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Stephenson-type Girder, Berry Lane Viaduct
Berry Lane, Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire, UK
associated engineer
Not known
date  1848 - 1850
era  Victorian  |  category  Railway Viaduct  |  reference  SE097250
ICE reference number  HEW 2021
A unique type of cast iron girder forms part of Berry Lane railway viaduct in Halifax, which is still in use on the Caldervale Line. The girder comes from another (unknown) site and was used to widen the existing masonry structure. It is typical of those used by Robert Stephenson and others.
Cast iron had been used successfully in arched bridges such as the world’s first at Coalbrookdale (1779-81), where all the members were in compression, but arched bridges are not suitable for railways. Stephenson designed several of his railway bridges, including the Stockton (1844) and Dee (1846) bridges, with straight cast iron girders. Cast iron is a brittle material and can fracture when subjected to tension or torsion, thought to be a factor in the Dee Bridge collapse of 24th May 1847. Stephenson's ideas were questioned and cast iron was rejected in favour of wrought iron, and later steel, for bridge designs.
Therefore the remnant cast iron girder that is part of the Berry Lane viaduct is a rare artefact of early railway infrastructure. Originally it would have been made from three cast sections, bolted together end-to-end by flanged joints and strapped with wrought iron ties.
Only two of the sections remain and the girder has been shortened to 18.9m long. The upstands used to anchor wrought iron straps over the supports are still visible. The girder is in use as an edge beam on the sandstone viaduct, though the date of its incorporation into the structure is unknown.
The viaduct was built for the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. It is curved in plan and has nine rounded arches with one broader segmental arch at the south west end. All the arches have ashlar voussoirs, though the three arches at the north east end are now blocked.
The viaduct became a Grade II listed structure in September 1993.
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"The Introduction of Structural Wrought Iron" by R.J.M. Sutherland
Newcomen Society Transactions, Vol.35, pp.67-84, London, March 1964
www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk
www.railwaystations.info
reference sources   CEH North
Location

Stephenson-type Girder, Berry Lane Viaduct