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Conwy Railway Bridge (Pont Rheilffordd Conwy)

Conwy Tubular Bridge

Conwy Railway Bridge (Pont Rheilffordd Conwy)

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 12, 2018

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Key Facts

Location
Wales (Cymru): Conwy, Wales (Cymru): United Kingdom
Structure Type
Metal Through Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1849 By Builder/Contractor: William Evans and Engineer/Design: William Fairbairn, E. Hodgkinson, and Robert Stephenson

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1899
Main Span Length
312 Feet (95 Meters)
Structure Length
463 Feet (141 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
Spans
3 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Historical Books: Tubular and Other Iron Girder Bridges (1st Edition and Third Edition)

View Historical Book: General Description of the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges

View Historical Book: An Account of the Construction of the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges

View Historical Book: The Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges

This bridge enjoys a unique and iconic setting next to beautiful Castle Conwy and next to two other historic bridges. This location features the Conwy Railway Bridge, the Conwy Suspension Bridge, and the Conwy Road Bridge.

This wrought iron bridge was constructed at a time when wrought iron (also called malleable iron at the time) was a new material in terms of bridge construction. It was so new that cast iron would continue to be used in the construction of metal bridges for decades after this bridge was built before wrought iron (and its successor, steel) took its place as the dominant material in metal bridge construction.

This extremely unusual type of plate girder bridge, which features very tall girders that have overhead bracing, forming a giant hollow tube of riveted iron, was known as a "tubular bridge." Several examples were built, however this is the only remaining example. It also was one of the first examples built. An incredibly long example, the Victoria Bridge, was built in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Brittania Bridge was the other famous one in the UK.

The Conwy Railway Bridge is configured as two superstructures (two separate tubes) that sit side by side.

The Conwy Railway Bridge was altered significantly in 1899. At this time, to strengthen the bridge, two piers were added, turning the bridge into the three-span structure seen today. Additional ribs were riveted to the girders, with the largest ribs added directly over the pier, and a lighter rib system was added to the girder sections directly next to the piers. Away from the piers, the girder web appears to remain unaltered and original 1849 materials and design.

Above: Historical plan sheet showing bridge in its original configuration.

Above: Historical photo showing bridge construction. The second prefabricated girder is being floated out to be installed on the bridge.

Above: The Conwy Railway Bridge inspired Robert Stevenson to design the extremely long Victoria Bridge in Monreal, Quebec, Canada as shown here.

 

Above: The Conwy Railway Bridge inspired Robert Stevenson to design the extremely long Victoria Bridge in Monreal, Quebec, Canada as shown here.

Official Heritage Listing Information and Findings

Listed At: Grade I

Discussion:

Reference Number: 3236

History
On the Chester-Holyhead Railway, built 1846-49 by Robert Stephenson, in collaboration with William Fairbairn and E. Hodgkinson. The architect was Francis Thompson, the contractor William Evans. It was originally intended to be a suspension bridge. The bridge, like Stephenson's contemporary Britannia Bridge spanning the Menai Strait, pioneered wrought-iron box-girder construction. Intermediate piers were added in 1899.

Exterior
A tubular railway bridge between ashlar rectangular castellated towers (originally intended for carrying the chains of a suspension bridge), with blind arrow loops, and an embattled parapet on corbelled machicolations. Lower round turrets to the outer corners have a Lombard frieze to the parapet, and smaller corbelled round turrets to the inner corners have a Lombard frieze to conical caps. The outer sides have a pair of round-headed arches with continuous chamfer. On the inner sides are vents with latticework iron grilles above the girders. The deck is double-track, each track having its own tubular girder construction, and incorporating a travelling crane. Set back from each end are 2 round concrete-filled cast-iron piers added in 1899. The approach on the E side has a rock-faced coped wall to a polygonal terminal pier. Beyond, the NE side has a later plainer wall.

Reason for designation
Listed grade I as a major work of C19 civil engineering of national importance. Scheduled Ancient Monument CN167

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Conwy Railway Bridge (Pont Rheilffordd Conwy)

 
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Maps and Links: Conwy Railway Bridge (Pont Rheilffordd Conwy)

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