Thanks to Paul Denton for this interesting article.
Bennerley Viaduct – August 2nd 2021
I’d been planning to make a trip to Bennerley viaduct since it appeared in series 2 of ‘The Architecture The Railways Built’ earlier this year. It is a Grade II listed structure and is the longer of only two remaining wrought iron viaducts in the country. It was opened to the public this week following some structural repairs and the building of a new access path from the Erewash Canal.
The viaduct spans the Erewash valley to the east of Ilkeston, passing over the River Erewash and the Midland Railway line between Loughborough and Sheffield. It carried the Great Northern ‘Friargate’ line between Derby and Nottingham and was opened in 1878. Extensive mining in the area made the ground unstable and wrought iron was adopted to produce a strong structure that was much lighter in weight than a brick or stone viaduct would be. The bridges that originally carried the line over the Nottingham Canal and the Erewash Canal at either end of the viaduct were demolished following the closure of the line in 1968.
A few words about the photos.
- Taken from the view point beside the Nottingham Canal showing the full length of the viaduct which is 440m long. The deck is 18m above the valley floor. There are 19 spans in total, 3 across the Midland line supported on brick piers and 16 across the valley supported on 15 wrought iron piers.
2 & 3. There is a network of footpaths in the area around the canals and the viaduct. This enables an up-close view of the structure; unfortunately it also allows up-close access to those with spray cans and a head for heights.
- The wrought iron structure – lots of big rivets, bolts and wedges! The iron parts were fabricated in Derby and assembled on site. The cast iron base plates are not tied into the brick foundations, relying on gravity to hold them in place.
- The viaduct from the new footbridge over the Midland line.
- The new access path from beside the Erewash Canal.
- The deck from west to east. Apart from the concrete areas at either end over the buttresses and the brick piers, the cross-beams of the deck mean that progress across the viaduct is only possible on foot. The beams form troughs that were filled with ballast into which the rail sleepers were set. The troughs are still intact so there’s no danger of plummeting to earth if you miss your footing. I believe there are plans to incorporate the viaduct into the cycle/footpath network so at least part of the deck width will at some stage be boarded over.
- Over 500 beams later, the view from east to west. Access to this end at present is only via a very steep and muddy path.
Now for the trains, during a period of fairly intensive traffic. All these photos were taken from the top of the viaduct so they are not particularly close. Apart from the Class 66 (thanks to the dirty great numbers on the side!) I have no idea of the identity of any of them. No doubt SRC members with knowledge of current types will be able to fill in the gaps.
- A two-car unit heading south at 14.57
- The same unit halted at Ilkeston station a minute later. The branch to the left appears to be a loop to avoid the station.
- Another two-car unit of a different type heading north at 15.18.
- A four-car unit mostly hidden behind the lineside foliage, heading south at 15.19.
- The ‘Tesco’ container train travelling north at 15.22. Toton sidings are only a few miles to the south so I imagine that the line sees a lot of freight traffic.
- A train of what I assume are bogie mineral wagons being taken south by 66749 at 15.24.
- And finally. A local resident takes the air at the top of the eastern buttress.
If you want to know more, the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct have an excellent web site at https://www.bennerleyviaduct.org.uk/.