Brunel's railway-age drawings reveal a genius for steam, steel and stone

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The artistic talents of one of Britain's greatest inventors and engineers of the 19th century were unveiled to the public for the first time yesterday when a collection of limited edition prints of original technical drawings by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was sold at Paddington station.

Railtrack's Great Western section had hoped the 6,000 colour prints, featuring some of the finest railway constructions of Victorian times, would attract art-lovers as well as engineering enthusiasts. In the event buyers from both camps snapped up the collection within hours.

Brunel, who died in his fifties in 1859, was known as the father of the Great Western Railway and was acclaimed for his engineering feats in developingsteam- powered ships as well as railways and bridges. He made several thousand technical drawings.

The first prints on sale feature the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash, near Plymouth, the West Portal at Box Tunnel, near Bath, Dorchester Road station in Culham, Oxfordshire, Bath station, and the timber viaduct for the Devon and Tavistock railway. The print collection also includes a drawing of the station building at Bristol Temple Meads, by Brunel's friend Matthew Digby Wyatt, who helped in the construction of Paddington station during 1854.

Brunel's great great grandson Peter Noble, 67, a wine consultant, said at the launch he was "absolutely delighted" to see that the collection had at last been assembled. "I inherited some of the drawings but I live in a small cottage and I could not cope with sitting on a national heritage like that."

Mr Noble said he thought Brunel would have had his own views on the railway system in Britain today.

"Brunel would have done his nut at the break-up of the railway system," he said "But at least the South Wales section is still called the Great Western Railway."

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