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This is a former waggonway tunnel built between 1839 and 1842 as a convenient way to transport coal from Leazes Main (Spital Tongue) Colliery to riverside staithes (jetties) for loading onto ships. It avoided the slow and expenssive tranportation of coal by road.
The tunnel was 2.25 miles long and 6 ft 3" wide. Average gradient 1 in 90, allowing the waggons to run to the staith by gravity, in the charge of a brakeman. Empty waggons were hauled back by a rope worked by a stationary steam engine at the colliery.
The engineer was William E. Gillespie.
The pit closed in 1860, and the tunnel abandoned.
In 1939, it was converted into an air-raid shelter to protect hundreds of Newcastle citizens during World War II.
Subsequently most entrances were blocked off. From 1976 part of the tunnel was used as a sewer.
In 2006 there was a plan to reopen part of the tunnel for public access. A 700m (0.4 mile) length of the tunnel at the Ouseburn Valley end of the tunnel has now been restored and opened for guided tours by the Ouseburn Trust. See website.