Advancing tunnelling: the Victorian engineering management legacy

Vikki Edmondson, Fred Sherratt, Richard Roff, Andy Levett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Victorians are often held up as giants in civil engineering, able to build, span and tunnel in ways that had never been seen before, and still provide much of contemporary infrastructure. Their legacy can be easily seen in the railway networks of Great Britain, which demanded some of the most difficult and challenging civil engineering ever seen. As a consequence of such endeavours, the Victorian times also saw the emergence of the ‘celebrity’ engineers, stellar figures who first experienced the shift away from technical and site-based practices and moved instead towards the management and leadership of construction works, a professional legacy that arguably remains today. Such figures also served to anonymise further the construction workers or navvies, who were already working in dangerous and unhealthy conditions on projects where the loss of life was felt to be inevitable. Unpacking Victorian railway tunnelling operations not only duly acknowledges the spectacular feats of engineering that society inherited from them but also reveals how their legacy has contributed to the ways in which tunnelling operations are mobilised today. It is argued that such contributions should be recognised and consciously rebalanced if the next steps are to be taken to improve tunnelling operations within the profession of civil engineering today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-57
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Forensic Engineering
Issue number2
Early online date30 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


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