You know how you go to the internet to look up one little fact about margarine, and then three hours later you're deep in the bowels of Wikipedia, learning all about the childhood of the leader of a peasant revolt in 7th century China and wondering how on Earth you got here? Well I did something like that and it was a fascinating journey (to me anyway), but more importantly, I remember how I got there so I thought I'd share it.
I've learnt a lot about tunnels and how they're made, the London Underground, mining, the largest machines on Earth, and a small town in America that is pretty much uninhabitable due to a fire that has burnt for decades and may continue to burn for centuries (and yet 10 people choose to live there!)!
If you're at all interested, here's what I found out!
Well first of all, I was here on a link of rare and interesting photos from clicking a pop up on www.boredpanda.com I think.
The photo that caught my eye was this one here, captioned:
"Before London underground trains took on the actual shape of a tube, they were merely wooden train carriages, as this 1862 photo of the first ever underground journey at Edgware Road Station shows."
This got me to wondering if The Tube was so named because of the shape of the trains, or the shape of the tunnels.
Off to Wikipedia I shot! This led me to the article on The London Underground. By now it was too late and I was lost. Out of curiosity about what "cut and cover" is, I ended up finding out you can create tunnels by digging trenches and covering them over.
Interested in learning more about tunnels, I learnt you can also make them with boring machines. By this, I mean machines that bore tunnels, not uninteresting machines. I think they're fascinating! Just lookit this one:
Below the water table, these machines have to equalise the pressure being exerted by unstable ground ahead of them using slurry, water, and other things. When people have to go into the boring head to carry out maintenance or other work, they have to have diving certifications. When they come back out, they have to undergo depressurisation procedures similar to divers!
So now I was obviously in a new Wikipedia article, learning all about the water table, which led me to the hydraulic head. But then I felt I'd strayed too far from my initial enquiry (which had long ago been answered in the 2nd paragraph of the first link I'd clicked) so I went back to "tunnels".
There I found out that they can be legally complicated to construct and can involve something known as "compulsory purchase" so off I went because I had no idea what"compulsory purchase" was.
There, I discovered the fascinating story of Centralia, a once thriving mining town in Pennsylvania that is now a near ghost town after being evacuated to just 10 people due to the Centralia mine fire. That fire has been burning for more than 50 years creating toxic fumes! Though various attempts have been made to put it out over the years, still it burns. Costs, an unwillingness to admit the initial fault that led to the fire, and worries over agencies contracted to extinguish the fire being able to claim large amounts of coal excavated in the process have led to all these attempts being bungled and failing or, in some cases, actually making the fire worse!
The town was eventually evacuated and its Zip Code rescinded. The land was returned to the state but 10 people elected to stay against all advice. After negotiations, it was finallyagreed that those 10 people are going to live out their lives in Centralia, despite all warnings, and then their land will return to the government through "compulsory purchase" (or "eminent domain" as it's known in the States), which allows agencies such as the government to purchase land without the consent of the owners, usually to build things considered for public betterment, such as underground train networks.
It's speculated that the fire could continue to burn for another 250 years so for all the worries about companies getting their hands on the precious coal when they extinguished the fire, instead the flames have claimed it all. How ironic.
It's suspected to have started by burning landfill in a former strip mine. When I checked out what a strip mine was, I was introduced to what I was informed are some of the largest machines on Earth - bucket-wheel excavators like the Bagger 288. Lookit the size of that thing!
They literally scrape strips off the surface of the Earth to unearth the precious minerals beneath. Weirdly, in the "In Popular Culture" section of "Bagger 288", it mentions that Rathergood (who I'd thought of for the first time in months, and whose videos I'd been showing to a friend just the day before) have a song called Bagger 288.
Then, realising I'd strayed far and should probably continue with my life, I wrapped up by wondering, not for the first time, what the actual difference between trams, trains, metros, and undergrounds is, and now I know: not much in actuality.
Oh, and the London Underground network is called "The Tube" because of the tubular nature of the tunnels, not the carriages.