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A Viaduct over the English Channel.

A Homo correspondent to a Southern paper writes: These are days of wonders, and electricians and engineers are the conjurors. To most people the idea of throwing a viaduct over the English Channel would appear utterly visionary, >et it is one seriously and scientifically put forward. Sir John Hawkshaw has his scheme cf tunnelling under the Channel, and it is straightway voted a chimera. Nevertheless, work has beenqnietlygoiugon,andalthough nothing has yet been attempted towards the tunnel itself, shafts have been sunk, borings made, and a vast amount of money spent, but not wasted, in obtaining valuable preliminary information. The result has been to prove that in all human probability the project is perfectly feasible, and the only difficulty is the money. The engineer’s estimate, which I happen to have have seen, puts the cost at some twelve round millions. This of course means half as much again in reality, and people are chary of investing money in a scheme which cannot be absolutely certain of success, and at the best can yield nothing for 20 years. Now conies forward M. de Sainte Anne, an eminent French engineer, and in place of the tunnel proposes a huge aerial viaduct from Folkstone to the Cape Grisnez, embracing also the construction of a port of refuge in midchannel. A stupendous and prodigious project ! And this is the outline of M, de Sainte Anne’s conception. About half way between Grisnez and Folkstone, that is, nine miles from the first and 12 from the second; is the large and dangerous Varne Rock, about two and a-half miles broad. It lies in a direct line of the proposed viaduct, and here would be constructed a large abutment pier. Hard by is the Calbart reef, and by founding a break-water upon this and part of the rock, a harbor of refuge would replace a great channel of danger. For the rest, solid piers would be raised upon huge and widely-spread foundations of rocks cast into the sea and consolidated by Roman cement. Distances of over 350 to 400 feet would separate these immense towers of masonry, rising some 120 feet above the level of the sea, and leaving space for the tallest sparred ship to pass beneath the super structure. This would be of steel, after the design of the most successful girder-constructions known to practice. At either end of the viaduct, and on "Varne rock, the girder system would be replaced by Cyclopean arches of massive stone, of a span and height never yet essayed. Across the deepest water would stretch a vast tubular bridge, such asStephenson built over the Menai Straits, and the New York engineers from their city to Brooklyn. The magnificence and immensity of this Titanic conception speak for themselves, but we are naively told that the details are not yet decided upon. It is quite possible that even if M. de Srinte Aune succeeds in finding foundations for his piers, which many engineers doubt, and rears his solid towers of masonry, the construction of the platform, which will have to resist the terrible lateral strains of a channel tempest and accommodate itself to the varying expansions of summer and winter, may baffle him. The distance between the piers, too, seem small for the large vessels of to-day safely to pass through. It is premature, however, and ungracious to suggest such objections. The mind prefers rather to dwell on the imaginary spectacle of the viaduct constructed and complete, majestically spanning the channel, with the commerceladen argosies of the world passing and repassing beneath its aerial platform, and guided on their way by myriads of refulgent electric lights, shedding their beams upon the stormy waters of the channel from each massive pier ; of the knitting together in the bonds of friendship between France and England, by the inhabitants of Grisnez and Folkstone walking over to have a friendly gossip with one another, and a cup of tea, or something stronger, at the refreshment bars which, it is to be hoped, are included in the project, and which would immediately be taken in hand by the indefatigable Spiers and Pond, and their eminently respectable young women. And yet M. de Sainte Aune is neither a madman nor a dreamer ; he is a very eminent French engineer, who in all sober earnestness brings his long-pondered plans before the world, and undertakes to execute them at once. For a million francs he estimates he can obtain all the necessary preliminary knowledge, test-models, and so on : for three hundred millions, or twelve millions sterling, he will build the viaduct. The Chambers of Commerce of France and Belgium, to the number of nearly 100 cordially support him : he has the countenance of his Government, and he is now on his way to England to obtain that of ours, and to dazzle the imaginations of English capitalists into parting with their money for the furtherance of his gigantic scheme. So that it may be that even the men and women of this generation will baulk the sea of its horrors, and from the secure elevation of 120 feet laugh at the sufferers on steamers below. The Macaulay of the future, disdaining so trite and paltry a conception. as the New Zealander on a moss-grown pier of London Bridge, will set the unambitious Zulu, in glowing periods, upon a seaweed-covered tower of the Channel viaduct; and last, hut not least, some New Zealand genius will throw a counterpart over Cook’s Strait from Cape Terawhiti to the Nelson shore.

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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, 25 October 1879

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A Viaduct over the English Channel. Ashburton Guardian, 25 October 1879