This article is a contribution from our recent collaboration with pupils at Cedar Mount Academy. 

Manchester is filled with many mysteries and abandoned areas. Anywhere you go there are many abandoned buildings, parks, churches and, most interestingly: train lines. Manchester has achieved a wide variety of accomplishments with its trains throughout its history. The most famous was when the first Intercity train was built in 1830. But Manchester also holds some dark secrets in relation to its trains.

The Woodhead Tunnels were a collection of three train tunnels located in Woodhead, the Peak District. Built in 1837 and 1853, these tunnels connected Manchester to other cities on the opposite side of the Peaks. At the time of its construction it was the longest tunnel in the world, reaching in at more than 3 miles long (4.8km). Its main purpose was to transport passengers and cargo to help with the industrial revolution. Much of the cargo carried by the trains was cotton, which had been manufactured in Manchester and was then transported to other parts of the country. Workers building these tunnels would likely not have had much of an idea about where this cotton came from and how it was produced. 

However, in 1970, public transport through the tunnels was stopped, and soon after, in 1981, the tunnels were permanently closed. There are many factors as to why this tunnel was closed down, but the main reason was due to the two tunnels (Woodhead tunnels 1 & 2) being extremely narrow and small. This affected many workers and travellers as it gave people feelings of claustrophobia, causing a lot of them to flee from the tunnels. Tunnels were also very dark with no lighting, due the difficulty of placing lanterns inside and having to maintain them. There were also some cases where workers were killed within these tunnels during their construction. The poor working conditions meant that many workers had to endure the claustrophobic tunnels as well as its petrifying darkness.

Fortunately, after the tunnels’ closure, they were bought by the national grid and are now used as a way to carry power lines.

There are many abandoned trains tunnels in the outskirts of Manchester, but how about right underneath the city? During the Cold War, lots of underground tunnels and bunkers were built around Manchester, of which many are now abandoned. The name of this project was “Scheme 567”. They began to construct these tunnels during the Cold War and planned to build a whole set of tunnels connecting London, Birmingham, and Manchester. However, after the Cold War ended, many of the tunnels and bunkers were disused. Working conditions during the construction of these tunnels was not the best and it was quite a dangerous job. Many of the workers were people of a lower class and were forced to work. Most of the workers were reluctant to help as during the Cold War many people had feared a nuclear fallout.

Sadly, there isn’t much information on “Scheme 567”, as Manchester Council likes to keep the majority of this information confidential. But after all these years of abandonment there are still tunnels underneath Manchester. One of which is directly under St Peter’s square.