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Cowlairs Tunnel

(Queen Street High Level Tunnel)

A double-track railway tunnel which forms the approach to Queen Street Station in Glasgow, Cowlairs Tunnel (or Queen Street High Level Tunnel) was built in 1842 by John Miller (1805-83) to take the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway beneath the Forth and Clyde Canal. The Canal company had insisted the railway pass below rather than on a bridge over their canal, giving rise to a steep gradient known as the Cowlairs Incline, which extends beyond the tunnel. This 1-in-46 incline required trains to be pulled by a continuous wire cable until 1908, after which banking engines were used until more powerful diesel engines became available in the late 1960s. The tunnel now passes beneath the M8 Motorway which, in part, followed the route of the former canal.

Cowlairs Tunnel now extends to 920m (3018 feet) and was originally formed of three parts; namely Bell's Park Tunnel (248m / 816 feet), Asylum Tunnel (267m / 876 feet) and Broomhill Tunnel (435m / 1428 feet), but the southern end of the Bell's Park Tunnel was cut back to the north of Cathedral Street 1878-80. There were once two air shafts, at Calgary Street and Cowcaddens Road, both now covered. The tunnel was temporarily closed in 2016 while its floor was lowered to give space for overhead wiring permitting electrification of the line as part of the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme.

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