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The Great Western page 3


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One run in particular cannot go without notice, that on the 9th of May 1904, when the American mail was brought from Millbay Crossing to Paddington, 246 miles, in 227 minutes. The train, four 8-wheeled mail-vans of 22 tons each, one 8-wheel sorting-van of 25 tons, and 35 tons of mails and specie: the engines, first, from Plymouth to Bristol, No. 3440, City of Truro, wheels 6 ft. 8 in., cylinders 12 x 26, heating surface 1816, pressure 180 pressed to 195; second, from Bristol to Paddington, No. 3065, Duke of Connaught, a 7-ft. single, cylinders 19x24, heating surface 1561, pressure 160. The average speed from start to stop 71 miles an hour; 77 miles an hour down Rattery Incline; 80 miles an hour from Taunton to Bristol; Swindon to Paddington, 76 miles 47 chains, in 58 minutes 47 seconds; over 80 at Goring water-troughs, at times over 90, sometimes over 100, "the motion resembling a sliding along the smoothest ice and not the slightest oscillation."

Richard Jefferies tells a well-known story of Brunei and Gooch, while eating their sandwiches among the furze bushes, agreeing to make the centre of their great railroad the spot where a stone should fall. The stone was thrown, and where it pitched the peg was placed. The story may be true in part if for "great railroad" we read "great works." Gooch, as we have seen, chose the site in 1840, long after the line was laid out, and, before he sent in his report, Brunei went down with him to look at the ground, then green fields, and agreed with him as to its being the best place.

Anyhow the haste to open the line was such that work hereabouts went on regardless of weather; the saturated clay slipped to its angle of repose, and piles were driven to restrain it; the piles began to slope as the clay moved, and chains were linked from pile to pile to keep them upright; and the trains now run over tons of cables buried in the earth. When the road only went to Bristol, this 273 ft. above Paddington was the summit level of the line; now the greatest height to which The Great Western climbs is at Princetown on Dartmoor, 1500 ft. higher.

Round Brunei's peg Swindon has grown as the system has grown. It is a big place, and the pleasantest of all the railway works. It makes all the carriages and wagons and all the engines, except the few built at Wolverhampton, where, as at Worcester and Newton Abbot, there are branch repairing shops. It is a town in itself, occupying over 250 acres, and inhabited during the daytime by 13,000 men, 8000 of whom are in the locomotive section, the rest being in the wagon works or in the carriage works which are south of the line.

In the wagon works you see a smith's shop which is a tenth of a mile long; a machine shop, where the carriage bogies are made, which is 123 yards long and 78 yards wide; and a frame shop where you find multiple drilling-machines ranging up to fifty spindles. There is a stamping shop where, besides the steam hammers and drop hammers, you see eighteen hydraulic forging presses, seven of a 100 tons and two of 200 tons; and, after a carriage-lifting shop of vast proportions and a wagon-lifting shop of 160,000 sq. ft., you may get a peep into a washing-shed where the men are working as quickly as window-cleaners, on raised platforms edged with water-troughs of the same sort as those between the lines for engines to pick up from.

In the locomotive works the chief things you remember are the old erecting shop, nearly 100 yards square, which is used for tenders and goods engines and has seven dozen engine-pits; the new erecting shop for passenger engines, which is over 100 yards wide and 160 long, and is all worked by electricity; the points and crossings shop; the rolling mill, not used for rails but sundries, all the scrap of the works being used up again, cut into pieces, stacked in bundles, committed to the furnace, worked into blooms under the steam hammer with the usual fireworks, and reheated and run through the rolls; the shop where the springs are made, leaf, spiral, and volute; the frame shop, in which bundles of a dozen frames are slotted at the same time; and the boiler shop, in which 200 new boilers can be made in a year while 900 old ones are being repaired, the most conspicuous tools being the hydraulic riveter with a 12-ft. gap, a firebox drilling machine with a revolving bedplate by which almost all the holes in a firebox can be drilled at one setting, and the hydraulic flanging press of 600 tons with ten rams pressing the large fireboxes into shape in two heats and the smaller fireboxes in one.

