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Loch Ken Viaduct

Railway Viaduct (19-20th Century)

Site Name Loch Ken Viaduct

Classification Railway Viaduct (19-20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Ken Viaduct; Water Of Ken

Canmore ID 64229

Site Number NX67SE 9

NGR NX 68390 70349

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Kells
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Stewartry
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Archaeology Notes

NX67SE 9 68390 70349

Loch Ken Viaduct [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1982.

Ken Viaduct: this viaduct was built on a curve, carried the Wigtownshire Rly over the River Dee, and was one of the principal engineering features of the line. It comprised three main spans of 138ft [42.1m] each, and of wrought-iron lattice-girder construction with overhead cross-bracing at the centre of the span. Two stone piers supported the three spans, and the two short shore spans were of stone.

This viaduct was built under a separate contract, dated 31 March 1859 and awarded to Thomas Nelson and Co, Carlisle, at a price of £12,288 13s. The initial survey of the line (carried out by Capt H W Tyler and forwarded on 20 February 1861) expressed particular satisfaction with the design and construction of this structure.

This viaduct was the scene of an accident on 30 December 1935, when a mixed (goods and passenger) derailed at the W end of the structure. Neither injuries nor fatalities resulted, and there was apparently no damage to the viaduct itself. The subsequent inquiry reached no clear conclusion.

D L Smith 1969.

Loch Ken Viaduct: W of Parton, across narrowest part of Loch Ken. Three bowstring girder spans, with masonry piers and abutments. Built 1860 by (contractor) Thos. Nelson & Co; still standing, and can be crossed on foot, with care.

(Contemporary description from Dumfries Courier of 1 September 1859 cited in extenso),

C E J Fryer 1991.

This viaduct was built for the Portpatrick Rly and opened on 12 March 1861. There were two small approach spans on each side of the main structure which comprised three main bowstring girder spans supported by stone piers. The line closed on 14 June 1965.

M Smith 1994.

Loch Ken Viaduct. 7-span railway viaduct, by B & E Blyth, 1859-61. Roundehead outer arches bullnosed red sandstone. The three central bowed-truss spans over the loch are of iron carried on stone drums.

J Gifford 1996.

Three long wrought-iron, bowed-truss spans over the loch, with masonry approach spans, for the Portpatrick Rly - the oldest surviving bridge of its type in Scotland.

J R Hume 2000.

This viaduct carried the former Glasgow-Stranraer main line (the 'Port Road') of the Glasgow and South-Western Rly. across Loch Ken, which here forms the boundary between the parishes of Parton (to the E) and Kells (to the W). The parish boundary lies to the E of the centre of the loch.

The location assigned to this record defines the centre of the structure. The available map evidence suggests that it extends from NX c. 68305 70335 to NX c. 68478 70351.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 14 March 2006.


Publication Account (2007)

This viaduct, originally carrying the Portpatrick Railway over Loch Ken, one of the earliest surviving examples of its type, is now in private ownership connecting two farms. It has three then state-of-the-art wrought iron bowstring lattice girder spans, each of 138 ft and 1712 ft maximum height and is built on a curve of 880 yd radius. The bowstring rather than a parallel top and bottom member girder was chosen, in the view of its engineer, because of the efficiency of its uniform cross-section for top and bottom members, pairs of channels 8 in. by 4 in. by4 in. by 12 in., and its simplicity of construction. The masonry of the piers rests on cast-iron tubes up to 42 ft deep which were sunk to their final depth by a novel use of screw-piles. The viaduct was designed by B. & E. Blyth, consulting engineers and built by Thomas Nelson & Co., Carlisle in 1859–60 at a cost of about £13 000.

A fascinating example of late-Victorian sanitary engineering exists nearby in Parton opposite the village hall. It is an octagonal eight-privy building of 1901 in red brick with a Cumberland slate roof which served eight cottages for many years. It was known as the ‘Houses of Parliament’ and is now conserved with one privy available for inspection only.

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007

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


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