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Grosvenor railway bridge
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The Grosvenor Railway Bridge, which is also known as the Victoria Bridge, was the first railway bridge to be built over the Thames in central London. In July 1858 authorisation was given for a new railway line to be built from Battersea to a new terminus at Victoria Street, passing along the bed of the disused Grosvenor Canal (which gave its name to the bridge). The bridge was designed by John Fowler for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway and consisted of five wrought-iron spans carrying two tracks of mixed gauge; this allowed the line to be used by the Great Western Railway, which was the only company to use the broad gauge. Work started on 9 June 1859 and the bridge opened exactly a year later.

A few years later the London, Chatham & Dover Railway also got permission to operate into Victoria station and proposed to build its own bridge over the river. As traffic had been growing and the LB&SCR needed more lines, the two companies agreed to work together to build a second bridge alongside the old one on the downstream side.This was built by Sir Charles Fox to match the first one, and opened in December 1866. It added five tracks, making the structure the widest railway bridge anywhere in the world. Before it opened, eight of the heaviest locomotives were driven over the bridge to test the strength of the structure.


Grosvenor railway bridge

The Albert Bridge looking its best at dusk as its lights come on.



By the end of the century even this bridge could not cope with the demand, so in 1907 a third bridge was added. The whole thing was now 178 feet wide and carried ten lines of track. Between 1963 and 1967 the bridge was completely modernised, when the whole superstructure was replaced and the piers were strengthened. A new method of construction was used, in which each 50-ton section was assembled off-site and floated into position on barges. During the building work at least seven tracks were kept open, so that services were not interrupted. The end result is, in fact, ten separate single-track bridges.

Rail travellers on their way into Victoria cannot fail to see, sitting sadly alongside the track to the south of the bridge, the empty shell of Battersea Power Station. It closed in 1982 and there have been several unsuccessful plans to turn it into a leisure complex, which would involve a dedicated rail service over the bridge from Victoria. Planning permission has been granted, but in 2006 the site was sold to new owners, who have put forward new proposals.


Grosvenor railway bridge

Grosvenor Railway Bridge with the empty shell of the Battersea Power Station in the background.





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