Netherton Tunnel Branch Canal
Netherton Tunnel Branch Canal, in the English West Midlands, is part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, (BCN). It was constructed at a 453 ft elevation, the Wednesbury or Birmingham level; it has no locks. The total length of the branch canal is 2.4 miles (3.9 km) and the canal tunnel is 9,081 feet (2,768 m) long. Netherton Tunnel was the last canal tunnel to be built in Britain during the Canal Age. The first sod was turned by Lord Ward on 31 December 1855 and the canal opened on 20 August 1858, providing a waterway connection between the Black Country towns of Netherton and Tipton. It was built to relieve the bottle neck of the adjacent Dudley Tunnel which is very narrow, has alternating blocks of one-way working; and had waiting times of eight hours or more, and sometimes several days. The Netherton tunnel was built with a width of 27 feet (8.2 m) to allow two-way working of narrowboats; and is brick lined throughout. It has towpaths running through it, one each side, which enabled horse-drawn narrowboats to be pulled through it. Chainage (distance) markers are still visible on the Eastern wall. The tunnel was fitted, from the start, with gas lighting over the towpaths, though this was later converted to electricity and it is now unlit. The towpaths were closed to members of the public in early 2007 but from October walkers are once again allowed to access the eastern towpath of the tunnel as a through route; gates have placed on both towpaths but only those on the western towpath are kept locked and can only be unlocked by authorised personnel.Today (July 2009) the northern gate on the western path is open and unlockable and the one on the southern gate disappeared altogether. Nevertheless the western towpath is very derelict with long and deep potholes full of water. The air vents that run along the line of the tunnel and provide ventilation, and a shaft of light into the canal, are know by the locals as "pepper pots", because of their shape. They are brick lined and the openings are covered by an iron frame or grill. The wide bore and good ventilation mean that boats using the tunnel today are allowed to use the power of their internal combustion engines, which is prohibited in the narrower Dudley Tunnel. The tunnel cost £302,000 as opposed to the £238,000 estimate prior to construction. The main reason for the project being overbudget was due to the extra works necessitated by the condition of the ground through which they tunnel passes. In 1983, the British Waterways Board had 80 yards (73.2 m) of the brick invert replaced with concrete as a result of the invert rising sufficiently to impede navigation.

The canal runs south-west from the BCN New Main Line at Dudley Port Junction and under the Old Main Line at Tividale Aqueduct. The northern mouth of the tunnel is near Dudley Road West, close to Tipton's border with Oldbury. An air-vent stands in the middle of Aston Road; another stands between two houses in Regent Road, both in the Tividale Hall estate near Dudley. The southern mouth of the tunnel is in Warrens Hall Park on the border of Dudley and Rowley Regis - the Bumble Hole and Cobb's Engine House are nearby. The Bumble Hole is a landscaped man made lake on the site of a former clay pit. The Dudley No. 2 Canal and the Boshboil Canal Arm are joined at Windmill End Junction. The Boshboil Arm was once part of a loop of the original Dudley Canal which went around Bumble Hole. This loop ceased to be part of the main line when a more direct line was cut. The loop became severed into two arms as a result of subsidence. The northern arm is the Boshboil Arm the southern is the Bumble Hole Branch.


Netherton Tunnel Branch Canal (distances in miles)

0 BCN - Dudley Port Junction

Groveland Bridge

Tividale Aqueduct

0.5 Northern tunnel portal

Aston Road air vent

Regent Road air vent

Approx. tunnel mid-point

Southern tunnel portal

Cobb's Engine Pumphouse

Cobb's Engine Bridge

2.4 Bushboil Branch, Dudley Canal - Windmill End Junction Point Coordinates (links to map & photo sources) Dudley Port Junction 52°31′19″N 2°02′36″W  /  52.52204°N 2.04331°W  / 52.52204; -2.04331  ( Dudley Port Junction) Groveland Bridge (Tipton Road, A457) 52°31′03″N 2°02′51″W  /  52.51758°N 2.04760°W  / 52.51758; -2.04760  ( Groveland Bridge) Tividale Aqueduct (Old BCN Main Line) 52°30′59″N 2°02′54″W  /  52.51640°N 2.04843°W  / 52.51640; -2.04843  ( Tividale Aqueduct) Northern tunnel portal 52°30′55″N 2°02′58″W  /  52.51534°N 2.04948°W  / 52.51534; -2.04948  ( Northern tunnel portal) Aston Road air vent 52°30′31″N 2°03′19″W  /  52.50850°N 2.05518°W  / 52.50850; -2.05518  ( Aston Road air vent) Regent Road air vent 52°30′25″N 2°03′25″W  /  52.50697°N 2.05708°W  / 52.50697; -2.05708  ( Regent Road air vent) Coordinates: 52°30′25″N 2°03′25″W  /  52.50697°N 2.05708°W  / 52.50697; -2.05708  ( Regent Road air vent) Approx. tunnel mid-point 52°30′16″N 2°03′34″W  /  52.50435°N 2.05932°W  / 52.50435; -2.05932  ( Approx. tunnel mid-point) Southern tunnel portal 52°29′36″N 2°04′09″W  /  52.49335°N 2.06916°W  / 52.49335; -2.06916  ( Southern tunnel portal) Windmill End Junction 52°29′30″N 2°04′13″W  /  52.49157°N 2.07019°W  / 52.49157; -2.07019  ( Windmill End Junction)