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159262.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:28 am Reply with quote

The other thing about the Box Tunnel, which I'm guessing Garrick will know about, is that the UFO conspiracy mob think there's a secret side tunnel there in which the authorities hide UFOs.

Garrick, you could check that out as well while you're down there.

159264.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:29 am Reply with quote


159268.  Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:32 am Reply with quote


160259.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:34 am Reply with quote

So, the annoying PR people at Network Rail say that we can't visit the track at Box, because - due to our beloved health and safety, and the fact that I'd obviously be too stupid to keep out of the way of approaching trains - they'd have to shut the line and charge us many thousands of pounds for the privilege.

Obviously, standing next to the line by the tunnel opening, and looking in for a couple of minutes is far too dangerous.

It's sad, really.

160308.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:07 am Reply with quote

What about hanging a video camera over the edge of the tunnel on the end of a piece of rope?

Or standing on those stairs with a camera on the end of a fishing rod?

We need to think outside the Box people.

160392.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:30 am Reply with quote

Hey, that's a great idea. Apparently, you can see the tunnel entrance from a nearby park, too (and from the A4) so I expect there'll be some way to tell whether the sunlight is getting through.

Molly Cule
160468.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 11:36 am Reply with quote

What did Hitler order from Dr Porsche?

The biggest tank in WW2, called Mouse. That was the German’s idea of a joke.
Two were made but they were a disaster. The tank was so heavy it could barely move, no bridges were able to take its’ weight. If it broke down the only thing which could tow it would be two other Mouse tanks and it was so huge that it was nigh on impossible to miss as a target; it was 12 foot high, 33 feet long and 12 feet wide. When Porsche launched it onto the road for trials it ripped up the roads, cracked the foundations of buildings, smashed windows with its vibrations and when it left the road sunk into the ground.
It was equipped with a ‘snorkel’ arrangement so it could be submerged to 8m, a second Mouse was needed to supply the fording Mouse with electricity through a cable.

160469.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 11:39 am Reply with quote

Slight problem with this question Molly is that Hitler did ask Porsche to create the Volkswagen didn't he?

Molly Cule
160476.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:21 pm Reply with quote

Does that matter? Extra stuff for the notes?

160478.  Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:28 pm Reply with quote

Not really, just that if one of the panellists answers "The Volkswagen", which I think they probably would, it leaves Stephen saying, "errr, yes, but what else..."

Probably a matter for the question wranglers anyway.

160641.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:18 am Reply with quote

Possible GenIg question about the VW Beetle. Everyone knows that Ferdinand Porsche designed it on the request of Hitler to produce an affordable car for the general populace, hence "Volks Wagen." Hitler also introduced a savings scheme whereby people could save up stamps which would eventually pay for their new car.

How many people know, however, that only 210 of these vehicles were actually made before World War II broke out?

Throughout the mid-thirties Porsche produced several different versions of the car, but these were all experimental models (test driven by members of the SS to discover any faults. Blimey! Talk about a tough audience!!) or demonstration models (used at motor shows to encourage people to buy the car).

When the design of the car was finalised, a brand new factory was built to start production (the prototypes had been made by Daimler-Benz, but they weren't happy about producing such a low cost car as they thought it would tarnish their high-class reputation). Unfortunately by the time the factory was finished, production was due to start in September 1939. At this time WWII kicked off and the factory was, instead, given over to production of military vehicles. None of the people who had collected their stamps ever received the much touted "People's Car".

In 1945 the factory was re-opened by the British and production of the VW Beetle began again. By 1946 the 1,000th car had rolled off the production line, and in 1948 control of the factory was given over to the German government.


160678.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:47 am Reply with quote

Hello, I'm Jon the new picture researcher. My Grandad lives in Chippenham so I gave him a call and had a chat about the Box Tunnel. He has been to see if he can see the sun rise before, and says that access to see through the west entrance is very tricky. He also thought it was common knowledge that there were other tunnels and store rooms within the box tunnel, this being due to a near naval base and quarries.

160683.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:06 am Reply with quote

Thanks, Jon. So the thing about the Sun rising is something that people frequently try to investigate, by the sound of it.

