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Landore Viaduct (1850), site of
River Tawe, Landore, Swansea, Wales, UK
associated engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
date  2nd August 1847 - 18th June 1850
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Railway Viaduct  |  reference  SS661958
ICE reference number  HEW 327a
The original Landore Viaduct was a substantial 37 span timber and masonry structure designed by Brunel to carry the South Wales Railway over the River Tawe, Swansea Canal and Landore Marshes. It was dismantled and replaced with a shorter bridge and embankments less than 40 years later. The present steel span viaduct, constructed in the 1970s, incorporates Brunel's masonry piers.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel's (1806-59) South Wales Railway was constructed as a broad gauge (2.134m or 7ft) line, and later became part of the Great Western Railway. Its opening in 1850 eclipsed the role of the Swansea Canal as the major transport artery in the region.
The viaduct is located about 4.8km north of the River Tawe’s mouth on Swansea Bay. Designed by Brunel, the original version was constructed under the superintendence of his assistant, Lavington Evans Fletcher (1822-97). In plan, the western approach curved at a radius of 402.3m, with a gradient of 1 in 264. The eastern approach was straight, with a gradient of 1 in 109
The 536.4m long viaduct had 37 spans, the largest of which was 33.5m and spanned the river itself. The two either side of the main span measured 19.5m. Two spans of 22.3m crossed the canal and a road, two spans of 15.2m crossed other roads and the rest of the spans varied between 12.8m and 11m in width.
The superstructure was of timber, reputedly Canadian pitch pine, with wrought iron fixings. To provide additional headroom above the water (33.7m), a bowspring truss was used for the main span, consisting of two concentric polygonal arches of double timbers, each 330mm by 356mm. All other spans were beam format, with trusses below the deck.
Masonry was used for the abutments and five rectilinear-plan piers to the west of the river, each with two round-arch openings. The rest of the piers consisted of timber trestles composed of 406mm square uprights with two, three or four legs founded on either timber piles or masonry pads, depending upon ground conditions.
The deck was constructed using 203mm thick timbers topped by a permanent way of rails fixed to longitudinal timbers. The clear width between parapets was 8.5m, wide enough for two broad gauge tracks. The main span was composed of separate structures for each track.
Pile driving began in October 1847, the masonry work for the west abutment in May 1848, and on 30th May 1850 the locomotive engine Hercules and its tender trundled over the completed viaduct. It opened to traffic on 18th June 1850, with the first train between Chepstow and Swansea. It had cost £28,720 to construct.
The first replacement of the viaduct took place between September 1886 and October 1889. Its length was reduced by the embanking of the eastern approach, using slag from Hafod Copperworks (SS661949), Swansea. The superstructure was reconfigured as 22 spans supported on further masonry piers. A single steel truss replaced the river span, and the remainder were rebuilt in wrought iron. According to an account in the Western Mail on 5th October 1889, the cost of the works was £30,000.
In 1978-9, British Rail replaced the wrought iron deck girders with steel beams. All that survives of Brunel’s viaduct are the five original masonry piers west of the river, some stumps of timber piers in the river bed and whatever remnants of timberwork lie entombed in the embankment east of the river.
Supervising engineer: Lavington Evans Fletcher
Resident engineer: Robert Brodie
Assistant resident engineer: Samuel Jones
Site agent: David Hughes
Contractor: George Hennet
Steelwork (1886-9): Edward D. Finch & Co. of Chepstow
Wrought Iron (1886-9): Palmer of Neath
Masonry (1886-9): Kellett of London
Research: ECPK
"Copperopolis: Landscapes of the Early Industrial Period in Swansea" by Stephen Hughes, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 2008
"Brunel in South Wales. Volume II: Communications and Coal" by Stephen K. Jones, Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, 2007
"Description of the Landore Viaduct, on the Line of the South Wales Railway" by Lavington Evans Fletcher, Minutes of ICE Proceedings, Vol.14, pp.492-503, London, January 1855
reference sources   CEH Wales

Landore Viaduct (1850), site of