Continuation of Heritage - 8: A Tale of two Civvies (Civil Engineers)
Building the H&BR and Alexandra Dock exceeded Parliamentary estimates by around 100%
Considered to be one of the most expensive railway projects in terms of cost per mile, even with the rural nature of the surrounding countryside, the Hull & Barnsley Railway had to raise more capital and negotiate a fresh contract with L&A to complete the works.
Firstly land was more expensive than had been estimated (canny Yorkshire landowners and owner-farmers saw a way of extracting more cash from the Board), and secondly the scope of work was insufficiently detailed and thirdly there were huge variations between budgeted costs and actual costs. Lastly indifferent cost reporting and control led costing astray. Added to all this was the interest-free loan extended to L&A.
The original plans contained much less tunneling than was actually needed and executed, notably around Little Weighton. The proposed Riplingham Tunnel of 1,710 yards became 2,116 yards. Tunnels at Sugar Loaf and Weedley had not been foreseen. Near South Cave problems arose with one of the cuttings and an expensive retaining wall was needed. Other extras were met at the dock with Bramley Fall stone facing the chalk river wall, and the provision of stone jetties instead of timber etcetera.
There was a discrepancy between Shelford's cost estimates and those eventually billed by LA. Prices quoted for the excavation of soft soil and the laying of brickwork were a third higher than was quoted in Shelford's estimate.
Very little geological evidence seems to have been gathered by the consulting engineers before the letting of the contract, although borehole samples were taken at the Ouse Bridge site, and between North Cave and Newport. Had this vital data been available, a more realistic estimate would have been likely.
Coal was not only the lifeblood of the railways. In the case of the H&BR it was the main source of income as well
In the Parliamentary proposals the H&BR line was divided into eight sections...
sub-divided alphabetically. Shelford based his estimates on these, breaking down the costs elementally into excavations, strata and so on. No provision had been made for the sub-strata on the Yorkshire Wolds on Railway 3 between Willerby and South Cave. The chalk there had been described by Shelford as soil, based on previous experience with chalk in southern England, where the chalk was of a different, more permeable nature than that of the Wolds. The contrac-tors needed explosives and compressed air drills extensively. As the schedule of prices quoted a higher rate per cubic yard of rock than soil, L&A lost little time in pressing their claim for rock removal. The Board had to concede on this point.
The in.terest-free loan to L&A was £300,000. Up to 1920 the client commonly financed his con-tractor's plant and machinery, a practice designed (in theory) to protect the interests of the client, who reclaimed the loan as an allowance on the monthly certificates as particular items of plant were removed off-site. Disadvantages of this practice were that there was no interest and fluctuating loan amount as equipment was brought on and off-site.
With the coming of engineers of repute such as Joseph Locke and Thomas Brassey the standard of contract and engineering management rose. By the end of the contract Shelford and his team of forty engineers, surveyors and draughtsmen had produced nine hundred drawings and plans etcetera. His standard from a contract management viewpoint was less favourable, although he was more strict on payments than was Hurtzig.
The H&BR's lack of experience compared to L&A's led to problems for the railway company. The choice of route for the H&BR was largely based on surveys for the H&BR of 1845 made by James Oldham of Hull. Sheldon used these surveys, slightly modifying them, to take the River Ouse crossing upstream from Goole. Little choice was open to them. The North Eastern Railway occupied both the Humber Bank and the gap in the Wolds at Market Weighton.
A compromise was reached, with the line topping the Wolds at 250 feet, then burrowing through into Drewton Vale, descending to the Vale of York, avoiding larger centres of population where land was dear, possibly excepting Howden. After the Vale of York the line headed to the limestone ridge at Barnsdale, along which the Great North Road (A1) runs.
Beyond tunnelling through this block the line was pushed through cuttings, over embankments, through Benwell Hill (Brierley Tunnel) and down to Cudworth (pronounced: 'Cudderth'). .
A look around the railway stations of East Yorkshire between Goole, Market Weighton, Beverley, the intricate railway system of Hull itself and the coast. The railway routes of the North Eastern Railway, the Hull & Barnsley (erstwhile Hull, Barnsley and West Riding Junction) Railway and the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway companies. In 1922 the Hull & Barnsley railway system was absorbed by the North Eastern Railway, which in turn - in 1923 - became part of the London & North Eastern Railway. The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway was absorbed into the London Midland & Scottish Railway at the same time. These respective networks shrank gradually from the 1950's until the Beeching Report in the early 1960's, when over half the system was 'pruned'.
The Heyday of the H&BR
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The hardest excavation and infill work was between Stairfoot and Kirk Smeaton,
and between Newport and Hull. The navvies* at Brierley and in the cuttings had to put up with shale onitialverlying magnesian limestone. At South Kirkby Tunnel the magnesian limestone was very hard. In the East Riding the chalk was also hard, excavation being further hindered by hard flints and the high water table made tunnelling difficult. The Wolds cuttings were deep, in some cases tunnelling replaced projected cuttings.
Work was begun after the first sod was cut on January 15th, 1881. One initial problem was met with, the purchase of land (an excuse proffered by L&A for delays) prevented the through-running of materials from the cuttings to form embankments in the Hull area. Land was ontained reasonably quickly at the dock site, and between Willerby and South Kirkby. At Riplingham the land atop the tunnel was rented for the duration of contract work.
