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Brunel was so forceful in his demands for the levelest possible track bed that the Great Western line came to be known as "Brunel's billiard table" (ref: The Grand Experiment : The Birth of the Railway Age 1820 - 1845). "Flats" in this context is a play on words referring to both the levelness of the track bed and the use of flat to mean a naive speculator.

 

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