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Barnes Rail Bridge
River Thames, Barnes, London, UK
Barnes Rail Bridge
associated engineer
Joseph Locke
John Edward Errington
Edward Andrews
date  1846 - 22nd August 1849, 1891 - 6th June 1895
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  TQ212763
ICE reference number  HEW 353
photo  Jane Joyce
Barnes Rail Bridge has a rather unusual appearance today, the result of its two phases of construction. On the upstream side are Locke's cast iron spans, dating from 1849 and no longer in use. Looming over them are Andrews' wrought iron bowstring trusses dating from the widening of the bridge in 1895.
Most people know the bridge for its connection with the annual Boat Race it's the bridge under which the Oxford and Cambridge boats speed on their way to the finish line downstream of Chiswick Bridge. The coat of arms on Barnes Bridge includes a light blue Cambridge oar and a dark blue Oxford oar.
Until the railway came to this part of London, Barnes was a small village with no real need for a river crossing. The 1846 line from Nine Elms to Richmond (London & Southampton Railway, later known as London & South Western Railway) announced the change. Work to extend the line to Windsor included a loop from Barnes to Chiswick and Hounslow, necessitating the construction of Barnes Bridge. Locke was appointed engineer for both Barnes and the new rail bridge at Richmond needed for the main line.
On the south side of the river the bridge crosses from the middle of The Terrace, a street of modest Georgian houses, several of which had to be demolished to make way for the railway. Locke had to embank the river to achieve the statutory level above the high water mark.
Barnes Bridge as designed by Locke consisted of two pairs of cast iron arch spans (of which three arches remain) carrying a timber deck, supported on brick piers faced in Bramley Fall stone. The spans measure 36.57m and rise 3.66m. Each arch is cast in four sections, and each span has six cast iron arch ribs, each 915mm deep. Locke's work is no longer in use for rail traffic.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the long term stability of cast iron structures was in question. A cast iron span on the Brighton rail line collapsed in 1891. In July 1891, an act of Parliament was approved for the replacement of Barnes Bridge in wrought iron, though luckily for us, they wanted to let train services continue during construction, so did not completely dismantle Locke's bridge. One complete pair of spans was left plus one span of the other pair, hard up against the first. Work began to extend the brick abutments and piers in 1894.
The new work, designed by Edward Andrews, consists of a series of bowstring trusses supported by the extended piers and abutments. A 2.4m wide footpath was also added. These are still in use today.
The new footpath was handy for Boat Race spectators and the railway company took the opportunity to make some money, selling tickets for accces on the day. These days the bridge is closed to pedestrians on race day for safety reasons.
Contractor: Fox Henderson & Co (1846-49)
Contractor: Head, Wrightson & Co (1894-95 work)
reference sources   CEH LondCR

Barnes Rail Bridge