Painted by J. C. Horsley, R.A.—Engraved by T. O. Barlow
ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL,
ISAMBARD BRUNEL, B.C.L.,
OF LINCOLN’S INN;
CHANCELLOR OF THE DIOCESE OF ELY.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
I have not attempted to describe the events of my father’s life in chronological order beyond the end of Chapter III., which brings down the narrative to the close of 1835, the year in which the Act was obtained for the Great Western Railway.
Chapter IV. contains a general account of my father’s railway works, with the exception of the Bridges, which are described in Chapter VII. The history of the Broad Gauge and of the trial of the Atmospheric System on the South Devon Railway is given in Chapters V. and VI.
Chapters VIII.—XIII. contain an account of my father’s labours for the advancement of Ocean Steam Navigation. It will be noted that these chapters cover the same period as Chapters IV.—VII., namely, from 1835, the year of the commencement of the Great Western Railway and the Great Western Steam-ship, to 1859, the year of his death, in which the Saltash Bridge and the Great Eastern were both completed.
Chapters VII. (on the Bridges) and XIV. (on the Docks) have been written by Mr. William Bell, for many years a member of my father’s engineering staff; and in regard to Chapter V. (on the Broad Gauge), I have to acknowledge assistance rendered me by Mr. William Pole, F.R.S.
I have also printed letters, written to me at my request, relating to various incidents in my father’s life.
The assistance I received in the preparation of the chapters on Steam Navigation from my friend the late Captain Claxton, R.N., has been referred to in the note to p. 234.
I have throughout availed myself of my brother’s professional knowledge.
I have been compelled, in order to bring the work within the compass of a single volume, to omit much that would otherwise have been inserted, and I must therefore be held responsible for the general arrangement of those parts which have been contributed by others, as well as for the chapters which I have written myself.
Lastly, I desire gratefully to thank those friends who, by supplying me with materials and revising the proof sheets, have helped me in my endeavour to make this book, as far as possible, an accurate record of my father’s life, written in the spirit of which he would have approved.
18 Duke Street, Westminster:
List of Reports and Other Original Documents
List of Illustrations
Birth of Mr. Brunel, April 9, 1806—Sir Marc Isambard Brunel—The Block Machinery—Mr. Brunel’s School Life—The Thames Tunnel—Sinking of the Rotherhithe Shaft—Description of the Shield—Extracts from Sir Isambard Brunel’s Journals from the Commencement of the Thames Tunnel to the date of the Second Irruption of the River, January 12, 1828—Note A: The Bourbon Suspension Bridges—Note B: Experiments with Carbonic Acid Gas.
THE CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE
A.D. 1829—1853. ÆTATIS 24—48.
Origin of the Undertaking—The First Competition, November 1829—Description of Mr. Brunel’s Plans—Mr. Telford’s Decision as Umpire—Mr. Telford’s Design—The Second Competition—Mr. Brunel appointed Engineer, March 1831—Commencement of the Works, August 1836—Description of the Design—Abandonment of the Works, 1853—Formation of a New Company and Completion of the Bridge, 1864—Note: The Hungerford Suspension Bridge
EARLY HISTORY OF THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY
A.D. 1833—1835. ÆTATIS 27—30.
Sketch of the History of Railways in England prior to 1833—The Stockton and Darlington—The Liverpool and Manchester—The London and Birmingham—Proposed Railway between London and Bristol—Mr. Brunel appointed Engineer, March 7, 1833—Survey of the Line—Unsuccessful Application to Parliament in 1834—Successful Application in 1835—Reminiscences of Mr. Brunel, 1833-1835—Extract from Mr. Brunel’s Diary, written at the close of 1835
A.D. 1835—1859. ÆTATIS 30—54.
