09 April-Isamabard Kingdom Brunel

‘Brunel’s Folly’ on the railway line near Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland and Brunel University based in Uxbridge, London, England are named after 19th century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel University describes as its mission ‘to combine academic rigour with the practical, entrepreneurial and imaginative approach pioneered by our namesake Isambard Kingdom Brunel’. It was awarded a Royal Charter in 1966 allowing it to become Brunel University.

Brunel, whose father was French and whose mother was English was born in Portsmouth, England in 1806. During his lifetime he was responsible for the design of many tunnels, bridges, railway lines and ships. One of his most famous undertakings was the construction of the railway line from London to Bristol which he began in 1833.

Brunel attended the opening of the Dalkey railway line in in Dublin in 1844. He announced that he intended to extend the London to Bristol railway into South Wales. His ambition was to start a new sea route from Fishguard to Rosslare, to link with a railway line from Dublin to the Wexford port.

The Dublin and Kingstown railway which had been built by Carlow man William Dargan was opened in December 1834. It was decided to extend this railway southwards. Brunel was appointed as consulting engineer for the line to Greystones.

The construction of the single line was very expensive. The route runs along the cliff edge east of Bray Head. It has four tunnels and is one of the most spectacular train journeys in Ireland. It was in its day a major feat of engineering but its upkeep was so expensive that it became known as Brunel’s Folly.

The railway line eventually reached Wexford in 1872. Rosslare railway station opened in 1906, the same year as the Fishguard to Rosslare service was officially opened. During his lifetime Brunel became a celebrated engineer and he remains a popular figure to this day. A hard worker and heavy smoker he died of a stroke on September 15th 1859 at the age of 53.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born at Portsmouth England in the year 1806 On This Day.

Bray Head railway line photo

Bray Station Co Wicklow: Murals and Mosaics

Photo by infomatique

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