Constructing Infrastructure Construction

Constructing Infrastructure Construction

In Britain, infrastructure was slow to get off the ground, or actually, to get on it. The Ancient Britons seemed to have had to concentrate on staying alive too hard to bother with engineering.

Then came the Romans, and with them came previously unimaginable constructions, the Roman roads. The Romans brought a level of engineering that would not be seen again for over a millennia.

The routes for roads were surveyed meticulously, and constructed of a base of large stones with a centre crown and drainage ditches to each side, covered with rammed flints, or fired clay, with fitted stone or aggregate surface, creating famously straight highways complete with drainage for durable all weather roads.

The Roman engineers built bridges, aqueducts, docks, ports, forts and more, and when they left, the Britons, for the most part simply ignored these engineering marvels, or for others, they were a source of stone for building grossly inferior constructions.

The Romans left Britain in the 5th century AD and little infrastructure was built for over a thousand years. The Anglo-Saxons built a few stone bridges and churches, but even with Norman influence, building was centred around castles and places of worship.

By the seventeen hundreds the population was growing, as were towns and cities and ports handling increases in imports and exports, and the infrastructure was a fractured hotch-potch that needed direction, and from Scotland came two engineers, independent of each other, who were to put infrastructure firmly on the map.

Thomas Telford and John McAdam both designed modern roads. They understood the concept of raising the foundation of the road in the centre for effective drainage, grading stone sizes, predicting traffic flows, arranging alignment and gradient slopes.

McAdams technique differed slightly, was more economical and was the first to incorporate tar in the pavement aggregate, making Tarmacadam.

Telford built thousands of miles of road, including the London to Holyhead road, the A5, included in it, of course, the pioneering first suspension bridge over the Menai straits.

Telford went on to oversee the building of over a thousand bridges, canals, railways, viaducts, aqueducts, docks and ports, almost all of which can be seen today. It takes a vivid imagination to imagine the building of such projects with technology the available.

Thousands of navvies, mules and horses toiling for years to achieve what we can see today, happening in a fraction of the time and effort.

Motorway construction, with modern powerful machinery, lays road as we watch. Bridges appear almost overnight, and drainage dug by a few monster machines, and not a thousand shovels!