Education free essay:Britannia Bridge (Menai Strait, Wales)
Britannia Bridge (Menai Strait, Wales)
Great bridge works in history are perhaps an inspiration for the construction of more exhilarating works in today’s and in the future needs. It goes without saying that great future construction works such as the envisioned Transatlantic Tunnel will build a lot on the past successful works of a similar challenge. Linking some of the most successful earliest construction projects that will spur growth in this built environment sector brings into the minds of engineers the contribution that suspension and tube bridges make. In European construction history, some of the earliest bridges of this nature to be constructed and that studies can reveal useful insights on their engineering cannot ignore the great Welsh works. In this discourse, the Britannia Bridge that connects the Anglesey Island with mainland of the country is analyzed to reveal the intricate details of the project from construction to completion and reconstruction (Anglesey Mon Information, 1). For purposes of comparison of factors, the geography of the area around the bridge is briefly discussed, with explanation of why a bridge was needed. A mention of a second bridge serving the same purpose as the Britannia Bridge is made with a brief explanation of its construction aspects enabling comparison with the main bridge of discussion.
In the mid 19th century, it was perhaps very unimaginable to have a tube bridge connecting an island with the mainland but in 1826, the Menai Bridge was completed. Its capacity was overstretched over the years and it became clear that as the flow of important cargo and people from both sides needed intervention. There were communication and linkage challenges between the British towns of Dublin and London at the time, which inspired engineering brains to be put to task. Alternative link was identified as the main solution to the teething transportation challenge. This was made possible thanks to Robert Stephenson, who had to come up with an alternative route and structure to cater for the rising traffic. The journey of connection for these two major towns began in 1846 with an intention of cutting off more than six hours from the trip between them by way of a ferry (Kurrer, 76).
Designing the Britannia Bridge
The design of the bridge was entrusted in the able hands of Robert Stephenson, an engineer and a son of a renowned locomotive engineer George Stephenson. Engineering design had to handle a few challenges that were present at the geography of the area. Menai Strait which has a variety of variations across its entire stretch had to be considered for the appropriate structure to be formulated for erection across the geography. Support system for the bridge was to tackle the turbulent current waters of the Strait at certain periods of the year and maintain the integrity of the structure as well.
Deliberations on the appropriate site to cross the Strait were made in light of other important factors such as distance and the stability of the ground from where the bridge was to be erected. Stephenson chose to erect the Bridge at a location where there is a midstream island known as the Britannia Rock for increased structural support to the ground. In hi design, the engineer chose piers for support of the tubular design of the railway which would run over the surface of the water inside the rectangular compartment. As mentioned earlier, the main inspiration of the design was partly due to the fact that the waterway was to be maintained without obscuring from structures such as the envisaged bridge.
Robert Stephenson arrived at a designed that would allow Britannia Bridge structure to stretch over initial length of about 140 meters. An additional length was fixed at the ends of the bridge to extend it to 461 meters of total length. Suspension technique meant that the main part of the bridge had to have solid beams that went deep into the ground for support of the structure. Design issues had to come to terms with the size of the entire structure from one end to the other, particularly as guided b y the material that was used in the support as well as completion of the suspended tube. Despite variations in the distance apart between the island and the mainland this distance had to be arrived at as the shortest distance possible in consideration of other factors.
Other stretch distances in the wide array of the Menai Strait’s width vary from 400m meters to over 1100 meters. Support system that was adopted for the bridge was to facilitate the ordinary shipping activities along the Strait without disruption. From such a design, the materials needed in the structural completion of the project were determined since the construction materials could be projected from the planning stage. Rectangular tubular structure was adopted for structural design that befitted the design of the time, for enhanced integrity over the entire distance. According t Brown (64), Stephenson made wide consultations regarding the choice of the cross section to use for the tube that would sustain its structural integrity across the entire length of the bridge. The author indicates that the best construction firms gave insights into the buildup of the arrival at a rectangular cross section which is much stringer that the rest.
Britain was at the heart of the industrial revolution and the daring nature of the British engineers can be said to have been contributed by the vibrancy of the new order that was prevailing in Europe. It was therefore at a time that the construction and engineering civilization was undergoing major transformations that the idea to build bridges for linking major geographical locations that Britannia Bridge was built. Mining had been boosted by the realization of the industrial age that Europe was experiencing, as illustrated by the wrought-iron technology that was in a wide application. Effectively, transformations were experienced in the transport sector as illustrated by the need to have a second bridge to connect an island with the mainland.
