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  • The Bridges Project

    • (0) Comments by Forging Links 28 February 2011

    The Bridges project is looking at bridges around the world that were made in Sandwell.  The Community History and Archives Service holds a number of books of photographs that were made up by the Metropolitan Carriage Works and Patent Shaft and Axeltree.  These were both record books and sales catalogues, which showed works under construction and in place.

    Our plan is to publish a book tracing the bridges and showing how they link Sandwell to the rest of the world both in space and time.  We are looking for photos of bridges that were made in Sandwell in their final place of construction;  the Bridge below, photographed here in Varanasi (formerly Benares), was made in Sandwell, and factory workers from Sandwell travelled to construct it on site.

    The prototype of the book is now ready and available to view in Sandwell Libraries.

    Look on the interactive map above for web-based images of how the bridges look now.

    Do you know anyone who lives near any of these bridges and structures now?  Would you be able to get a picture of how they look now, for inclusion in the book?  The prototype of the book is available to look at in Sandwell Libraries from the first week in June.

    The Bridge over the Ganges at Varanasi, and at the Wednesbury Works – the bridge now has a very different superstructure, which we’d like to find out about.

    Transporter Bridge at Rio Riachuelo, Buenos Aires.  It’s still there  http://en.structurae.de/structures/data/index.cfm?id=s0004936 and is a major landmark on the Riachuelo River, which flows into the River Plata.  The area is known as La Boca (the mouth) and is the home of Boca Juniors football club.

    Deptford Creek, London

    Deptford Creek now, the bridge photographed from the other side I think (south rather than the wharf on the north, which is currently inaccessible).  The housing and railings have changed, but the bridge is the same, and much in use.

    The Jumna Bridge, now the Yamuna Bridge, Allahabad, India

    Blackfriars Bridge, London, about a hundred years ago, and as it is now

    A swing bridge, made for Lagos, Nigeria

    Brighton Station

    Irrawady Viaduct, Myanmar

    Rio Riachuelo Lift Bridge in the works and in place.  It is no longer in use, but is still there and in good condition, located off Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    Van Stadens Gorge Bridge, S Africa – still in use as part of a narrow-gauge railway

    Ibigawa Bridge, near Hozumi Station, Gifu Prefecture, Japan – still in use and an ‘important cultural asset’ according to one website

    London Road Station, Nottingham

    Meldon Viaduct, still there.

    Stourport Bridge, still there

    The Colenso and Frere Bridge, Natal, destroyed in the Boer War and rebuilt

    A bridge for the Kusuru Railway in Japan

    A bridge for the Kansei Railway in China

    Merthyr Road Railway Bridge in Cardiff

    A bridge for the Mitsui & Co Railway, Korea

    A bridge for the Tientsin Pukow Railway, China

    Galton Bridge, Smethwick, made by the Horseley Bridge and Engineering Company in 1829

    A bridge for the Oudh and Rohilkund Railway

    The Assam Road Bridge over the Dhansiri River, built in 1904.  Now I think called ‘the Old Dhansiri Bridge’, in Dimapur, India.

    A swing bridge, presumably to replace the Somerset Ferry, Bermuda.  It looks as though the river silted up, and the bridge has been taken down and replaced by a roadway and what claims to be the smallest drawbridge in the world.

    Of course, not all of these bridges may be there any more, and for some of them we do not have any images.  For example bridges made by the Horseley Bridge and Engineering Company, mentioned below, which are mostly in Britain.  We would also like to be able to post images of these bridges on the website, and to include them on the book.

    All archive photographs courtesy of Sandwell Community History and Archives Service.


    Peter Knowles has sent the following article, from his correspondence tracing the history of one of the Patent Shaft bridges in Brazil.  Note the stirring words at the end.

