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157141.  Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:17 am Reply with quote

From an article in today's Daily Telegraph:

It is not too fanciful to say that the decision, during the building of St Pancras, to run the lines into the station over rather than under the Regent's Canal accounts for much of what is happening there 140 years later.

The line built by the Great Northern Railway in 1852 into the adjacent King's Cross station ran under the canal. This had always caused problems for under-powered steam engines, which had to climb a steep gradient out of a tunnel shortly after leaving the station. When the Midland Railway won approval for its own line into London in 1863, it decided to avoid this by bridging the canal. But trains then faced a descent into the station, which could be disastrous if they were unable to stop.

Enter William Henry Barlow, consulting engineer to the Midland Railway, who decided that the platforms should be raised on 800-odd iron columns, each capable of bearing 55 tons, spaced according to the length of the beer barrels that would be stored under the tracks.

But this meant that if the roof also had supporting columns there would be a jumble of pillars in the undercroft; and the amount of iron needed would make the costs soar. Barlow saw that the floor girders were a ready-made "tie" for an arched roof that could cross the station in a single span. His pointed arch, 245ft 6ins across, was the widest single-span train-shed roof attempted, a real cathedral of the steam age.

Apart from its scale and beauty, the brilliance of Barlow's design lay in its flexibility. With no columns, the configuration of the tracks could easily be changed - the original five platforms of 1868 were increased to seven in 1892.

Now, under the direction of London and Continental Railways, there will be six Eurostar tracks, arranged to the left as you look into the arch from the approaches. On the right, separated from the platforms by a simple glass screen, will be 295 feet of champagne bar - the longest in Europe, says LCR, but who's counting? - and beyond that, set into the walls, a 10,000 square-foot brasserie: the idea of the railway as a spectacle, and one that can be enjoyed without inhaling fumes, is restored.

Cut into this side of the floor are four long lightwells which open up to daylight Barlow's undercroft - previously the province only of Burton brewers and their barrels, which were unloaded from three trains a day in the 1880s. Now, the Eurostar check-in and reception area will be under the platforms, easily accessed from the street on the east side of the station, with a street of boutiques and cafés on the west side lit by shafts of sunlight.

I thought the detail about the beer barrel storage was great, and the item links to Engineering and to Eurostar.

157147.  Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:31 am Reply with quote

The longest champagne bar in Europe isn't bad either, and that a railway station should want such a thing says something or other about the age.

157152.  Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:43 am Reply with quote

When Sun King Louis XIV decided to upgrade his hunting lodge in Versailles he thought it would be nice to have a few fountains in the grounds - 1400 in all. One problem, though: the grounds were on top of a hill, and there was no water apart from a small stream.

So he had the stream dammed and the water pumped up to a reservoir by horse-driven pumps and windmills.

This produced nothing like enough water, so he built a system to pump water from the Seine, 5 miles to tbe east. 253 sets of pumps raised the water 500 ft up and into a pipe down which it would flow to Versailles.

Unfortunately this system never quite lived up to expectations (it only delivered about 3 million litres a day), so they decided to divert the River Eure, 50 miles to the west. The French army set to work to build a gigantic aqueduct with arches twice as high as the towers of Notre Dame, but in 1688 war broke out and they went off (with some relief, one imagines) to fight, and the project was never resumed thereafter.

Dammit all - can't a man have a fountain?

157574.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 9:40 am Reply with quote

Random factoid related to the London Underground.

BBC4 had a Tube themed night last night and one of the things they showed was a film from the 50's called "Under Night Streets" detailing the work of the maintenance crews that worked on the tube during the night while it was shut down.

Having the puerile sense of humour that I do, the one thing that stuck in my mind was the term used to refer to the gang of women who cleaned the tunnels. Because they were tasked with cleaning away all the dust, dirt, and fluff, they were known as "fluffers".

I'm sure there's a question there somewhere about women working away on their knees known as fluffers :)

157576.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 9:42 am Reply with quote

I think we did fluffers last series (and, inevitably, for the same reason!)

157651.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 2:19 pm Reply with quote

Yes - actually we ran this exact question, though I don't think it made the cut.

157761.  Tue Mar 20, 2007 5:29 am Reply with quote

Blimey! Having a question cut out before I'd even thought of it. Now that's efficiency for you!

