Thursday, 9 January 2014

Pedometers – Taking Steps With Brunel

We’ve been road-testing – or perhaps pavement-testing would be more accurate. Here’s LW guide Robert……

The first simple pedometer belonged to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, engineer on the Great Western Railway. Brunel was a small man but he paced the line from Bristol to London Paddington, his magnificent cathedral in glass (notice the three spans and transept). Brunel built broad gauge and carried a special walking cane, which unfolded to exactly 7 feet 0¼ inch, the distance between his railway lines. Today standard gauge is only 4 feet 8 ¾ inches. Everyone should have a pedometer, but remember it’s not just the number of steps, it’s the size of the steps – ask anyone with short legs!

By the way, Harry Potter leaves for Hogwarts from Kings Cross Station, Platform 9 ¾ (presumably 4ft 9 ¾?) but he comes back from the dead via broad gauge! Look carefully at the buttresses and you’ll see the celestial railway station is Paddington. Presumably that’s Platform 0 ¼? (or 7 ft 0 ¼ to be precise).

Visit Brunel sites in London 10.45am every Thursday and Saturday from Embankment tube. Bring a cane and check the distances.


Robert is allowed to drive sheep across London Bridge. An Oxford graduate, he's an actor, museum director, author and holder of the Freedom. Let alone the first person since Brunel to organise an underwater fair.

Post updated 23/2/16

To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at


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