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Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the Great Western railway

Brunel: The Great Western

George Clark is an engineer, who has been working with Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the building of the Great Western Railway.

In 1851 he is taking his assistant, Arthur, on the train from Bristol to London.

The purpose of their journey is to visit the Great Exhibition. As they walk up to the station in Bristol, Arthur is amazed by the grandeur of the building, designed by Brunel.

The station cost a great deal of money; the directors had been appalled at the amount, but Brunel had persuaded them that this would be no ordinary railway, that it would be the finest railway in the world - and Brunel had got his way.

Amid the smoke, noise and steam, Arthur grows nervous about travelling on the train. George manages to reassure him and the journey goes smoothly until George tells him the story behind Maidenhead Bridge. Brunel had wanted to build a bridge that was low and flat, but the directors were worried about whether the bridge would bear the weight of the trains travelling over it. The directors agreed to Brunel's plans, but only as long as the scaffolding under the bridge was kept in place.

Brunel had agreed to this condition, but had then lowered the scaffolding slightly so that it wasn't actually touching the bridge...and in fact the scaffolding was eventually washed away when the river flooded. Arthur panics about travelling over an unsupported bridge, until George points out to him that the train has already passed over it...and Arthur didn't even notice.

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