Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/230

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system originally suggested by Sir William Thomson some years ago, of distinguishing one light from another by flashes following at varied intervals, has been adopted by the Elder Brethren in this as in other recent lights in the modified form introduced by Dr. John Hopkinson, in which the principle is applied to revolving lights, so as to obtain a greater amount of light in the flash.

The geological difficulties which for some time threatened the accomplishment of the St. Gothard Tunnel have been happily overcome, and this second and most important sub-Alpine thoroughfare now connects the Italian railway system with that of Switzerland and the south of Germany, whereby Genoa will be constituted the shipping port for those parts.

Whether we shall be able to connect the English with the French railway system by means of a tunnel below the English Channel is a question that appears dependent at this moment rather upon military and political than technical and financial considerations. The occurrence of a stratum of impervious gray chalk, at a convenient depth below the bed of the Channel, minimizes the engineering difficulties in the way, and must influence the financial question involved. The protest lately raised against its accomplishment can hardly be looked upon as a public verdict, but seems to be the result of a natural desire to pause pending the institution of careful inquiries. These inquiries have been made by a Royal Scientific Commission, and will be referred for further consideration to a mixed Parliamentary Committee, upon whose report it must depend whether the natural spirit of commercial enterprise has to yield in this instance to political and military considerations. Whether the Channel Tunnel is constructed or not, the plan proposed some years ago by Mr. John Fowler, of connecting England and France by means of a ferry-boat capable of taking railway trains, would be a desideratum justified by the ever-increasing intercommunication between this and Continental countries.

The public inconvenience arising through the obstruction to traffic by a sheet of water is well illustrated by the circumstance that both the estuaries of the Severn and of the Mersey are being undermined in order to connect the railway systems on the two sides, and that the Frith of Forth is about to be spanned by a bridge exceeding in grandeur anything as yet attempted, by the engineer. The roadway of this bridge will stand one hundred and fifty feet above high-water mark, and its two principal spans will measure a third of a statute mile each. Messrs. Fowler and Baker, the engineers to whom this great work has been intrusted, could hardly have accomplished their task without having recourse to steel for their material of construction, nor need the steel used be of the extra-mild quality particularly applicable for naval structures to withstand collision, for, when such extreme toughness is not required, steel of very homogeneous quality can be produced, bearing a tensile strain double that of iron.