Construction of the Great Western Railway—The Box Tunnel—The Bath and Bristol Stations—The Paddington Station—The Great Western Hotel—Branches and Extensions of the Great Western Railway—The Bristol and Exeter Railway—Railways in Devonshire and Cornwall—Railways to Basingstoke, to Weymouth, and to Salisbury—In South Wales—In Ireland—In Italy—In India—Supervision of Works—Mr. Brunel’s Engineering Staff—His Reputation as a Witness—Reminiscences of Mr. Brunel, 1835-1838
THE BROAD GAUGE
Origin of the Ordinary Gauge of Railways—Adoption by Mr. Brunel of the Broad Gauge on the Great Western Railway—Reasons for its Adoption—The Permanent Way—Reports of Mr. Nicholas Wood and Mr. John Hawkshaw, 1838—Extract from Report of Directors of Great Western Railway Company (December 20, 1838)—Extension of the Broad Gauge System—Break of Gauge—Royal Commission on the Gauge of Railways, 1845—Letter of Mr. Brunel on the Broad Gauge (August 6, 1845)—Gauge Act of 1846—The Mixed Gauge—Report of Railway Commissioners, 1847—Northern Extensions of the Great Western Railway—Advantages of the Broad Gauge—Partial Abandonment of the Broad Gauge
THE ATMOSPHERIC SYSTEM
A.D. 1840—1848. ÆTATIS 35—43.
Preliminary Observations—The South Devon Railway—Description of the Atmospheric System—History of its Introduction prior to 1844—Report by Mr. Brunel, recommending its Adoption on the South Devon Railway (August 19, 1844)—Examination of this Report—Mr. Brunel’s Evidence before the Select Committee on Atmospheric Railways, 1845—History of the Application of the System on the South Devon Railway, 1844-1848—Report on State of Works (August 28, 1847)—Report on Causes of Failure (August 19, 1848)—Abandonment of the System, September 1848—Note: Comparison of Stationary and Locomotive Power
RAILWAY BRIDGES AND VIADUCTS
1. Brickwork and Masonry Bridges—Hanwell Viaduct—Maidenhead Bridge—Flying Bridges—Letter from Mr. Brunel on Bridge Construction (December 30, 1854)—2. Timber Bridges—Sonning Bridge—Bath Bridge—Stonehouse Viaduct—Bourne Viaduct—St. Mary’s Viaduct—Viaducts on the South Devon Railway—Ivy-bridge—Viaducts on the South Wales Railway—Newport—Landore—Viaducts on the Cornwall Railway—St. Pinnock—Viaducts on the West Cornwall and Tavistock Railways—Preservation of Timber—3. Cast-iron Bridges—Letter on Use of Cast Iron (April 18, 1849)—Hanwell Bridge—Experiments on Cast-iron Girders—Extract from Letter to Secretary of Commission on Application of Iron to Railway Structures (March 13, 1848)—4. Wrought-iron Bridges—Girder Bridges—Experiments on Wrought-iron Girder—Opening Bridges—Trussed Bridges—Newport Viaduct—Windsor Bridge—Chepstow Bridge—Method of Sinking the Cylinders—Description of the Main Truss—The Floating Operations—The Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash—The Centre Pier—Description of the Superstructure—The Floating and Raising of the Trusses—Opening of the Bridge by H. R. H. the Prince Consort—Note: Experiments on Matters connected with Bridge Construction
STEAM NAVIGATION. THE GREAT WESTERN STEAM-SHIP
A D. 1835—1847. ÆTATIS 30—42.
Introduction to the Chapters on Steam Navigation—Formation of the Great Western Steam-Ship Company—Commencement of the Building of the Great Western—Report on Selection of the Builders of the Engines (June 18, 1836)—Statements of Dr. Lardner on the probable Failure of a line of Steam-ships between England and America—Voyage of the ‘Great Western’ to London—Completion of the Engines—Her return to Bristol—Fire on Board, and Accident to Mr. Brunel—Voyage to New York—Comparison between the Performances of the ‘Great Western’ and the Sirius—Subsequent History of the Great Western—Note: Dimensions of the Ship and Engines
STEAM NAVIGATION. THE GREAT BRITAIN STEAM-SHIP
A.D. 1838—1847. ÆTATIS 33—42.
