Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brunel's Tunnel

In nineteenth century there was a British civil engineer in England by the name of Brunel. I really know nothing of 19th century English railways, but his name is omnipresent. I do know he designed Paddington Station in London, which we became very familiar with and also the Box Tunnel on the Great Western Main Line.

I think Brunel was a pretty damn marvellous engineer, from what I read. However, I am not writing this to list his achievements. That can be found elsewhere. But I did come across an interesting anecdote.

If you stand at the western end of the Box Tunnel on the morning of Brunel's birthday, as the sun rises, it can be glimpsed at the other end of the almost two mile long tunnel. This only happens on one day each year, the day of Brunel's birthday. It is very hard to verify as it is nigh on impossible to check because of the very busy train line where you would need to stand.

Some scientists argue that the sun moves around too much each year for the story to be true, but some people passionately believe that it really happens and Brunel designed the tunnel so that it would occur. I am never one to spoil a good story with facts, so I am a believer.

Here is a photo from Wikipedia of the western end of the Box Tunnel, and you can see that some brave souls seem to be checking the truth of the tale or they have a death wish.


  1. Hello Andrew:
    We have enjoyed the anecdote enormously, although should not be tempted to see if it is true!

    We agree completely about Brunel's achievements which are much more widespread than most people realise. And, such a wonderful name, Isambard Kingdom Brunel!!!

  2. Nice to have you back JayLa. It is quite a wonderful name. Did I read somwhere he was Anglo French?

  3. Brunel was a bloody genius but I feel like saying "lose the hat, sir", at least while you are at work.

    This is a bit of a Brunel month and I too am coming back to Brunel next week. Loved your story. It may have zero basis in fact, but Brunel was a master of self publicity :)

    His dad, no engineering slouch himself, was indeed French born.

  4. Hels, the hat looks American. In fact Brunel looks very American. Look forward to more Brunel from you.

  5. I enjoyed the story regardless and choose to believe it true also.

  6. We are romantics Rubye.

  7. Considering how dark it appears at this end of the tunnel those 'viewers' might have faced a long wait to test the truth of the tale.

  8. Victor, you are such a treasure to give the opportunity for lines like, there is light at the end of the tunnel.