The historic Billingham Branch rail bridge was a major advance, being the first in Britain to be built using welded steel construction. It was built in 1932 to carry the approach road to the Newport Lift Bridge, over the Billingham Branch Railway, which was itself quite new, coming into service in 1920.
The pictures show that both the internal and external design have been beautifully laid out, with the vertical members being cut to form a curved shape. It could easily be taken to a bridge that had been designed in the late 1970s.
The man in one of the pictures is Mr Charles Morris a distinguished civil engineer from Teesside. Some years ago he was responsible for strengthening the haunches of the Billingham Branch Bridge as they were tending to move inwards. According to Mr Morris, soil conditions in Teesside are not good for heavy civil engineering projects, and this has made bridge construction quite difficult.
Photographs and details courtesy of Fred Starr
These photographs were taken in September 2014 and give some indication of the corrosion of the reinforcement of the bridge pillars and cross beams. Although it does not look good, the effects are mainly superficial. The rusting of the reinforcement has led to the spalling of the concrete at the edges of the beams and pillars. I understand that the cross beams are covered with fibre glass and epoxy resin, not for structural purposes, but to prevent pieces of spalled concrete falling onto maintenance staff. The problem areas are fenced off from the public.
I was being shown round by an experienced retired civil engineer, who although stating that bridge construction over and around the Tees was challenging, because of the poor soil foundations, adding to costs, didn’t mention any particular problem with the A19 road bridge.
Photographs and details courtesy of Fred Starr.
This photograph shows the foundations being laid for the construction of Billingham branch bridge c1932.