The UK’s Barmouth Bridge has turned 150 today – an amazing feat when considering that it has survived two world wars, a live naval mine and an attack of marine wood worm in its lifetime. To celebrate, DB Cargo UK has arranged for a special rail service to travel over the historic viaduct today.
Barmouth Bridge runs over the River Mawddach estuary on the coast of Cardigan Bay, Wales and was first opened in 1867. The single track, largely wooden viaduct is a grade two listed structure and one of the longest timber viaducts still in regular use in Britain. It stretches a staggering 800 yards and is supported by 113 wooden trestles.
DB Cargo UK, a leading rail freight operator, will operate Riviera Trains Mark 1 carriages on a return journey from Shrewsbury to Pwllheli, travelling along the whole of the Cambrian Coast Line and over Barmouth Bridge. The service was arranged in collaboration with Arriva Trains Wales and Network Rail.
Barmouth Bridge was built as part of the then Aberystwyth & Welsh Coast Railway and designed by the Welsh Civil Engineer Benjamin Piercy and English Civil Engineer and architect Henry Conybeare. They chose to build the bridge from timber as this was cheap to import and the material has stood the test of time, despite several close calls.
The bridge was nearly destroyed in 1946 when a live naval mine washed ashore. The mine even brushed against one of the bridges wooden pillars, but did not detonate. In 1980 it was also discovered that a bout of marine woodworm had eaten into 69 of the supporting pillars. This caused locomotive hauled services to be banned and the bridge was later closed for six months for temporary repairs before under-going major repairs between 1980 and 1986, re-opening to locomotive hauled trains once again on 13th April 1986.
Barmouth Bridge and the Cambrian Coast Line is a lifeline for those living in various coastal towns as it saves people, including school children, from travelling several hours by road to traverse the numerous river estuaries.
Richard Corser, Account Manager Charters and Resource Hire, said:
“This is a truly momentous occasion in the history of Barmouth Bridge and the Cambrian Coast Line and DB Cargo UK is very proud to be operating this special service to mark the 150th birthday of such an important structure.
“This bridge has faced many adversities and threats of closure; however it still stands and plays a vital role within the local communities as it provides a rail link over the River Mawddach, saving people precious time travelling by road.”
Andy Thomas, Route Managing Director for Network Rail in Wales, said:
“Barmouth viaduct is one of the most iconic structures in the whole of Wales, connecting people for 150 years and boosting economic growth by bringing tourists to the area.
“We are working closely with Cadw and Gwynedd Council on our plans to refurbish the viaduct to secure its long-term future, so that it can continue to play a crucial role for the local economy for many years to come.”