Explore the Tunnel under the Thames

March 19, 2010 at 9:34 am (a day in the life, entertainment, news, places) (, , , , )

Last Friday and Saturday the news story on the BBC that made me prick up my ears announced, “The Thames Tunnel is Open!” Why, living thousands of miles and one large ocean away from London did this grab my attention? Because Mary Smith had toured this, in 1830! Only a 180 years ago…

It was a Friday in April, the 30th to be exact:

“We went to see the Thames TunnelĀ  it is ultimately to extend 1300 feet, and they have advanced 600 ft though we only advanced 400. the shaft is 60 ft in depth and the top of the Tunnel is 20 ft below the bed of the River. It would require full two years to finish it.”

Even then, ‘experts’ were a bit over-ambitious about their target finish dates. The Thames Tunnel opened in 1852.

Lulu Sinclair, for Sky News Online, writes: “[T]he tunnel gripped the nation’s imagination: nothing had been seen like it before and it paved the way for the present day Tube system. Lying deep beneath the River Thames, it is one of the Brunels’ [“engineering geniuses” father and son Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel] greatest engineering triumphs — and the only project they worked on together.” According to this article, the finished tunnel did grow in length to 1300 feet. The article speaks of the grand opening and the “half the population of London” who paid it a visit in 1852, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; but Mary’s comment demonstrates that even in its unfinished, still-under-construction state the Thames Tunnel was a touristic draw.

In discussing the “opening” of the Tunnel, however, we must acknowledge that the one reason for the tunnel being opened last weekend is that it will close “forever” now that it is being taken over by the London subway (“tube”) system, which will open later this year (in anticipation of the 2012 London Olympics). Tickets must have gone quickly for the mere two days of its being open for tours; online, there were several “want” ads for spares.

Some articles of interest found online:

  1. Wikipedia, I suppose, is a good place to start
  2. The Sky News report cited above
  3. The Tunnel discussed on “Thames Water
  4. The Tunnel as part of the series “Engines of our Ingenuity” at the University of Houston
  5. Discussion of the Tunnel being the ‘world’s first bored tunnel’ on Thames Pilot
  6. And the best source on theĀ Brunel 200 website.

I will continue on with some thoughts, as I find them, of those who walked the walk.

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