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 Post subject: Brunel's Atmospheric Railway Unimportant?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 3:53 pm 
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Geesh is this heritage destruction week I ask myself? Listing has been refused for the pumping house for Brunel's Atmospheric Railway apparently because it was not considered nationally important because it was historically, a faliure. Hmm is that the sound of cheering developers I hear in the background.

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 Post subject: Re: Brunel's Atmospheric Railway Unimportant?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 4:14 pm 
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rik_na1 wrote:
Hmm is that the sound of cheering developers I hear in the background.

Obviously it is as the site is now being demolished. Well done Dairy Crest, well done EH. Another strike for complete ignorance over any kind of reason. I dont normally do this, but if you share my annoyance at this reckless, pointless, act then email the property manager at Dairy Crest at simon.hoskins@dairycrest.co.uk. And to re-itereate it is Dairy Crest that has damaged these historically important buildings.

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 Post subject: Re: Brunel's Atmospheric Railway Unimportant?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 1:59 pm 
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rik_na1 wrote:
rik_na1 wrote:
I dont normally do this, but if you share my annoyance at this reckless, pointless, act then email the property manager at Dairy Crest at simon.hoskins@dairycrest.co.uk. And to re-itereate it is Dairy Crest that has damaged these historically important buildings.


I think that in this case, posting the name of a perpetrator, sorry senior Dairy Crest manager, which is already in the public name is justified.

It is unbelievable to think that Brunel's ingenious idea for compressed air driven trains could so easily be written off as 'a failure.' That is taking the project in isolation and giving not a second of thought to the later compressed air technology - used in many branches of industry, and many appliances and vehicles, that Brunel's pioneer attempts in atmospheric railways may well have lead to, or to which they at least contributed.

In any case, the writing off of Brunel's atmospheric railway as a 'failure' seems here to be no more than an expedient and subjective jusdgement by the property developer.

Though it is true that due to technological deficiences Brunel abandoned his scheme, it should also be remembered that a number of experimental Atmosperic Railways operated in the 1840s, in the Dublin area, in Devon, in Croydon, in London and in France. The cost per mile was far greater than steam, and shunting near impossible, but I wonder if all the technological difficulties could have been overcome if the system has been cheaper.

In any case, why should it matter if Brunel's Atmospheric Railway was 'a failure.' Essentially preserving what remains of it should be a high priority as it is a testimony to - and aid to understanding - the thought and methods of the industrial revolution, and of important figures like Brunel who continue to contribute to the lives of all of us - even those of Dairy Crest employees.

In fact all of the atmospheric railways put into operation by Brunel were prototypes which were abandoned after a test period. It is therefore inaccurate to call the project a 'failure' and more accurate to say it was never completed, or was discontinued.

On the other hand, maybe it is completely right to abandon and destroy important past engineering projects that did not come to fruition, rather than waste time, money and resources of such 'failures.'

After all, in his own lifetime, Charles Babbage did not bring either the Difference Engine or Analytical Engine to fruition, and yet recently (2000) the Science Museum frittered away millions on completing the former and bringing it into operation. What on earth for? Next someone will be saying that the Analytical Engine should be constructed from its plans as it had some or other vague influence on modern technology, though I can't think what this could possibly be.

I can think of not one single effect that Babbage's machines have had on either present day society or on my own life in the just the same way as I can think of not a single thing that Brunel ever did for me.

I say this with full-on sarcasm as a rhetorical device, whereas it is obvious that Dairy Crest would make this statement in all earnestness.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 3:10 pm 
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After all, in his own lifetime, Charles Babbage did not bring either the Difference Engine or Analytical Engine to fruition, and yet recently (2000) the Science Museum frittered away millions on completing the former and bringing it into operation. What on earth for?


Well credit where credit is due, this did actually work, it was just too expensive and complex to be finished by Babbage. A technology looking for an application is different ot a failed technology. But I understand the thinking.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 5:34 pm 
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rik_na1 wrote:
Well credit where credit is due, this did actually work, it was just too expensive and complex to be finished by Babbage.


Well, I would say that the same applies to Brunel's Atmospheric Railway - the operational cost was over 3 shillings an hour, as opposed to around 1.5 shillings an hour for steam railways. Also, it was successful - Brunel got a 38 tonne train running at over 60mph on his system. Faster than any 1840s steam train!

