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Goole Swing Bridge
River Ouse, Skelton, near Goole, Yorkshire, UK
associated engineer
Thomas Elliot Harrison
Pell Frischmann
date  opened 1869. 2009 - 2011
era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SE764247
ICE reference number  HEW 231
A railway swing bridge over the River Ouse near Goole probably the finest of its type in Britain. It was thought to be the second largest railway swing bridge in the world when it opened in 1869, and was described by a government inspector as "the most perfect structure of the kind ever erected". The bridge remains in continual use, and has been refurbished several times. It is a Grade II* listed structure.
Goole, also known as Hook or Skelton, Swing Bridge carries two railway tracks. It was designed by Thomas Elliot Harrison (1808-88) for the North Eastern Railway and remains part of the modern main line infrastructure between Doncaster and Hull. Harrison later designed two similar swing bridges over the River Ouse, at Naburn near York (opened 1871) and at Selby (1891).
Five of the Goole bridge's six spans are fixed, one at the east end and four at the west end. The sixth span pivots through 90 degrees horizontally on a central pier to provide two 30.5m wide navigation openings. Each of the spans consists of three hogback wrought iron plate girders an I-section girder on either side and a box girder between the rail tracks.
The five fixed spans are all 35.4m long and are supported on cast iron cylindrical piers up to 27.4m in length and sunk about 9m in to the river bed. The swing span's girders are 76.5m long, 5m deep in the centre and 1.2m deep at the ends, and weigh 681 tonnes. It turns on 36 rollers, each 910mm in diameter, inside a 15.2m diameter pier (in a similar way to a naval gun turret) supported on a group of seven cast iron cylinders.
All the piers were protected from damage by timber surrounds, which have been replaced over time with steel. The swing span is operated from an octagonal control cabin mounted above the mid-span of the hogback girders and accessed from an iron staircase on the north side. The opening span was originally moved by a three-cylinder hydraulic engine below the deck, charged by a 9kW steam engine, and took 50 seconds to open. It is now powered by electric motors, housed in boxes beside the cabin.
The bridge was damaged in 1973 and 1984 and required reconstruction. In 1988, it was struck by a 356 tonne ship causing two of the approach spans to move up to 6m out of line. Part of the superstructure was replaced.
Over the years, the webs of the main girders have suffered corrosion and the connections between girders and transverse beams have become weakened. For safety, trains were prevented from passing on the bridge and speeds were restricted to 96.5kph (60mph) for passenger traffic and 48.3kph (30mph) for freight.
Between September 2009 and February 2010, facilities for the bridge operators were upgraded. For the first time, mains water was supplied to the control cabin, along with a septic tank, new signalling equipment on the central pier and a new electricity supply. The cables run underground from the shore to the swing span. They were placed using directional drilling, to avoid excavation close to the structure. The work cost 630,000.
In October 2010, a 6.2m programme of strengthening works began, designed by engineer Pell Frischmann. It included the placement of 450 tonnes of new steelwork, secured with 45,000 rivets.
The strengthening created a U-frame, stiffening the bridge with diagonal plan bracing between transverse beams and main girders, plating the main girder webs at the ends of each span and installing full-height stiffeners to transfer the load from the top flanges of the girders to the transverse beams. The tracks and rails were also renewed and the bridge was repainted with four coats of paint.
Contractor (fixed spans): Butler & Pitts, Stanningley
Contractor (swing spans): W.G. Armstrong & Co
Contractor (2009-10): Clancy Docwra Ltd
Contractor (2009-11): Carillion Civil Engineering
Research: ECPK
"Obituary: Thomas Elliot Harrison, 1808-1888" in Minutes of ICE Proceedings, Vol.94, pp.301-313, London, 1888
"Movable Bridges" by James Price, in Minutes of ICE Proceedings, Vol.57, pp.1-39, London, 1879
reference sources   CEH North

Goole Swing Bridge