The Severn Railway Tunnel.

Chapter 10 - Postscript.

       Some facts and figures of the Severn Tunnel.

       The number of bricks used in the construction of the tunnel was 76,400,100. The quantities from each supplier were:
              19,125,440 from the Cattybrook Brickworks
              7,229,100 from the Fishponds Brickworks
              21,944,460 from seven suppliers in Staffordshire
              28,101,100 made onsite at 5 miles 4 chains.

       36,794 tons of Portland cement were used in the works most of which came by rail from Brentford.
       250 tons of tonite were used as a blasting medium.

       The minimum amount of water pumped from the Great Spring is 23 million gallons per day with the maximum of 30 million gallons.

       The highest number of men at work on the tunnel at one time was 3,628. Their rates of pay at the end of 1884 were:

Status Number of Hourly rate 10 hour daily rate
Foremen 14 10d 8s. 4d
"     " 54 9½d 7s. 11d
"     " 9 9d 7s. 6d
Skilled labour 31 8½d 7s. 1d
"     " 275 8d 6s. 8d
"     " 88 7½d 6s. 3d
"     " 183 7d 5s. 10d
"     " 166 6½d 5s. 5d
"     " 456 6d 5s. 0d
"     " 441 5½d 4s. 7d
Labourers 761 5d 4s. 2d
"     " 46 4¾d 4s. 0d
"     " 252 4½d 3s. 9d
"     " 47 4d 3s. 4d
Boys 54 3½d 2s. 11d
"     " 79 3d 2s. 6d
"     " 82 2½d 2s. 1d
"     " 29 2d 1s. 8d

In addition, a large number of bricklayers were employed on a piece-work basis. For those of you who don't remember shillings and pence, the highest paid foreman's daily pay equates to just 42p.

       Sadly, four of the men involved with the Severn Tunnel would be dead within six years of the opening of the tunnel. Thomas Walker died at his house, Mount Ballan, in November 1889 at the age of 61, while he was working on the Barry Docks and Railways, the Preston Docks, the Government Docks at Buenos Aires and the Manchester Ship Canal. He vowed though, never to repeat his experiences with the Severn Tunnel as he stated 'One sub-aqueous tunnel is quite enough for a lifetime'. The other notable men that died were Sir Daniel Gooch aged seventy-three, the diver Alexander Lambert aged fifty-five and Sir John Hawkshaw aged eighty.

       Of the tunnel itself, it still survives to this day although nearly all of the coal traffic has disappeared. The beam-engines that were installed at Sudbrook, 5 miles 4 chains and Sea Wall Shafts continued their vital work, using one and a half train loads of coal per day, until the early 1960's when the pumps were converted to electrically driven. There are plans for a multi-million pound refurbishment of the tunnel to combat the damp conditions. Likewise, the Severn Bridge continued to carry trains on the Midland line into South Wales until, on a foggy night in October 1960, two tankers collided in the Severn estuary and were swept by the fast flowing tide into a pier of the bridge removing two whole sections. It was never rebuilt and was finally demolished in 1970.


The Severn Tunnel Index
Part One: A Bridge or a Tunnel    Part Two: The Work Begins     Part Three: The Great Spring     Part Four: Highs and Lows
Part Five: Methods of Tunnelling     Part Six: A Collapse in the Tunnel     Part Seven: Major Gains and Greater Troubles
Part Eight: The Side Heading     Part Nine: The Final Assault

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