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156734.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 6:52 am Reply with quote

That's good, it links a number of things together.

156748.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:29 am Reply with quote

Just to go back the the American railroads for a moment:

The 'American type' locomotive was, by far, the most popular and numerous form of locomotive in North America during the 19th century. (It) is characterized by 4 'guiding' or 'pilot' wheels up front, mounted in a swiveling bogie or 'truck' to guide the locomotive safely through curves and over rough track, together with 4 larger 'driving wheels' to propel the engine down the track. ...

This American innovation in locomotive chassis design was utterly vital, both to the operating success and the economic success of early U.S. railroads, whose track was cheaply and quickly built.

American railroad entrepreneurs and investors simply could not afford the very expensive, elaborately laid, and beautifully aligned track typical in Britain - where steam railroads originated. Unless locomotives in the U.S. could run dependably on our necessarily cheap and uneven tracks without frequent derailments, railroads could not have attracted either passengers or freight business. The 'American type' provided the dependability required.

The engineer and inventor, John Jervis, designed the first locomotive to have a swiveling, 4-wheel lead truck. His successful Brother Jonathan of 1832 (originally called the Experiment) set the pattern for such a truck. Experiment tracked wonderfully in sharp curves and when rails were uneven, though it was short on power.

156753.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:44 am Reply with quote

George and Robert Stephenson were responsible for setting the gauge for railway lines, which was fixed by law at 4'8" in 1846. According to What They Don't Tell You About Queen Victoria by Fred Finney:

Eton College forbade the Great Western Railway to build a station at Slough, but the company got round this by having the trains stop there even though there was no station. Tickets were sold in the pub.

Travellers' handbooks advised women to put pins in their mouths to avoid being kissed in the dark when trains went through tunnels.

The first victim of a railway accident was William Huskisson, MP, who was a guest at the inaugural journey of the Liverpool-Manchester railway in 1830. The actress Fanny Kemble relates that he got out of the train and was mown down by an engine which was exhibiting its speed on the other line:
The most active of those in peril sprung back into their seats. Mr Huskisson, less active from the effects of age and ill-health, bewildered too by the frantic cries of 'Stop the engine!' and 'Clear the track!' which resounded on all sides, completely lost his head, looked helplessly to the right and left, and was instantaneously prostrated by the fatal machine, which was dashed down like a thunderbolt upon him …

edited to read "William", not "Charles" Huskisson.

Last edited by Flash on Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:23 am; edited 1 time in total

156754.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:48 am Reply with quote

Did we ever use the first railway murder, from Series D? Seepost 53447

156755.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:56 am Reply with quote

Apparently mentioned on the QI pilot episode:

The first man to be run over by a train, William Huskisson MP, had narrowly survived death some years earlier when a horse fell on him during his honeymoon.


156771.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:21 am Reply with quote

What form of transport was introduced to Britain by Mr GF Train?

A: the tram

George Train, of Boston, introduced the (horse-drawn) tram in 1860. The first track was in Birkenhead, and the following year he built one in London, running down the south side of Bayswater Road from Marble Arch to Porchester Terrace. He was ahead of his time, though; his tracks were taken up only a few months after being laid because in places they stuck up out of the tarmac and obstructed other traffic.

The point of the tram was (and is, I suppose) that steel wheels running on track were more efficient in energy-use terms than the alternatives, so the same horse could pull more people.

156774.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:40 am Reply with quote

Rubbing salt in the wound a bit, the DNB says that:
Huskisson, by nature uncouth and hesitating in his motions, had a peculiar aptitude for accident.

and that he was present at the storming of the Bastille. It doesn't mention the horse falling on him, and in fact I can't find the source for that, though it doesn't seem hard to believe. He married in April 1799.

The statue of him in Liverpool was pulled down by rioters in 1981, apparently in the belief that he was a slave trader.

Molly Cule
156818.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 11:10 am Reply with quote

The Eastgate centre in Harare is built on the same principles as a termite mound.

Harare's newest office complex is said to be the only one in the world to use the same cooling and heating principles as the termite mound.

That's no mean feat. Termite mounds are marvels of engineering. Deep inside, the insects farm a fungus, their only food. It must be kept at exactly 87 degrees, while the temperatures on the African veld outside range from 35 degrees at night to 104 degrees during the day.

They do it by venting breezes in at the base of the mound, down into chambers cooled by wet mud carried up from water tables far below, and up through a flue to the peak. Toiling with the tireless, compulsive work ethic of all ants, they constantly dig new vents and plug old ones to regulate the temperature.

Temperature regulation is a struggle familiar to any architect. Mick Pearce of the Pearce Partnership was given a challenge by Old Mutual, an insurance and real estate conglomerate: build an office block that would be livable with no air-conditioning and almost no heating.

