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Under The Microscope

BRIDGES OF NEW ZEALAND, by Patrick Hudson; IPL Books 1993; 64 pages; $19.95

What at first may seem a fairly deadly dull subject matter is actually rather intriguing. It's not surprising that a number of the bridges and viaducts featured have gained official recognition as significant engineering feats. You have to admire the early engineers and crews who worked on these things -- one conscientious designer died inspecting the lines and never saw any of the numerous viaducts he built.

There's 46 bridges and viaducts covered, from the South Waianakarua River Bridge built in 1869 to Wairoa's 1988 job. Between the two are photos and half-page smatterings of civil engineering, departmental wranglings and construction history that often leaves you wanting to know more about the technology and the people involved.

I would have liked to have seen a standard information box for each entry, giving the basic physical details as well as a map location. In the glory days of rail, everyone might have known where to find the Manganui-o-te-Ao Viaduct ("standing between Erua and Pokaka", the book says), but it's certainly not a well-known site these days. A book of this nature makes you want to go and take a look.

Vicki Hyde, NZSM

Vicki Hyde is the editor of New Zealand Science Monthly.