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This bridge was the largest cantilever span in Great Britain aside from the Forth Bridge when completed. A truly unique bridge, it features several members positioned in unusual angles and inclines, resulting in a striking appearance that looks ahead of its time and may even call to mind images of modern cable-stayed and steel rigid-frame bridges. The bridge was originally built as a single-track railway bridge to carry the Callander and Oban Railway. In 1909, a special railway service was added that carried motor vehicles across the bridge, albeit only one car at a time. This unusual arrangement did not last long, however. By 1914, the bridge was reconfigured with a roadway along the western side of the deck and the railway on the east side of the deck. Despite this arrangement, the relatively narrow width of the bridge prevented cars and trains from crossing the bridge at the same time. When a train needed to cross the bridge, the crossing was treated like a grade crossing, with gates to keep cars off the bridge. In 1966, the railway line was closed and bridge was reconfigured as a highway-only bridge, with the rails being removed. The narrow bridge operates as a one-lane bridge, with traffic signals controlling the flow of traffic over the bridge.
The distinctive design of the cantilever truss is due to the configuration of the trusses over the piers. Typically, cantilever trusses have a vertical post, sometimes called the "main post," located directly over the pier that is also at the deepest section of the truss web. For the Connel Bridge, these posts are instead inclined, not only inward toward the center of the span, but also inward toward the center of the roadway. As such, the inclined main posts extend out beyond the truss lines to the pier below, giving the bridge a bowed out appearance when viewed from certain angles. The inclined posts also mean that the deepest "tower" section of the truss is located not over the pier, but partway into the central span of the truss. The inclined main post is countered by what engineering periodicals described as a "back strut" extending from the bearing on the piers back to the abutment at the roadway level. The back struts angle out to meet the main post locations outside of the truss lines, adding to the bowed out appearance of the bridge. The end post of the truss, also inclined, extends all the way to the main post of the truss, meaning there is no upper chord for this entire length, an unusual design that gives the bridge a striking appearance when approached on the road. If the end post, the main post, and the back strut at each end of the bridge are looked at as a single shape, the bridge has the appearance of two giant triangles resting on their apex at the piers. Another unusual detail of the truss is found at the deck level, where a beam that may look like a lower chord of the truss to casual viewers also angles out to meet the inclined main post at the roadway level, and was described as an "outer boom" in engineering periodicals.
This bridge used steel from a large variety of companies and mills. Numerous names can be found on the steel and are documented in the enormous detail photo gallery available for this bridge.
The bridge crosses the Falls of Lora, turbulent rapids that are strongly affected by tidal flows. This is one of the reasons a cantilever truss bridge was constructed at this location- it could be erected over the waterway without the use of falsework in the fast-flowing rapids.
The Transactions of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, 1903 had an obituary for Thomas Arthur Arrol the builder of this bridge. Thomas Arthur Arrol should not be confused with the more famous Sir William Arrol, who also built bridges.
Thomas Arthur Arrol was born in Glasgow on the 24th August, 1852, and was educated at the Collegiate and High Schools of Glasgow, and at the Glasgow University. He served his time as an engineer with Messrs P. & W. MacLellan and remained in their service till he became general manager. After spending a few months in the United States he returned to his native city and entered into partnership with his brother, the late Mr James Cameron Arrol. Together they founded the Germiston Works, at which roof and bridge building and general engineering were carried on until 1892. The concern was subsequently converted into a Limited Company under the designation of Arrol's Bridge & Roof Co., Ltd., with Mr T. Arthur Arrol as managing director. Under his supervision many important contracts were successfully carried out, and among others in hand at the time of his death were those for the Connel Ferry Bridge, which is the second largest cantilever bridge in Europe; the Larkhall and Stonehouse viaducts for the Caledonian Railway; and the transporter bridge across the Mersey at Runcorn, which is the first of its kind in Britain. He died suddenly at Aberdeen on 29th October, 1902. Mr. Arrol joined the Institution as a Member in 1875, and took an active interest in its affairs. He was a Member of Council for Sessions 1882-84, and a Vice-President for Sessions 1884-86. He was again elected a Member of Council in April, 1901.
Above: Historical photo showing railway on bridge.
Above: Historical photo showing bridge construction.
Official Heritage Listing Information and Findings
Listed At: Category B
List Entry Number: LB11986
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