Electrifying the Great Western Railway

Monday, September 1 saw the first high speed passenger trains through Corsham after the line closure for the 6 weeks previously.  During those 6 weeks much work was completed between the east end of Box tunnel and Sydney Gardens in Bath.  The lowering of the track by some 50-60 cms through both Box and Middle Hill tunnels and under the 2 road bridges in Box, both listed structures, and through Sydney Gardens in Bath plus the rebuilding of the junction at Bathampton and the lowering of the track under the Dundas Aqueduct.  At a cost of £50m, the following facts help to put things into perspective:

  • More than 10,000 site hours
  • 226 engineering trains
  • 22,914 concrete sleepers replaced
  • 98,889 tons of ballast, removed, cleaned and replaced
  • 163,650 tons of spoil removed
  • 1,394 tons of pea shingle delivered
  • 1,420 tons of sand delivered
Workers preparing the site before removing the old footbridge

Workers preparing the site before removing the old footbridge

We had already seen the work in replacing the station footbridge in Corsham back in March to June.  The 500 ton crane used to removed the old footbridge and hoist in the new footbridge was a sight worth seeing.  That work was completed on time and Councillor Philip Whalley did the honours in cutting the tape and re-opening the walkway on Monday, June 8th.  The latest footbridge to be replaced is the one at Shockerwick on the A4 just before the Wiltshire/Somerset boundary that will be open again at the end of November.

The 500-ton crane in place on Station Road on the evening of March 21st

The 500-ton crane in place on Station Road on the evening of March 21st

The aqueduct, which spans the track at Corsham, just before the Potley road bridge is the next problem the engineers, has to face.  Unfortunately water doesn’t run up hill, so the heighten new structure will have a weir at the Station Road end and will be built further back into the stream bed on the Tellcroft Close side of the railway cutting.

The new bridge waiting to be put into place

The new bridge waiting to be put into place

New footbridge being swung into place, photo by Robin Jackson

New footbridge being swung into place, photo by Robin Jackson

The next large scale engineering task will be the installation of the catenary masts which will hold the 25,000 volt power cables, this will be happening sometime in 2016.  I am sure I.K. Brunel is looking down on the current work happening on his railway and smiling.  The railway he built 174 years ago is now being upgraded for faster trains, something he envisaged in the 1830’s.

Michael Rumsey

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