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Ballochmyle Viaduct
River Ayr, near Mauchline, East Ayrshire, Scotland, UK
associated engineer
John Miller
date  March 1846 - 9th August 1848
era  Victorian  |  category  Railway Viaduct  |  reference  NS508253
ICE reference number  HEW 25
Ballochmyle Viaduct is perhaps Britain’s most outstanding masonry arch viaduct, and has one of the world’s largest masonry arches. It was built on the Cumnock Branch of the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock & Ayr Railway and crosses the River Ayr between the settlements of Mauchline and Catrine. The viaduct remains in use as part of the Glasgow to Carlisle main line.
The railway company’s engineer John Miller (1805-83) designed the graceful seven-span viaduct. He was an experienced designer of many railway structures, including Drumlanrig Tunnel and the Lugar Water Viaduct (both completed in 1850).
The main span of Ballochmyle Viaduct is 55.2m wide and towers 50m above the river. It is flanked on each side by three 15.2m span arches. All the arches are semicircular and their restrained ornamentation includes raised panels in the spandrels and dressed stone arch rings.
The masonry is mainly of red sandstone quarried locally, though the arch rings are constructed from harder freestone quarried near Dundee and transported to site by rail.
The masterpiece of timber centring (temporary supporting works) required to build the arch at this height was recorded for posterity by photographer David Octavius Hill (1802-70), and also in an 1865 book by James Newlands on the principles of timber framing.
Construction began in March 1846 and the foundation stone was laid on the 5th September that year. The last stone was placed on 12th March 1848 and the viaduct opened to traffic on 9th August 1848.
At the time of completion it was the world's largest masonry arch, and probably still is Britain’s tallest railway viaduct. Though the span of Chester’s Grosvenor Bridge (built 1827-33) is 5.8m longer — 61m in total — it is only just over one-third as tall as Ballochmyle.
The viaduct has been a listed building since April 1971, upgraded to Category A in January 1989. It also featured in a scene in the 1996 Hollywood film, Mission: Impossible.
Network Rail carried out strengthening works in the 2010s to enable the viaduct to cope with freight traffic, including heavy coal trains. The work has had no impact on the appearance of the structure.
In May 2014, Ballochmyle Viaduct was designated a National historical civil engineering landmark by the Institution of Civil Engineers, and a plaque was unveiled.
Resident engineer: William McCandish
Contractor: Ross & Mitchell
Research: ECPK
New Civil Engineer, 15th May 2014
The Scotsman, 4th July 2014
reference sources   CEH SLB

Ballochmyle Viaduct