In November 1846, Thomas Brassey had accepted a contract to build the London-Peterborough Railway, with the date of completion estimated a 1 November 1849 at the latest. He failed on this point, mainly because of the challenge of crossing Whittlesea Mere. When Brassey was trying to resolve this problem, he sought help from Stephen Bollard, the middle level engineer. Bollard showed him a possible solution and was promptly put in charge of that part of the project. The solution was to lay a deep bed of brushwood beneath the track line. Before anything about the solution was noised abroad, the Fenman's cunning of Stephen came into play and he quietly bought up all the brushwood that came to market. The solution was highly effective. The brushwood was weighted so that it sank into the Whittlesea peat and the result was a sound and stable base for the railway. Other delays came from flooding in the Nene valley and the late completion of the viaduct and bridge over the Nene but, by this date, Brassey was able to invite the directors and their friends from the London Terminus at Maiden Lane by special train to lunch with him in Peterborough. (Tebbs, H.F., Peterborough, Oleander Press, 1979)
Taken fromThe Peterborough Book of Days by Brian Jones, The History Press, 2014.