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Mine Exploration Forum

Author The Thames Tunnel
carnkie

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 10/11/2009 22:51:31
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A recent thread concerning the Severn Tunnel jogged the odd memory about the Thames Tunnel. Initially Trevithick was involved and the then othe great engineer Brunel took other. I make no apologies about my lack of engineering knowledge but the story is fascinating. [web link]



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Couldn't see a fan. Smile

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Morlock

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 10/11/2009 23:04:57
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Nice, good old days before 'Elf & Safety. Big Grin

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Vanoord

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 10/11/2009 23:47:14
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Is that the Greenwich one, or am I getting confused?

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carnkie

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 00:17:04
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I think thats a bit later, [web link]

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IP: 80.47.248.102 Edited: 11/11/2009 00:18:02 by carnkie
derrickman

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 06:50:13
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it runs from Wapping to Rotherhithe, between the stations of that name on the East London Line of LUL. It has no connection with the Greenwich foot tunnel.

it was a spectacular commercial failure, taking many years to construct and being abandoned at one stage due to an inundation of the workings.

it never fulfilled its original purpose of providing a route into London for produce from Kent, in large part because the access ramps were never completed. This meant that access on the Rotherhithe side was by a spiral iron staircase down the brick shaft, which horses and carts tend not to be very good at traversing.

it lingered on for a number of years, providing a foot access across the river and being notorious as the haunt of prostitutes and what were then called 'footpads' and would now be called muggers; its multiple dark corners, arches and cross-passages making it impossible to police, a lesson which would be re-learnt in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was eventually taken over by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway as a railway tunnel, and subsequently became part of LUL's network.

it had a pronounced 'sump' shape and made great quantities of water. For this reason it was provided with a huge pumping sump and pump range, drained by one of the first major electric pump ranges in the world.

by the early 1980s it was in advanced disrepair, the years of accumulated corrosion from loco soot and polluted water resulting in tiles dropping from the inner lining onto the tracks on occasions ( these were things like flagstones, not the ones you put in your bathroom ). The pumps were long since worn out, and it had been discovered that the changing profile of the River Thames had resulted in the outer masonry becoming exposed in the river bed in one place.

So, a programme of repair works were instituted. Rock was dumped from barges over the exposed section to protect it. The tunnel was closed and a 'substitute bus service' begun Shocked Surrender Laugh

the tracks and ballast were lifted ( a truly foul job! ) and the pump ranged renewed, along with a new concrete invert. This was followed by a travelling stage which passed through the tunnel, from which the inner tile-and-brick shell was dressed back and a new inner skin of in-situ concrete placed. No attempt was made to seal the water penetrating the outer, masonry shell in huge quantities over the whole length; the shell included a layer of brick channels rather like those Roman underfloor heating systems, to channel it to the sumps.

However a membrane was fitted to keep the Thames water off the new concrete and provide what amounted to 'tanking' for the inner structure.

the new inner structure was modified in profile to provide clearance for the running gear of its new use, re-instatement of electric commuter trains from the South-East Coast.

at this point a major problem occurred; the structure was cursed with some kind of Listed status, and the yoghurt knitters and Guardian-readers from EH descended in force Guns ( actually they mostly seemed to be large, strident ladies like the Head of St Trinians as played by Brian Blessed's sister... ). The project was stopped for several months, at huge cost in buses and standing time, while most of the workforce lost a lot of earnings in lay-offs and short-time Cursing

the travelling shutter was modified to more closely resemble the original profile ( as if anyone was ever going in there to look, and there was any value in this once the brickwork had been completely lost or covered ) and the whole project ground back into life...




IP: 82.32.67.44 Edited: 11/11/2009 06:54:05 by derrickman
derrickman

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 09:51:51
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the survey work was interesting; I was involved during the closure and re-opening phase.

the tunnel was surveyed in cross-section using the then-new robotic total stations and data loggers; I pre-processed the data on site using a lap-top and Sokkia's SDRMap package, a great piece of kit in those days because Sokkia were the only manufacturer providing a complete package which all plugged together and WORKED, marvellous...

I used to send the data to the consultant ( Golders ) by modem, no internet in those days; more like sending a fax.

this was all cutting-edge stuff at the time.
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Peter Burgess

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 13:58:46
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derrickman wrote:

at this point a major problem occurred; the structure was cursed with some kind of Listed status, and the yoghurt knitters and Guardian-readers from EH descended in force Guns ( actually they mostly seemed to be large, strident ladies like the Head of St Trinians as played by Brian Blessed's sister... ). The project was stopped for several months, at huge cost in buses and standing time, while most of the workforce lost a lot of earnings in lay-offs and short-time Cursing


I take exception to this comment. As the World's first of it's kind, and the pioneering tunnel using a tunnelling shield, the site most definitely needs statutory protection, in my opinion. If SS Great Britain was still being used for some practical purpose, would it not be an outrage if Brunel's pioneering ship did not have some kind of protection status? Likewise the Thames Tunnel!

