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Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:21 am
by munki

Welcome, Dear Readers, to the fourth of our ‘Highly Irregular Features’.

The fantastic photos on this feature are by Jonathan Turner. For more of Jonathan’s work, see
Many thanks also to Ian from GNER (a true Tunnelologist & expert who should get posting on here. We need your expertise!), the staff of Leeds City Station for taking our request seriously, & thanks to Charlotte & Chris from the BBC for continuing coverage & interest.

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:22 am
by munki

These features are falling into a bit of a pattern now… the long weeks of tentative phonecalls, silences, gentle persuasion, ending with a morning of hurried calls. “We’re on for today…”. The torches, the sensible shoes, the call to the Cllr’s office to make sure they don’t want to come with us, the rendez-vous point.

This is the first time, though, that we have been told in advance to bring hard-hats & high-vis jackets!

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:29 am
by munki
The thread ‘Tunnels from City Station’ is one of the most popular on SecretLeeds with, at this moment, 8,148 views. But with more rumours than truth…
Tunnels for transporting dangerous animals to the zoo.
Tunnels for the Lord Mayor to travel from the Town Hall to the Queen’s Hotel.
Subterranean toilets.
The mill-goit.
Half finished subway stations…
For this feature, the SecretLeeds Team (this time, Ian, Jonathan, Chris, Charlotte & Munki) risk darkness, drowning (ha!) Weil’s disease, & giant rats to try & uncover more evidence of these tunnels.

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:30 am
by munki

Noon on a bright sunny June day, we rendez-vous on the concourse of City Station, get our H&S briefing, walk down to the Dark Arches. Most of you will have walked across the bridge to where Granary Wharfe used to be & looked to your left where the Aire runs under the station. This time, we get the chance to climb over the railings, down a ladder on to the narrow walkway, & through the locked gate.

It was very, very dark down there! Jonathan has done a fantastic job with the pictures, which give the lie to how dark the Dark Arches really are. Ian produces a MILLION & A HALF CANDLEPOWER hand-held torch, the ultimate tool for any SecretLeeds-er. One of those is going on my Xmas list.

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:31 am
by munki

The tunnels 80 yards beneath the current City Station, & about the same again underneath what used to be the old Wellington Street Station. The first section, brick-built, was completed in 1869. It was built very quickly, with only four years passing between the granting of parliamentary permission & the opening of the station.

Considering that something like 180,000,000 bricks went into the construction of the station will give you some idea of what an achievement this was.

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:34 am
by munki

The walkway runs south to north along only one tunnel, but to either side of us we see three more of these huge tunnels stretching away into the darkness. These are truly huge constructions, & they give a very eerie feeling, like being in a cathedral underground.

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:37 am
by munki

Half way into the darkness, the tunnels change from brick to masonry, marking the divide between the ‘new’ City Station, of 1869, & the older Wellington Street station in stone. Does anyone know when Wellington Street Station was completed???

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:38 am
by munki

So, there are tunnels that run away from the Station which we cannot access. This one heads towards the west. In the nineteenth century, the arches were used as storerooms. One of these areas was used by Watson and Sons, soap manufacturers. In the early hours of the morning on 13th January 1892, a fire broke out in Watson's warehouse, igniting around 1,700 tons of highly flammable resin, tallow and oil, the raw materials of soap.

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:39 am
by munki

The ferocity of the fire caused the supports holding up part of the station to give way. As this view (taken from shows, a significant amount of track and most of platforms 1, 2 and 3 collapsed. In the centre of the view are a number of burnt out waggons. These were attached to a long line of carriages when they caught on fire. The burning wagons were cut loose and shunted into the hole in a bid to halt the progress of the flames.

Posted: Thu 14 Jun, 2007 10:40 am
by munki

This area, to the north of the tunnels, appears to have been used for part of the signalling system above. There are switching boxes all over the floor. They are cast iron & look like they might have said Leeds, with a date on them, but they have been covered in bitchumen to keep the electricity away from the water, so the date cannot be read.

The newer brick wall across the tunnel looks like it had benches along it, & possibly coat hooks set into the beam of wood across the wall. Would signalmen actually have had their offices down here in the dark? Come on railway enthusiasts, let us know the technical details!