The civilization behind these transformations explains the technological peak that the rest of the European countries were achieving at the period outlined at the construction of the bridge. From the turn of the turn of the 18th century, Britain was a leading industrialization revolutionist which had to be kept updated since the rest of the continental Europe was fast catching up with the benefits of the revolution. To tap the opportunity presented by the revolution, construction industry was not taken for granted as depicted in this project.
Following several transformations in the social setting in Britain and indeed the rest of Europe, there were certain cultural factors that must have been pivotal in the construction of the Britannia Bridge. One of the cultural factors is the modification of lifestyle that made it necessary to have the train mode of transport. Transportation system in Britain was characterized by traffic in adoption of the civilization established following the plateau phase of the industrial revolution. Before dissemination of the civilization to other parts of the world, the cultural interaction with technology was an ordinary occurrence in Britain. Traffic snarl-ups at the main bridge that was constructed earlier on were threatening to create a humanitarian crisis if people and cargo were not transported over the appropriate duration of time. It became enshrined in the cultural practices that reduced capacity of the Menai Bridge needed to be supplemented by construction of a new bridge. The building and construction culture was becoming popular and well outlined with a rare impetus being introduced into the bridge industry in the preceding years of the Britannia Bridge project (Brown, 64).
Contribution to the Built Environment
As mentioned earlier on, building and construction made contributions in the transformation of many aspects of the human lifestyle to such an extent that many future projects would apply the success of the project. In a mention of the importance of initial projects’ role as outlined in the introduction, many future projects are deemed to benefit from the inspirations obtained thereon. Major bridge construction projects with a similar tubular and suspension designs had to make studies relating to the structural integrity of the Britannia Bridge, which could have borrowed from the few projects of a similar magnitude in existence at that time. The differences in design factors that the engineers had to consider during making of reliance on the already available construction works included the case specific requirements such as weight and the nature of the vessel transporting cargo and human beings across the structures. Several other civil engineering works would be constructed from a central tenet of structure integrity and support parameters.
Outstanding contributions can be identified in the name of the superstructure that the design was able to generate as intended by the engineer. It had not been conceptualized anywhere else before, that riveting together plain sheets of wrought iron could facilitate the construction of a tubular tunnel as designed. Besides the design of the compartment, the suspension of the tubular structure using beam design of structural support presented a unique infiltration of civil work designs not applied anywhere before. On a different approach, the creation of the mega-structure in the apparently narrow waterway without creation of an obstruction to water vessels pathway was a dramatic finding in the sector. The complexity of the fabrication process involving the sheets of wrought iron then their adjoining leaves a clear impression of how the built environment stood to benefit from the project. In anticipation of the world’s greatest project of almost similar nature across the Atlantic Ocean, useful insights of the fabrications are undoubtedly the best.
Construction of the Britannia Bridge
How the structure came to be completed is a mystery to many but the construction design and information available makes it easy to understand how it was actually done. After the selection of the Britannia sub-stream as a unique bridge construction of the project was forthcoming with every bit if the logistics being put in place. The financial aspect was particularly secured through an act of parliament that had to be expedited on the urgency of its application. The support of the project was certainly not optional in several respects. Soon the construction work of the project was underway following all the relevant construction and financial considerations, most of which involved the political process.
The construction procedure can be summarized to the extent that it must have included the following stages at least at one point of its construction. The end spans had to be erected on both sides of the structure, with the central beams inside the Strait being necessitated as the next stage. In all the construction tests t be conducted, the movement of the tides was very important since the level of the Strait’s water determined the amount f support needed at different periods. After the structural erection of groundwork support for the suspended tubular tunnel, tests were carried out to ensure that serious structural threats were not going t affect the integrity of the bridge amid various factors such as high tide waters.
The main tubular fabrication to be fitted into the support system already in place was carried out next to the location of the bridge and floated in place for riveting (Kurrer, 78). Since the bridge has a suspension design, the tubes were lifted into place at the top of the pillar support framework using ropes and anchors that were fitted to hydraulic jacks that were capable of lifting the wrought iron tubular sections. Several angular measurements guided the riveting procedure to avoid certain faults emerging from wrong angular measurements for the project. Riveting was done in a cautious consideration of the angles at the end and central spans which determine the stability of the tubular structure under support from the pillars. Angular modifications on each of the two ends using angular calculations was performed before final riveting by raising the bearing of the end sections at the beam to create an allowance for the end spans into the mainland and island extension of the railway and road. Structural calculations were made to effect the angular modifications at all positions, which made the structural support of the project one of the best historic works in Wales and Britain.
