Category: Newspapers (Page 1 of 3)

The New Floating Railway

Some ingenious gentleman, who seem to think that capital does not get sunk rapidly enough in Railways, has proposed a floating line, which will of course if carried out, be exposed to more than the ordinary fluctuations to which these things are liable. The schema may for well enough when matters go on smoothly, but when NEPTUNE has a bill – or a bill-ow – to take up, and BOREAS may be raising the wind to help him out, we fear the traffic on the floating line would be entirely swamped, to say nothing of the difficulty the engineers might experience in taking their levels.

From Punch, or the London Charivari, volume XV

See also: Railway Mania

Obituary: The Atmospheric Railway

Died last week, the Atmospheric Railway. Its death is supposed to have been hastened by the want of breath. When the tube was opened, it was found quite gone. Its loss is deeply regretted by a large circle of India-rubber buffers. A stone will be erected to mark the melancholy fact, with the following epitaph : – “The earth hath bubbles, and this is one of them.”

From Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. XV

Death Blow of the Atmospheric Railway

From the Weekly National Intelligencer, October 7, 1848

The atmospheric railway has probably received its death-blow by the abandonment of that mode of traction by the South Devon Railway Company, after having spent £300,000 in experimenting upon it. The system is found to be too expensive. It costs £108 to earn £100! No more need be said about it. Punch places it in his obituary of this week.

Source: Weekly national intelligencer. [volume] (Washington [D.C.]), 07 Oct. 1848. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Note on the Death of Isambard Kingdom Brunel

From The Penny Press, October 7, 1859

We have already announced the death of the distinguished engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. His father, Mark Isambard Brunel, came from the vicinity of Rouen, and his architectural achievements exist both in his native country and the United States. In 1793 fled for political reasons from France to New York, where he undertook the exploration and survey of some lands for a French land company, and in 1794 commenced the survey of the Champlain Canal. He sent in a design for the houses of Congress, and was much employed as an engineer and Architect in New York, both by the State and by private individuals. After a stay of a few years he returned to Europe, and visited England. In London, the famous Thames Tunnel remains an enduring monument of his engineering skill. The son appears to have inherited the genius of his parent. Born at Portsmouth, England, and educated at Caen, in Normandy, he early embraced his father’s profession, and when but little over twenty years of age, was resident engineer of the Thames Tunnel. Here he had several narrow escapes from drowning, from the breaking in of the water. After the tunnel was finished, Brunel planned the Great Western Railway of England, and superintended its construction. He also built the Great Western steamer, which at one time created such a sensation, though in every respect it was as far surpassed by subsequently built steamers, as they are by the builder’s last work the Great Eastern. Later, Mr. Brunel conducted the works of the Tuscan portion of the Sardinian railways, and other foreign railways, and during the Crimean war he had the entire charge of the establishment and organizing the Renkioi hospitals on the Dardanelles. He was, at the time of his death, Vice-President of the Institution of Engineers and of the Society of Art, fellow and member of the Council of the Royal Society, and member of many other learned societies. He also received the Cross of the Legion of Honor from Louis Philippe.

Source: The penny press. [volume] (Cincinnati [Ohio]), 07 Oct. 1859. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Proposed Tunnel Under Dover Straits

From The Evening Telegraph, January 27, 1869

The project of tunnelling {sic] a passage from England to France under Dover Straits is still talked of in England. The London Daily News of December 25 says of it:

“The plan of tunnelling beneath the Straits is not altogether a new one. Probably the success with which the Mont Cenis tunnel has been worked through the solid backbone of the Alpine range has attracted new attention to a scheme which on the face of it seems far from being impracticable. It must be remembered, however, that the difficulties to be encountered in tunnelling beneath the Straits of Dover are of a totally different character from those which the French engineers have had to meet with in tunnelling through the Alps The soil to be traversed in the former instance would probably be the ‘second chalk formation,’ which may be assumed to extend in an unbroken course from the place of its uprising in England to the place in which it makes its appearance in France. It need hardly be said that the difficulty of perforating this soil would be very much less than that of perforating the hard and complicated material which has been encountered by the French engineers. On the other hand, however, there are dangers and difficulties in tunnelling under the Straits which more than make up for the comparative ease with which the mere process of perforation could be pursued. It needs but a slight acquaintance with the history of the construction of the Thames Tunnel to enable one to recognize the fact that the workers in the suggested tunnel beneath the Straits would be exposed to enormous risks from the effect of the pressure of the sea upon the stratum through which they would have to work. Again and again the water burst into the Thames Tunnel, and drove the workmen out. Brunel himself nearly lost his life during one of these irruptions. Now, if this happened beneath the Thames, what might be looked for from the effects of the enormous pressure of the sea to say nothing of the increased danger during heavy storms ? and then the workmen in the Thames Tunnel had but a comparatively short distance to run, when they were threatened with an irruption of water, if such an event threatened workmen engaged nine or ten miles from either outlet of the suggested tunnel, escape would be hopeless. In a short time the whole length 0f the tunnel would be filled with the waters of the sea, and the labors of years would be rendered useless.

