IN the 1950s, our waterways were full of commercial traffic and lined with mills and factories.

One of the major products of industrial East Lancashire - coal - would often be taken by barge down the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to be delivered to power stations, foundries and various boiler houses which powered our manufacturing outlets.

This is the era which was captured in photographs by a group of sea cadets, who ventured from coast to coast via the canals of our own county and into Yorkshire.

Now, their journey has been replicated, to produce a new book which combines images of the fifties with photographs of today, displaying how canal life and townscapes have changed over the last half century.

Both journeys began in the Ribble estuary and followed the Leeds and Liverpool and then the Aire and Calder navigation to the Humber. On the trip through East Lancashire, the sea cadets took this shot of coal carrying barges at Whitebirk Power station, which opened in 1921 and closed 55 years later, in 1976.

Much of the area’s coal was brought along the canal from Bank Hall Colliery in Burnley.

Further along the canal the sea cadets arrived in Burnley, which, in 1958, depended on its heavy industry, coal and iron, as well as textiles.

This first photo shows coal carrying barges linked together, close to Gannow tunnel and our second shows the embankment, known locally as ‘the Straight Mile’. It carries the canal 60ft above ground level and today is still Britain’s most outstanding canal embankment and one of the wonders of the waterways.

The scene of the Odeon and the Yorkshire Hotel, which stood where the Keirby roundabout now manages town centre traffic, has altered completely from that day in 1958 when the sea cadets noted that the film Gideon’s Day was showing at the cinema.

Navigating through Pendle, the next major port of call, is Foulridge tunnel which, at 1,640 yards long, took six years to build.

The work ran drastically over budget and the stone walling collapsed three times during construction.

Here, double ended steam tugs were used to pull boats from one end to the other between 1880 and 1937.

They were unique to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and meant the vessels did not have to turn round at either end.

In 1912, as local stories go, a cow called Buttercup fell in to the water at the entrance to the tunnel and struggled though to the other end before being hauled out and revived with a brandy from the nearby Hole in the Wall pub.

Today a traffic light system operates the access to the tunnel.

n From Lancashire to Yorkshire by Canal, published by Amberley and written by Andrew Hemmings and David Swidenbank, with 180 illustrations, is priced at £14.99.