To celebrate the 160th anniversary of one of the great engineering triumphs of its day, here are our top five facts about Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge. Photo: Luke Farley, GWR
1. The bridge towers 100 feet above the River Tamar, and is more than 2,000 feet long. Its design is influenced by the large wrought iron bridges by Robert Stephenson from the preceding decade.
2. Despite its scale and complexity, the bridge took just five years to build, with construction starting in 1854. In 1857 an incredible 20,000 spectators came out to watch as the first truss was floated out into the centre of the river supported by two barges.
3. The bridge was opened by Prince Albert on 2 May 1859 to great fanfare, but its designer and engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was too ill to attend the ceremony. His chief assistant Robert Brereton attended in his place.
4. Brunel died later that year, and his name was inscribed on the portals at both ends of the bridge as a memorial.
5. The bridge was Grade 1 listed in 1952 and over the years has featured in paintings, postcards, stamps and even on the £2 coin.
Looking to the future, great things are afoot at Saltash station on the western side of the bridge.
The derelict station building has been bought by Saltash Town Council. Over the course of the coming year, the Council and partners aim to transform the eyesore into a thriving asset for the station. Planned features include a waiting room, café and toilets.
The latest step in the project has seen promotional hoardings highlighting Cornwall’s branch line destinations erected along the front of the building. The 33-metre boards promote beauty spots including Calstock, Looe and St Ives as well as the redevelopment of the station building.
The ‘Explore Cornwall by train’ hoarding was designed by the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership and funded by Cornwall Council and the Designated Community Rail Development Fund, which is backed by the Department for Transport and ACoRP, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships.
The station redevelopment hoarding was designed by the Bailey Partnership. The hoardings have been co-ordinated by Saltash Town Council. Read more.