Monday, April 10, 2017

Brunel's Birthday

From the Guardian: Engineers have tested one of the UK’s most intriguing railway legends: that the rising sun shines through the Box tunnel near Bath on the birthday of the 19th-century genius who created the line.
For many years railway enthusiasts and mathematicians have argued over whether Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the creator of the Great Western mainline, did design the two-mile tunnel with his own birthday in mind.
On Sunday – 211 years after Brunel’s birth – the line was shut because of upgrade work, providing Great Western Railway and Network Rail with a rare chance to observe whether the sun really does shine through the length of the tunnel on 9th April. It does.
The supposed link with Brunel’s birthday was first reported by the Devizes Gazette in 1842. The Daily Telegraph followed the story up some time later but until now, as far as GWR knows, there have been no photographs of the supposed phenomenon.
Matthew Golton (GWR) said the idea of building such a long tunnel between Bath and Chippenham was hugely controversial and was described during a debate in parliament as “dangerous, extraordinary, monstrous and impractical”. Railway pioneer George Stephenson said passengers would be terrified.
The project was over-budget and behind time. At the height of construction, 4,000 people were working on the tunnel and the engineers were getting through a tonne of candle wax and a tonne of explosives every week. One hundred people died during its construction.
It is no surprise that Brunel might had added a mischievous detail to his astounding design. “There are lots of good reasons why Brunel might have wanted to provide a riposte to his critics by not only completing the structure but putting a special architectural signature into the job,” Matthew Golton of GWR said.

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