Commencement of the building of the ‘Great Britain’—Report on the Engines (June 13, 1839)—Experiments on the Screw Propeller—Its Adoption in the ‘Great Britain’—Completion of the Ship—Her Voyage across the Atlantic—Stranding of the ‘Great Britain’ in Dundrum Bay—Letter to Captain Claxton on the Condition of the ‘Great Britain’ and on the Means to be adopted for saving her (December 10, 1846)—Report to the Directors on the same Subject (December 14, 1846)—Appointment of Captain Claxton to superintend the Execution of Mr. Brunel’s Plans—Letter to Captain Claxton on the Difficulties to be overcome (December 29, 1846)—Report enclosing Captain Claxton’s Account of the Erection of the Breakwater (February 27, 1847)—Report on the Arrangements for Floating off the Ship (May 4, 1847)—Successful Accomplishment of the Floating Operations—Subsequent History of the ‘Great Britain’—Note: Dimensions of the Ship and Engines
STEAM NAVIGATION. INTRODUCTION OF THE SCREW PROPELLER INTO THE ROYAL NAVY.
A.D. 1841—1844. ÆTATIS 36—39.
Appointment of Mr. Brunel to conduct Experiments for the Admiralty with various Forms of the Screw Propeller, April 1841—Trials with the ‘Polyphemus’—Opposition to Mr. Brunel’s Experiments—Trials with the ‘Rattler’, October 1843—October 1844
STEAM NAVIGATION. THE ‘GREAT EASTERN’ STEAM-SHIP, FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE UNDERTAKING TO THE LAUNCH.
A.D. 1851—1857. ÆTATIS 46-52.
Introductory Observations—The Australian Steam Navigation Company—Statement of Mr. Brunel’s Project of a Line of large Ships (June 10, 1852)—Adoption of his Plans by the Eastern Steam Navigation Company—Extract from a Letter describing the Scheme (July 1, 1852)—Letter to J. Scott Russell, Esq., on the Form and Dimensions of the Great Ship (July 13, 1852)—Report on Mode of Proceeding (July 21, 1852)—Report on Enquiries Relating to the Draught and Form of the Vessel (October 6, 1852)—Report on the Proceedings of the Committee appointed to consider Mr. Brunel’s Plans (March 21, 1853)—Tenders invited for the Ship and Engines—Report on Tenders (May 18, 1853)—Preparation of the Contracts and Specifications—Extracts from Mr. Brunel’s Memoranda (A.D. 1852, 1853, 1854)—Letter on his Position and Duties as Engineer of the Company (August 16, 1854)—Letter on an Article in a Newspaper (November 16, 1854)—Report on the Undertaking (February 5, 1855)—Arrangements proposed for obtaining Astronomical Observations—Letter to G. B. Airy, Esq., Astronomer Royal (October 5, 1852)—Appointment of Mr. William Harrison to the Command of the Ship—Memorandum on the Management of the Great Ship (October 1855)—Letter on the Duties of the Chief Engineer (March 19, 1857)—Suspension and Resumption of the Works
STEAM NAVIGATION. THE ‘GREAT EASTERN’ STEAM-SHIP. THE LAUNCH.
A.D. 1857, 1858. ÆTATIS 52.
Determination that the Ship should be launched broadside to the River—And that the Launch should be slow—Extracts from Mr. Brunel’s Report of February 1855—Reasons for the Adoption of Iron Sliding Surfaces—Description of the Ways and Cradles—And of the Motive Power provided for launching the Ship—Memorandum on proposed Arrangements for the Launch (September 26, 1857)—Letter to Captain Harrison on River Tackle (September 30, 1857)—Letter on the Nature of the Operations (October 23, 1857)—Memorandum on general Arrangements and intended Mode of Proceeding (October 30, 1857)—History of the Launch, Nov. 3, 1857 to January 31, 1858—Letter to the Directors (November 26, 1857)—Report and Memorandum on the Launching Operations (December 17, 1857)—Floating the Ship—Note A: Experiments and Observations on Friction—Note B: Letter to W. Froude, Esq. (February 2, 1858)
STEAM NAVIGATION. THE ‘GREAT EASTERN’ STEAM-SHIP. COMPLETION AND SUBSEQUENT HISTORY.
