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GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Bordesley Station: gwrbg2527

One of four girders made by E C & J Keay for GWR bridge over Sandy Lane near Bordesley

This photograph appeared in the Great Western Railway Magazine Volume XXIX No 3 (March 1917) with the following caption; 'One of four girders made by E C & J Keay for GWR bridge over Sandy Lane near Bordesley. Length - 104 feet 9 inches, Height - 8 feet 8 inches, Width - 2 feet 9 inches to 3 feet 4 inches, Weight - 63.5 tons.'

After they had established their James Bridge Works in Darleston in 1887, E C & J Keay Ltd specialised in the manufacture of structural steelwork for buildings and bridges. They supplied steelwork for many major projects including 6,000 tons of steelwork for the reconstruction of Snow Hill station (see gwrbsh1896). Text books from the period suggest that a 100 foot span was about the economic limit for plate girder bridge design, with a trussed girder design recommended for longer spans. E C & J Keay's large site at Darleston allowed sections of girder bridges to be machine riveted together under factory conditions and this pre-assembly produced more consistent construction at lower cost. In 1888, E C & J Keay also built an iron works at their site for the production of bearings and cast ironwork. The works had access to a private railway siding allowing connection from the Grand Junction Railway (later LNWR) near Walsall.

The bridge girders can be seen being transported as exceptional loads on wagons specifically designed to carry girders. Each end of the girder was carried on a turntable to allow the load to move as it negotiated curves. These articulated wagons were given the telegraphic code 'Pollon', with the first six wheel Pollon wagons classified as 'Pollon B'. These being the largest wagons owned by the Great Western Railway when their wagon diagram list was introduced were given the diagram 'A1'. By 1917 there were three pairs of Pollon B wagons numbered 48979/48980, 48981/48982 and 48999/49000. The Pollon B wagon No 49000 in the photograph (with sibling No 48999) were originally built as convertible broad gauge stock in 1887 (Lot 422) to transport standard gauge locomotives and had bridge rails fitted on their decks. In this guise they carried the numbers 11301 and 11302, but were renumbered when they were permanently converted to standard gauge articulated wagons in 1892. The Pollon B wagons had a tare weight of 10 tons, 16 cwt each and were rated to carry 30 tons each, allowing a total load of 60 tons.

Robert Ferris