During the first quarter depots were set up along the line at Hull Bridge, Springhead, Riplingham, Drewton, Howden, Barmby, Heck, South Kirkby and Brierley. Another task was fencing off the route, and large hoardings were put up along the south side of Hedon Road. all plant, machinery and materials had to be brought to site: steam navvies, locomotives and tipping wagons were carried on low-loading drays by traction engines or teams of horses. A continuous flow of carts delivered thousands of red engineering bricks, sand, cement and lime on the main Hessle-Beverley road, choking normal traffic flows. Materials for the Willerby-South Cave section were hauled from the NER station at Hessle, that for the depot at Springhead was delivered to the waterworks sidings on the Hessle road-Cottingham Jct (now Cottingham South Jct) branch of the NER.
Continuity of construction relied on the fast building of bridges to ease the removal of spoil from cuttings for tipping to form embankments, especially between Willerby and Hull.
H&BR in retrospect
In February 1881 a Ruston Dunbar steam navvy...
started on the cutting west of Great Gutter Lane near Willerby. Laden wagons were marshalled into trains by horse power and hauled east by locomotives to tipping sites to form the long embankment down to Springhead.
At Riplingham Tunnel the shafts were hand-excavated before hoists could be mounted. Of the seven shafts dug, five were permanent ventilation shafts instead of the four originally intended on a 1,710 yard feature. A gantry for narrow-gauge wagons led to where standard gauge wagons waited below. The chalk was used in the Hull area as infill for embankments.
At the far end the line work began on the tunnels at South Kirkby and Brierley with the digging of shafts. At Brierley a connection was made with Carlton Main Colliery to bring materials to the site, whereas no rail link was available at South kirkby where materials were brought by road.
By September 1881 353 yards of heading had been driven through the magnesian limestone at South Kirkby from twelve faces. At Brierley excessive water flow had delayed progress. L&A awaited high-capacity pumps to counter-act the problem.
An office for L&A's agent Mr Stannard was set up at Howden, with a site HQ for the Ouse Swing Bridge at Barmby-on-the-Marsh. By the end of November, 1881 a temporary way was in operation from Riplingham to Barmby. When the bricklayers completed their work at Hull they were moved to the section between South Cave-Newport to build culverts and bridge abutments before embankments could be formed.
From here they were moved to Barmby. The Market Weighton Canal traffic increased with brick and cement shipments for a while to build the bridges around Newport. (Navigation rights on the canal were owned by the NER).
January-September 1881: all the bridge abutments between Eppleworth Viaduct and Hedon Road were completed, the only exception being a bridge over the River Hull where a wooden lifting bridge was installed. Although the abutments were completed, it was a while before the ironwork forming the main girders to many of the bridges was complete, being fabricated on-site.
The bridge at Willerby Station had large baulks of timber in use as temporary decking in order to ease congestion on the road below. Also, the four bridges over the NER at Hull were temporary affairs, each approached from the level on a 1:20 gradient.
At Beverley Road the temporary way was crossed at road level, meaning the cutting of the tram rails on May 22nd. The tram terminus was moved for a short time from Cottingham Road to Queens Road. Where the final formation was to be on an embankment, the short-term way ran at a lower level and vice-verse for a cutting or tunnel. When formation level was achieved at a site a steep temporary way linked both levels.
By the end of August 1881 the temporary way was open from Riplingham to the dock. Sections west were opened by the remainder of the year, Barmby-Howden in November.
The NER had a hand in building the H&BR through allowing their construction materials access over the Market Weighton Canal
Continued: HERITAGE - 18: A Tale of Two Civvies 3
In the next article construction and problems arise through 1882-83. Nevertheless the line opened in 1884
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 01, 2014:
'Jailhouse Run' - a bit different from 'Jailhouse Rock'. Maybe it's a bid to fast-track convicts, or they're a bit wary of transferring them by road - are there any roads between the two prisons?
Thanks for dropping by. Much of the H&BR is no longer negotiable by train, and then again a lot of the NER has gone as well since Dr Beeching's time. That'll be in the next instalment.
Judy Specht from California on October 01, 2014:
Costs override apparently are not new. Very well presented. At least this RR had a pleasant outcome. Californian is build a high
speed RR that starts at a prison in the desert and ends at another one still in the desert. Cost is millions and goes nowhere. -
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 30, 2014:
Hello lions44 and billybuc (o/w k.a Bill). nice to see you both drop by. Cuppa anyone, biscuits - a wee dram? Reading this would have taken time so I appreciate the input.
I shall start part 3 soon, keep your eyes peeled!
This was taken from my article in my own railway modelling group's 28 page quarterly journal, reproduced on a photostat machine on A3 size and folded to size in newspaper fashion (produced at the Telegraph offices on Canary Wharf). This was in the last edition.
The group's name was East London LNE and the circulation was around forty - including to associate members up and down the country (advertisers included). one of whom was former NUR General Secretary Sid Weighell.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2014:
Apart from the obvious bungling and lack of research and poor cost estimates, it really is amazing what engineers were able to plan, and work crews were able to construct, considering the "primitive" tools and technology they had to work with. Excellent research my friend, but I would expect nothing less from you.
CJ Kelly from the PNW on September 29, 2014:
Incredible detail. Very interesting stuff. Voted way up!