Under a very big, old arch

A surprise was in store for us as we cycled the 57km from Brigstock to Thurlby! We were cycling in a number of districts in the England as part of our cyclotour in 2010 and had neglected to do some background research on our proposed route for the day. Well, that is to say, we had looked at the terrain, calculated our projected daylength and planned where to stop for breaks! But we had forgotten to check out the items of interest along the way 😦

It looked big as we approached!

It looked pretty big as we approached!

It was therefore with great surprise and delight that we came upon one of the most remarkable feats of railway construction in the UK! Cycling gives one a lot of time to appreciate the scenery and it was immediately apparent that the viaduct we had come across was certainly very long! The road approaching this amazing construction winds around a bit, giving tantalising glimpses of the viaduct, but nothing gives away the overall size! It is not until one cycles below and stops to gaze up into one of the arches that the full implication of the size becomes staggering.

The cyclist puts a scale into the image - it is a BIG arch!

The cyclist puts a scale into the image – it is a BIG arch! Imagine being the bricklayer on this section!

Going north, there is a long, steep climb out of the valley before you get the chance to get a photo of the viaduct in its entirety. Well, the bits you can see, anyway.

View of the viaduct from a distance as we rode out of the valley

View of the viaduct from a distance as we rode out of the valley

As soon a we could, I did some research to find out some more about the viaduct. It was built in the Victorian era and must have cost an extraordinary amount, because it is truly immense and was built with simple tools: picks and shovels, wheelbarrows and horse power. The Midland railway runs between Manton Junction and Glendon South Junction. It is a complex section of railway which has (amongst other things) four tunnels and five viaducts. The viaduct which we had come across was one of the latter – the Harringworth Viaduct (now known as Welland or Seaton Viaduct) .

The section visible from the road is deceiving

The section visible from the road is deceiving

The construction is 3825 feet or 1.159km in length and is the longest viaduct construction in the British rail network. It has 82 arches with the highest of these measuring 21.2 metres (70ft) – the average height is 17.2m (57ft).

The construction was started in March 1876 and completed by July 1878. It was fascinating and I was very pleased we rode under it! It is certainly BIG and as such is an excellent take on the WordPress challenge: Big.

Important note: All the statistics and details about this lovely viaduct came from a very informative website – The Heritage Trail. Further statistics (quoted from this website for those who are interested in construction) are as follows:

To appreciate the sheer scale of this structure it really needs to be viewed ‘in the flesh’ but, for those that are unable to, the following statistics may help give some idea of the enormity of the task facing the 400 navvies and their 120 horses that built it.

The Harringworth Viaduct crosses the River Welland on the Rutland and Northamptonshire border, and is a grade II listed structure. It comprises 82 arches, each with a 42ft (12.7m) span. 71 of the supporting piers are 6ft (1.8m) thick, with a further 10 being double thickness and spaced evenly along its length. Each of these can be indentified by a pilaster on its face and were designed to isolate the arches into ‘sets’, preventing any under-strain from being continued indefinitely from arch to arch. The average height of the arches is 57ft (17.2m), but the highest is 70ft (21.2m). The viaduct is constructed from some 30,000,000 bricks, all manufactured on site, with Derbyshire Gritstone springers, string courses and coping. As well as the bricks, construction required some 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, 19,000 cubic yards of stone, 37,543 cubic yards of lime mortar, and 5,876 cubic yards of cement.The Heritage Trail.

My thanks to the creators of this website for making this information available on the web.

(Follow this link for details on the overall UK tour route)

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5 responses to “Under a very big, old arch

  1. It’s certainly impressive, but I imagine it took two years to build and not 102 as you indicate? 🙂

  2. Those arches are huge and impressive

    • They are very big aren’t they? I was actually quite complacent about them as we approached, but when we rode underneath, I was awe inspired. The fact that there is a road going through one of the arches is great. Otherwise, I don’t think people would realise how big they actually are!

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