New railway bridge installed at Penstone near Crediton with ease

By Alan Quick   |   Editorial Manager/Photojournalist   |
Tuesday 27th April 2021 5:40 am
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The bridge loaded on the transporter, about to be installed at Penstone. Photo: Network Rail

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AFTER sitting in a field for more than a year, a new 25m (82ft) long railway bridge at Penstone near Crediton was slotted into place on Saturday morning, April 17.

The steel bridge had been fabricated in a workshop at Cardiff with a concrete deck and was ready to be installed prior to Covid but was then laid up until work could begin again this year.

The work to replace the bridge was part of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway initiatives which will see Devon receive £40 million to bring back the regular passenger service between Okehampton and Exeter, plus other work such as Penstone.

Network Rail said this was quite a small bridge with one in Bristol weighing thousands of tonnes.

It was moved into place by a Self Propelled Modular Transporter, its 40 wheels each bearing five tonnes and the whole machine operated by a man with a big version of a radio controlled toy controller.

The original bridge had been built for the railway through to Barnstaple 150 years ago. The original piers were said to be very old and considered weak, the stones were not re-used and new abutments put in for strength. The rails were re-used.

Because of where it was, material and equipment was brought in by road, a compound having been made in a field close by. A big mess tent was put up in Penstone Glade.

Time lapse photos were taken by static cameras and by drones and this will be shared on the Network Rail Twitter feed when available.

People living near the railway line at Penstone said it had been eerie on Sunday night when the work stopped, it was quiet and dark, no flood lights.

“I slept like a log,” said one.

“Last year when we had pile drivers working at night, some people in Copplestone were woken,” said another.

They added: “We knew the work had to be done and we wanted to accommodate the workers and so some of the ladies in the village were baking cakes for them.

“We were so lucky the ford did not flood during the time the road was closed coming in from Colebrooke otherwise we would have been unable to get out at all,” was another comment.

“They were courteous and it must have been tough for them with the deadline of 5am on Monday when trains were running again, especially when the bridge was due to go in on Friday afternoon and it did not happen until Saturday morning.”

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