Thames Tunnel, Rotherhithe, UK
Posted by: Team Sieni
N 51° 30.046 W 000° 03.108
30U E 704618 N 5709636
Quick Description: The Thames Tunnel was designated in 1991 as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark (IHCEL) by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Institution for Civil Engineers (ICE).
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 1/2/2012 5:42:00 AM
Waymark Code: WMDE9A
In 1818, Marc Isambard Brunel patented a revolutionary new tunneling device: a special rectangular, cast-iron shield that supported the earth while miners dug it away in small increments. Bricklayers would follow the shield, building a twin-arch brick tunnel lining as they went. Investors formed a new company to back the tunnel, and Brunel, with the assistance of his 20-year-old son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, eventually succeeded in building the Thames Tunnel. Source: American Society of Civil Engineers
The tunnel now carries the London Overground. The location of this Waymark is the Rotherhithe station, where there is a plaque detailing the ASCE award. The plaque reads:
International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark
First Shield Drivien Subaqueous Tunnel
Sir MARC ISAMBARD BRUNEL
Presented 25 September 1993
Istitution of Civil Engineers
American Society of Civil Engineers
More information is available at the fascinating Brunel Museum situated nearby in the original engine house of the tunnel. There is a wealth of information on the Web about Marc Brunel, his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and their engineering acheivements. A good starting point is ikbrunel.org.uk
When the tunnel was constructed a great shaft was sunk into the ground in Rotherhithe and the tunneling commenced horizontally from the bottom of the shaft. When the tunnel was complete there was insufficient money to build approach ramps to enable wagons to enter the tunnel, so stairways were built in the end shafts and the tunnel became a pedestrian tunnel. Later, when the tunnel became a railway tunnel the stairways were removed. With the recent work on the East London Line that passes through the tunnel a floor was installed in the shaft (or a roof, from the point of view the train tracks) so it is now possible to enter the tunnel shaft.
On Sunday 15th Jan 2012 we were fortunate to be taken on a guided tour into the great tunnel shaft. This was the first time in 148 years that this space had been open to the public (if you don't count a similar tour the previous Wednesday!). The shaft was built as a giant cylindrical building at ground level and then sunk into the ground. In this great space Isambard Kingdom Brunel very nearly met his death in a flood in January 1828, in which six men lost their lives. We were treated to a lecture in the cavernous underground space. There are images of this in the gallery, but note that this space is not normally open to the public.
Note: The plaque is inside Rotherhithe station, over the stairway down to the platforms, so I'm afraid you will need to have a ticket (or Oyster card) to gain access.