While Americans j ustly point with pride to the completion of the Pacific Railroad as one of the greatest feats of engineering accomplished in modern times, and Europeans are congratulating themselves and the rest of the world on the near completion of the great Suez Canal, there are some other works of importance already projected which claim attention. In fact, the principal difficulties in the accomplishment of the two immense works alluded to consisted chiefly in their magnitude. Magnitude alone is not enough to deter modern engineering from attempting any work in this age of enterprise, and very few natural difficulties exist which it has not shown its ability to surmount. Pell's railway over the Alps, with its unparalleled grades, noticed in another column, and the Mont Cenis Tunnel, have demonstrated that the iron horse can overleap or break through almost any natural barrier. A rival to the latter work in magnitude and difficulty is the Mont St. Gothard Railway, now in a fair way to early commencement. Prussia and Italy have given, through their ambassadors, to the Swiss confederation, assurance of their readiness to aid in the prosecution of the work, and a conference has been held at Lucerne to initiate operations. At this meeting it was announced, by Dr. Alfred Escher, that the necessary capital would be obtained from the following sources; viz., Italy, 2,500,000 ; Germany, 2,000,000 ; Switzerland, 2,000,000 ; thus making an aggregate capital of 6,500,000. It is stated that the Italian projection of this road will be principally adhered to. This project includes a perfectly straight and nearly level tunnel of nine and one-fourth miles, which the contractor of the Mont Cenis tunnel has, it is said, offered to construct in eight or nine years, including steel rails, for 2,400,000. The opening of the St. Gothard route will furnish an easy communication between Western Germany and Northern Italy. Another work now under consideration by the municipal council of Bordeaux, spoken of by engineering authorities in Europe as the grandest, most important, and economical work that has been proposed for centuries, is the cutting of a ship canal from the! Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean. The Mi-gineer describes the route and its possibilities as follows : " Let any one cast his eye over the map of Prance, and he will see that if a straight line be drawn from Bordeaux through Toulouse, it will touch the coast of the Gulf of Lyons not far from Perpignan. Prom Bordeaux to Toulouse the Garonne is a navigable and busy river, so that over two-thirds of the line it is only a question of widening and correcting a waterway already in existence. Prom Toulouse to the Gulf of Lyons there exists the Canal du Midi, and by means of these an immense traffic is carried on between the southern and western departments of Prance. The line of water exists already, all that is required is to deepen and straighten it; and if this could be done in half the time mentioned at double the cost, it would be the most economical piece of work perhaps, that was ever executed." The projector of this work is M. Staal de Magnoncourt, and the work is estimated to cost 442,000,000 francs, or nearly $88,400,000 in American gold. It is also estimated that it can be completed in six years. The completion of this work would afford a direct line of communication with India through the Suez Canal, from any of the northern parts of Europe. Thus modern engineering goes on, making the paths straight for advancing civilization, startling the wilds of the desert with the hum of industry, and making arid wastes to bloom.
This article was originally published with the title "Modern Engineering" in Scientific American 20, 24, 377 (June 1869)