A.D. 1858, 1859. ÆTATIS 52-54.
Preparations for completing the Ship—Formation of the Great Ship Company—Mr. Brunel’s Absence from England—Progress of the Works from his Return to his last Illness—Voyage to Weymouth—Explosion of Water-Heater—Storm at Holyhead—Description of the Ship—Her first Voyage to New York, June 1860—Second Voyage to New York, May 1861—Voyage with Troops to Quebec, June 1861—Fracture of Rudder Head and Destruction of Paddlewheels, September 1861—Voyages in 1862—Accident off Montauk Point, August 27, 1862—Voyages in 1863—Formation of the Great Eastern Steam-Ship Company—Remarks on the History of the ‘Great Eastern’ previous to her Employment in laying Submarine Telegraph Cables—Telegraph Expeditions of 1865 and 1866—French Cable Expedition of 1869—Voyage to Bombay and Aden, 1869, 1870—Concluding Remarks—Note: Dimensions of the Ship and Engines
DOCK AND PIER WORKS.
A.D. 1831—1859. ÆTATIS 26—54.
Monkwearmouth Docks, 1831—Bristol Docks—Floating Harbour, 1832—Proposed Works at Portishead—New Lock at Bristol, 1845—Bristol Dock Gates—Plymouth Great Western Docks, 1847—Briton Ferry Docks, 1851—Brentford Dock, 1856—Pier at Milford Haven, 1857
The Great Exhibition of 1851—The Crystal Palace Water Towers, 1853—Polygonal Rifle, 1852—Gunnery Experiments, 1854—Floating Gun-Carriage, 1854—Renkioi Hospital Buildings, 1855
MR. BRUNEL’S PROFESSIONAL OPINIONS AND PRACTICE.
Scheme of the Chapter—Mr. Brunel’s Position in relation to the Companies of which he was Engineer—Letter on the Direction of Railway Works in Italy (March 4, 1845)—Letter on the Position of Joint Engineer (October 16, 1843)—Letter on the Position of Consulting Engineer (December 30, 1851)—Letter on the Position of the Engineer in relation to the Contractors (May 26, 1854)—Letters on the Position of the Engineer in relation to the Directors (April 15, 1850, December 6, 1851, January 22, 1857)—Mr. Brunel’s Assistants—Letters on Interference of Directors with the Assistant Engineers (January 19, 1842, January 28, 1842, January 12, 1851)—Mr. Brunel’s Pupils—His Relations with other Engineers—Inventors—Letter in reply to an Inventor (September 17, 1847)—Mr. Brunel’s Views as to State Interference—Letter on the Royal Commission on the Application of Iron to Railway Structures (March 13, 1848)—Letter on a Proposal to obtain the Recognition in England of Decorations conferred at the Paris Exhibition of 1855 (February 9, 1856)—Mr. Brunel’s Opinion on the Patent Laws—Memorandum for Evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Patent Laws, 1851—Extract from Observations on the Patent Laws, made by Mr. Brunel at a Meeting of the Society of Arts, March 26, 1856
Reminiscences of Mr. Brunel’s Private Life—Removal to 18 Duke Street, Westminster—His Marriage, 1836—Special Constable in 1848—Mr. Brunel’s Love of Art—His Journey to Italy, 1842—Accident with the Half-Sovereign, 1843—Purchase of Property in Devonshire, 1847—His life at Watcombe—The Launch of the ‘Great Eastern,’ 1857—Mr. Brunel’s Failing Health—Journeys to Switzerland and Egypt, 1858—Letter from Philæ (February 12, 1859)—His last Illness—His Death, September 15, 1859—Funeral—Address of Joseph Locke, Esq., M.P., at the Institution of Civil Engineers, November 8, 1859
Report to the Directors of the Great Western Railway on the Broad Gauge, &c. (August 1838)
Report to the Directors of the Great Western Steam-Ship Company, recommending the Adoption of the Screw Propeller in the ‘Great Britain’ Steam-ship (October 1840)