Goole Railway Swing Bridge

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Goole Railway Swing Bridge
The Railway Bridge over the River Ouse - - 1391203.jpg
The Goole Railway Swing Bridge
Type: Railway vaiduct
Carrying: Railway
Crossing: River Ouse
Grid reference: SE76502470
Location: 53°42’47"N, 0°50’32"W
No. of spans: 4
Type: Railway vaiduct
Design: Plate girder bridge
Built 1869
Architect: Thomas Elliot Harrison

The Skelton Viaduct, also known as the Hook Bridge or Goole Railway Swing Bridge, is a large, viaducted, hogback plate girder bridge with swing span over the River Ouse beside Goole in the West Riding of Yorkshire, crossing the river to the East Riding.

The bridge was designed by Thomas Elliot Harrison for the Hull and Doncaster Branch of the North Eastern Railway and was opened in 1869.

In the latter part of the 20th century, the bridge became known for the frequent incidents involving ship collisions with the superstructure. It remains however in use.

History and description

Pre-1915 photograph of the bridge

During the 1860s, a number of attempts were made by different railway companies to create a new line better connecting the port at Kingston upon Hull with the southern towns of Yorkshire and with the Midlands.[1] In 1862 the North Eastern Railway promoted a bill for a line which was unopposed by the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, and Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway on the understanding of mutual running powers for the companies, either to Hull, or on lines in the south of the West Riding.[2] The bill, the "North Eastern Railway (Hull and Doncaster Branch)" was deposited late 1862, for a line from a junction on the Hull and Selby Line near Staddlethorpe (near Gilberdyke) to a junction with the South Yorkshire Railway near Thorne, Hatfield and Stainforth.[3] The act was passed in mid-1863.[2]

As part of the construction of the line, a bridge was required over the River Ouse near Goole between Skelton and @Hook.[4]

Construction and design

The swing bridge

The bridge consisted of four fixed spans and two one swing spans, and it carried a double-track railway.[5]

Pier foundations for the bridge spans were of seven-foot base diameter cast iron cylinders, which tapered to 5' 6" in diameter at the high-water level, each column was around 90 feet long.[6] The piers were sunk into the river alluvium using a mass placed on them, and then by the pneumatic caisson process until bedrock was reached. The tubes were then filled with Portland cement concrete to within 20 feet of the top, the final fill was with brickwork with a top course of granite.[7] The river abutments were of brick with stone dressing.[8]

The fixed spans were 116 feet long, made of three wrought iron hogback plate girders each, resting on three piers.[9] The swing span was constructed of three hogback wrought iron box girders, each 250.0 ft (76.2 m) long, each box girder having a thickness of 2 feet 6 inches made of plates five-sixteenths to seven-sixteenths of an inch thick. In addition to the transverse deck girders the swing span was also braced by three transverse frames, which also served to support a bridgeman's hut over the centre of the bridge.[9]

The swing span was supported and turned on 26 conical rollers, which were supported by an annular box girder 38 inches by 36 inches high by wide, itself resting on six of the cast iron piers with approximately 29 feet of the pier sunk into the river bed.[10]

The bridge rotated around a central column, which contained a hydraulic accumulator of 17-foot stroke, with 16½-inch diameter ram loaded to 67 tons, used to power the turning mechanism. The bridge was turned by a three-cylinder hydraulic motor (duplicated for redundancy), and gears. The accumulator was charged by 12 hp steam engines, also duplicated.[11] The engines were supplied by field boilers also located on the central pier.[12]

When in the closed position a hydraulic mechanism at either end of the bridge was used to lock the bridge in position.[13] The bridge could be opened in 50 seconds.[14]

The bridge superstructure was designed was T.E. Harrison of the NER, and erected by Pease, Hutchinson and Company (Skerne Ironworks).[15] The fixed spans were supplied by Butler and Pitts (Stanningley), the hydraulic motors were of the design of Sir W.G. Armstrong.

The swing span weighed 670 tons; the weight of iron in the piers 922 tons; with 770 tons of iron in the girders. The swing span opening was over 100 feet in width, with a height above high water when closed of over 15 feet, The swing pier included a river jetty 200 feet long.[16]

The bridge was crossed by NER officials in 1868.

