Italy, which has already shone at the Vienna Exhibition with magnificent artistic products (beautiful works of sculpture in marble and wood, superb mosaics, admirable vases in majolica from Bologna), has also entered the universal competition of nations, in the field of technical productions, with one of the most grandiose enterprises of modern times. It was a very good idea for the management of the Upper Italian Railway to have a model of the Mont Cenis tunnel through the Alps built in the Prater Palace, a gigantic work completed in 1871 with the help of France. This facsimile of the Mont Cenis tunnel is built through the galleries of Switzerland and Italy; the rough part of the work is finished, it represents the southern entrance of the tunnel near Bardonnèche. The stone opening door is imposing and reminds by its massive dimensions the colossal constructions of ancient Egypt. However, whereas the pyramids of the Pharaohs are perpetual monuments of despotism and egoism, the Mont-Cenis breakthrough is the most brilliant testimony and triumph of the combined efforts of science and technical art for the good of humanity.
The execution of the model, in Vienna, was directed, under the orders of the railway management, by the engineer Giovanni del Favore, who made a very faithful copy of the magnificent creation of the three renowned engineers: Sommelier, Gratoni and Grandis. Nothing has been left out of this reduced tunnel, not even the cabin or pavilion at the entrance, where the guards and railway workers are located. When the interior is finished, the Express engine with its tender, a van with a gas tank, and a wagon with beds will be placed inside.
The Exhibition Tunnel has been open to visitors since 26 May, and naturally attracts many people, eager to enjoy the charm of walking through such a gigantic tunnel...., in a very short time. Those who have seen the original have said that the copy is very well done.
In order to give our readers an idea of this gigantic work, we place before their eyes the following figures: the real and effective length of the tunnel is 12233.55 metres, the southern opening is situated at a height of 1291.52 metres; that of the north at 1158.96 metres; the highest point is 1294.59 metres above the sea. There is room for two rails, and trains can run freely, with sufficient space for ventilation. The diameter of the sleeper forms a basket arch, with seven centres, the widest of which is eight metres. The height of the gallery, from the ground to the stones of the vault, is six metres.
The entire tunnel, with one very small exception, is lined with stone; 120,000 cubic metres of stone, 16,000 metres of bricks and 20,000 quintals of lime were used for this masonry work. A total of 3333 cubic metres of material was extracted from the quarries and mines. The mass of gunpowder burnt for this extraction represents more than one million kilograms.
©L’Exposition Universelle de Vienne 1873