In fact, just as Babbage's ideas came to fruition eventually in devices such as the computer I am using now, so it might still prove the case, as we seek more 'green' forms of travel, that Brunel's Atmospheric Railway may yet have its day. In fact, there is a company called Atmostrack that seeks to achieve exactly that aim, under the slogan 'BREAKING THE LINK BETWEEN TRANSPORTATION AND OIL.' Note, they explicitly state that they are developing Brunel's atmospheric railway and note also the picture of his statue in pride of place on their website. See: http://www.atmostrack.co.uk/

In short, Brunel was way ahead of his time with this idea - an idea that may now realise its full potential. This fact that his ideas do still have application - and an environmentally sound one fit for our own time - show that Brunel is one of our greatest national figures, and no company should be allowed to tear down anything built by him, although even if they do, I suspect that his name will be remembered far longer than that of Dairy Crest and similar

Furthermore, we have all too many national heroes who were warriors, whose every relic is sacrosanct, and it therefore seems wrong that civilians like Brunel, whose inventions, though with military applications, were primarily conceived and implemented for peacetime public usage, should
be so much more readily forgotten. I would say that Brunel has benefitted the British people and others as much if not more than Nelson, or Wellington, or Churchill, and I am sure that no dairy would be allowed to tear down any structure associated with one of those figures.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 5:50 pm 
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Yes true. I think it is really how you measure success. The problem was the technology was not up to the job. The oft told story of the rats eating the vacum seals in one demonstration of how poor the material solution was. the logic was sound and there is no reason why the system should not be used, especially if it could be made to be more cost effective. The point I think is that by virtue of the fact we are debating this, it should be clear that to judge an endevour on terms of success of faliure is hopelessly flawed, and both EH and Dairy Crest are wrong to do so. I think that the even greater worry about this destruction is that Hoskins, that is simon.hoskins@dairycrest.co.uk, did not even know what the atmospheric railway was until after the demolition started, from what I have seen.

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 Post subject: Re: Brunel's Atmospheric Railway Unimportant?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:46 pm 
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rik_na1 wrote:
Geesh is this heritage destruction week I ask myself ?



Over the winter I've been working at Bowes Railway, on the outskirts of Gateshead, an old colliery railway with some unique features.

http://www.bowesrailway.co.uk

My last day was yesterday, so rather disconcerting to arrive and find a couple of police cars, scene of crime people, C.I.D., etc crawling all over the place. For one nasty moment I thought someone had found out about the locomotive I'd been removing from the site, one piece at a time (a la Johnny Cash). :wink:

Instead, there'd been an over-night visit from arsonists, resulting in six wagons being destroyed (two were apparently the only known examples of their kind) and damage costs estimated at around £100,000. And it could have been even worse had the fire spread to other wagons nearby.

news report: http://www.journallive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-news/2008/03/07/arsonists-destroy-historic-wagons-61634-20571762/

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 3:33 am 
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there'd been an over-night visit from arsonists, resulting in six wagons being destroyed


Yeah this sort of thing is completly pointless. I recall a similar [sorta] thing on Hadrians Wall when a series of sculptures were destroyed in an arson attack on the store where they were being held. Its just so self defeating and pointless to do this. though I noted in the article a reference to scrap merchents or some comparable thing. What are these, people who burn down the wagon to steal the steel as it were?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 12:58 pm 
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rik_na1 wrote:
I noted in the article a reference to scrap merchents or some comparable thing. What are these, people who burn down the wagon to steal the steel as it were?


Yeah, I think the general idea being you burn off the wood and other combustable materials and come back for the scrap metal later.

Though personally I think this is really just a wild rumour/urban myth. The layout of the site itself would make getting the kind of equipment and transport necessery to remove the remains little short of a military operation. Not to mention the fact that everybody will be on their guard now.

Sadly, this was almost certainly just mindless arson.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 11:50 pm 
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We won! People power has finally won through even if common sense didnt. The remnants of the much attacked pumping house are now to be listed as Grade 2 by EH. Pity they did not do this the first time around. One imagines that nothing has changed except the bad press they have been given. Is this then representative of EH heritage in action? The buildings to be saved can only be done so through popular vote? Anyway I am loosing track of the news. The important thing is it cannot now be demolished. Unless it was left and became unsafe ... but Dairy Crest would never stoop so low I am sure ...

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