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Leven Viaduct
River Leven estuary, Ulverston, Cumbria
Leven Viaduct
associated engineer
Sir James William Brunlees
date  1st April 1856 - 14th June 1857
era  Victorian  |  category  Railway Viaduct  |  reference  SD321784
ICE reference number  HEW 964
photo  Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
The first use of jetted piles in the British Isles was for the construction of two major railway viaducts across river estuaries joining Morecambe Bay, for the Ulverstone & Lancaster Railway. One of these is Leven Viaduct over the River Leven estuary, east of Ulverstone.
The second viaduct is the Kent Viaduct, Arnside, built at the same date. Both are long and consist of a large number of short spans between cast iron columns. The Ulverstone & Lancaster Railway joined the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Carnforth in 1857.
Leven Viaduct's 48 spans are 9.1m centre to centre. The supporting 254mm diameter columns are grouped, some raking, some vertical. All are founded on tubular cast iron piles with large discs at their bases, jetted into position through the sand and silt sea bed and filled with concrete.
The jetting method of sinking piles is used when the ground is sandy as a pile hammer would be impractical. Air or water (or both) is used under pressure to help the driving process.
Initially, there was a single railway track and each column group consisted of three vertical and one raking column. The doubling of the track in 1863 meant the widening of the viaduct. This brought the addition of another vertical and another raking column to each group.
Both viaducts originally had telescopic opening spans, 11m wide. The tracks were set at a height of 7.9m above water level. The viaducts originally had one wrought iron lattice girder spanning longitudinally under each running rail. These were replaced between 1885 and 1887 and some spans were altered.
By 1915, the cast iron columns had deteriorated to such an extent that it was decided to encase them in brickwork and concrete. This work was done to both viaducts.
Leven Viaduct is the shorter of the two, at 475.4m. It cost 18,604 to build.
In 2006, the viaduct was the setting for a pioneering use of robotic fabrication. The deck needed replacing and this new method cut construction time from two seasons to one. Two specially designed gantries simultaneously lifted out both old tracks, and then lifted in the new steel one, which had been fabricated using off-site robotic welding techniques.
The project team was awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers North West Merit Award for 2007 for their work as it "epitomises the spirit of innovation".
Main contractor (1857): W. & J. Galloway
Principal designer (2006): Cass Heyward, Network Rail
Contractors (2006): Carillion plc, Corus Railway Infrastructure Services
and Fairfield Mabey
Project manager (2006): Matthew Wylde, Carillion
Research: PD and AJD
"Concentration Through Fabrication"
New Civil Engineer, 25 May 2006
reference sources   CEH North

Leven Viaduct