But the most wonderful thing of all is Mr. Churchward's engine-tester, which to a great extent has done away with the trial runs of new engines on a line becoming every year more crowded at all hours. This is a brick-lined pit fitted with ten carrying wheels that can be adjusted to any distances, and connected with much ingenious machinery that registers all that is worth knowing about a railway engine. The engine is run on to a table and lowered by sixteen screw-jacks on to the wheels of the tester, and the drawbar hook is hitched on to the dynamometer so that it cannot get away, although it is hauling at it all the time as if it were a train; and the pull of the drawbar and the speed of the carrying wheels give the measure of power. The engine cannot move ahead, but it is started just as if it could, and quickly working up into speed, as if it were leaving a station, faster and faster it goes until the noise is appalling. A 4-coupled engine running at seventy miles an hour and not moving an inch is a sight not easily forgotten. Coupling rods at over 300 revolutions per minute tend to appear as streaks, and we dare not venture to ask ourselves what would happen if one broke. And what would happen if the drawbar broke which is have no movement; this is because the locomotive is virtually running on a perfectly smooth and rigid road; there is no rolling or pitching. We have, in fact, nothing but the internal disturbing forces to act. They assert themselves by a tendency to fore-and-aft oscillations, not at all marked at 40 miles an hour, not even at 50 or 60, but becoming violent at 70. At these enormous velocities of heavy moving parts the whole machine seems to be alive, holding back the roaring locomotive as if it were a raging lion? "As, however," says a writer in The Engineer, "the drawbar pull of something over one ton is considered good duty at seventy miles an hour, representing as it does nearly 500 horse-power net, there is not much danger. When we have become a little reconciled to the deafening roar of the wheels, and made up our mind that nothing is going to fly to pieces, we can begin to learn things. In the first place, we see that the bearing-springs of the engine and we can very well understand that no one cares to run an engine being tested up to 80 miles an hour, while 60 is considered sufficient for all useful purposes." The engine is not run to waste, for the carrying wheels drive an air compressor that supplies the pneumatic tools. Not only are the measurements taken of speed and power; the coal burnt and the water evaporated are accurately noted, and the chimney delivers into a box that forms a receptacle for ashes and anything else ejected by the engine, all of which is examined and reported on. In short, the engine is put in the pit and made to give an account of itself.

A day at Swindon would require an article, a week at Swindon would fill a book. It is a place where there is always something new, for Great Western engines and carriages are always being improved upon in build if not in appearance. And there are new tools and new ways. One thing is clear: it has produced a stud of engines, 2600 of them, so well adapted for every call that their everyday work is among the very best that is done, and a stock of carriages, 77,000 vehicles in all, that are in only a few cases equalled and in none are excelled.

The way to Cornwall used to be through Swindon and Bristol; now the expresses go off at Reading - where the signal works are - and-join the old road at Durston Junction near Taunton, on what was the Bristol & Exeter, which, continuing the broad gauge through Somersetshire, was opened throughout in 1844. Here Brunei had a more difficult task than on the original road, but he made the best of it, though he could not avoid a four-mile rise to Whitehall tunnel of 1 in 227, and some short stretches of 1 in 90. When, however, he came to continue the road to Plymouth as the South Devon, he frankly despaired of locomotives being of use in such an undulating country; and, considering his experience with his first engines, it was not to be wondered at. So he made it to be worked like the London & Croydon and the Kingstown & Dalkey, on the atmospheric principle to which gradients were said to be of no consequence, and he went ahead almost regardless of hill or dale. The system, in which the trains were attached to pistons sucked along a tube laid between the rails, had but a short life, and the towers of the engine houses at Exeter, Newton Abbot, and Totnes remain as the monuments of his last fiasco.

There followed the Cornwall line, which The Great Western holds on a lease for a thousand years. Here his daring and skill had full scope in designing the forty or more wooden viaducts with which he crossed the valleys as he had begun to do in South Devon. Two of these were over 1000 ft. long, and some over a 100 ft. high. Miracles of struts and braces, these timber structures have lasted their time and have been, or are being, replaced by long rows of monotonous granite arches. Running through Cornwall over the trestles one cannot help thinking the stone viaduct rising alongside will prove a safer road; but when on the arches regret is inevitable at the fast disappearing trestles which were so much more interesting and picturesque.

Across the Tamar Brunei took The Great Western through the air by what is known as the Saltash Bridge. Of this wonderful structure of nineteen spans, all but two of which are wider than the widest arches of that over the Thames at Westminster, the pivot on which all depends is the central pier which goes down to the solid rock nearly 90 ft. below high-water mark. An iron cylinder, 100 ft. high and 37 ft. across, weighing 300 tons, was sunk through mud and gravel and clay, and it took eight months to do it, and this was filled in with granite masonry. Then the top of the cylinder, some 12 ft. high, was taken away, and the pier left as we see with the four octagonal iron columns rising to the road level. Over each of the smaller openings the railroad is carried between two longitudinal girders, and over the main spans between similar girders hung at intervals from the main truss, which rises 56 ft. in the centre and is 260 ft. above the base of the foundation. Each truss consists of an arched, wrought-iron oval tube and two suspension chains, one on either side of the tube, connecting its ends; and the rise of the tube above its abutments on the top of the piers being the same as the fall of the chains below, the two spans together seem to be supported by two intercrossing lines of beauty. At eleven points the chains are joined to the tube by upright standards braced by diagonal bars to resist the strains due to unequal loading, and thus each truss is a combination of an arch and a suspension bridge.

