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Solway Viaduct

Postcard of the Solway Viaduct with a photo from the past.

Solway Viaduct Postcards

By Collections blog

Some old postcards in the Museums store inspired us to research the Solway Viaduct in more detail. The bridge and its railway line used to connect England and Scotland, it was also used in WW1 to supply HM Factory Gretna and its former site is located about 6 miles from The Devils Porridge Museum.


The Solway Junction Railway was built by an independent railway company to shorten the route from ironstone mines in Cumberland to ironworks in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. It opened in 1869, and it involved a viaduct 1 mile 8 chains (1.8 km) long crossing the Solway Firth, as well as approach lines connecting existing railways on both sides.



Reconstruction of the viaduct began in the summer of 1882: in the rebuilt viaduct, the three inner columns in each pier were still cast-iron, but the two outer ‘rakers’ were each a single wrought-iron tube filled with concrete and provided with timber ice fenders.



In 1914 an assessment of the maintenance needs of the viaduct was carried out. The long metal structure exposed to a marine atmosphere had deteriorated and £15,500 would need to be expended in maintenance work. The work was suspended on the outbreak of World War I, which saw increased use of the viaduct for iron-ore and pig-iron traffic from West Cumbria to Scotland. It was announced that stations south of the viaduct were to be closed from 1 February 1917 but this decision was promptly rescinded. The creation of a large munition works at Eastriggs, to the east of Annan, gave the line additional traffic; including (in May 1917) the Royal Train, carrying King George and Queen Mary on a four-day tour of that and other munitions factories.



Any future use of the viaduct was impossibly expensive, and after a period of dormancy, in 1933 arrangements were made to demolish it. Arnott, Young and Company purchased the bridge and dismantled it; much of the material found a second use, and some of the metal was used by the Japanese forces in the Sino-Japanese War. During the work three men lost their lives when attempting extraction of one of the piles; the men were inexperienced in boat work and their boat was caught in strong currents and capsized. The dismantling of the viaduct was completed by November 1935, but sections of the pier foundations remained in the bed of the estuary. The section of railway between the south end of the viaduct and Kirkbride Junction was dismantled as part of the process.

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