2 June 2009
Celebrating Benjamin Baker
In the mid 19th century the small country town of Frome in Somerset was full of the noise and bustle and fumes of Victorian metal works. Into these surroundings was born the visionary, global engineer Benjamin Baker... [ Read on... » ]
- 1When Benjamin Baker was born, Fussells Ironworks (one of the many foundries in Frome) was one of the World’s main manufacturers of farming tools. Singers had recently been established and specialised in church ornaments. Cockeys was an established bell foundry.
- 2John Fowler (Baker’s partner) was a friend and contemporary of Isambard Kingdom Brunel & Robert Stephenson. These early engineers and the good fortune to be present at the height of railway construction and moved up quickly through their profession.
- 3Descendants of fellow Forth Bridge engineer, Tom Harrison, live close to Frome. Tom Harrison was known as ‘honest Tom’ and despite being advised against a career in civil engineering by Thomas Telford, had a successful career working on the railways.
- 4Like many engineers Baker did not attend university but served an engineering apprenticeship. By the time Evelyn George Carey came of age Civil Engineering was established as a professional degree.
- 5The Forth Bridge was the first ever steel bridge. Steel was a new material, processed using the Bessemer converter which by passing oxygen through molten iron removed silicone, carbon and manganese.
- 6The Forth Bridge used 65,000 tons of steel and nearly 7,000,000 rivets. Baker insisted that all the rivet holes were pre-drilled to avoid creating localised stresses. The contractor, William Arrol invented new machinery to aide construction.
- 7The first person to drive a train across the Forth Bridge was a woman (the wife of one of the rail company directors). This publicity stunt did not result in much press as the newspapers were rather grave and unresponsive at the time.
- 8The Forth Bridge was the longest bridge in the world until 1918 when it was overtaken by the Pont de Québec which is also a cantilever bridge. The Pont de Québec was initially badly designed (the weight of the structure was not calculated correctly) and collapsed killing 75 workmen in 1907.
- 9Baker was the first engineer to use the undulating railway line on the London Underground. On approach to a station the track would slope up and on departure slope down, thus aiding braking and acceleration. A radical fuel-saving idea still in use today!
- 10The term ‘Civil Engineering’ was coined by John Smeaton in the eighteenth century to distinguish their profession from that of military engineers. John Smeaton was famous for the Eddystone lighthouse but he was prolific in other areas such as, canals, bridges and instrument design.