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Isambard Kingdom Brunel vacuum structure halts road scheme


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Just seen this link to an item regarding Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his Vacuum railway in Devon project.

 

Seems that an underground reservoir linked to the Brunel project has been found and the Environment Department is saying that it is significant.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-44099898

A confused bit of reporting

First it is the underground water supply for the pumping engine, then it is a vacuum chamber!

 

Keith

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To be fair, the BBC is quoting the DofE saying it is a vacuum chamber.

Is it really significant? A water reservoir, unused for 150+ years, no useful purpose for it today, just a hole in the ground.
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Brunel himself would certainly not have allowed newly-rediscovered crumbling remnants of a redundant technology to stand in the way of any of his own projects.

And is that to his credit or not? Keeping everything is impractical, bulldozing through everything because it's convenient to is undesirable.

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And is that to his credit or not? Keeping everything is impractical, bulldozing through everything because it's convenient to is undesirable.

Agreed, but Brunel's Atmospheric system was a dead-end, at least given the materials available to him at the time, so whilst the find may be "significant", it doesn't carry the importance of a game-changer such as Stephenson's 'Rocket'.  

 

At 32m long, I doubt that all of this chamber constitutes an obstruction unless it runs along the proposed piece of road. So, record it, photograph it, laser-scan it, even preserve a section that's not in the way; whatever, then move on.

 

John

Edited by Dunsignalling
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To be fair, the BBC is quoting the DofE saying it is a vacuum chamber.
Is it really significant? A water reservoir, unused for 150+ years, no useful purpose for it today, just a hole in the ground.

 

And if it's a vacuum chamber then there's nothing in it?  :jester:

 

Seriously though, if it's really a vacuum chamber then it would be pretty unusual I guess.  How was it kept airtight and did the structure allow extra strength against implosion? 

 

If dead-end technologies weren't of interest then nobody would have preserved the hovertrain or attempted to re-create a Baby Deltic. 

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And if it's a vacuum chamber then there's nothing in it?  :jester:

 

Seriously though, if it's really a vacuum chamber then it would be pretty unusual I guess.  How was it kept airtight and did the structure allow extra strength against implosion? 

 

If dead-end technologies weren't of interest then nobody would have preserved the hovertrain or attempted to re-create a Baby Deltic. 

 

Yes, but you can move those around.

 

I'm rather doubtful that even IKB could make a safe, air-tight vacuum chamber out of bricks, too, so its probably just an underground reservoir for the nearby pumping station.

 

John

Edited by Dunsignalling
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you might not want to preserve it long term but there is probably a case for a survey

involving an industrial archeologist and railway historian to see if there is anything to be learned about Brunel's

plans for this unusual form of moving the trains.

 

mike j

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Network Rail and the DFT have both claimed it, they see it as a viable alternative to wiring the mainline in the Southwest

The DfT will never get anywhere with it,

they're full of rats!

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Despite living only a few miles away, I wasn't aware there is/was a road widening scheme in Starcross! There is some works going on in the car park alongside the road beside the old atmospheric railway pumping house in Starcross, there does appear to be a large box structure uncovered there which must be the chamber in question. I assume the plan is to resite the wall between the road and car park area and thus widen the road along that part. The really narrow bit further along can't be adjusted due to the next building having a listed portico, but having the area by the car park wider would at least allow traffic past each other if queues develop.

I might try to go along & have a look tomorrow.

Although it's interesting historically, it would be a shame to scrap the road scheme altogether. I hope some compromise can be reached.

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What do you do with a Brunellian hole in the ground? Put a fence around it and charge admission perhaps but is it worth the disruption of road improvement which Starcross can certainly do with. Its not like they found a buried B&E locomotive which could have been interesting and maybe even restoring. But then there would be nowhere to run it! :dontknow:

 

Brian.

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That's no way to describe a team of hard-working civil servants.

Sorry I was only going by some of the comments

I'd read on RMWeb, should have known better than

to believe everything I read on the Internet :)

Edited by rab
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Brunel himself would certainly not have allowed newly-rediscovered crumbling remnants of a redundant technology to stand in the way of any of his own projects. 

 

John

 

Indeed. Many of  those whose achievements we now celebrate and whose works we attempt to preserve were guilty of acts we would now regard as incomprehensible historical, cultural and/or environmental vandalism on a staggering scale. Funny old world ain't it?.

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The DfT will never get anywhere with it,

they're full of rats!

I think rats were part of Brunel’s problem. The leather flaps of the tube in which the piston ran were coated with tallow to make a seal. The rat population simply loved the stuff.
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It may be "interesting" while everybody is scurrying around trying to work out exactly what it was used for and how, if it was a vacuum chamber of some sort, it was made to work.

 

However, I can't see it becoming a long-term attraction, be it for tourists, academics or railway enthusiasts.

 

John

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