“We urge these considerations, however, not as deprecating the suggested attempt. Doubtless the dangers which we have pointed out may be surmounted by a judicious choice of the stratum to be worked through, and by cautious progress – defenses being continually prepared around every fresh portion tunnelled. The experience pained during the tunnelling of the Thames shows that much can be done in this way; and we also have every reason to believe that once a tunnel was constructed it would be as safe as the Thames Tunnel now is. There are difficulties in the way of ventilation, but such difficulties as these have to be dealt with (and have been most successfully dealt with in the construction of the Mont Cenis Tunnel). Three eminent engineers, Messrs. Hawkshaw, Brunfees, and Lowe, have pronounced the plan to be feasible; and the estimated cost – nine millions sterling – though large, is still reasonable when the value of the tunnel is considered.

“Certainly the idea is at once a bold and an attractive one. Nature’s barriers are being, one after another, overcome. Now a mountain is tunnelled, then an isthmus is cut through, next the Falls of Niagara are spanned by a railway bridge. Hitherto, however, sea-straits have not been successfully attacked, except where – as in the case of the Menai Straits – they are of very moderate extent. When voyagers can pass to France without encountering the terrors of sea-sickness, a veritable triumph will have been achieved over nature.

Source: The evening telegraph. [volume] (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 27 Jan. 1869. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>


The Railroad Engineer

From The Aegis & Intelligencer, March 30, 1866

One of our railroad engineers, some years since, was running an express train of ten well filled cars. It was in the night and a very dark night too. His train was behind time, he was putting the engine to the utmost speed of which it was capable, in order to reach a certain point at the proper hour, he was running on a straight and level hack, and at this unusual velocity, when a conviction struck him that he must stop. “A something seemed to tell me,” he said, “that, to go on was dangerous, and that I must stop if I would save life.

I looked back at my train and it was all right. I strained my eyes and peered into the darkness, and could see no signal of danger, nor anything betokening danger, and there in the daytime I could have seen five miles. I listened to the working of my engine, tried the water, looked at the scales, and all was right.— I tried to laugh myself out of what I then considered a foolish fear; but like Banquo’s ghost, it would not down at my bidding, but grew stronger in its hold upon me. I thought of the ridicule I would have heaped upon me if I did stop but it was of no avail.

The conviction—for by this time it had ripened into a conviction—that I must stop, grew stronger, and I resolved to stop. I shut oil, blew the whistle for brakes accordingly. I came to a dead halt, got out and went ahead a little without saying anything to anybody what was the matter. I had a lamp in my hand and had gone about sixty feet, when I saw what convinced me that premonitions are sometimes possible. I dropped the lantern from my nervous grasp, and sat down on the track utterly unable to stand.”

He goes on to tell us that there he found that some one had drawn a spike which had long fastened a switch rail, and opened a switch which had always been kept locked, which led on to a track —only about one hundred and fifty feet long which terminated in a stone quarry! “Here it was wide open, and had I not obeyed my premonitory warning—call it what you will—l should have run into it, and at tho end of the track, only about ten rods long, my heavy engine and train moving at the rate of forty-five miles an hour, would have come into collision with a solid wall of rock eighteen feet high.

