Tunnel construction

When you next visit a tunnel, think in four dimensions. Don't just examine its fabric - wander back to a time before it existed.

In your mind's eye, picture the scene as men descended on the hillside to set up their encampments: accommodation for humans, stables for horses, magazines for explosives. Over many months - maybe several years - they overcame all that nature could throw at them to drive a conduit for trains. Some wouldn't see the project come to its fruition; those who did would reap meagre financial rewards. And the passengers it benefited would pass through in seconds without giving the darkness a second glance.

But these were awesome endeavours. How did 19th century engineers create them without the mechanical and technological advantages of the 21st century?

Stories and videos
A video offering insight into some of the techniques employed by Victorian engineers to drive railway tunnels.
A supplementary article to our construction film, offering a little more insight into the challenges faced by engineers when driving railway tunnels.
Stephen Prior takes a look at the Victorian art of tunnel construction, describing how techniques changed as experience was gained.
A video charting the challenges in constructing Queensbury Tunnel, following in the footsteps of a newspaper reporter who did the same thing in 1878.
A collection of newspaper stories revealing the trials and tribulations of those who drove this product of the Great Northern Railway in the 1870s.
Wellington A Purdon, who acted as surveyor on the first Woodhead Tunnel, provides a detailed account of its construction.
A paper on the use of a rock drilling machine to drive one of the headings for a tunnel in the South Wales valleys.
A paper conveying the construction challenges of a 1,332-yard tunnel near Oldham, driven through coal measures.

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