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Wonders of World Engineering

Part 7

Part 7 of Wonders of World Engineering was published on Tuesday 13th April 1937, price 7d.

Part 7 includes a photogravure supplement showing the Mount Pilatus Railway, illustrating the article Stone and Steel on Pilatus.

The Cover

“The cover of this week’s part shows the former German battleship Kaiserin after she had been raised by salvage engineers from Scapa Flow. The tall pipe-like structures are air-locks, through which air was introduced into the up-turned hull of the sunken warship.”

You can read more about the salvaging of the German High Seas Fleet in Shipping Wonders of the World along with a series of articles on marine salvage.

The former German battleship Kaiserin after she had been raised by salvage engineers from Scapa Flow

Contents of Part 7

The World’s Land Speed Record (Part 2)

Thomas Telford

The Triumph of Television

Stone and Steel on Pilatus

Stone and Steel on Pilatus (photogravure supplement)

The Fight Against Fire

Salvage Engineers at Work (Part 1)

Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Blue Bird

“DETAILED DIAGRAM of Sir Malcolm Campbell's 1933 Blue Bird. The overall length of the car was 26 ft 7 in and the overall width 6 ft 11 in The total weight was 10,900 lb, or nearly 5 tons. The engine was a twelve-cylinder supercharged Rolls-Royce aero engine as used by planes in the Schneider Trophy Air Race. The car carried 28 gallons of fuel, 27 gallons of water and 10 gallons of oil.”

(Page 199)

Thomas Telford

Thomas TelfordAfter a period of apprenticeship as a stonemason, Telford became a civil engineer, devoting his energy to bridges, canals and roads, and preparing the way for the industrial development of Great Britain. Modern science, in seeking a secluded site for a magnetic observatory, chose the uplands of Eskdalernuir, a part of Dumfriesshire close to the English border. Isolated even now, Eskdale in the railwayless and almost roadless days of 1757 was uninfluenced by the dawning mechanical age. Yet in that year there was born, in a shepherd's cottage near Westerkirk, a boy, Thomas Telford, who was destined to become the first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and to find his last resting place with kings and princes in Westminster Abbey. The country boy grew up to spend his early days in his father's calling, receiving at first his food, a pair of stockings and five shillings a year as wages. At the parish school he learned to read, write and do sums, but little else, and at the age of fifteen was apprenticed to a stonemason. In the little riverside town of Langholm, at that time a collection of thatched mud hovels with a few stone houses, Telford's desire for knowledge attracted the attention of an elderly lady who gave him the run of her little library. The young stonemason read all he could and borrowed other books elsewhere. Poetry specially attracted him, and shortly after he had become a journeyman earning nine shillings a week he was contributing to an Edinburgh magazine. In 1780 Telford went to Edinburgh, then extending itself into the spacious "New Town". Here, while working hard at his trade, he continued to educate himself, learning to draw and measuring and sketching as many notable buildings as he could reach on foot. In 1782 he was given the opportunity of travelling to London on horseback. Almost at once Telford found employment as a mason on Somerset House, where his handiwork survives at the corner of the building nearest Waterloo Bridge. His next move was to Portsmouth in 1784. Here Telford superintended the erection of several buildings in the Dockyard. Every hour of his time was usefully accounted for, and chemistry, among other things, he attentively studied. The Portsmouth buildings were completed in 1786, and Telford, having been engaged on the conversion of Shrewsbury Castle to a private residence, was appointed Surveyor of Public Works for Salop. In this post he designed and superintended the first of his numerous bridges. This meant a transition to the business of the engineer. In 1793 the change was recognized by his appointment as engineer to the Ellesrnere Canal, and in 1795, in the same capacity, to the Shrewsbury Canal. Telford, in spite of his upbringing, discarded the then conventional method of carrying canals across valleys by masonry aqueducts. Instead, although the piers of the viaducts remained of stone, though radically altered in type, the trough forming the canal bed running over them was made wholly of cast iron, a bold and novel construction at once cheaper and less liable to leakage. Similar originality appeared in other canal details, such as locks, tunnels, docks and gates. Telford was concerned in many more canal undertakings, notably the long Caledonian Canal, with its twenty-eight locks, and the Gotha Canal, which links the Baltic Sea and the Kattegat. Telford's bridges are to be counted by the hundred, and many of them were built in connexion with his road systems. Here again an unusual degree of enterprise was shown. One little-known project was a single-span cast-iron bridge built in 1802 to replace the old London Bridge. Although technically sound, the scheme was not proceeded with beyond the preliminary stages because of difficulties in connexion with the buildings in the vicinity of the approaches. Another type, the suspension bridge, first developed on a large scale by Telford, has been found more manageable for wide spans. Telford's Menai Straits suspension bridge, 1,710 feet long and 100 feet above high tide, was an outstanding achievement. Of Telford's numerous roads, those in the Highlands of Scotland advanced that part of the country by at least a century. Scotland benefited too by the construction of numerous bridges and by the improvement of such harbours as Aberdeen, Leith and Banff, by Telford. Abroad Telford's services were eagerly sought in many directions. With railways he had little to do. His last notable work was on St. Katharine Docks, London. No long period of retired ease awaited the successful engineer at the end of his life of unremitting industry, cheerfully and conscientiously performed. He died at his house in Abingdon Street, Westminster, on September 2, 1834, and he lies in the nave of Westminster Abbey. To the last he retained, in spite of much adulation, the unaffected manners of his early days. To Telford his duty in his profession and to his fellow men came first and, in an age of speculation of a dubious sort, he resisted all temptations to make money by any such means. He died so ignorant of what he really owned that his legatees, among whom was the Poet Laureate Southey, found themselves with nearly twice as much as had been set down in the will. Yet the widowed mother in far-off Eskdale was provided for adequately all her days. Before and after her death many of the poor of the valley were quietly and substantially helped at Telford's request.

