People go walking for lots of reasons. But what about combining a walk with some of our engineering heritage? Its easy to do. Just look up a few interesting engineering landmarks on the net, find them on Google Earth and see if there is a safe walking route nearby. I did this a while ago and visited Parteen weir on the River Shannon.
The Shannon Hydro Electic Scheme. Parteen Weir forms part of the Shannon Hydro Electric Scheme. When constructed in 1924, the Shannon hydro project, was the largest hydro electric project in the World. The electricity generated at the time was sufficient to supply the whole of Ireland. Read more about the scheme here and here.
In 1924, a local priest, Father Norris, opened the doors of a new chapel, in the village of Sallins, County Kildare. It was built to save the people of Sallins the 7 km (4 mile) round trip to the otherwise nearest church, in Naas. This chapel, which is my local church, is known as a ‘tin church’.
Tin churches. Tin churches date from one hundred years ago. They were pre-fabricated buildings which arrived on site, from the manufacturer, in kit form (IKEA style). They are constructed with timber structural frames and floors. Timber boarding was used to clad the internal walls. While externally, the walls and roof were clad with corrugated iron sheeting, hence the name ‘tin churches’. The buildings are usually supported on brick foundations, separated from the timber frame with slates, to prevent rising damp.
A unique piece of engineering heritage lies along the banks of the Grand Canal near Sallins, County Kildare. It is a complex circular overflow device constructed from stonework. According to The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (link below) it is the only example of this type in Ireland. It is probably 200 years old.
It is particularly interesting from an engineering prospective, as whenever it is mentioned in publications, it is usually described as unnecessarily complex and over-engineered. One reference I remember, but that I haven’t found a link for yet, even described its purpose as a mystery!
Transporter bridges are high bridges which support a moving platform, or gondola, from above, like an overhead crane. They were a cost effective way of spanning a river while ensuring the river remained open to traffic. They were built near the mouths of rivers where the surrounding land was low. A standard bridge would have required long, and expensive, approach ramps to raise the roadway high above the river. The design of the transporter bridge removes the need for such ramps.
The recent drought in Ireland has ended with heavy rain showers affecting most parts of the country today. And after heavy rain there is one historic piece of engineering that is worth a visit. It is the noisy and impressive Balrothery Weir on the River Dodder. It is located adjacent to the Tallaght/ Templeogue junction on the M50, junction 11. The weir is 75 metres long and 5 metres high.
The oldest structure in the world is a 23,000 year old stone wall, at a cave entrance, in Greece. It is known as the Theopetra Cave. Ireland oldest structure, New Grange, although older than the Pyramids, is still comparably young at an estimated 5000 years old.
Oldest written laws: Surprisingly examples of building laws and regulations survive that are almost as old as New Grange. This is the 3800 year old Code of King Hammurabi, from the Babylonian Empire, the empire was centred around modern day Iraq. The Code was a set of 282 laws which cover a range of sensitive issues, including: contracts, construction, property, marriage, family, injury, treatment of slaves and labour rates. They survive today on stone carvings and clay tablets. In fact we only have an incomplete set of the laws, as those between 66 to 99 are missing from the fragments/ tablets available.
The shear volume of stone walls in the West of Ireland is amazing. These simple but effective structures are used as field boundaries. The comparison with the East of Ireland is stark where the fields are larger and are usually divided by hedgerows instead.
Most of the stone walls in Western Ireland were constructed in the last 200 years to form field divisions and clear the ground. They were built without mortar and hence are called dry stone walls. To date the oldest known example of dry stone walls in Ireland are at the ‘The Ceide Fields’. These were erected 5,800 years ago, see Wikipedia page here.