Bowling Tunnel
Bowling Tunnel - - 399627.jpg
Bowling Tunnel south portal
LineCalder Valley line
LocationBowling, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England
Coordinates53°46′12″N 1°44′53″W / 53.770°N 1.748°W / 53.770; -1.748Coordinates: 53°46′12″N 1°44′53″W / 53.770°N 1.748°W / 53.770; -1.748
Opened9 May 1850
OwnerNetwork Rail
Design engineerJohn Hawkshaw
Length1,648 yards (1,507 m)
No. of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Grade1-in-400 (northwards)
Route map

Bowling Tunnel is a railway Tunnel on the Calder Valley line, south of Bradford in West Yorkshire, England. The Tunnel was completed in 1850 after some difficulty in construction, and allowed trains from the south to access the second railway terminus in the town of Bradford. The Tunnel remains open to railway traffic with trains between Halifax and Bradford Interchange using it.


A tunnel through the hill at Bowling was first suggested for a line linking Leeds with Bradford in 1843, however, George Stephenson advised against this line due to the presence of old coal workings in the hill, which would hinder progress and allow water ingress from old mines.[1] A line between Halifax and Bradford, as part of the Manchester & Leeds Railway, was proposed in 1840s and by the time the line was built, it was under the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway.[2]

The contractors for the tunnel, John Moulson & Son, were based at Bowling,[3] and during the construction process, over 3,424,000 cubic feet (97,000 m3) of earth had been removed with ten shafts built downwards to dig the tunnel out.[4][5] The tunnel was completed on 22 March 1850, and three shafts were left in-situ to help vent steam from the tunnel, the deepest shaft being 65 feet (20 m) deep.[6] Two deaths were attributed to the building of the tunnel, with the local press marvelling that more were not killed, such was the undertaking.[5] The engineer for the project was John Hawkshaw.[4]

On 19 April 1850, the government inspector travelled over the line through the tunnel and he approved the construction for opening on 1 May 1850,[7] However, the first revenue earning traffic through the tunnel to Bradford Drake Street (later renamed Exchange), didn't go through until 9 May 1850. Until the tunnel was opened, railway traffic terminated at Low Moor, and passengers were conveyed to Bradford in a horse-drawn carriage. One statistic that emerged at the time was that the tunnel was long enough to hold over 128,000 people, more than lived in Bradford at that time.[5] Just outside of the northern portal, was Bowling Junction station, which provided access to the Leeds, Bradford and Halifax's railway line to Leeds via Stanningley.[8] The station closed in December 1951 and the line remained open for trains avoiding the reversal at Bradford Interchange until September 1985, however, it became a long siding to Bowling Junction with no access to Laisterdyke railway station at its eastern end.[9][10]

The tunnel is 1,648 yards (1,507 m) (or 73 chains (4,800 ft; 1,500 m)) long and is orientated in a north/south direction.[11][12] The gradient in the tunnel falls at 1-in-400 northwards, towards Bradford Interchange station.[13] In 1973, the M606 motorway was opened, which has its terminal roundabout on top of Bowling Tunnel.[14][15]



  1. ^ "Railway communications with Bradford". Bradford Observer. No. 505. Column C. 9 November 1843. p. 4. OCLC 17641939.
  2. ^ Bairstow, Martin (2001). The Manchester & Leeds Railway : the Calder Valley line. Leeds: Martin Bairstow. p. 28. ISBN 1871944228.
  3. ^ Cudworth, William (1891). Histories of Bolton and Bowling. Bradford: T. Brear & Co. p. 260. OCLC 05836599.
  4. ^ a b "Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway". Bradford Observer. No. 744. 7 September 1848. p. 5. OCLC 17641939.
  5. ^ a b c "Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway". Bradford Observer. No. 847. 16 May 1850. p. 8. OCLC 17641939.
  6. ^ "Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway". Bradford Observer. No. 846. Column D. 9 May 1850. p. 5. OCLC 17641939.
  7. ^ Delane, John Thadeus, ed. (22 April 1850). "Railway intelligence - Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway". The Times. No. 20469. Column E. p. 8. ISSN 0140-0460.
  8. ^ "Railway Intelligence". The Times. No. 21047. Column D. 25 February 1852. p. 8. ISSN 0140-0460.
  9. ^ Burgess, Neil (2014). The lost railways of Yorkshire's West Riding. The central section : Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Wakefield. Catrine: Stenlake. p. 92. ISBN 9781840336573.
  10. ^ Bairstow, Martin (1999). Great Northern railway in the West Riding. Farsley: Bairstow. pp. 15, 94. ISBN 1-871944-19-8.
  11. ^ Kelman, Leanne (2020). Brailsford, Martyn (ed.). Railway Track Diagrams; Book 2 - Eastern. Frome: Trackmaps. 41. ISBN 978-1-9996271-3-3.
  12. ^ Joy 1984, p. 79.
  13. ^ Pixton, Bob (2012). Manchester to Leeds. Hersham: Ian Allan. p. 62. ISBN 978-0711035232.
  14. ^ Sims, Frank Alexander (2009). "4: England - North Eastern". In McCoubrey, William James (ed.). The motorway achievement. London: Thomas Telford. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-7277-3198-2.
  15. ^ "Bowling". Retrieved 29 March 2022. Use the slider to toggle between older mapping and satellite imagery
  16. ^ "Accident Returns: Extract for the Accident at Bowling Tunnel on 6th May 1859 :: The Railways Archive". Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  17. ^ Delane, John Thadeus, ed. (13 September 1859). "Reports On Railway Accidents". The Times. No. 23410. Column B. p. 5. ISSN 0140-0460.
  18. ^ "Accident Returns: Extract for the Accident at Bowling Tunnel on 7th March 1867" (PDF). p. 18. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  19. ^ Delane, John Thadeus, ed. (9 March 1867). "Collision in a railway tunnel". The Times. No. 25754. Column E. p. 12. ISSN 0140-0460.
  20. ^ "Accident Returns: Extract for the Accident at Bowling Tunnel on 24th October 1901 :: The Railways Archive". Retrieved 29 March 2022.