Source: The aegis & intelligencer. [volume] (Bel Air, Md.), 30 March 1866. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Mining Under the Sea

From The Aegis & Intelligencer, March 30, 1866

Some of the coal and copper mines of England are at this time being worked in what appears to he a most singularly dangerous manner. They extend out four hundred yards (near a quarter of a mile) under the bed of the sea, and, in some places two hundred and sixty feet below the level. The beating of the waves against the shores and rocks is distinctly audible, even in calm weather when the explorer gets near the sea level. When storms arise the roar is terrible, and the boldest of men are at times afraid to work lest the sea should break through and fill the mine. Nor is this fear without great cause, for the salt water actually oozes through, and drips, impregnated with the copper ore, into the mine. Three feet of rock is about all that is left, on an average, between the mine and the sea in many galleries. A day’s work in the wrong place with the pickaxe might cause the destruction of the whole works. Indeed, in stormy weather, the salt water jets and spurts through in thin continuous streams. Plugs, sometimes the thickness of a man s leg, alone standing between the miner and the sea to keep it out. — No accident has ever yet happened, but those who remember the Thames Tunnel, twice or thrice filled with water, must feel that some day an accident is almost certain to happen. If it should, the  damage must be immense, and the loss of life great and certain. The veins of copper, however, are rich, and men will follow them to their uttermost, the proprietors of the mines feeling that were an invasion of the water to take place they could slop the leak, as Mr. Brunel did that of the Thames Tunnel, by sinking bags of clay over the hole, and then pumping out the water with their enormous engines.

The consequences, had I done so, can neither be imagined or described, but they could by no possibility have been otherwise than fatally horrible. No one can here doubt of a special interposition of God by which from calamity most terrible, hundreds of lives were wonderfully spared —Home Monthly

Source: The aegis & intelligencer. [volume] (Bel Air, Md.), 30 March 1866. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Thames Tunnel Sold to East London Railway Company

From The Aegis & Intelligencer, September 03, 1869

The Thames Tunnel — The Thames Tunnel, which was opened on August 2d, 1848, was closed on July 21, having thus been a public footway for a period of twenty-six years, less thirteen days. It has been purchased for £200,000. (one-third of its cost) by the East London Railway Company, which line will be completed as far as Wapping in a short time. The new Thames Subway from Tower Hill to Bermondsey (Mr. Barlow’s scheme) commenced on February 16th of the present year, is proceeding very rapidly, and, if all goes well will be opened for traffic in three months time. Its cost will be under £200,000. The works of the old Thames Tunnel were commenced in 1852. Physical and financial difficulties delayed the opening for eighteen years.

Source: The aegis & intelligencer. [volume] (Bel Air, Md.), 03 Sept. 1869. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Biographical Sketch: Mr. Brunel, FRS

From The Illustrated London News, April 3, 1858, Volume 32, January – June 1858

MR. BRUNEL is the son of the eminent man known to the world as the author of the most marvelous of engineering works – the Thames Tunnel. He was born at Portsmouth, in the year 1806, while his father was engaged in fulfilling a contract with the Government for the construction of a machine, or rather a series of machines, for the manufacture of block pulleys by steam. While quite young the lad, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was taken to France for the purpose of being educated at the Collage of Henry IV, at Caen. At the conclusion of his studies, he underwent a course of training for the duties of an engineer, and returned to England in time to assist in the greatest of his father’s works – the Thames Tunnel. The young man took an active part in the undertaking, and shared in the many disappointments, the personal danger, and the final triumph of that remarkable work. From this time forward young Brunel made progression in his profession. He joined his father in his well-known experiments for the purpose of making a motive power of carbonic gas. To a certain extent the mechanical difficulties were overcome, but the cost of the machinery and difficulties of its use prevented its introduction as a substitute for steam. This investigation was an anxious labor of ten years’ duration, both father and son devoting their abilities to the task. In the meantime the subject of our Sketch was studying railway engineering, the construction of locomotives, and other matters appertaining to steam navigation. In 1888 he was appointed engineer-in-chief of the Great Western Railway, and has remained so ever since. The whole of the tunnels, bridges, and other works on this line, and others in continuation of the western route, were constructed under the immediate superintendence of Mr. Brunel. . Both bridges and tunnels were more than ordinarily difficult, on account of the broad gauge system adopted by the directors. The gauge was recommend by Mr. Brunel, but was stoutly opposed by many eminent and scientific men. The Great Western directors, however, supported their own engineer. In his report of 1838 Mr. Brunel represented that the position of the Great Western line was such that it could have no connection with any other of the man lines of railway; that it had the exclusive command of its special district; that no inconvenience would result from the diversity of gauge. as that district entirely isolated from the others, and further, that no extension of the line towards the north would be required. It was even anticipated by Mr . Brunel that, if other railways were formed, their exclusion from a connection with the Great Western line by the difference of gauge would be of advantage to the company, by securing for it a monopoly of the traffic to and from South Wales and the west of England for all time to come. The Great Western Railway was thus constructed to be independent of all other railways, and to stand apart from them in solitary grandeur. The engineer received the warm encomiums of the directors and proprietors, who considered it a bold and original thing to plant a railway which was to be more than two feet broader than any other, requiring works and plant on corresponding scale, without regard to past example and experience. Provincial patriotism was also evoked in favour of the measure; and it was anticipated that Bristol would rival, if not far outstrip, Liverpool in its railway accommodation and facilities. In Mr. Smiles’ admirable work, “The Life of George Stephenson,” we find an excellent history of this “battle of the gauges,” more especially Mr. Stephenson’s opposition to the views of Mr. Brunel on the subject. He held that the gauge which had already been adopted on the northern lines was amply sufficient for the public accommodation; that it was wide enough to admit of the most effective management of the machinery of the locomotive; that it was much safer to work over when the curves of the railway were at all sharp; that it was far more economical, taking into consideration the paying weight carried in proportion to the dead weight in the shape of rolling stock; that it would cost considerably less to maintain, in consequence of of the less weight to bear and smaller tear and wear of materials – not to mention the much smaller capital that was required to form a line upon the narrow gauge than upon the broad, the latter requiring more land, wider bridges and tunnels, broader embankments and viaducts, heavier rails, chairs, and sleepers, and more expensive engines and carriages. But his principal objection was, that, by forming the Great Western line on an exceptional gauge, the proprietors of the undertaking were virtually closing it against the public traffic from other parts of the kingdom, and rendering it a mere provincial railway or byway instead of a part of a great national system. He would not believe with Mr. Brunel that railways were to be confined to particular districts, but he held that, before long, they must become the universal highroad an well as byroads for both  goods and passengers;  and that any break in the continuity of the system by a difference of gauge would seriously detract from those great public advantages which their general adoption might reasonably be expected to confer. Mr. Stephenson said most emphatically, “It won’t do; it won’t pay: ” and circumstances have proved that he was far from being in the wrong.

