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Gauxholme Viaduct
Gauxholme, south west of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, UK
Gauxholme Viaduct
associated engineer
George Stephenson
date  1839 - 1840
era  Victorian  |  category  Railway Viaduct  |  reference  SD929233
ICE reference number  HEW 2
photo  © Alexander P Kapp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
One of three self-contained cast iron arch railway bridges constructed to carry the Manchester & Leeds Railway. This one, which crosses the Rochdale Canal, was strengthened in the early 20th century and is the only one of the three still in use. It adjoins an impressive masonry viaduct of the same date and together they take the railway on a sweeping curve down the valley.
The bowstring idea on which the bridge is based — an arch supporting the deck using hangers — was introduced into Britain by George Leather (1786-1870), an engineer from Leeds. The arch is tied, or self-contained, by a wrought iron tie rod that restrains its ends, forming the bottom chord of the truss. The form was used initially for road bridges (1830s) and later for railway viaducts, where the track sits on a deck system of secondary girders hung from the arches.
Six railway viaducts of this type are known to have been built in England, with single spans ranging from 11.m to 38.1m. Only three of them still exist. The largest and most famous is Newcastle’s High Level Bridge (1849), designed by Robert Stephenson (1803-59).
The Manchester & Leeds Railway’s engineer, George Stephenson (1781-1848), used the self-contained technique for three similar skew bridges carrying the line over the Rochdale Canal. They were constructed under his direction but the actual design work may have been undertaken by Thomas Longridge Gooch (1808-82).
At Gauxholme, the skew span of the viaduct measures 31.1m, with trusses at 10m centres. Each of the two trusses consists of a pair of cast iron arches, or ribs, 1.5m apart, tied by four tensioned wrought iron rods forming the bottom chord. Arcades of cast iron vertical struts, cast integrally with the arches, extend above and below the ribs, giving the truss elevations a latticed open-web girder appearance. The trusses are strengthened by internal vertical and horizontal cast iron X-braces.
The bases of the verticals are connected by a slender cast iron longitudinal member. The tops are joined in pairs by pointed Gothic arches, which carry a decorative capping, almost parallel to the bottom chord. The lower end of each strut includes a small lug with a hole, probably to accommodate the fixings for cast iron cladding (now missing) to hide the tie bars.
Originally, the deck was carried on transverse cast iron beams, suspended from wrought iron hanger rods descending from the centres of the vertical X-braces. Near the abutments, where the skew prevented both ends of the transverse beams from being attached to hangers, one end was supported by the stonework.
The abutments feature plain faces of coursed masonry along the river banks, with castellated towers on the elevations. The four towers are of dressed stone and are semi-octagonal in plan.
Modifications were made to the bridge in 1906, changing its appearance, though the original trusses have been retained. To relieve the structure of the moving load stresses generated by more-modern rail traffic, new steel girders 3.2m deep with 760mm wide flanges were inserted at 6.3m centres. They are positioned below deck level, one on each side, tied by transverse vertical X-braces. New steel beams spanning transversely between the girders support the deck and its twin rail tracks.
The bridge is the northernmost of two viaducts in the town, both engineered by Stephenson, and is sometimes known as Gauxholme Viaduct No.2. The adjacent structure, Gauxholme Viaduct No.1 (SD930231 to SD929229), carries the railway through Gauxholme on 17 segmental masonry arches of 10.7m span. In February 1984, the viaducts were Grade II listed.
And what of the other two bowstring bridges on the Manchester & Leeds Railway? The 32m span Charlestown Bridge (SD981270), near Hebden Bridge, was been dismantled and replaced by a plate girder structure, though its distinctive original semi-octagonal towers remain. The 22.3m span Scowcroft Bridge (SD887065) at Middleton, near Manchester, is intact but disused. Rail services use the modern bridge alongside.
Ironwork: J Butler & Co., Stanningley
Research: ECPK
bibliography
www.gracesguide.co.uk
www.historicengland.org.uk
www.ice.org
www.myrochdalecanal.org.uk
www.transportheritage.com
reference sources   CEH North
Location

Gauxholme Viaduct