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Lot 113

A hand coloured print entitled 'The Proposed Channel Tunnel, Abbots's Cliff, English Coast


A hand coloured print entitled 'The Proposed Channel Tunnel, Abbots's Cliff, English Coast. 1880. 4-25 x 8 ins, (11 x 20.4 cms.), Framed. This hand coloured print is a real curiosity. Whenever anyone crosses the channel to France via the tunnel, think about the incredible engineers, Mr. English and Mr. Beaumont, who nearly made it over a hundred years ago. They were starting a tunnel in Wear Bay, Folkestone to meet one from Sangatte in France. On the 18 February 1884 the Chairman of the Company, Mr Edward Watkin, invited a party of about forty to visit the borings of the English trial tunnel. At the opening of the pit leading to this tunnel, six people got into a cage hanging from a cable like those used for lowering and raising miners or coal in coal-mines. At the bottom of the 50-metre pit, the guests went down a sloping approach tunnel fifteen hundred metres long and not much more than 2 metres wide. This tunnel was lit by incandescent electric lamps, and at the end of it the guests found themselves in a sort of hall roughly the same size as the future tunnel, where they were given lunch. Overhead, there were thirty metres of rock between them and the water. As the guests were shown, the trial tunnel was bored automatically by a cutting machine rather than a drill, the brainchild of two British engineers, Mr English and Mr Beaumont. This machine worked on compressed air and, at the same time it crushed the rock, it passed back the accumulated chalk dust in conveyor buckets, which unloaded it into tip-wagons on rails. This ingenious appliance was operated just by one man in front and one behind. The compressed air was led to it by a heavy sheet-metal tank on rails, driven by a part of the actual fluid it carried.. The machine in the trial tunnel could bore twelve metres in seventeen hours, an incredible speed for its day. They had a new machine that was planned to bore at one metre an hour. The tunnel was only two metres wide, but was going to be doubled by boring above the existing tunnel to a size similar to the tunnel today. Alas various generals etc. made a huge issue of the dangers to England's security of a tunnel connected to France, and the tunnel was stopped by Parliament. Sadly the brilliant technical work for boring and fresh air was frozen until the late twentieth century. Such was the influence of generals who were soon to be seen as utter fools in World War I.

Auction Date: December 2016


£20 - £30

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