Florence and the (tunnel boring) machine


The second of our four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) has arrived at the Bella Vista construction site and has been named Florence, after Australia's first female engineer and architect Florence Mary Taylor. The 900 tonne mega machine weighs the same as 570 Holden Commodores and arrived at the North West Rail Link's Bella Vista construction site in 18 shipping containers as well as a further 27 large pieces — including the 105 tonne cutter head. TBM2 Florence is now being assembled and is expected to start her 9 kilometre journey to Cherrybrook before the end of the year. All four TBMs will deliver Australia's longest railway tunnels – twin 15 kilometre tunnels between Bella Vista and Epping. They will dig mostly through Sydney sandstone and shale at a rate of about 120 metres per week, on average. The North West Rail Link tunnels are 29 metres deep on average but, at their deepest point beneath Thompson's Corner at West Pennant Hills, they reach 58 metres.

On major tunnelling projects around the world, underground workers look to Saint Barbara for protection and, as such, machines that work underground are traditionally given female names. Like TBM1 Elizabeth, a public competition was held to name Florence under the theme: ‘Women who have made a positive contribution to life in Sydney'. Congratulations to Clarinda Campbell for winning the naming competition for Florence. Florence Taylor was Australia's first female architect, structural engineer and civil engineer after completing a draftsman's course at Sydney Technical College at the turn of the 20th century. A qualified town planner and reportedly the first woman to fly in Australia in 1909, she even proposed the idea of a tunnel under Sydney Harbour.

Picture: State Library of NSW

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