'Selfie' of Brunel looking fed up on a train goes on show in Bristol

'Selfie' by Isambard Kingdom Brunel Image copyright Brunel Institute / PA
Image caption The self-portrait was drawn as he travelled on an "ice chiller" train on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway

A "selfie" of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel as he shivered on a rattling train in the 1830s is to go on show.

The self-portrait was drawn as he travelled on an "ice chiller" train on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Brunel built the Great Western Railway between London and the West of England as well as several steamships including the Great Britain and Eastern.

A number of Brunel's previously unseen notebooks are on show to mark the 175th anniversary of the GWR line.

Matthew Tanner, of the ss Great Britain Trust, said the picture - on show in Bristol - "is the first selfie, really".

The previously unseen pencil drawing was done years before Brunel was appointed as chief engineer for the Great Western Railway Company.

It shows a man shivering in a cold carriage, with his hands in his pockets trying to keep warm with the comment: "Travelling in an ice chiller - hands very cold, going 28 miles per hour on the Lion locomotive."

Image caption The young Victorian engineer would test the nation's bumpy railway lines by trying to draw perfect circles as he travelled
Image caption In one diary entry from 1831, he wrote: "The time is not far off when we shall be able to take our coffee and write while going noiselessly and smoothly at 45 miles per hour."

Mr Tanner said the young Victorian engineer would travel the nation's bumpy railway lines with a notebook in his back pocket trying to draw and write smoothly.

"He went on everybody else's railway to see how bad they were," he said.

"And he tried to draw perfect circles as he was travelling along, as his measure of the smoothness of the railway."

'Uncanny self-portrait'

Two years later, he was appointed chief engineer for "God's Wonderful Railway", the length of which he personally surveyed in its entirety in a bid to find the smoothest, flattest route.

And Brunel's "selfie" picture, said Matthew Golton from GWR, could have inspired the engineer towards his achievement of building the rail line.

"The diary extract could well be documentary evidence of the moment of inspiration that gave birth to Brunel's vision of the Great Western Railway," he said.

"The second - likely a self-portrait - bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the famous photographs by the landing chains of the ss Great Eastern, almost 30 years later."

Brunel's diary entries and notebooks are on display at Brunel's ss Great Britain until 2 July.

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