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derrickman

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 14:25:24
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I took exception to losing several weeks' earnings on this account... Blink

on a more serious note, the work involved the substantial demolition of the internal lining due to its unsafe state, and lack of fitness for purpose. What you see now, with the exception of the preservation works done on the portals, is no part of the original structure.

the overall profile has been approximately preserved, except where the actual profile has been amended for loading-gauge restrictions, what you actually see is some rather pointless fancy concrete shapes.

and it is, after all, a working railway tunnel which was being refurbished at a cost of several million pounds of tax-payers' money; the changes added very substantially to the cost.

my view would be that if Brunel himself had done the refurbishment, he would have re-lined the tunnel to state-of-the-art and been well pleased with the result.

and from a purely 'heritage' point of view, the future of the structure as a working structure peforming more useful work now than ever before, is surely a cause for celebration?
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Peter Burgess

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 14:34:57
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I quite agree with much of what you say, but perhaps don't blame the conservation lobby for your loss of earnings but the project managers (or whoever) who might not have allowed sufficiently for the protection status of the site before committing to the work.

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derrickman

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 15:16:29
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it's my long experience that the 'preservationistas' appear in force once a job begins, partly because it's very difficult to progress anything while the project has no specific existence.

however I do believe that in this instance, a great deal of time and money was wasted in pursuing something of no structural or historical value, long after it was thought to have been resolved.

plus, once you start knocking the structure about, you always learn something new; in this case, that the structure was severely deteriorated and did not bear retention for reasons of operational safety.

I don't believe the EH people had understood, or perhaps simply not to wished to recognise, the extent of the deterioration; to the extent where the original internal lining could no longer be said to exist in any effective sense.
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Peter Burgess

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 15:19:21
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Fair enough, but I wondwr if there was insufficient dialogue between the parties in advance of the work. It's not as if the historical importance of the site was not recognised. Or maybe it wasn't?

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JR

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 15:29:26
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With the talk of Brunel's involvement the point needs to be made that the project was undertaken by Isembard's father Marc Brunel (and bearing in mind the recent thread re. the BNP an immigrant to boot). What a family, the only real competition would be the father son team of George and Robert Stephenson.

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derrickman

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 15:31:32
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from recollection and experience elsewhere, I would think it more likely that the process had run its course without coming to agreement.

I've often found that certain elements within the preservation movement appear to feel that no brick can be touched, and no cost is too high to preserve every last detail. The law affords a great deal of scope to this interpretation, particularly when adopted by people who have no obligation in respect of the actual function - here, a railway tunnel on a major commuter network - and who at times appear to feel they have achieved a famous victory by obstructing the wicked contractor.

regrettably, this isn't actually true.

LUL had and have, legal obligations of public safety, statutory obligations in respect of running a public service, and huge pressures in respect of time and cost.

it's my opinion that in this case, the balance was demonstrably wrong, the costs unacceptable and the final outcome of little value in the sense of preservation.
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Peter Burgess

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 16:11:24
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JR wrote:

With the talk of Brunel's involvement the point needs to be made that the project was undertaken by Isembard's father Marc Brunel (and bearing in mind the recent thread re. the BNP an immigrant to boot). What a family, the only real competition would be the father son team of George and Robert Stephenson.


I think Jolliffe and Banks got involved with the tunnel at one point as well - a largely forgotten but important civil engineering partnership of the early 19th C.



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derrickman

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 16:20:58
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the Brunels, father and son, are a clear example of the value of suitably qualified immigrants. The Huegeonots were generally speaking, professional and technical people with a good standard of education by the standards of the day, and technical and commercial skills worth money anywhere IP: 149.254.51.15
Peter Burgess

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 16:21:49
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Maybe the J&B connection is not true - I can't find the ref I thought I had read recently. However, I did find this:

[web link]

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ttxela

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 16:30:57
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There is perhaps a bit of historical perspective here, I think EH and local Building Conservation Officers are alot more realistic and pragmatic these days. I've certainly been involved in some projects on historic buildings where the approach taken was very sensible and balanced (sadly I've moved away from this sort of lark in the last few years) however I've heard similar stories of excessive demands from further back in time. IP: 91.143.72.42
Peter Burgess

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The Thames Tunnel
Posted: 11/11/2009 16:31:08
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Another good find:

[web link]

Also, don't forget that Trevithick almost got across the Thames quite a lot earlier than Brunel - he drove his headway right under the river to the opposite foreshore before it all fell in.


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