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Pytney railway bridge
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When Putney Bridge railway station opened on the north bank of the river in April 1880, it was connected by a footway to a pier for pleasure steamers, but an Act of 1886 gave the London & South Western Railway Company permission to build a bridge across the river to take a new branch line to Wimbledon. It was designed by the LSWR engineer William Jacomb, who had worked as Brunel’s assistant on the Great Eastern. He died soon after work began in 1887 and construction continued under the supervision of W. R. Galbraith and О. M. Prouse. The first trains crossed it on 3 June 1889. The crossing consists of eight spans of wrought-iron lattice girders, including one land span on the south side and two on the north bank. The abutments are made of brick and Portland stone and the river piers consist of pairs of cast-iron columns. There is a pedestrian footbridge attached to the downstream side.

Pytney railway bridge

Putney Railway Bridge. The two central piers are still protected by their ‘starlings’.

Although originally built for a rail route and owned and maintained by the railway company and its successors, the line was later to become the Wimbledon branch of the District Line of the Underground, which is the only service that now uses the bridge.

During the Second World War defensive pillboxes were erected at the approaches to many of London’s bridges. The one that can still be seen just outside Putney Bridge Underground station is a unique survival.

In July 1991 one of the piers was badly damaged when it was hit by Thames Water’s Thames Bubbler, a 150-foot vessel that pumps oxygen into the river to aerate it to keep fish alive. The bridge was closed for nearly two weeks while temporary repairs were made. The line then reopened, but trains had to cross the bridge at no more than 10 mph. This situation continued for the next six years as British Rail was unable to pay for the necessary repairs. In April 1995 London Underground took over the running of the bridge and spent £9m on repairs, which took two years to complete. As well as work on the main structure, the footbridge was also repaired and a new steel handrail added, though the old handrail was retained to keep the original look of the bridge. To protect the two central pairs of piers, aprons were built round them, looking rather like the ‘starlings’ on old London Bridge, and they are still in place today.

Oddly, the bridge was never given an official name and it was known locally as ‘The Iron Bridge’. Although it is usually now called the Putney Railway Bridge, a plaque put on the bridge to mark its refurbishment in 1995—97 confusingly refers to it as the Fulham Railway Bridge.

Pytney railway bridge

This Second-World-War pillbox still stands guard overPutney Railway Bridge.

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