|The first railway bridge across the River Medway at Rochester
was built in 1858 for the East Kent Railway to the design of Joseph Cubitt. The
East Kent ran from Strood, where it connected with the South Eastern Railway,
to Canterbury. The Medway bridge was a wrought-iron, plate girder structure on
cast iron piles. It was located immediately downstream of the road bridge and,
like that, it had four spans. The span on the west (Strood) side of the river
could be opened for shipping. Renamed the London, Chatham & Dover Railway,
the East Kent soon opened its own line to London, from Rochester Bridge
Junction on the west bank of the River.
The notorious rivalry between the SER and the LCDR was such that the South Eastern went to the expense of building its own branch line from Strood to "Chatham Central", which was actually in Rochester. This involved construction of a completely new bridge over the Medway, downstream of the LCDR one. South Eastern trains ran over the bridge to a station called Rochester Common in 1891, but the line was not completed until 1892.
The South Eastern's bridge, which is the one in use today, is an early example of a steel railway bridge. It has four lattice girder spans on brick and concrete abutments with stone quoins and string courses. The main spans over the river are 186 feet, with the spans out from the banks being 127 feet. The approach viaduct on the east bank comprises six plate girder spans on cast iron columns. There is a brick approach viaduct on the west side of the river.
Both bridges remained in use during the period that the LCDR and SER were under joint management, but a new junction was constructed between the two lines on the east side of the river in 1911 and the rest of the Chatham Central branch was closed.
The timber decking of the SER bridge was destroyed in a fire in June 1919 and all trains were diverted over the LCDR one from August. The SER bridge was repaired and strengthened, reopening to traffic in January 1922. The Southern Railway realigned the LCDR line through Strood in 1927, so that all trains used the SER bridge and the LCDR one fell into disuse. During the Second World War it was maintained in a state of readiness, in event of the SER bridge being damaged by enemy action.
By the 1950s the road bridge was unable to cope with increasing traffic. A new bridge was built, using the foundations of the LCDR bridge. This carries eastbound traffic, with the old bridge being used westbound. The new bridge opened in 1970 and a commemorative plaque records its railway origins.
The railway bridge was extensively renovated by Network Rail in 2007-08.
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This page was created 10 January 2010