The Clyde Railway Viaduct Bridge

c 1910 Clyde Bridge

c 1910 Clyde Bridge

At the farthest Northern extent of Blantyre on the River Clyde is the Clyde Railway Bridge. This was modeled in a similar style to Bothwell Bridge, but was located far downstream spanning between Blantyre and Uddingston. Located just North of Boat Jocks house, the Railway Bridge was constructed in 1849 for the Caledonian Railway. A three-span, cast-iron arch bridge, with four ribs per arch, tied by wrought-iron bracing. The arches were supported on masonry piers.

This viaduct formerly carried the Motherwell – Glasgow portion of the (London, Euston – Glasgow) West Coast Main Line across the River Clyde between Uddingston and Newton, at a dangerous part of the river , at a location named Chapel Eddy. The piers are in bull-faced red sandstone ashlar with polished ashlar band courses and dividing arches. Stepped semicircular cutwaters sit below on square-plan coped piers. The approach walls are in bull-faced sandstone ashlar and feature 2 deep round-arched recesses upstream on the west bank.

In 1878, as the volume of railway traffic increased, a more substantial viaduct was required. As such, the new Caledonian Railway Viaduct over the River Clyde was erected from May 1876 to October 1878 immediately adjacent to the old one. It had three main wrought-iron lattice spans, with slender diagonal web members, notable for having its rivets silently driven by hydraulic riveters invented by William Arrol.

As part of the early planning, a proposal had been made in 1873 for a light twin-track, 11-span, wrought-iron plategirder bridge supported on cast-iron columns resting on a westerly extension of the piers of Telford’s Jamaica Street Bridge. The finely executed model for this proposal is now at the Institution of Civil Engineers’ museum at Heriot- Watt University. This proposal was abandoned in favour of the as-built design in 1875. Incredibly, an earlier proposal for a crossing at this IMG_1873site was in the 1840s to connect with the Edinburgh & Glasgow railway via a tunnel.
The 1878 viaduct’s central span was 186 ft.

With miners requiring a more reliable crossing point and further strengthening works needing down to the bridge, it was decided that a pedestrian crossing would be added, as well as new rails and ironwork. This work was done in 1904, with this remarkable picture capturing the event as a reinforcing girder for the bridge was hoisted into place. Onlookers standby on the Uddingston side watching the work.The completion of this work allowed people to cross without the aid of a ferryboat from Uddingston over to the Blantyreferme colliery. It also allowed workers at Blantyre several job opportunities on the Uddingston side of the river. By this time, the older bridge adjacent had fallen out of use.

1977 walkway on clyde railway bridge

1977 photo showing demolished original bridge

The newer bridge remains in use today and the crossing is over in the blink of an eye, if you’re on the train! The old bridge superstructure was eventually demolished in 1966–67 except for its cylindrical piers which now stand as sentinels to the operational viaduct. These remarkable piers, consisting of pairs of 15 ft diameter cast-iron shafts, were originally sunk by open grabbing to bedrock 85 ft below high water level ordinary spring tide. An immense depth! Its engineers, also for the 1873 proposal, were Blyth & Cunningham, and the contractor was Wm. Arrol & Co. The cost was £64,400.

Today, alongside the 1878 bridge is a newer pedestrian bridge, permitting a safe crossing point by foot. It can be accessed from the scrapyard at Blantreferme.

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