Solway Viaduct

Location type


Name and dates

Solway Viaduct (1869-1921)

Opened on the Solway Junction Railway.


This was a mile long (1950 yd although sources vary) single bridge crossing the Solway Firth between Annan, in Scotland on the north bank, and Bowness, in England on the south bank. As John Thomas described it this was 'the most exciting rail link between Scotland and England'.

The bridge took three years to build and opened in 1869. On opening it was the longest railway bridge in Britain. This was nine years before the original Tay Bridge [1st].

The bridge had 193 girder spans resting on piers built with flanged pipes and wrought iron ties. The girder sections were placed by rail crane. To reduce the length of the bridge section stone embankments were built at either end. (The embankments were built to take a double line, but only the northbound line was laid.)

Winter damage occurred several times. In January 1881 two long sections were extensively damaged by ice floes with the collapse of piers and falling of girders as the frozen firth melted. The bridge re-opened in 1884. Tonnes of rock were demolished to protect the piers from scouring tides.

Twenty years later the condition of the bridge was cause for concern and a speed restriction was introduced in 1915.

This part of the line, from Kirkbride Junction to Shawhill Junction closed completely in 1921 due to the condition of the bridge. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway inherited it after the 1923 Grouping and considered the viaduct's future. The bridge remained standing until formally abandoned in 1933.

The bridge was demolished by Arnott and Young between 1934 and 1935. Girders were removed and piles pulled up from the sea bed. Some of the pipe sections were re-used as water pipes in pits on the Wemyss Estate and at oil works.

In 1936 it was clear that clearing the seabed was not satisfactory. For several years, at very low tides, LMS men dispersed the rocks.

Today the embankments still approach either end of the former viaduct. Some pipe sections remain at both ends to show something of the construction of the piers.



Chronology Dates

  /  /1864Solway Junction Railway
Act receives Royal assent for a line consisting to two parts: Kirtlebridge (Caledonian Railway) to Kirkbride Junction (Carlisle and Silloth Bay Railway and Dock) and Abbeyholme Junction (Carlisle and Silloth Bay Railway and Dock) to Brayton (Maryport and Carlisle Railway). The first part will cross the considerable Solway Viaduct between Scotland an England. The Act included an Annan Waterfoot Branch and a Port Carlisle Branch both of which were not built.
  /  /1867Solway Junction Railway
Approval to not have an opening span of the Solway Viaduct.
08/08/1870Solway Junction Railway
Solway Junction Railway open throughout. Annan (Shawhill) to Kirkbride Junction over the Solway Viaduct and Abbey Junction [CR] to Brayton opened to passengers.
  /01/1881Solway Junction Railway
Solway Viaduct partially destroyed by ice floes on the Solway.
01/05/1884Solway Junction Railway
Solway Viaduct repairs complete.
  /  /1921Solway Junction Railway
Brayton Shed site probably ceases to be used overnight when the Solway Viaduct closes.