Working history

Columns and underside of bridge looking towards central pier

On 21 March 1922, the river pier and engine room of the swing span was badly damaged by fire.[17][18]

In May 1933, the London & North Eastern Railway had a miniature thumb switch controlled signalling frame installed at the bridge by Westinghouse,[19] at the same time the line from Staddlethorpe to Goole had colour light signalling installed; both were early examples of either technology in use. At the same time, two signal boxes at either end of the bridge were closed.[20][21][22]

The bridge has had several collisions with water-going ships.[20][23]

On 21 December 1973, the bridge was struck by the German coaster Vineta, causing one of the spans to fall into the river, leaving the bridge unworkable for nine months.[20]

On 2 August 1976, Danish vessel Leon Sif hit one of the bridge's piers.[24]

In 1984, British Rail began closure procedures for the railway line due to costs associated repairing the bridge's pier, estimated at £2 million, coupled with a historic failure to get adequate compensation for damage to the bridge caused by shipping.[25]

In 1987, the structure was made a Grade II* listed structure.[8]

On 23 November 1988, one of the fixed spans was pushed out of alignment by a collision with the Swedish vessel Samo, which became trapped between the bridge's piers.

By the early 21st century, understrength girders and corrosion had led to the line speed over the bridge being reduced to 60 mph for passenger trains, down to only 10 mph for trains with a route availability of 9 or more. In 2009, a modernisation programme began – Clancy Docwra installed services (telecoms, fresh and waste water, electricity, signalling) to the central pier through piping under the river bed. Carillion was appointed main contractor in March 2010. The bridge steelwork was repaired and upgraded over a six-week line closure starting in October 2010 – over 400 tonnes of steelwork was installed including diagonal transverse braces, and stiffening to the girders of the web. Additional work included track renewal and painting of the bridge. The total cost of the project was £6 million; the firm of Pell Frischmann was the designing engineer.[26]

For quite some time the pages of the Yorkshire Ship Enthusiasts' Newsletter have enthralled their members by recounting the efforts by numerous vessels to demolish the railway bridge at Hook, near Goole
—Sea Breezes ~ The Ship Lovers' Digest, Vol. 36

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Goole Railway Swing Bridge)


  1. Tomlinson 1915, pp. 553, 589, 593, 606–608.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Tomlinson 1915, pp. 608–9.
  3. "North Eastern Railway. (Hull and Doncaster Branch)", London Gazette: 5614–5616, 21 November 1862, 
  4. Tomlinson 1915, p. 636.
  5. Armstrong 1869, p. 124, Plate. 17.
  6. Armstrong 1869, pp. 123,124.
  7. Armstrong 1869, p. 128.
  8. 8.0 8.1 National Heritage List 1346710: Railway Swing Bridge Over River Ouse
  9. 9.0 9.1 Armstrong 1869, p.124, Plate. 17.
  10. Armstrong 1869, pp.123–4, Plates. 17–22.
  11. Armstrong 1869, p.124-5, Plates. 19–21,23.
  12. Armstrong 1869, p. 129.
  13. Armstrong 1869, pp.125–7, Plate. 24.
  14. Armstrong 1869, p. 127.
  15. "Swing bridge over the River Ouse; North-Eastern Railway", Engineering: 264–265, 27 October 1871, 
  16. "Opening of the Hull and Doncaster Railway", The Railway News and joint stock journal 12 (294): 157, 14 August 1869 
  17. The Railway Gazette 36: 540, 574, 578, 1922 
  18. "Railway Bridge, Goole", Hansard 152: cc953-4, 27 March 1922, 
  19. Duffy, Michael C. (2003), Electric Railways 1880–1990, IET, p. 200, ISBN 0852968051 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Hoole 1986, p. 41
  21. "Installation of Colour Light Signalling Between Staddlethorpe and Goole", London and North Eastern Railway Magazine 23: 351, 1933 
  22. Signalling Study Group (1986), The Signal Box: A Pictorial History and Guide to Designs, Oxford Publishing Company, p. 206; p. 77, Plate. 102, ISBN 0860932249 
  23. See Breezes: The Ship Lovers' Digest, 63, 1989, p. 423, "For quite some time the pages of the Yorkshire Ship Enthusiasts' Newsletter have enthralled their members by recounting the efforts by numerous vessels to demolish the railway bridge at Hook, near Goole" 
  24. Ships Monthly Vol 11–13, page 5 ('Ship Strikes Ouse Bridge')
  25. "Rotten jetty shuts main line to Hull", New Scientist 101 (1392): 8, 12 January 1984, 
  26. Rail Engineer magazine (7 January 2011). "Goole bridge refurbishment". 
  • Hoole, Ken (1986). A regional history of the railways of Great Britain. Vol 4, The North East (3 ed.). David and Charles. 
  • Taylor, Mike (2002), "3. Goole to Selby", The Yorkshire Ouse Navigation, Tempus Publishing, pp. 43–46, ISBN 0 7524 2369 X