Challenging gravity, steep railways – Felix Schmid

On 13th February Professor Felix Schmid talked to us about the adhesion between wheel and rail (i.e.friction) and the history of early railways where even the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel didn’t understand this relationship – hence the atmospheric railway.

Felix then went on to describe various ways in which engineers approached the need to climb mountains the mid-19th Century, some of which used pure adhesion and the work of Marsh and Reggenbach, the pioneers of rack railways.

He also reviewed the sometimes outlandish methods used to solve the problems and finally described the amazing ‘Mulas’ of the Panama Canal which climb gradients as steep as 1 in 2

The talk was very well received and stimulated a number of technical questions from the 20 members and guests in attendance.