OverviewThe fourth in a series of PHEW talks on historical engineering works in Wales. This session focuses on the rise and fall of the railway suspension bridge.
A series of online talks for ICE Wales Cymru, in conjunction with the South Wales Institute of Engineers Educational Trust (SWIEET) and the Newcomen Society, by Stephen K. Jones. Stephen is the Wales representative for the Panel for Historical Engineering Works (PHEW), on historical engineering works in Wales and the wider world and has particular interest in Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Captain Sir Samuel Brown.
The Welsh landscape challenged Brunel to develop innovative engineering solutions and he worked extensively with Welsh industry including Brown Lenox.
The first two talks concern Brunel’s works in South Wales and the last two on the history of the suspension bridge in a worldwide context whilst illustrating the pioneering work of Samuel Brown and the Brown Lenox chainworks he established in South Wales. The impact of the railway on its development and decline is also covered in the last talk.
Part 4: Rise and fall: Steam and the suspension bridge
The suspension bridge was considered as a potential long span bridging solution for the early main line railway, but the first example built for railway use demonstrated that the un-stiffened suspension bridge was inherently unsuitable for the live loading of the steam locomotive.
Further attempts would be made with a successful, if largely unrepeated, example constructed in North America. Surprisingly, two examples of this lonely breed survived until 2016 and 2018 in Chile and a cable stayed hybrid design still carries a light rail electric system in the French Alps.