158434.  Wed Mar 21, 2007 1:52 pm Reply with quote

According to "Engineering & Technology" magazine, March 2007, scientists at Shandong University's Robot Engineering Technology Research Centre (China) have implanted electrodes in the brain of a pigeon that let them control its direction of flight. There have been similar experiments with mice in the past.

Last edited by Vitali on Thu Mar 22, 2007 11:29 am; edited 2 times in total

Molly Cule
158658.  Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:11 am Reply with quote

Why did Marc Brunel, father of Isambard construct a giant pooing worm?

To build the world's first submarine tunnel.

Marc Brunel, father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel was also an engineer. Beginning in 1825 he built the Thames tunnel at Rotherhithe. He did this by studying a worm – a teredo navalis - as it burrowed through ship's timbers in Chatham Dockyard. The worm would push its jaws into the wood and twist, tearing away splinters which it then swallowed, he would then pass the wood through his body then excrete the digested pulp at the other end and use it to line the tunnel he left behind. Marc Brunel built a tunneling machine like the giant pooing worm called ‘The Giant Shield’ comprising six vast cast-iron hoops accommodating 36 human excavators which moved forward under the river in excruciating eighteen inch intervals.

The workers were arranged in cells, three cells high. Each person stood in their cell with a pickaxe and shovel with a wooden board in front of them. They would remove the board, quickly dig ahead of them then slam the board back ahead of where it had been and secure it back with long screws. When each of the people in all of the cells had done this they levered the whole frame ahead a few inches. They were followed by bricklayers who built a thick wall to seal up the newly exposed earth. So the diggers and bricklayers moved slowly, slowly to Wapping 18 inches at a time (different sites actually say different amounts of inches).

His design was totally untested, except by worms, so little was known about the ground under the river that they were tunneling blind. It was one of the most dangerous engineering projects of the century.

All modern soft earth tunneling uses the same basic principle first developed by Marc Brunel, so thank you worms for all your inspiration.

158665.  Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:26 am Reply with quote

The highest railway bridge in the world is the Sanchahe bridge, part of the “railway on the roof of the world” in China, which links Qinghai province with Tibet, allowing Tibet to be reliably supplied with fresh fruit and veg for the first time.

The railway is 2,000km long, across a plateau that is 4,000 metres above sea level. The journey between Beijing and Lhasa now takes a mere 48 hours.

96% of Tibet’s population is still ethnically Tibetan, because (according to the Chinese government) Han Chinese find it very difficult to acclimatise to the high altitude - hence there is very little immigration.

Trains which use the world’s highest bridge have to be engineered to cope with low air pressure, insufficient oxygen, large temperature fluctuations, strong ultra-violet radiation and frequent lightning storms, sandstorms and snowstorms. (So I think we can take it for granted they weren't supplied by Virgin).

S: Morning Star 22 Aug 06.

Link to Extremes.

158671.  Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:38 am Reply with quote

Sorry to do this, but if I don't, someone watching the show will.

Teredo navalis or the ship-worm is not actually a worm, but a bivalvular mollusc, closely related to the clam.

I don't think this nulifies the question, I like the idea of a huge mechanical pooing worm, but I think it should probably be somewhere in the notes.

158673.  Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:39 am Reply with quote

On the tunnel under the Thames: there's a story about the directors of a company which was building a tunnel under the Thames, who held a dinner in the tunnel to celebrate its completion. They were disappointed to find that the Champagne didn't fizz in the pressurized atmosphere of the tunnel, but they drank it anyway - and when they emerged into the open air it did start to fizz, inside them.

The Bends is a condition which arises when nitrogen dissolves into the bloodstream under pressure and then fizzes when the pressure is released, like when you open a bottle of champagne. It was first noticed by caisson workers, who worked on the building of bridge piers in pressurized underwater chambers.

158674.  Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:41 am Reply with quote

eggshaped wrote:
Sorry to do this, but if I don't, someone watching the show will.

We were all going to say that, but we were just too well-mannered.

158675.  Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:42 am Reply with quote

On this subject there is explosive decompression which I've posted before, very nasty but very interesting.

post 28028

158739.  Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:09 am Reply with quote

Marc Brunel made boots for the British Army at a factory in Kensington. However once the Napoleonic Wars ended, he found himself in great debt and both he and his wife Sophia were arrested and put in gaol.

Marc was released with his debt expunged soon later after letting it be known that he had written to Tzar Alexander asking to work in Russia. The exchequor granted him his freedom and £5000 to clear his debts on the proviso that he was not to return to Russia.

IKB - Adrian Vaughan


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