Brunel's projects was the Royal Albert Bridge that crosses
the River Tamar at Saltash, on the Devon, Cornwall border and was
constructed between 1854 and 1857.
One of his less successful schemes was the invention of the 'atmospheric' railway. The plan was to do away with locomotive engines and have a rail that drove the vehicles. It consisted of a cast iron pipe with a piston installed in it. The pipe had a groove cut along its entire length and the gap was sealed with leather that allowed passage of a bar, driven by the piston.
When pressure was altered in the pipe it would drive the vehicle backwards and forwards. The scheme was inventive but Brunel was thwarted by rats, that ate the leather and broke the air seal, making the piston inoperative.
A challenge was issued in 1753 with a grant of £1,000 to anyone who could bridge the Avon gorge at Bristol but nothing happened for many years. In 1829 an Act of Parliament was passed giving permission for a toll bridge across the valley, by which time the accumulated fund was in excess of £8,000. A design competition attracted 22 entries and Brunel's plan was chosen.Work began in 1836 but soon the money ran out and the scheme had to be abandoned. Work began again in 1861 but by that time Brunel was already dead and he never got to see the finished work. The bridge finally opened in 1864. It has a span of more than 702 feet.
The SS Great Britain was one of Brunel's triumphs: an all iron, propeller driven steam ship built to cross the Atlantic. It dwarfed all other ships of its day and, because it was not dependent on winds to make the crossing, was the first passenger liner to run a timetabled service. The ship was launched in Bristol in 1843 and now stands in Bristol docks, a monument to a time of industrial greatness.