The wind had dropped and the stove was behaving perfectly with its new chimney hat as we left Birmingham City, destination The Dudley Black Country Museum. We left The Birmingham Level Main Line at Smethwick Locks and climbed up to the old Wolverhampton Level. Almost immediately the Engine Branch left us on the left and crossed the Main Line on an Aqueduct. The main line ran parallel with us but in a 40ft deep cutting. Apparently at the time this cut was being digging dug, it was the biggest earthworks in the world and it still very impressive.
The M5 provided a roof over us as we crossed the Main Line via the Stewart Aqueduct, eventually we left the shadow of the motorway and carried on through a mix of industry and housing estates, when the phone rang and it was Pete the RCR engineer who said he had our alternator and if we could get to the south end of the Netherton Tunnel, he could fix it that evening.
It’s a strange experience when you cross over another canal via an aqueduct, but even stranger when you look down and see the entrance to the tunnel that you will soon be travelling through. The Netherton Tunnel is on the Main Line level so we did a U turn and retraced our steps to Bradeshall Junction, dropped down three locks, did two left hand 90deg. turns and was soon entering the tunnel. A big tunnel, 3027yds., long, wide enough for two boats to pass, a tow path on each side, gas lighting, in fact it was the last canal tunnel to be built. April 1856 work started and completion was in two years and seven months and the maximum error of alignment was one inch, an amazing achievement even by today’s standards.
Pete was waiting for us at the other end. He had promised a safe and attractive mooring for the night and the surrounding of Windmill End were exactly that. Forty minutes later and the new alternator was fitted and producing a fat healthy charge, fortunately the old one had been intermittingly producing enough charge to keep the batteries topped up, but we could relax now and turn the TV on.