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GWR Route: Birmingham and Henley in Arden Railway Company

Lapworth to Henley in Arden Branch Line: gwrha2813

Ullenhall Road (A4189) underbridge to the west of Henley-in-Arden nearing completion in 1906

The newly completed plate girder bridge over the main Stratford Road at the northern edge of Henley-in-Arden. The bridge was built in 1906 and the view here is looking south into the town. This bridge carried the single line which connected the North Warwickshire line to the old Henley branch line.

The steel plate girder design was typical for the period, being considered to be the most economic for spans from 15 to 80 foot. The type used here is termed a ‘through bridge’ with cross girders supported on the lower girder flange of the main girders to maximise the road headroom below. Conventional construction would have two smaller steel girders acting as rail bearers on or between the cross girders positioned directly under each rail of the track. The width was then covered with waterproofed steel decking plates, with vertical ballast plates either side, and on this the ballast and track formation was placed. Later in the 1920s, transverse pressed steel troughing had largely replaced this cross girder design on through plate girder bridges. Close inspect will show that the main girder flange is thicker at the centre of the span where the bending stress is greater and a number of additional (double) flange plates have been riveted together to give extra strength. There will be bedplates under the girders at each end, where these rest on the abutment bedstones. The main girders have vertical stiffeners at regular intervals to prevent buckling occurring. Additional steel parapet plates have also been provided above the outer edge of the main girders to comply with the Board of Trade requirement that all bridges should be provided with hand rails or parapets not less than four foot six inches above rail level with projecting platforms for the escape and protection of platelayers (This was to prevent passengers alighting from a train and falling over the parapet).

The steel plate girders for this bridge at Henley-in-Arden were manufactured by E C & J Keays Ltd of Darlaston and has a cast iron plate bearing their trade mark and the date in the centre panel. The abutments, wing walls and pilasters were constructed from blue engineering brick by the main contractor C J Willis & Sons.

Robert Ferris