A GROUP campaigning to turn Queensbury Tunnel into a cycle path has revealed the stories of ten men who died during the tunnel’s construction 140 years ago.

Queensbury Tunnel Society is leading a campaign to stop the structure from being abandoned, in the hope it can form a centrepiece of a future cycling network connecting Bradford, Halifax and Keighley.

As part of that campaign, the society has highlighted the sacrifice made by men who helped build the tunnel in the 1870s.


About 600 labourers played a part in building the tunnel, whilst a further 100 worked in the cuttings at either end.

Of the ten men confirmed to have been killed, three died as a result of explosions, two were crushed, one fell down a shaft, one was struck by a falling skip, one drowned, one was hit on the head by a collapsing roof support, and one was run over.

Many other workers sustained serious injuries, said the society.

The oldest to die was John Swire, a 44-year-old profoundly deaf man who had only returned to work on the morning of his death after being hurt in another accident. His right leg was severed below the knee when wagons ran over it.

The youngest casualty was 25-year-old Frederick Goulding who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time - standing between a wagon and a roof support when a large rock smashed into the wagon, causing Goulding to get crushed.

On June 17 1877, a month after his wedding, a worker called Captain Pickles was killed instantly when a piece of half-ton timber that had been dislodged by a trolley hit him on the head. He started the job days after his wedding.

Norah McWilliam, of Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “It’s easy just to see Queensbury Tunnel as a black hole in the ground. But, beyond its physical form, it has a compelling story to tell and many men made appalling sacrifices to drive it through the hill. As well as those killed, others suffered injuries that would change their lives forever.

“Of course none of this is a reason to save the tunnel at any price. But, in our view, it does impose a moral obligation to robustly examine all possible options before deciding to destroy it. We owe those men a huge debt because they gave their lives in pursuit of the great social revolution brought by the railways in the 19th century.”

To back the society’s campaign, sign its petition on change.org (tiny.cc/QueensburyTunnel). More details on the ten men who died are at www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/reports/).