Birmingham Snow Hill Station and Isambard Kingdom Brunel slate plaque in Birmingham

A History of the Great Western Railway

Construction of the Great Western Railway line to Snow Hill began in 1847. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was engineer in charge and the contractors were Peto and Betts.

By 1852 the 129 mile track from Paddington via Oxford was complete - 7' 0" broad gauge to Oxford
4' 8½" narrow gauge from there to Birmingham with a third rail provided for the 7' 0" track.
Narrow gauge became standard for the whole country in 1892. Signals were hand operated by
railway police.

The first Snow Hill Station was opened on 1st October 1852. A special "Eve of Opening" train left
Paddington pulled by Daniel Gooches "Lord of the Isles" which had been on show at the
Great Exhibition. This was derailed at Aynho but successfully completed the journey the following day after a change in engine.

Nine years later narrow gauge track was extended to Paddington providing a 3 hour 20 minute
express service. Unheated carriages were lit by oil pot lamps and bar and disc signals were
operated from trackside capstans.

In 1871 a new station was built to accommodate the great increase in traffic. Expresses like
No 162 "Cobham" designed by William Dean and driven by driver Hughes travelled direct from
Paddington at average speeds of 52.7 MPH the maximum being 62.75 MPH. Carriages were of the clerestory type.
Toilets were introduced in 1873. A familiar sight at the turn of the century was dash the station dog.
His collecting box strapped to his back. Signals were operated by Worcester levers at
track level but by 1900 signal boxes became standard on main lines.
A History of the Great Western Railway

Construction of the Great Western Railway line to Snow Hill began in 1847. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was engineer in charge and the contractors were Peto and Betts.

By 1852 the 129 mile track from Paddington via Oxford was complete - 7' 0" broad gauge to Oxford
4' 8½" narrow gauge from there to Birmingham with a third rail provided for the 7' 0" track.
Narrow gauge became standard for the whole country in 1892. Signals were hand operated by
railway police.

The first Snow Hill Station was opened on 1st October 1852. A special "Eve of Opening" train left
Paddington pulled by Daniel Gooches "Lord of the Isles" which had been on show at the
Great Exhibition. This was derailed at Aynho but successfully completed the journey the following day after a change in engine.

Nine years later narrow gauge track was extended to Paddington providing a 3 hour 20 minute
express service. Unheated carriages were lit by oil pot lamps and bar and disc signals were
operated from trackside capstans.

In 1871 a new station was built to accommodate the great increase in traffic. Expresses like
No 162 "Cobham" designed by William Dean and driven by driver Hughes travelled direct from
Paddington at average speeds of 52.7 MPH the maximum being 62.75 MPH. Carriages were of the clerestory type.
Toilets were introduced in 1873. A familiar sight at the turn of the century was dash the station dog.
His collecting box strapped to his back. Signals were operated by Worcester levers at
track level but by 1900 signal boxes became standard on main lines.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS (/ˈɪzəmbɑrd bruːˈnɛl/; 9 April 1806 – 15 September 1859), was an English mechanical and civil engineer who built dockyards, the Great Western Railway, a series of steamships including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship and numerous important bridges and tunnels. His designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering.Though Brunel's projects were not always successful, they often contained innovative solutions to long-standing engineering problems. During his short career, Brunel achieved many engineering "firsts", including assisting in the building of the first tunnel under a navigable river and development of SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven ocean-going iron ship, which was at the time (1843) also the largest ship ever built.Brunel set the standard for a very well built railway, using careful surveys to minimise grades and curves. This necessitated expensive construction techniques and new bridges and viaducts, and the two-mile-long Box Tunnel. One controversial feature was the wide gauge, a "broad gauge" of 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm), instead of what was later to be known as 'standard gauge' of 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm). The wider gauge added to passenger comfort but made construction much more expensive and caused difficulties when eventually it had to interconnect with other railways using the narrower gauge. As a result of the Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act 1846, the gauge was changed to standard gauge throughout the GWR network.Brunel astonished Britain by proposing to extend the Great Western Railway westward to North America by building steam-powered iron-hulled ships. He designed and built three ships that revolutionised naval engineering.In 2002, Brunel was placed second in a BBC public poll to determine the "100 Greatest Britons". In 2006, the bicentenary of his birth, a major programme of events celebrated his life and work under the name Brunel 200.

Source: dbpedia

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