I regret being 3000km away.
When you mention Brunel to most people, they think of the one with the funny name – Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A few folks will know that his father Marc Isambard Brunel was the first famous engineering Brunel, but not many will know that Isambard's own son, Henry Marc Brunel, was also an engineer and finished some of Isambard’s …
Other engineering feats designed by Mr Brunel
1) the GWR bridge over the thames at Maidenhead. Many respected engineers thought that it would fall down
2) Box Tunnel on the GWR. The sun is reported to rise and shine through the tunnel on Brunel's Birthday.
3) The GWR itself. Railway Locos at the time (circa 1840) were not very powerful. The London & Birmingham Railway had to haul its trains up the incline when leaving Euston. Brunel engineered the GWR to have very little in the way of gradients. That and the large boilers that were possible with the broad gauge (7ft 1/4in) allowed the GWR to run trains at speeds that other railways could only dream about.
IMHO, Brunel was one of, if not the greatest Enginner in thr world. Railways, Bridges, Tunnels and even Ships. A true genius.
The one over the Tamar is pretty cool, too. First I knew about it I was on a train for Plymouth and suddenly we were crossing it. 'King Alfred Bridge'?
Really enjoyed Rotherhithe having read all about it before hand. Shame I couldn't walk through it. Went back and forth a few times on the tube. Almost makes you want to work for TfL. And what with all the abandoned stations down there.
Indeed; it's the Royal Albert Bridge, and a very clever bit of design it is too.
Essentially, it's a suspension bridge that doesn't need anchors.
Normally, in a suspension design, you need to anchor the suspension chains/cables to some very solid ground but with the Tamar crossing this would have lead to an unfeasibly long (for the time) single span (because suspension bridges with multiple spans are a bit tricky). So instead of using outlying anchors to counter the inward pull of the suspension chains upon the towers, the towers are kept from falling inwards by the outward force of the upper bowed tubes. Neat stuff.
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Box Tunnel on the GWR
Have a look in to the conditions under which it was built. IKB was in a hurry, so rather than just starting from both ends, he dropped shafts down from the hill and then started tunnelling along from the bottom of these. As it took some while to get every one up and down the shaft, they would blast the face of the tunnel with the miners cowering at the other end of the tunnel. In excess of one hundred men died in the construction of that tunnel alone.
The GWR itself
Over long and meandering (the Great Way Round)? I would also credit most of the locomotive achievement in the early history of the railway to Daniel Gooch (Locomotive Superintendent at the age of twenty one!) who managed to knock the original locomotives in to a decent level of reliability and usefulness. Brunel was the man who thought an Atmospheric Railway was a good idea!
Don't get me wrong, he was a fantastic civil engineer (and something the size of the Great Eastern more or less qualifies as civil engineering).
I seem to recall that London Underground (as they were known at the time) were going to use their favorite brand of spay on concrete to repair the tunnel many years ago. Fortunately, someone mentioned to them that perhaps it had some historical significance. LU thought that spray on concrete was the solution to just about every problem.
I was lucky enough to get on the "walk through the tunnels" trip they did when line was closed for extended engineering works. I suspect the last photograph in the article (of random people walking alone the lines) is actually from that event as I have a very similar one myself. I think they have done a pretty good job in the end with a reasonable balance between preservation, exhibition (albeit that you won't really see it from the trains) and waterproofing!
There is also a slightly nerdy thrill from walking along tracks through a tunnel and occasionally stepping on the live rail...
When you think of the feats of engineering carried out by the Brunels was all done with pencil and paper and at best a slide rule or 'arithmometer'.
No mathematical modeling, CAD or even a calculator with the four basics.
What is even better, a lot of their stuff is still standing and working.
> No mathematical modeling, CAD or even a calculator with the four basics.
> What is even better, a lot of their stuff is still standing and working.
Yes, but we tend to forget the stuff that isn't still standing - and there was a lot of it. Back then, stuff was largely done by "rule of thumb" and trial and error - build something, if it doesn't fall down then it's (probably) strong enough. Went to a talk not long ago about cathedral building - there was a lot of error, and many fell down (towers especially) or needed some serious intervention to prevent collapse.
Still, back then it was "real engineering", seat of the pants stuff, and the engineers actually involved in the work.
"Yes, but we tend to forget the stuff that isn't still standing"
A very good point i.e. Thomas Bouch's Tay Bridge.
In fairness, the quality of the castings weren't up to spec, and it was poorly maintained, but the design was still marginal; the massive over-engineering of the Forth Railway Bridge was, in part, a reaction to the marginal design of Bouch's Tay Bridge.
Back then, stuff was largely done by "rule of thumb" and trial and error
We have this guy largely to thank for the end of that approach:
He is also responsible for the rather fantastic motto, "Facts not Opinions," one which is still applicable, and which should be applied, to so many things today.
