Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Rather draughty.

0 locks and 1.5 miles and 1 tunnel. Now moored at Blisworth

Yesterday, while having a browse through the Museum shop I came across a book about the Railways of Northamptonshire by David Blagrove  published by Wharfside Publications. I have purchased the book and have found very interesting reading. It not only covers the railways but the canals and the  working relationship between them.

I have found 2 amusing anecdotes in just the first 2 chapters. The first was regarding the building of the Braunston and Crick tunnels where the navvies struck serious problems with quick sand. Decades later the railways came along to build the nearby Kilsby tunnel and they also struck the same problem which trial bores had failed to detect. The canal company knew what the railway engineers might find but kept quiet. All's fair in love and war so they say. The tunnel eventually over ran the budget by £2m which was big money in those days. It doesn't end there though. Another generation later and the M45 motorway was being built nearby and LTC (Tom) Rolt the canal historian who had already researched the building of the London/Birmingham railway for his book about George and Robert Stephenson's lives as railway pioneers was asked to document the construction of the motorway. At a point where the motorway crosses the Kilsby tunnel  and the engineers struck the quicksand, surprise, surprise. Apparently the engineers were blissfully unaware of Stephensons problem at that point and were amazed that Rolt knew of the presence of the quicksands. Sounds like somebody failed to do their homework in both cases.

The other amusing thing was that the railways initially were only interested in the carriage of passengers and clean freight. It was noted that the London and Birmingham railway had little desire to carry coal insisting that it be shipped by barges on the canal. If coal was taken through the Kilsby tunnel for transshipment at Weedon or Welton  it was discreetly covered. It was reported that the Superintendent of Traffic had been reported as saying " What, coal by rail,they will expect us to carry dung next"!  He would turn in his grave if he could have seen the hundreds or even thousands of  coal wagons on the railways over the decades.

Some other interesting facts about the Kilsby tunnel is that it is 2423 yards long and took 3 years to complete. It killed or bankrupted 4 contractors, numerous navvies lost their lives.  Robert Stephenson was eventually put in charge of the project and by using 13 beam engines pumping 1800 gallons (8100 litres) a  minute for 19 months he eventually succeeded and the first train passed through within hours of the final brick being laid. Water has been an ongoing maintenance problem and was not resolved until 1957 prior to electrification of the line.

Last night the weather turned extremely windy making it difficult to sleep with things crash, banging around outside. By this morning the wind had eased and it was reasonably fine so we set off through the Blisworth tunnel.  Narrowboats Valerie and Ynete also followed us through. We had just arrived in Blisworth and started to moor when it started to rain. The rain was only brief and we have been getting sunny intervals  with occasional wind gusts all afternoon .

877 locks, 1187.5 miles, 34 Tunnels, 40 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

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