Magazine article History Today

The Simplon Tunnel Dedicated: April 2nd, 1905

Magazine article History Today

The Simplon Tunnel Dedicated: April 2nd, 1905

Article excerpt

THE SIMPLON Tunnel under the Swiss Alps, at 19.8 kilometres (12.3 miles) for years the longest railway tunnel in the world, was a tremendous feat of engineering in almost impossibly difficult conditions, achieved with remarkably few casualties. It was planned by Alfred Brandt of the Hamburg firm of Brandt & Brandau, an experienced mining and tunnelling expert, who died in 1899, only a year after the construction of the tunnel began.

Brandt decided on twin shafts, each carrying a single track, but the tunnel was so deep that it lay more than a mile under the peak of Monte Leone on the Italian border and there were violent inrushes of water, ferocious heat and a constant threat of cave-ins. Some 2,000 men were employed and the work started at each end, with the Swiss tunnellers making around 18 feet a day until they met temperatures of 138[degrees]F, almost boiling point. The pieces of blasted rock were too hot to touch and the men had to stop and seal their shaft with iron doors. …

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