160718.  Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:51 am Reply with quote

Do we know the one about the New York skyscraper?

Citicorp building is 59 stories tall, the third tallest in midtown Manhatten. When it was built in 1977 it was the seventh tallest building in the world and cost $175m. Its design is unusual - it's built on four stilts, nine stories tall, which are centred on each side of the building to accommodate St. Peter's Church, which stands underneath one corner of it. However, there was a massive flaw in the design which was only discovered accidentally – and if it hadn't been, any heavy gust of wind could have toppled the building.

William J. LeMessurier, the engineer, framed the structure to take advantage of this odd placing of the columns, which is inherently less stable than supporting the corners. There was also a central column containing the lifts and adding further support and a stabilizer, a 410 ton block of concrete floating on a thick film of oil and controlled by an automatic system, on one of the upper floors.

In 1978, an engineering student contacted LeMessurier with some technical questions about the design's ability to withstand strong winds. LeMessurier explained the structure, but then went away and did some calculations about what had seemed like a minor technical change during construction, when many joints were bolted rather than welded.

He realised that the building's unusual design made it far more sensitive to diagonal winds than he had realised - increasing the strain on half the supports by over 40 per cent. Wind force on a flat surface is enormous, but gravity resulting from compression is usually enough to resist the leverage on the base as long as the joints are strong enough to resist whatever force is not countered by gravity. And that was the problem. A few weeks before he had learned of a change that had taken place during construction.

He had designed the building with welded joints, but welded joints are time consuming and therefore expensive, and can be engineering overkill. In most cases, bolted joints are equally safe. In the course of working with a construction company on another building, LeMessurier had learned that the construction company on the Citicorp project had changed his welded joints to bolted joints to cut costs, and LeMessurier's New York office had agreed. At the time this had not seemed like a major issue.

However, now LeMessurier had discovered that because the bracing system was unusually sensitive to quartering winds then that increased the strain on the joints. He checked whether the Manhattan office had taken that into account when they designed the bolts. They hadn't. He then discovered that the height of the building multiplied the effect of the wind, changing the 40% increase in tension to a 160% increase on the bolts. Moreover, the engineering team had disregarded industry safety standards dealing with joints in structural columns by defining the diagonal wind braces not as columns but as trusses, which are exempt from the safety factor.

LeMessurier and another engineer, Alan Davenport, realised that gusts of 70mph would be enough to break the bolts and cause structural failure. Storms of that strength occur about once every sixteen years in NY, and hurricane season was approaching.

LeMessurier consulted other engineers and the building's architect, Hugh Stubbins Jr. They went to Citicorp and proposed to reinforce all the bolted joints by welding two inch thick steel plates over them. Work began immediately and went on round the clock for three months and finished in September 1978. They had two pieces of luck - the press was on strike so nobody got wind of what was happening, and Hurricane Ella veered off to sea instead of hitting Manhattan. Nothing was known about the disaster-potential until the New Yorker article in 1995.

Fortunately for LeMessurier, the executives of Citicorp were so impressed by his prompt action that they didn't ask for more than his $2m insurance cover to be paid, although the repairs cost over $8m.

I ran this story past my husband, who is an architect, who commented that it's not untypical for construction companies to carry out cost-cutting manoeuvres and that the engineer must have been 'sweating bullets' when he realised what had happened.

Last edited by Jenny on Thu Mar 29, 2007 8:59 am; edited 2 times in total

161034.  Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:14 am Reply with quote

Apparently the odd design came about because St Peter's Lutheran Church was facing financial problems and wanted to sell its piece of prime real estate to Citibank, who were based across the street and wanting to expand. Part of the deal involved Citibank building a new church to replace the 1904 Gothic Revival original. Both parties agreed that this church should be a distinctly separate structure and not part of the office building.

Another interesting fact about the building is that, to reduce the amount of space given over to the "vertical circulation core," the elevators are double decker. You'd've thought that would cause some interesting problems.

Coo! It seems that double decker elevators are more common than I'd previously thought:


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