While I was AWOL and not posting these last several weeks, the 94 year-old Harry Confusio (HC) continued sending me his portraits. The last one from March is of Robert Stephenson (1803-59).
Stephenson’s dad, George, was known as the “father of railroads” partly because his railroad gauge, at 4’8”, is the standard, conventional one around the world. It is sometimes referred to as Stephenson gauge.
George’s son carried on the the family tradition of excellent engineering by building some of England’s most important bridges of the 19th Century. His earliest bridge is the High Level Bridge in Newcastle, England. Watchers of the BBC crime detective tv series Vera can sometimes see the High Level Bridge in the background. Here’s a 19th century depiction of it.
Stephenson’s Royal Border Bridge is misnamed since it does not cross from England into Scotland; it ends about 15,000 feet short of reaching the border. It has 28 arches, and I believe it is a fine example of human stamina in the face of bewildering tediousness. Those poor stone workers! But a view from the Tweed River makes it an example of architectural tranquility and fortitude.
Stephenson completed many other projects, and he is often called the greatest engineer of the 19th century. That judgment is premature. But that is another story.