|When the first railways were built, the only means of
transporting goods around the country was horse and cart, coastal shipping and
canals. Therefore, in order to avoid the cost and difficulty of moving building
materials in bulk, the early railway builders used locally sourced supplies
wherever possible. Once the railways became developed, the transport of heavy
goods became cheaper and easier, so it became more common to used materials
from elsewhere, especially if these were superior to what could be obtained
locally or more suitable.
The bridges over Godstone Road, Purley illustrate this change. The only locally-available building materials are brick and timber. The South Eastern Railway used timber quite extensively, but the London & Brighton Railway did not. The original bridge, now carrying the slow lines, is a brick arch (above left). When the line was quadrupled, a plate girder bridge was constructed for the fast lines (above right).
The span carrying the Caterham branch illustrates 20th century bridge building, having been reconstructed with welded steel beams and concrete.
There is an excellent example of local use of materials further down the Brighton line. Almost all bridges between London and Brighton were constructed of brick, but at Balcombe the railway cut through an outcrop of rock. There is a rock slope behind the down platform (above right). London Road bridge, at the south end of the station, is substantially built of stone, as is an overbridge bridge (above left) a short distance north of the station. This carries a minor lane, and in shape and dimensions is the same as brick bridges elsewhere on the line.
The extensive use of locally-available brick by the early railway companies, and lack of experience in building wide arches, resulted in some very small underbridges, particularly where the line was running on a low embankment. This is the London & Southampton bridge at Lower Green Road, Esher and there are several others like it. When the railway was widened plate girder spans were added on both sides, and it can be seen how greater width and height were possible. There are a number of equally restricted brick underbridges on the Brighton line.
All photographs are copyright
return to the Railway Structures menu
return to picture gallery page
This page was created 3 January 2010