Penarth Dock, South Wales - 150 years - the heritage and legacy  
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Volume Six - Pre-Victorian to the Present Day - Select Aspects - The subway under the river Ely story . . .

The South Wales Daily News reported upon the progress of the works during May 1900 :

River Ely Subway - Completion of the Work - Opened on Monday Next - An Important Undertaking - 'The antiquated chain ferry across the River Ely, between Penarth Dock and Grangetown, will on Monday next be permanently superceded by a modern subway.

For 30 years the old ferry has been more or less public utility, but in bad weather was far from being an ideal means of getting from one side of the tortuous river to the other. In fact, it could not be worked on many of these occasions, and has been twice sunk in gales. In these circumstances, and in view of the development of the locality, the Taff Vale Railway Company wisely decided to include in their Bill of 1896 provisions for the construction of a subway under the river's bed. The design was that of Mr Sibberling, chief engineer to the company and the contractor Mr Thomas Taylor, of Pontypridd, who started work in April 1897.

The process adopted was precisely the same as that by which the Central London Railway and other similar undertakings have been carried out. Tunnelling was done by means of the Greathead Shield, worked by hydraulic pressure, and cast-iron segments were put in, seven pieces forming a ring. These were bolted together with steel bolts, forming a complete watertight tube. There is a space of 11ft. between the bed of the river and the crown of the tube at its lowest point, which point is 64ft. 3in. below the surface of the land on either side. The strata consisted of made ground, mud, clay, and gravel, and much difficulty was experienced on account of the loose nature of the soil. On two occasions - in November, 1897, and December, 1898, - the bed of the river subsided, and about 1,100 tons of earth entered the works, which had to be cleared out.

The whole length, however, of 400 yards was carried out without any loss of life or serious accident. Tunnelling by the Greathead Shield has been done to the extent of 325 yards. It took 813 days to construct the cast-iron lining, the first being fixed in July, 1897, and the last on September 26th, 1899.

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150 years of Penarth Dock History and Heritage

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