Concrete Underpass

  • Location Station Road
  • Year Invented 1912
  • Invention Type Commercial, Creative
  • Inventor Robert McAlpine & Sons & George Carter

This subway underneath Norwood Junction Station was opened in July 1912 and is the first reinforced concrete subway in the world. It improved the accessibility of the neighbourhood for the local community who lived on either sides of the tracks.

Local people ‘agitated’ for a subway for around ten years  until the council swung into action to get this local improvement. Key figures involved in this action were Councillor W Roberts and the local vicar. In October 1909, the councillor asked the Streets Improvement Committee to consider the possibility of a subway and after December 1909, the plans and specifications were set out at a planned cost of £6,000. The subway was completed and opened in 1912 and continues to be in use.

A New Method of Making a Tunnel

A New Method of Making a Tunnel

This subway underneath Norwood Junction Station is the first of its kind and enabled the local community from either side of the tracks to navigate the area much easily.

The Norwood Subway is a 31m (100’) reinforced concrete passageway of nearly 3m diameter (9’6”). It was constructed with concrete sections 30cm (1ft) wide by 70cm (2’6”). A strengthening saddle was put over the section under the road. Tunnelling was worked from both ends. The tunnel is partially lined with glazed tiles and has always been lit with electricity. McAlpine and Son carried out the work including making sure there was no disruption to any other underground facilities. The project cost £4,700.

Local people ‘agitated’ for a subway for around ten years  until the council swung into action to get this local improvement. Key figures involved in this action were Councillor W Roberts and the local vicar. In October 1909, the councillor asked the Streets Improvement Committee to consider the possibility of a subway and after December 1909, the plans and specifications were set out at a planned cost of £6,000. 

The Borough Engineer, George Fearnley Carter, introduced Robert McApline and Sons to the project as they were using a new method of constructing a conduit and Carter felt that this method might be suitable for a subway.

Before the subway was constructed, the only ways to get across the railway line was along the high street and then under the bridge at Portland Road or to pay to get into the railway station to use the subway there.


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Meet the Inventors

Meet the Inventors

George Fearnley Carter born in 1869 was an engineer consultant and arbitrator. He studied at Yorkshire College. In 1883 he was articled to Thomas Hewson, City Engineer, Leeds and rose to position of chief assistant. In 1899, he became the deputy borough engineer for Croydon. Between 1903 and 1934, he was Borough and Water Engineer of Croydon. He died in 1962.

Robert McAlpine started his working life as a bricklayer, swiftly owning two brickyards and employing 1000 men by 1874. It was in this early works that he started to use concrete blocks. He worked on a range of projects from docks, to railways to power stations, and introduced his sons to the business. Mc Alpine and Sons were involved in many key construction projects in the early 20th century.

 

 

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