|The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway linked the two North Devon
towns with a line 19¼ miles long and of 1 ft 11½ in gauge.
Chelfham Viaduct was the principal structure on the railway and there was
nothing comparable on any other narrow gauge line in Britain.
The viaduct has eight semi-circular arches with a span of 42 feet and is up to 70 feet high. It was built of cream-coloured Marland bricks, but with stone bases to the piers. There are blue brick imposts and a string course. Pilasters and corbelled out refuges are built onto three of the piers. One is on the east side of the centre pier and the other two are on the west side, two arches in from each end. The railway curves onto the viaduct at the south end, where the arches are built straight, but at an angle to each other.
Construction of the viaduct was subcontracted to a local company, Woollaway & Sons. It was complete and works trains could run over it in February 1897, but construction delays elsewhere resulted in the line not opening to the public until May 1898. The railway's life was all too short. The need for track renewals, and limited traffic outside the summer holiday period, led the Southern Railway to close the line in September 1935. The trackbed was sold, but the viaduct remained in railway ownership. The parapets were taken down during the 1950s.
In July 2010 the viaduct will gain the doleful record of having been closed for twice as long as it was open to traffic. However, it stands ready to carry trains again, should the re-opening of the line by the new Lynton & Barnstaple Railway extend that far. The viaduct was extensively renovated in 2000. The parapets were reinstated and the deck was waterproofed, with the work being done to a specification to suit railway operation. The waterproof membrane is tougher than would normally be the case for a non-operational structure.
The project was noteworthy in several respects. It is believed to have been the first major work undertaken to the viaduct since it was built and the only occasion on which it has been scaffolded. The main contractor, Stansell Ltd, had years earlier taken over Woollaways, who had built the viaduct. Renovation of the viaduct was the last major civil engineering work undertaken for the British Railways Board. The structure is now in the ownership of BRB (Residuary) Limited.
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This page was created 9 April 2010