The actual contraction works took five years until 18th of March 1850 when a section of the project was opened for confirmation of the success of the project. From the exciting news of the theoretical application of principles of construction, future projects were to heavily rely on the findings thereon. Success was translated in terms of theory postulations, calculations, support, riveting as well as the shape and entre design. Engineering decision t erect the project across a sub-stream Britannia Rock was useful in reinforcing structural design on any surface.
Timber came in handy in the design of the structural riveting and adjoining particularly at the end of the tunnel, but it had to be replaced with stringer materials. Wrought iron was the main structural material from the tubular structure to the foundation and girder enforcement. Concrete was perhaps the most useful pillar and support material that the project heavily relied on as well as limestone and sandstone that facilitated the finishing work.
Tools and equipment used in the construction were not as sophisticated as they are today due to the several transformations that followed the technology era following the industrial revolution. Jacks and cranes were used in lifting the rectangular tubular sections of the tunnel for adjoining at the beam-work on the top of the structure chains were also employed for extra strengthening of the structure, in fear of inadequate capacity for the same function. Modern specialized equipment would have been used without improvisation of jacks for the lifting procedure. Labor force applied in the project was obtained from the Welsh population that lived nearby at the site of the project. Skilled and professional assistance was outsourced from the larger Britain and sometimes from across the borders.
If Built Today
Comparing an 1846 construction idea with a similar idea in 2011 would portray marked differences as illustrated by the following section. Huge design departure ranging from the suspension structure to material usage would be expected in case the Britannia Bridge project was carried out today from scratch. I propose that the project should have taken a shorter time period due t the advancement in technology and government funding options. Perhaps the type of machinery and equipment that the modern construction industry has witnessed being formulated would have reduced wastage of material and time and increase accuracy in calculations. With the advent of the information age decades after the industrial age, advancement in innovation in computer programs has facilitated the revival in the construction industry to such an extent that every aspect of the project is analyzed at the click of a button, which saves a lot of time and money in the preparation of the actual design and project work. Having been conducted in an age when information technology was poorly developed, I find several alternatives that were difficult to be availed then being readily available today.
Perhaps the most prominent departure of the design would be the use of tower-like pillars for the support of the suspended tunnel. In my estimation, it must have cost the project much more to achieve the strength achieved than it would today, with the discovery of better construction alternatives that apply les stone-work. Steel arch design would have reduced the need for solid construction design that increases weight of the bridge. By reducing unnecessary weight, the bridge’s stability would be increased in unparalleled magnitude. Perhaps safety installations inside the bridge would be easier in a lighter bridge to avert a fire tragedy that almost destroyed the entire project in 1970. The inclusion of enlarged capacity traffic would be possible from the beginning if the weight restriction was not a factor.
High speed vacuum tunnels are the modern fashion of train transport and I presuppose that the designer would consider adopting a maglev design for the train. Such an arrangement would facilitate the movement of top speed transport from London to Dublin within a magical short period of time. Electric trains or trams in the modern day Britain would appear to be behind technology schedule since the diversity of the UK economy allows swift movement of traffic, a fact that would inspire vacuum magnetic levitation design of the entire bridge and railway line between the two important cities in the UK. The magnitude of the project and the revenue it generates to the UK’s economy would attract any form of investment that would tap the best rewards that can be generated. Maintenance costs would drastically be reduced in the proposed design, making the recent reconstruction works unnecessary (BBC, 1).
While considering the great construction projects in the early history of the United Kingdom, it would be difficult to assume the lasting impression created by the Britannia Bridge connecting Anglesey to mainland of Wales. Major construction tenets can be created from the construction ideas that the bridge puts together (Solomon, 117). However, a modern touch in the old project would have several restructuring areas such as would allow minimal project weight, safety enhancement and maintenance cost reduction.
“The History of the Bridges on the Menai Straits off the Island of Anglesey, North Wales,” Anglesey Môn Information, 2009. Web. http://www.anglesey.info/Menai%20Bridges.htm (accessed 27 April 2011)
“Work on Britannia Bridge over Menai Strait Starts,” BBC, Last Updated 10 January 2011. Web. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-12152074 (accessed 27 April 2011)
Brown, David J. Bridges: three thousand years of defying nature. St. Paul, MN: MBI Publishing Company, 2001. Print
Kurrer, Karl-Eugen The history of the theory of structures: from arch analysis to computational mechanics. Berlin, Germany: Ernst & Sohn Verlag für Architektor und Technische, 2008. Print
Solomon, Brian North American railroad bridges. St. Paul: MN: Voyageur Press, 2008. Print
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