Young People's

Railway Engineering – Yesterday and Today

Dr Michael Bailey, MBE
6th February 2018, 7:00pm

The much-publicised planning activities for the first phase of the ‘High Speed 2’ railway line between London and Birmingham prompt comparison with those of the Victorian era line between the same two cities. The latter was the world’s first trunk railway, the Chief Engineer for which was Robert Stephenson. The requirements for surveying and selecting a route are much the same today as in the 1830s, except that land use and population are so much greater today, making route selection more difficult and controversial.

The process of designing the line and its structures is much the same today as for the first line, although the techniques and technical aides are so developed now by comparison with the early equipment previously used. Stephenson was challenged by a limited knowledge of soil mechanics and he learned much about the characteristics of different soil and rock as he proceeded with construction. Today’s engineers have detailed knowledge of soil and rock they will find along the chosen route arising from samples they have taken. This is an essential pre-requisite to the issue of tender invitations for which contractors base their estimates.

The planning and building of a rail route requires the close co-ordination of practitioners from several professions each of which has evolved in the intervening years. These include surveyors, lawyers, civil engineers, structural engineers, quantity surveyors, contractors, permanent way engineers and signalling engineers, whilst the rolling stock teams of today are formed of mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and electronic engineers, a far cry from the steam locomotive engineers of yesteryear.

About the Speaker

Michael Bailey was a transport professional for many years, including six years in railway service. His interest in, and passion for, early railway history, and early locomotives in particular, has led him to undertake many research projects on these subjects. He has published the findings in several books and papers. These include the editorship of the most recent biography of the Victorian engineer, Robert Stephenson. He is a Past-President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology, and is now the President of the Stephenson Locomotive Society, the world’s oldest railway interest society. 


Menu for Supper

For School Bookings: pizza and refreshments before the lecture (6pm).

For Members of the Society:

Beef bourguignon or baked sea bass with patatas bravas or mature cheddar & red onion pie (v) with a choice of the following sides: steamed new potatoes, steamed market vegetables, pilaf rice

Pear & Almond Frangipan or Chocolate Truffle Torte

This will be served after the lecture (8:15pm), although teas and coffees will be served for Members before the lecture from 6pm so that there is a chance to socialise with the school students.

N.B. the Lit & Phil office have to inform venues of catering numbers approximately 7 days before an event so please make sure you book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.