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Connel Ferry Bridge

Railway Bridge (20th Century), Road Bridge (20th Century)

Site Name Connel Ferry Bridge

Classification Railway Bridge (20th Century), Road Bridge (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Connel Bridge; Falls Of Lora; Loch Etive; Firth Of Lorne

Canmore ID 23278

Site Number NM93SW 20

NGR NM 91118 34495

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilmore And Kilbride
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM93SW 20 91118 34595

Connel Br [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1976.

(Location cited as NM 911 343 to NM 911 347). Connel Bridge, completed 1903 for the Caledonian Rly. A large steel cantilever bridge with three semicircular masonry approach spans at each end; the main span is 550 ft (152.5m) long. For many years used by road and rail, the bridge has been used by road vehicles only since 1966.

J R Hume 1977.

Ballachulish branch. Cantilever construction. Converted to road traffic use.

D Kennedy 1971; M R Bonavia 1987.

This single cantilever span was built in 1898-1903 by the Arrol Bridge Co. across the narrows between Loch Etive and the Firth of Lorne 1/4 mile NW of Connel Fery Station. It now carries the Oban-Ballachulish (A828) road.

When completed, this bridge had a wider span than any other railway bridge in Britain except the Forth Bridge; the use of a single cantilever span was necessitated by the rapid tidal flows and the consequent unfeasability of using staging. The bridge was built sufficiently high to allow the passage of ships, with steeply-graded embankments on each side and a three-arched masonry viaduct [on the S].

C E J Fryer 1989.

The Connel Ferry bridge on the Ballachulish line of the Callander and Oban Railway was completed in 1903. When constructed it was the second largest clear span in Europe. This steel cantilever bridge has a main span of 500 feet (152.5m) with three approach spans at each end. It has been in use as a road bridge only since 1966. The engineer was Sir John Wolfe Barry (and others) and was constructed by Arrol's Bridge and Roof Company, Germiston Ironworks, Glasgow.

J Thomas 1966; G Nelson 1990.

This bridge was designed by Sir John Wolfe Barry and built by Arrol's Bridge and Roof Co for the Callander and Oban Rly (in all respects part of the Caledonian Rly) to carry the Ballachulish branch across the mouth of Loch Etive (at the Falls of Lora). It opened to public traffic on 24 August 1903, carrying a single railway track and a road.

The road was not opened to public use (on a toll basis) until 1913, a road-onto-rail system being used before that date. The branch line closed on 28 March 1966 and the bridge is now used solely for road traffic.

M Smith 1994.

This bridge was built by Henry Marc Brunel, second son of I K Brunel. He also assisted at Tower Bridge, London.

D Beckett 2006.

This bridge carries the A828(T) public road over the mouth of Loch Etive, immediately downstream from (to the W of) the Falls of Lora [name: NM 912 345]. A subsidiary span crosses the A85(T) public road at the S end.

The loch here forms the boundary between the parishes of Ardchattan and Muckairn (to the N) and Kilmore and Kilbride (to the S).

The location assigned to this record defines the approximate midpoint of the structure. The available map evidence suggests that it extends from NM c. 91116 34364 to NM c. 91094 34626.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 17 May 2006.


Construction (1898 - 1903)

Built on the Ballachulish Branch of the Caledonian Railway.

Modification (1914)

Bridge deck modified to take both road and rail traffic.

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007b

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission of Thomas Telford Publishers.

Aerial Photography (3 May 2007)

Publication Account (2007)

Connel Ferry Bridge, once the longest cantilever railway bridge in Europe after the Forth Bridge, is situated 5 miles north-east of Oban at the entrance to Loch Etive, where strong currents and the tide race ruled out the placing of the bridge piers in mid-channel. It was constructed between 1898–1903, on the Ballachulish branch of the Caledonian Railway. The span of the bridge is 524 ft between the piers, but the inward-sloping support structure reduces the clear span to 500 ft.

The engineer was Sir John Wolfe Barry whose partners H. M. Brunel and E. Cruttwell were also involved. The contractor was Arrol’s Bridge & Roofing Company of Glasgow, and the superstructure of the bridge contains about 2600 tons of steel mostly erected from 1900–03. The bridge originally carried a single line railway which ruled out the use of scarfed rail expansion joints as trains ran in each direction.

The bridge has a suspended span of 232 ft, large in comparison to the 524 ft total span, which in conjunction with the short anchor spans of 106 ft tends to give the bridge a rather awkward appearance. The struts are all rectangular box members (unlike the circular tubes of the Forth Bridge) with the stiffeners on the outside, somewhat like the welded seams of a Mini car.

In 1914 the bridge deck was modified to take both road and rail traffic and, subsequent to the closure of the railway in 1966, was adapted solely for road traffic.

R Paxton and Jim Shipway 2007b

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.


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