Tunnelling is difficult, expensive and dangerous engineering work. Tunnels are built to provide direct automobile or railway routes through mountain ranges, under or over rivers. They can also provide underground channels for water, sewage or oil. Before the 19th century men had not acquired enough skill in engineering to carry out extensive tunneling. Tunnels, however, were known in ancient times. They were, for instance, driven into the rock under the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Romans built one in Rome for their chief drain, parts of which still remain. One of the earliest tunnels known was made in Babylon. It passed under the Euphrates river, and was built of arched brickwork being 12 feet high and 15 feet wide.
Other ancient tunnels were built for water supply and for drainage.
Modern tunnels are often very long and deep. The Simplon Tunnel on the France-to-Italy railway, for example, is 12 miles long and in one place the peaks of the Alps rise over 6,000 feet above it. Some tunnels are over 50 feet in diameter. Many are circular in cross-section. Others are horseshoe- shaped, with a level floor on which it is easy to lay permanent roads and railways.
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