BRUNEL LATEST….Evidence of Engineer’s Genius.

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Here is our file on Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s background to highlight his importance to history and the threat posed to its equilibrium if he takes up fridge building instead, or decides even, as has been rumoured in some quarters, to become a marriage guidance counsellor and build bridges that way.

Isambard Kingdom BRUNEL


Born in Portsmouth, England, on April 9. The only son of the renowned engineer Marc Brunel.


Baby Isambard constructs his own pushchair using Meccano.


Assists his father on the perilous Thames Tunnel project. The first tunnel in the world constructed under a navigable river. Marc is pleased with his son’s endeavours, plus it saves him hiring a babysitter.


Convalescing in Bristol after a nasty accident in the Thames Tunnel that nearly claimed his life, Brunel enters a competition to design a bridge to span the Avon Gorge. He collects and sends off the right amount of food labels and completes a tie-breaker. However, he is dismayed to learn that fellow engineer Thomas Telford has been selected.

Brunel writes to the competition organisers pointing out that Thomas Telford is only 5 feet 7 inches when laid out flat and anything spanning the Avon Gorge will need to be considerably longer than that.


In light of the new evidence, the competition is restaged and Brunel triumphs. His design, based on an Egyptian theme, concerns some Bristolians that bit might attract more mosquitoes to the city, or even Marc Antony.


The Bristol Riots in Queen Square cause death and destruction over three days. Funds are pooled elsewhere so only the two unconnected towers of the bridge are built in Brunel’s lifetime.


The Bristol City Council are pleased with Brunel’s unconnected bridge, hailing it a marvel of the modern age for the following reasons:

  1. Complaints from road users between the towers had fallen, quite literally.
  2. It had boosted the profits of the Clifton Christian Memorabilia Shop on Whiteladies Road, as it was the only way people in Clifton could get a cross.
  3. It was now easier for people in the West country to obtain fairy lights.
  4. Slightly less ink was now needed on maps of Bristol.


Brunel appointed chief engineer of The Great Western Railway and charged with the task of creating a line between Bristol and London. Does so by employing surveys to minimise grades and curves which means endorsing expensive construction techniques to overcome natural obstacles. Impressive bridges, viaducts and tunnels are designed by Brunel, including the Box Tunnel between Chippenham and Bath which is, at 1.83 miles, the longest tunnel ever constructed. It is aligned so that one day each year as the Sun rises it can be seen all the way through the tunnel, that day being April 9, Brunel’s birthday.


Marries Mary Elizabeth Horsley, they later have three children together.


Makes the astounding proposal to extend The Great Western Railway to New York via train from London to Bristol and then ship from Bristol to New York. The Great Western Steamship Company is established to service this Trans-Atlantic route with ships.


Brunel designs Temple Meads Station in Bristol to link with Paddington Station in London, also of his design. It is built in 1840.


AS Great Britain designed by Brunel, built and launched in Bristol. The largest ship in the world and the first to combine being iron built with a screw propeller. It is the forerunner of all modern shipping and makes sea crossings quicker, safer, reliable and more luxurious as voyages no longer depend upon the weather. Brunel’s ship carries nearly 400 passengers and crew.

Unfortunately, it confuses some travellers who think that SS Great Britain means Smaller Scale Great Britain and are scared to voyage upon her for fear that Scotland will leave the Union and a sizeable chunk at the top end of the ship will have to be jettisoned to replicate this. Brunel’s genius was ahead if its time, for similar ignorance amongst some of the public dogged his Great Western Railway too, with rumours that engine drivers needed to kearn how to communicate via smoke signals properly so as not to offend any peaceful Indians living near the track. While orchestras were advised, apparently, not to travel by Great Western Railway because anything that had horns was likely to get lassoed by the cowboys on board.


The Eastern Steam Navigation Company in London employs Brunel to design The Great Eastern. It dwarfs the  SS Great Britain with room for 4,000 passengers. It’s way ahead of its time and leads to many engineering problems. The strain takes a toll on Brunel’s health.


Brunel dies on 15 September after hearing news if van explosion on board The Great Eastern during sea trials.


The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol is completed as a tribute to Brunel. At 700 feet, it has the longest span of any bridge in the world.


The rusting hulk of the SS Great Britain is towed back to Bristol from the Falkland Islands where it has been left to decay for many years. It passes under The Clifton Suspension Bridge on its way to the dock where it was originally constructed and from where it is restored to its former glory.

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