However opinions may differ on the value of Mr. Brunel’s scheme with respect to the width of the gauge, they all agree in commending the general engineering works on the Great Western line. Some of the bridges are remarkable for their strength and beauty; among others may be mentioned those at Maidenhead and Chepstow, and especially the splendid construction just thrown across the Tamar.

Mr. Brunel took part in the floating end raising of the Britannia Tubular Bridge, and rendered the same friendly co-operation to Mr. Robert Stephenson in that gigantic undertaking as the latter gentleman did to Mr. Brunel in preparing the works to launch the Leviathan. Mr. Brunel has been engaged on many other works of importance. He has been employed to construct some of the most important docks on the English coast, and has conducted the engineering works of several foreign railways. The Charing-cross Suspension Bridge is a recent work of Mr. Brunel. It crosses the widest part of the Thames above London-bridge, and has the largest span in England. For lightness and elegance it is most deservedly admired.

Mr. Brunel has been F.R.S. since 1830, and member of the Council since 1844. He in Chevalier of the Legion of Honour; Vice-President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and of the Society of Arts; and is also a Fellow of the Astronomical, Geological, Geographical, and other learned Societies.

Our Portrait engraved from an admirable photograph taken by Mr. Mayall, and included in that gentleman’s interesting exhibition at the corner of Argyll-place, Regent-street.

engraving of Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Report of the Continuation of the Thames Tunnel after an Irruption

From the Morning Herald, October 6, 1837

The Thames Tunnel –  We are glad to learn that the interruption which the progress of this great national undertaking has met with is likely to be of much shorter duration than could have possibly been anticipated. Mr. Brunel has been incessant and indefatigable in his exertions to remedy the damage done, and his success has been so great that hopes, now amounting to certainty, are entertained that the works will be resumed, without danger or inconvenience, in the course of a very short time. On Saturday it was ascertained that the aperture had been completely closed, and on the pumps being applied it was found that little or no water obtained access to the shaft of the tunnel ; but as some danger was apprehended if the water were taken off until the clay newly deposited in the aperture had in some degree became consolidated, the pumping was suspended till the following day. On Sunday the pumping was resumed, and it was very soon that the engine had complete command over the water, which was reduced to nine feet in the shaft. Yesterday the water still was reduced to four fret in the shaft, and there is no doubt but the water could at once be drawn off without difficulty if that were thought desirable. Mr. Brunel, however, with great prudence, postpones the drawing off of the whole of the water till the clay becomes consolidated, and has acquired a proper consistence.

Source: Morning herald. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]), 06 Oct. 1837. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

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