SOUE News Issue 11

A Spell in Argentina

Peter Meanley (Wadham 1956-9) has written a book about his early experiences as a civil engineer, with the above title. The book starts with an account of a year's work on the construction of the 1000 MW West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire, which enabled him to qualify as Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He then heard that Taylor Woodrow, the contractors, were proposing to employ him next on the construction of another identical power station in Lancashire.

So, feeling he wanted to do something different this time, and having already learnt Spanish, he resigned from that job and took a boat to Buenos Aires. After a very enjoyable month spent there, he discovered that contractors Richard Costain had taken on the construction of a large reservoir in the north of the country, and managed to get a job with them. He was concerned mainly with the construction of three tunnels, two modest-sized ones for taking the water from the reservoir to where it was needed, and the third an "overflow tunnel" to limit the reservoir level in the event of excessive rainfall. This one was to be a 16 m diameter semi-circle in section, and it was initially doubted whether a tunnel of this size could be excavated without the roof collapsing before it could be lined. The method adopted was to drill three smaller tunnels, at 9 o'clock, 12 o'clock and 3 o'clock, so to speak, and join them up afterwards. An ingenious method, which worked successfully, though there was one floor collapse in the later stages which killed two of the miners.

In between work, there was plenty of opportunity for social life and exploring other parts of South America, and Peter certainly took advantage of these, and has written about them.

The book has been privately printed and, as he says, was written primarily for his own family. But there is a copy in Wadham library, and (at the time of writing) Peter has a few copies left if anyone would like one: please contact him at if you are interested.

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