Eastgate, the result, has been open for only nine months, but so far Pearce seems to be succeeding: the complex has been using less than 10 percent of the energy of a conventional building its size. Old Mutual saved $3.5 million on a $36 million building because an air-conditioning plant didn't have to be imported. More important, the savings on electricity are passed along to tenants, so rents are 20 percent lower than in a new building next door.

156886.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 2:32 pm Reply with quote

I can't believe I didn't know this. Is it common knowledge?

This is a picture of 23/24 Leinster Gardens, London W2, from the front:

and this is a picture of the same address from the back:

The early tube trains were drawn by steam engines:

The route of the (underground) line between Paddington and Bayswater (opened in 1868) necessitated the demolition of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, situated on a long, upmarket terrace of five story houses, and it was decided to build a 5ft-thick facade which matched the houses either side of the break.

The ensuing gap behind the facade left a stretch of railway track open to the elements, which proved to be a handy place for passing locomotives to 'vent' off.

According to that site:

A famous hoax in the 1930s saw a cheeky fraudster make a small fortune by selling 10 guinea tickets for a charity ball at Leinster Gardens. It was only when the excited guests - in full evening dress - knocked on the fake door they realised they'd been ripped off!

Picture researchers: let's get our own version of this. Molly, will you make sure they pick this up?

156888.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 3:00 pm Reply with quote

Travellers' handbooks advised women to put pins in their mouths to avoid being kissed in the dark when trains went through tunnels.

I particularly like this bit.

156907.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 4:38 pm Reply with quote

It's a big problem even to this day.

Back on the Tube, the Metropolitan line was the world's first urban underground passenger railway (there had been lots of railways in mines, of course), and it carried 40,000 passengers on its first day of operation, 10th Jan 1863. By 1880 it was carrying 40 million passengers a year. Other lines were built, and by the turn of the century it was all a bit of a kerfuffle (cue ironic titter) until an American named Charles Yerkes bought up six of the lines and a couple of tram routes and the London General Bus Company, created 'the Combine' and issued Oyster Cards (all true except for the Oyster Cards).

Only 45% of the Underground system is actually underground.

London Underground prices are the highest in the world, especially if you don't have an Oyster card; a single-stop journey costs £4, which is in the order of £12 per mile - 12 times the price of the Orient Express.

The famous map was designed by an electrical engineer called Harry Beck in 1931 and has been imitated around the world

During the Blitz, Tube stations were famously used as communal air-raid shelters. Mat - was it you who posted something about how badly this had gone wrong in some cases?

156908.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 4:43 pm Reply with quote

Mosquito evolution on different tube lines: post 99659.

156911.  Thu Mar 15, 2007 4:58 pm Reply with quote

There are about 40 abandoned 'ghost stations' on the system, such as the British Museum station, closed in 1932, that you pass through between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn on the Central Line. Posters on the wall advertise the first series of Never Mind the Buzzcocks (not really).

157017.  Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:19 am Reply with quote

I feel that we ought to be able to make some use of entasis, the practice of using curved lines to give the illusion of straight ones in buildings such as the Parthenon and the Pyramids:

There is a perceptible bulge two fifths up each column; the Greeks knew the principle of the outward curvature of a column (entasis), which compensates for the optical effect that makes columns seem thinner in the middle when viewed from below. The corner columns are thicker, reducing the space between them and their neighbors: because they receive more sunlight, they would otherwise have appeared thinner than the rest. Finally, to give the impression of absolute perfection, the plinth gradually increased in height, by about 4 inches in the middle of the long sides and by about 3 inches at the center of the facades.

... but I can't really think how to do it. I guess it has to be a note to some other topic. Any ideas?

Perhaps could be swept up with Escher optical illusions.

157027.  Fri Mar 16, 2007 5:49 am Reply with quote

I posted this during the Series C research:

<<“The Subterranean Railway” by Christian Wolmar (Atlantic Books, 2004) discusses the Big Wheel at Earls Court, a pre-London Eye tourist attraction, a 300-foot diameter Ferris wheel built in 1895. During its 12-year life it had 2.5 million visitors. “Ironically the biggest lure seems to have been the prospect of a breakdown. In May 1896, the company running the tower responded to the one prolonged failure by paying each of the hundreds of people who had spent all night dangling in mid-air the sum of £5, equivalent to several months’ wages for many of them. Consequently, a queue of 11,000 people hoping for a similar mishap built up the following day.”

It seems (from the same source) that compo-culture was a noted problem in Victorian times, because of the coming of the railways; for the first time, I suppose, there existed hugely-capitalised companies, serving an enormous and diverse public, with a product which was inherently (potentially, at least) dangerous. Is it possible that we have, over the last century, become *less* litigious as a nation ... ?>>>

If we do decide to do something on the Underground, let me know - I will re-read Wolmar, which is excellent value.


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