From Network Rail to the National Gallery, a world of dazzling creativity eludes our attention. The architectural drawing of Paddington station ‘looks like a dome-shaped doodle, all exuberant sprays of ivy-like shoots’.
Sarah Bakewell, associate lecturer at The Open University writes in The Guardian; “Once I saw merely bridges, tunnels and stations, and mostly I didn’t even notice these, so busy was I rushing to get over or through them. Now, I see a delicate ecosystem of rivets, cleats, plates, gussets, joggles, spans, arches, ribs of attenuated iron and steel.”
Scholars can already study railway archives in repositories all over the country, but Network Rail has just put part of its beautiful archive of Victorian and Edwardian infrastructure diagrams on the web. This amounts to an invitation to anyone, anywhere, to contemplate such images out of sheer curiosity and love of beauty. They give us plans of the high-level bridge at Newcastle upon Tyne, with its columns trailing down the screen like tall sepia waterfalls, and Bristol’s neo-gothic Temple Meads station, in ethereal ink outline. The Forth bridge of 1890 appears side on , elongated and webby as if someone had pulled a string cat’s cradle as far as it would go. Its vertical columns climb visibly week by week; target dates are marked at each level, like the tracking of a child’s growth against a wall.
Read the full story in The Guardian here. View the beautiful Network Rail archive of Victorian and Edwardian infrastructure diagrams on the web here. You will find more information on the studying History at The Open University here and details of a History degree with a Heritage studies pathway here. Try free OpenLearn material from the OU on Heritage here. For more on Sarah’s work, click here and for more on Creative Writing at the OU, click here.