From the archive: Brunel

The Network Rail archive is the custodian of a vast collection of historic documents and plans relating to today’s railway infrastructure.

It represents the development of the most significant structures, engineers and innovation on the railway from the 19th century to the present.

Each month we will delve into the archive to shine a light on the development of our network through the ages.

September: Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel left an enormous legacy when he died 160 years ago, on September 15 1859.

By his passing at age 53, his transformational work had spanned record-breaking structures, radical attempts at technological innovation and the Great Western Railway, which linked London with West and South West England.

Read more about Brunel’s life and career

Film: discover the Network Rail archive


We showcase some of our archive’s most beautiful Brunel pieces…

Brunel’s Maidenhead bridge over the River Thames

When it was built, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Maidenhead Bridge over the River Thames boasted the flattest yet widest brick constructed arches in the world. 

Brunel’s Royal Albert bridge between Plymouth, Devon and Saltash, Cornwall, in this drawing known as the Saltash bridge

Read more about the Royal Albert bridge and see it comes to life in animation:

Brunel’s Box tunnel in Wiltshire

Controversial from the start, the Box tunnel‘s problematic construction delayed the completion of the Great Western Railway’s London to Bristol route until June 1841. Today it is one of Brunel’s most celebrated structures.

Explore more railway history