4. Lapal (or Lappal) Tunnel
The 3,795 yard Lapal Tunnel was built as part of Dudley No2 Canal in 1798, connecting the industrial area around Dudley with the Worcester Birmingham Canal without crossing the waters of the neighbouring Birmingham Canal Navigations.
Western Portal - now buried
This tunnel was built to minimalist proportions offering a very tight seven feet nine inches at the waterline and six feet of headroom. This confined channel resulted in slow passages and transit by legging or poling took up to three hours.
During its construction its brick lining was supplied by the ill-fated Lapal Brick Tunnel Company of California, near the southern portal and owned by one John Garlick. He installed various brick making machines, but none would work satisfactorily. Being a very impulsive and quick tempered man he became enraged at the constant failure to get good results and one Sunday morning he was found attacking a recently installed machine with a sledge hammer, breaking it to pieces. Shades of Basil Fawlty come to mind and unsurprisingly his limited company failed within a year and Garlick was declared bankrupt.
In an attempt to address the slow speed of passage caused by the narrow dimensions an innovative steam engine and scoop wheel was introduced in 1841 at the Halesowen end along with stop gates. This allowed the owners to alter water levels at either end and help flush boats through.
Exploring the Lapal collapse
Following extensive mining subsidence a number of collapses occurred and the tunnel was finally closed in 1917. Whilst the Lapal is lost, its dimensions are mirrored in the much shorter 563 yard Gosty Hill Tunnel, also on the Dudley No2 Canal. Progress through its restricted channel is nothing short of glacial, especially when towing, and provides an interesting insight into the frustrations of passing the much longer Lapal Tunnel a few miles to the south.
Today the Lapal tunnel remains collapsed in several locations, its portals covered over and is bisected by an M5 cutting, with no prospect of reopening. However, restoration plans are in hand for the Dudley No2, but this time using a flight of locks supported by back pumps.
All photos are sourced from the internet