This is the second article in the series on Makers of Engineering History.

(Page 200)

The Triumph of Television

Television is a science which offers unlimited opportunities to the engineer and the inventor. The television station at Alexandra Palace, London, was the first in the world to provide a regular daily service to the public. Radio sets are now a commonplace feature of many homes, but it is not many years ago that they, too, were novelties and were not taken seriously. It is early yet to say how soon television will become as familiar in the home as wireless; but that it will do so is certain. This chapter, by L H Thomas, describes Alexandra Palace, the world’s first television station in regular service.

(Pages 201-206)

The World’s Land Speed Record (Part 2)

The story of Sir Malcolm Campbell's record-breaking Blue Bird cars, written by L H Thomas and concluded from part 6.

(Pages 197-199)

The Upper Terminus of the Pilatus Railway

“PILATUS-KULM, the upper terminus of the Pilatus Railway, is 5,344 feet above Alpnach on Lake Lucerne. This height is surmounted in a distance of only 5,049 yards, or less than three miles. The average gradient is 1 in 2.8 and the easiest 1 in 5. The terminus at the summit is situated on the second highest peak of Pilatus knows as the Esel.”

(Pages 212-213)

A Studio Scene at Alexandra Palace

“A STUDIO SCENE at Alexandra Palace. The performers work in the glare of powerful floodlights, and microphones are suspended above them. On the left is the booth in which the scanning apparatus is operated.”

(Page 201)

Stone and Steel on Pilatus

The engineers who built the railway to the summit of Mount Pilatus had all the defences of Nature to fight. Ravines had to be bridged, precipices to be scaled and a large amount of grading had to be done. Many visitors to Switzerland know the famous Mount Pilatus and its railway. The story of the building of this railway is one of the most fascinating of all the stories of the engineer’s triumph over the forces of Nature. This chapter, by F E Dean, not only tells the story of the conquest of Pilatus, but it describes also the electrification of the line. This is the first article in the series Railway Engineers at Work.

(Pages 207-215)

You can read more on the Mount Pilatus Railway in Railway Wonders of the World, and in Frederick Talbot’s Railway Wonders of the World (1913)

Stone and Steel on Pilatus: Photogravure Supplement

“A SPECIAL SWITCH SYSTEM is used on the Pilatus Railway to enable trains to pass one another. The presence of the third rail, the rack rail between the running rails, makes it impossible to use the normal type of switch. Two lengths of rail curved in opposite directions are laid side by side in a pit in such a way that either can be moved into position to one of the two sets of rails at the passing loop.”


(Page 211)

The Salvage of the Silurus

“TEN MILES OF STEEL CABLES were used to haul the wrecked dredger Silurus into an upright position. The dredger, the most powerful of her time, broke from her moorings in a Scottish loch and was driven onto the shore at a point where it shelves steeply. The heavy tophamper of the Silurus, with her tower and dredges, caused her to heel over as the tide receded. Steel cables 6 in and 8½ in in circumference were used to haul her upright.”

(Page 222)

The Fight Against Fire

 To protect structures from possible damage by fire many ingenious precautions are taken when building is in progress. To extinguish outbreaks speedily fire engineers have devised many efficient appliances large and small. This chapter is by Sidney Howard.

(Pages 216-221)

Salvage Engineers at Work (Part 1)

Unusually complicated problems of engineering have to be solved by the salvage expert when he has to raise sunken vessels, whether small ships, ocean-going liners or battleships, from the bed of the sea. This chapter is by David Masters and the article is concluded in part 8.

(Pages 222-228)

You can read more about David Masters’ work as a salvage engineer in his book The Wonders of Salvage (1924).

Sir Malcolm Campbell's "Blue Bird"A Studio Scene at Alexandra PalaceRolling Stock for the Pilatus Line

Rolling Stock for the Pilatus Line

“ROLLING STOCK for the Pilatus Line has the compartments built out of plumb, so that they will be comfortable when travelling on a gradient as steep as 1 in 2. The steam coaches, which were superseded on the electrification of the line, were divided into four compartments, with a driving cabin at the lower end. Each coach accommodated thirty-two passengers and weighed 10½ tons.”

(Page 207)

Swith rails on the Pilatus LineThe Upper Terminus of the Pilatus RailwayThe Upper Terminus of the Pilatus RailwayTraversing a precipice on the Pilatus Line

Traversing a Precipice

“TRAVERSING A PRECIPICE on the Pilatus Railway. Foot by foot a massive masonry wall was built on the line of the track to the summit. The wall was topped with granite slabs, to which the rails of the single track were bolted down. There was barely room for the track, which has a gauge of

2 ft 7½ in. Brackets projecting from the masonry support a maintenance gangway across precipitous portions of the line.”


(Page 214)

Tackling a Fire in Southwark

Tackling a Fire in Southwark

“POWERFUL JETS OF WATER discharged from many hoses were played on a big fire in an oils and colours warehouse at Southwark, London, from extended ladders and other vantage points. Often there is no building opposite from which water can be directed into a blaze, and then the use of extended ladders is


(Page 216)