Sunday, May 04, 2008

Northern England Heritage

Here in Northern England is the cradle of industrialisation. The train line Stockton-Darlington was in 1825 the very first train line for steam traction of passenger trains, and steam power was used in many factories.

The bases of this was the coal which was mined across a wide areas in numerous mines. Nowadays, the mines are almost all closed - only 7 mines are still open. The n the whole area. The National Coal Mining Museum of England, located near Wakefield, is a very interesting remnant from those mines. It is still classified as a working mine, and special safety precautions apply. Miners at this mine now work as tourist guides, and accompany tourist groups when they descend down into the earth.

The lift goes only do a depth of about 100 m. Other mines go up to 2400 m deep. But still, it is quite an experience, to be down there in total darkness, coal around, the danger of Methan gas present, and to hear about the stories from past times and heavy work.

Another interesting site is the tunnel of the Huddersfield Narrows Canal under the Pennines. Completed in 1811, the Standedge Tunnel allowed ships to cross the Pennines, hereby linking the UK East and West Coast. The tunnel oppened again a few years ago, and now tourists can go on a 1/2 h boat ride into the tunnel, or can cross it by themselves on a few days during the week. Takes up to 3 hours to fully cross the mountains, from Yorkshire to Lancashire! The train line from Leeds to Manchester passes near the canal in a parallel tunnel - after its opening in 1845 the canal was no longer important and fell into decline.

And finally there are still steam engines around, to be seen in action once a month. Many of the old factories (mills) have closed down and are either abandoned or torn down. But at the Ellenroad Steam Museum they preserved the central mill steam engine for visitors to look at. Impressive when the big wheel is rotating around fast, and the steam pushes the metal beams back and forth!

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