You could always visit the birthplace of the Great Eastern (Isle of Dogs), Rotherhithe (shame can't do that via tunnel), now keep going round to Greenwich (doh) and up to Morden Wharf & Enderby's Wharf - not a bad stroll through tech history. [Something should be done at Enderby's Wharf, where those first transatlantic cables were made]
And if you are more interested in ships - or, more importantly, "landmarks" named for ships, there's always the Great Eastern, the afore-mentioned Mayflower, the Gipsy Moth, the Cutty Sark. ...
ok, so i might perhaps be a local and ever-so-slightly biased, but we have a decent amount of history around here :-)
I think Enderby's Wharf is at the site of the current Alcatel facility (near the Blackwall Tunnel south entrance). When I worked there (a couple of decades ago when it was still STC) a lot of the cable handling equipment was still there although cable hadn't been made on that site for quite some time. Things may have changed since then, of course...
Politicians, meet engineer. Engineer, meet the politicians. You must learn to speak in monosyllables and say everything at least three times to the politicians. Also, be wary of news reporters. Even the friendly ones will prove themselves to be ignoramuses and your personal enemy.
Politicians: Do try to stay awake and pay close attention to the engineer.
I remember breaking ground on this back in 1975 when working for the Brunel Exhibition Rotherhithe through CSV. Two of us a shovel and a sledgehammer working a derelict site. Didn't make much of an impact and annoyed neighbours on a Sunday morning but found interesting hoards of illicit goods buried under rubble on the site.
Another "must see" for anyone visiting London with an interest in engineering is the Kirkaldy Testing Museum in Southwark Street. The main feature of the museum is the (still functioning) test machine which takes up most of the ground floor.
The testing museum marks a change in approach from "seat of the pants" guesstimates of material strength to proper engineering testing.
I think the author missed out the most important aspect of the Great Eastern history especially for the El Reg. readership I would have thought.
The Great Eastern may never have performed the function that it was originally built for and the author leaves off the telling in a fashion that might lead one to think it's history was a failure but the ship was the only vessel of its day large enough to accommodate all the cable required to lay the first Transatlantic Telegraph cable (or at least one that worked)
Far from being a failure the ship performed admirably in its role as cable layer and no other ship could have handled the sheer quantity of heavily armoured cable required to complete the link. If it wasn't for IKB and the Great Eastern the telegraph link between America and GB would have taken years longer to complete as there was no other comparable vessel at the time.
...there is an amazing decorative brick and clay tunnel lining with integral water management. They left one bay when they covered the rest so you can still get a bit of a sense of what it looked like if you peer in from the platform end.
I was fortunate to go through on a trip organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers in the early 1990s just before it was coated, and it was spectacular.
I went on the Brunel walking (and boat) tour last year. As an American fan of the Brunels, it was a great tour. The guide was very informative and we got to learn a bit about the tunnel, bridges, and boats.
The museum has some fascinating artifacts, but given the importance of the Brunels, it is smaller than they deserve (but the location is very appropriate).
Re. GWR bridge over the thames at Maidenhead - this is thought to be the bridge feature in the painting 'Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway' by JMW Turner. And yes, it is lovely.
Went on a tour (of sorts) of the Thames Tunnel a few years ago - it involved, as well as a spoken presentation on the platform at one end, sitting on a train that went through the tunnel very slowly while all the lights were on. (Many anoraks were present). Museum excellent too, well worth a visit.
Been a fan of the Brunels since being knee high to a short thing - enjoyed the article, great to see them getting more exposure.
I worked a winter season (late 1970's) at the Mayflower Pub, living upstairs. This revitalised museum will require a visit next time in London. I usually revisit the Mayflower each time for a pint and lunch. You should see the old cellars of the Mayflower, the only real original bit as pub was hit by bomb in WW2 and rebuilt, hence normal ceiling heights. Cleaner of pub at the time used to man one of the local AkAk guns in WW2. She had many stories to tell at morning tea time. Quite open about how much 'hanky panky' actually went on!
Coal certainly had been found in Australia. There was a settlement called Coal River (now Newcastle) on what had been called Coal River (now known as the Hunter River)
1796 Informal accounts reach Sydney of the reserves of coal at ‘Coal River’.
1797 Lt Shortland and his crew enter Coal River and confirm the coal resources.
1801 Formal identification of the great potential of the coal reserves and the river. First brief attempt to set up a coal mining camp.
1804 Formation of a permanent convict/military outpost to mine coal, harvest timber and prepare lime. A light beacon and gun emplacement built on the southern headland. Nobbys Island seen as a useful place for confinement. Aboriginal-European encounters.
1839 End of era of government-controlled coal mining and beginning of private enterprise mining by the Australian Agricultural Company.
by the 1850s the AACoy was exporting coal to the American west coast.
...and in case anybody wonders I am an 'anorak' and the coal railways of Necastle(on Hunter) are my 'thing'.
Museum added to short list of things I want to visit London for.
I think they also started investigation into decompression sickness - as the tunnels were pressurised, a lot of navvies got decompression sickness (aka 'the bends') although at the time nobody knew what it was. The only thing they could do was get drunk after work to ease the pain, and hence where the myth of drunken Irish navvies comes from.
A bit of a story here:
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