocket 150 — Official Handbook" British Rail, 1980
reference sources   CEH North

Wapping and Crown Street Tunnels