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Barnes Railway bridge
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Barnes was just a small village until the nineteenth century, when great changes were to turn it into a London suburb. First came the opening in 1827 of Hammersmith Bridge, whose southern approach roads run through the area, then the arrival of the railways, with Barnes station opening in 1846.
In 1847 an Act was passed allowing the London & Southwestern Railway to build a new line from Richmond to Datchet (only a short distance from its real goal, Windsor), as well as a loop line from Barnes to join the Datchet line at Hounslow. Barnes Railway Bridge was built to take the loop line across the Thames.

Barnes Railway bridge

Barnes Bridge today id looking in need of a new lick of paint.

It was designed by Joseph Locke and Thomas Brassey, who both also worked on the Datchet line. To build the loop line, they had to build an embankment so that the bridge had the required clearance of 21 feet at high tide. Some properties on Barnes Terrace had to be demolished for the work to be carried out, but the destruction of one property was delayed until an expectant mother had had her baby. The bridge looked very similar to the Richmond Railway Bridge, with three cast-iron arches, and vertical-ribbed spandrels. The bridge opened on 22 August without ceremony. At first the line reached only as far as a temporary station at Smallberry Heath, later renamed Isleworth, but from February 1850 it operated services to Hounslow.

The bridge was described as ‘light and elegant’ by the Illustrated London News, which also suggested that the new line would prove a great success, especially as it offered ‘great convenience to the market gardeners of a cheap and speedy transport for their produce to Covent Garden and other metropolitan markets’. This was indeed to be the case, and the increase in traffic meant that by the 1890s the bridge needed strengthening. It was now realised that cast iron was not a safe material for bridges, so the new bridge by Edward Andrews was to be of wrought iron. So as not to disrupt traffic, the downstream half of Locke’s bridge was demolished, allowing trains to continue using the remaining single track.The piers of the old bridge were extended downstream and a separate structure, with wrought-iron bowstring girders, was added, giving the bridge its distinctive if rather top-heavy profile. A footbridge was added on the downstream side, which is still in use today.The new bridge opened in June 1895.The older upstream section of the bridge was never taken down but is no longer used.

Barnes Railway bridge

Barnes Bridge on Boat Race Day in 1877.

In March 1916 Barnes Bridge station opened. It had an attractive little ticket office at street level, built of brick and stone to blend in with the other buildings on the Terrace. The building is still there, but it is no longer used for its original purpose.The bridge is a major landmark towards the end of the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, so it is a pity it has been allowed to deteriorate to its present rusty condition. These days the footbridge is closed to pedestrians during the race for safety reasons, but there was a time when the railway company organised special excursions that would stop on the bridge, giving the passengers a grandstand view of the closing stages of the race.

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