Historic Torksey viaduct opens to link communities

Torksey viaduct in the late 1990s at sunset

Torksey viaduct in the late 1990s

map showing Torksey viaduct
22 April 2016

The historic viaduct over the River Trent opens this week, more than 50 years after the last train crossed - linking the communities of Torksey and Cottam.

The viaduct has been disused since the railway line closed in 1959 after which the deck over the river spans were removed. It came into Railway Paths ownership in 2001. (Railway Paths is the sister charity to Sustrans and manages our property holdings).

There have been studies in the past looking at how cycling and walking routes in the area can link to a route across Torksey Viaduct including our report in 2003 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lincolnshire County Council.

Railway Heritage Trust funding since 2013 has enabled this walking route over the viaduct to be created by Railway Paths & Sustrans and has brought an important part of railway heritage back into use again for everyone to enjoy and cherish.

A rare and early example

Torksey Viaduct has linked Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire across the River Trent since it was built in 1849, 167 years ago. It’s a rare and early example of a tubular box girder bridge and for this reason is Grade II* listed by Historic England.

It was built to carry the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway over the Trent between Lincoln and Retford. It took its engineer designer Sir John Fowler four months to convince the Railway Commissioners that it was strong enough.

The 275m long structure consists of a two span ‘bridge’ over the main channel of the Trent and an 18 span viaduct over the wash channel and flood plain of the Trent. Originally the ‘viaduct’ part was timber but was replaced in 1877 by wrought iron girders on trestles of cast iron screw piles.

In 1897 it was strengthened by the addition of a truss girder above deck level along the centreline of the bridge.

The work to reopen the viaduct

A huge amount of effort has gone into the works.

  • Firstly, protected species including barn owls and badgers who have made the viaduct their home after over 50 years of disuse had to be taken into account so they would not be adversely affected.
  • Then, from September to November 2014 the whole bridge had to be encased in scaffolding and sheeting to enable grit blasting and painting of the deck beams in preparation for the installation of a new deck. This scaffolding structure had to be designed to minimise disruption to river traffic including navigational lighting so boats would avoid it in the dark.
  • A lot of work went into planning, designing and then seeking the required consents for the works to go ahead. By February 2015 permissions for the creation of the walking route had been granted to enable works to start on installing the new deck. This work was completed by June 2015. Also by this time steps had been built at the west end of the viaduct to connect to the Trent Valley Way.
  • In September 2015 works were carried out to improve the pavements alongside Main Street in Torksey to provide a safer crossing point. Also around this time work commenced on laying the path to the trestle section of the viaduct. This involved removing existing ballast and laying a new concrete path finished with a resin bonded gravel surface.
  • The final stages of the project involved lots fencing works including making the existing parapets safe for public use – so no one falls off the edge.
  • After all this, listed building consent was applied for and granted to attach a plaque to the structure – to mark the heritage of the viaduct and the opening.