London, South Kensington
2 November 2005
BRUNEL, Isambard Kingdom (1806-1859). Autograph letter signed ('Your affectionate Son I[sambar]d Brunel') to Marc Isambard Brunel (his father), Thames Tunnel Office, 31 December 1826, including three explanatory diagrams in the text, 2½ pages, 8vo, integral address panel annotated by the recipient 'Isambard's Report Water at no. 1!!!! 2 staves broken', (discoloured in upper margin on first page, traces of seal, seal tear, cut at lower edge from a larger leaf).
Brunel describes a serious problem in the construction of the Thames Tunnel and proposes an ingenious solution. 'I think we have discovered the cause of the top staves breaking, another went suddenly with an explosion yesterday afternoon and both broken in the same place and in both the carriages are separated and one of the front wheels got off the bearing & has flown suddenly out of bearing ... Instead of replacing the carriages we have had made some slides ... we shall soap them well and I think they will not only slide very well [but] effectually prevent any [danger] of breakage'
The Thames Tunnel, from Rotherhithe to Wapping, is said to have originated in Marc Isambard Brunel's daring plan, in 1818, for the establishment of a tunnel link between the two banks of the Neva. In 1824 a company was formed for the Thames project, under the chairmanship of the Duke of Wellington, and work began at Rotherhithe in February 1825. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed resident engineer and is reported to have on one occasion been actively engaged in the works for ninety-six consecutive hours, snatching only occasional moments of sleep in the tunnel. It provided him with invaluable experience for his triumphs of engineering later. The tunnel, completed only in 1842, was a pioneering achievement for both father and son.
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