[Letter] 1834 Feb 13, 53 Parliament St. [to] G. H. Wollaston Esq. / I. K. Brunel. [Re the set of coloured plans of parts of the Great Western Railway (inv. 1948-43). 2p. on 1 leaf]
This letter was written by Isambard Kingdom Brunel to a G. H. Wollaston concerning the construction of the Great Western Railway (GWR). Brunel speaks of surveying the route, as the letter was written only a few months after work began on the railway.
The GWR initially ran from London Paddington to Bristol, work began in 1834, with Brunel’s appointment as Chief Engineer by Parliament. Brunel made some controversial decisions regarding construction such as using broad gauge track (7 ft), instead of the standard gauge (4 ft 8 ½ in) that was used on the rest of the emerging railway network. While the broad gauge allowed for smoother running at higher speed, it prevented GWR rail vehicles from operating on other lines. He also decided on a controversial route, through mostly rural areas.
Brunel was a major pioneer during the Industrial Revolution. His major projects include the Thames Tunnel, as well as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, yet the GWR was his biggest and arguably most influential project. This is perhaps reflected in the anxious tone Brunel conveys throughout this letter to Wollaston.