Blisworth Cutting, with a viaduct in the background, 1839.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Lithograph by John Cooke Bourne, from a collection of views of the building of the London & Birmingham Railway (LBR). In 1833, Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) was appointed chief engineer of the LBR, the first railway into London. Running between Curzon Street Station, Birmingham, and Euston Station, London, the 112 mile long line took 20,000 men nearly five years to build, at a cost of five and a half million pounds. The digging of Blisworth Cutting in Northamptonshire was one of the largest engineering projects on the LBR. The cutting was dug through 1.5 miles of rock underlaid by clay and water, and required the use of over 3000 barrels of gunpowder for blasting. In all an estimated million cubic yards of material needed to be removed.