    The Century Bridge

    To end the year 2008, walking along the waterfront in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, I came upon a fact of great relevance. I noted, with great admiration, that iron bridge had completed one hundred years in perfect condition. Don’t know if, during this period, he received the appropriate conservation tract. I think not. I think the excellent quality of this “masterpiece” is that makes resist time. Its columns lifted from Riverbed, perfectly aligned with accuracy, were built with granite blocks “gold honey”, composing as a jewel. Signaled already in those times the region’s economic vocation for the exploration of one of our riches: the Granites in its soil and subsoil. Its structure of iron with vertical and diagonal columns in addition to its equilibrium bows at the top, everything installed, impress by millimeters accuracy. It’ s a show!

    Strategic, because it was the link between the then federal capital, Rio de Janeiro with our capital, Victoria.  Served also for passenger transport by rail and drained for seaports our riches, such as: coffee, cement, cattle, etc.  Was already back then, an exhibit of a real runner of exports and imports.

    That said, I should like to remind the public administrators who currently taking advantage of what remained of railway structure that cuts our city could install a subway surface, interconnected with bus lines, offering a solution for transit “congested” and the population a transportation efficient and low cost. As you know, rail saves oil, non-renewable raw materials and reduces the amount of carbon monoxide emitted by vehicles in road transport, which both hit nature.

    Cachoeiro would be national reference as it was in other times: one of the first three cities of Brazil to inaugurate the electric energy; the first cement plant in South America with rotary kiln; plant tissues and others.

    On the other hand, highlight that my idea above, should only be put into practice through a draft of which gives the conclusion of objective determining technical-economical- financial. It is advisable, in the case, the use of English, with the largest possible number of steps. This process avoids the possibility of a probable consequence of errors, small or large proportions. As an example of this method used a lot by them, the British, I quote the bridge itself that was manufactured in England in steps and sent to Brazil in various parts to be assembled here.

    There is a plate located in one of the columns of the structure of iron bridge that informs us:

    The high degree of English civilization, its fiber, perseverance, punctuality are from the balance between monarchy and democracy (parliamentarianism) which induce this people have pride and respect for authorities and vice versa. Well educated and healthy are “simple as dove and prudent like the serpent.”  The success of humanity, whether short or long term depends on the education and health care possible. The iron bridge built by the English in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim is a spectacle, today offers us great opportunities. Let’s take advantage of them?

    Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, 05/08/2009.

    Author:  Mauricio Jeronymo Mello de Moraes

    Dc/ARQ. canminera@yahoo.com.br

    The former rail bridge is now a road bridge with a footpath at the side.


    The bridges above were made by Patent Shaft, but we are also now looking at some bridges made by The Horseley Bridge and Engineering Company between 1888 and 1908, mostly in the UK, notably Richmond Bridge (see the plaque photograph on the internet link from the interactive map), Kingston Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge over the Thames, Galton Bridge over the Birmingham Canal at Smethwick (image above),  the Leen Valley extension, Manningtree Viaduct, and ‘over 100 new bridges, including two very large ones at Braunston Gate and Aylestone Road, Leicester’.  Also roofwork for Paddington Station, Nottingham Station, Leicester Station, and the enigmatic but sadly limted information in their brochure that their bridges are “scattered over all parts of the Globe, and are far too numerous to specify in detail.”  But they are/were in Bolivia, Inda, Borneo, South Africa, Nigeria, South America and Japan.

    Pictures please!

    It looks like the Braunstone Gate Bridge is the one known locally as the Bowstring Bridge, but please correct this if it is wrong.  Picture on the map above.  The Bowstring Bridge was demolished in 2009.


    This one, also in Brazil, may be a Patent Shaft Axeltree bridge; we are not sure, and looking for confirmation.

    It is over the River Manhuacu in Aimores – there is a provisional flagpin posted on the map.


    Some stunning photographs coming in now:  see those by Mark Torkington linked into the map at Varanesi, India, which will be in the book – meantime see them on flickr  http://www.flickr.com/photos/youthwith/5529780401/ and http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=356894&nseq=2 ; and these by Norman Yeowell, taken in Japan, near the city of Chitose:

    Closer to home is the canopy of Paddington Station, made by Horseley Bridge and Engineering Co.


    A recent trip to Brighton gave me the chance to photograph this wonderful plaque: