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Royal Border Bridge
River Tweed, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, UK
Royal Border Bridge
associated engineer
Robert Stephenson
date  July 1845 - 29th August 1850
era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NT991531
ICE reference number  HEW 20
photo  PHEW
The railway viaduct known as Royal Border Bridge was the last link in the east coast rail line from London to Edinburgh. Completed later than the line itself, the bridge was opened in August 1850 by Queen Victoria.
Royal Border Bridge was commissioned as part of the Newcastle & Berwick Railway line, along with the High Level Bridge in Newcastle. Robert Stephenson was the railway's engineer, though most of the line engineering was undertaken by Thomas Harrison under Stephenson's supervision. However, Stephenson himself took a more hands-on role with the bridges, though the details are most likely by others.
He took particular care with foundation design. For the Royal Border Bridge, piles were driven down to bedrock through 12m of very dense gravel using a patent Nasmyth steam-powered pile-driver. Deep cofferdams were used and a series of pumps required to keep the water out of them.
The viaduct is built on a curve and consists of 28 arches, set out in two groups separated by a stop pier 15 arches over land south of the river and 13 over water. The whole is constructed in masonry with brickwork soffits (under-sides of the arches) covered by stone cladding. Each span measures 18.6m and the whole bridge is 658m long. The greatest height over the bed of the river is 38.4m. The bridge contract covered a one mile length of line the non-masonry sections consist of earth embankments.
The 15 land arches were completed first, along with the stop pier, which acted as a buttress during the construction of the remaining arches. The piers were shaped at water level in such a way that ice sheets in the river would be broken up on contact with the bridge, a process helped by the embedding of iron bars in the masonry. This feature was covered by later alterations to the piers to cater for an extra rail track.
The Newcastle & Berwick Railway was formed in 1845 and construction began almost immediately, in July of that year. The line was completed, except for the bridges, in July 1847. Temporary timber viaducts were used in the meantime. York's railway tycoon, George Hudson, amalgamated the N&BR with the York & Newcastle Railway, forming the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway with Stephenson as chief engineer. Stephenson was now engineer for the entire London to Berwick main line.
There are four other viaducts on the line Alnmouth, Coquet, Bothal and Plessey.
Assistant engineer: Thomas Elliot Harrison
Resident engineer: (Sir) George B. Bruce
Contractors: James McKay, J. Blackstock
"Robert Stephenson The Eminent Engineer"
edited by Michael R. Bailey
Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Aldershot, Hampshire, 2003
reference sources   CEH NorthBRH

Royal Border Bridge