The bridge carries but a single line of metals, and when seen from the road-level looks very narrow for its massive sides, but from the river the narrowness is unnoticed and the massiveness hidden by the elegant proportions as in all the bridges of Brunei. It began to be built in 1854 and was opened in 1859. Some time before it was finished Brunei had to go abroad owing to illness, and when he returned to die he went just once to see it complete, for it was the last of his works.

Cornwall the neglected, because it was so far away, is proving a gold mine to The Great Western people. They have discovered that it is shaped like Italy, and have named its southern extremity the Cornish Riviera, a compliment to the coast and climate it excels. All through the winter at the London booking offices flowers are shown fresh every day from the farthest south and the farthest west, and much else is being done to popularise the finest holiday resort in England for those who like sunshine and sea air, a glorious beach of silver sands and purple rocks, and water such as Hemy paints, whose blues and greens no one believes in but those who have been there.

Down St. Austell way you may notice one of the white trains containing not chalk or lime but kaolin from the weathering granite, and ponder over the -intricacies of trade which ships this white stuff to China for the Chinese to make their porcelain with. At Penzance in the spring you will see the Scilly boat come in laden with cut flowers for London and Manchester and our other chief centres of distribution.

It is not only from Cornwall that flowers and vegetables come by The Great Western, for there is the vast trade at Weymouth from the Channel Islands, those fragments of Cornwall adrift on the coast of France that tell of the days of long ago before the sea broke through. Wey mouth is busy all the year round, and the fleet at Portland contributes no small share to the bustle. Nowadays when the men of the fleet are going on leave the railway opens a booking office on board each ship and issues tickets to everywhere. The numbers run to 10,000, or maybe more, one watch leaving when the other returns. At three in the morning Weymouth harbour station will receive the first returning special, and by breakfast - time 5000 men will have been taken back to their ships; at ten o'clock the second watch will land, and in three hours all that 5000 will be on their way east, west, and north.

The Weymouth line used to leave the main road at Chippenham, it now goes off at Reading, just as the junction for South Wales used to be at Swindon and is now at Wootton Bassett. A new line this, over thirty-three miles in length, with three tunnels through the Cotswolds, four viaducts, and about a hundred bridges; and, with no gradient steeper than 1 in 300, and no curve less than a mile in radius, it is one of the easiest of our express routes. Through Badminton it goes - a typical station of the new style, the model of many others, with the double central track and the platform tracks usable as sidings - through Sodbury and Patchway to the Severn tunnel.

This tunnel is the great engineering feature of The Great Western. It is under an estuary where the tide rises 50 ft., the highest tide-range anywhere in the world except in the Bay of Fundy. It was begun by the company in 1873, but the water broke in disastrously, and in December 1879 the works were handed over to Mr. T. A. Walker, the contractor, whose book on the subject is one of the most interesting stories of successful grappling with incessant difficulty.

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Pictures for The Great Western page 3

The Great Western
The Great Western >>>>
Paddington Station.
Paddington Station. >>>>
A Great Western Guard.
A Great Western Guard. >>>>
One of the Vans of the Ocean Mail Special.
One of the Vans of the Ocean Mail Special. >>>>
The Great Bear
The Great Bear >>>>
Temple Meads Station, Bristol
Temple Meads Station, Bristol >>>>
A 100-wagon coal train
A 100-wagon coal train >>>>
First-class Dining Saloon
First-class Dining Saloon >>>>
Composite Brake Corridor Carriage, No. 7672
Composite Brake Corridor Carriage, No. 7672 >>>>
The Royal Saloon.
The Royal Saloon. >>>>
The first Royal Saloon built in 1840 for Queen Victoria
The first Royal Saloon built in 1840 for Queen Victoria >>>>
The first of the
The first of the "Consolidation" Engines built in England >>>>
One of Brunei's famous Trestle Bridges in Cornwall, now being replaced by . . .
One of Brunei's famous Trestle Bridges in Cornwall, now being replaced by . . . >>>>
. . . these substantial stone structures. Gover Viaduct.
. . . these substantial stone structures. Gover Viaduct. >>>>
Express Passenger Locomotive, No. 190
Express Passenger Locomotive, No. 190 >>>>
Saltash Bridge
Saltash Bridge >>>>
China Clay Trains at St. Austell
China Clay Trains at St. Austell >>>>
Badminton, an up-to-date Typical Station
Badminton, an up-to-date Typical Station >>>>
The Gloucestershire end of the Severn Tunnel
The Gloucestershire end of the Severn Tunnel >>>>
The
The "Cornishman" near box, running at full speed >>>>
Fishguard Harbour
Fishguard Harbour >>>>
Making the line to Fishguard
Making the line to Fishguard >>>>
Making the line to Fishguard
Making the line to Fishguard >>>>
The Cattle Gallery at Fishguard
The Cattle Gallery at Fishguard >>>>

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