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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Olton Station: gwro2693

Drawing showing strengthening to be carried out on Brunelís wrought iron bowed balloon-top bridge at Olton

At Olton, Brunel designed a timber bridge to span the Birmingham to Warwick Turnpike road. The railway crossed the road at an extreme skew resulting in a bridge span of nearly 94 feet being required to cross the road. Board of Trade Regulations required bridges over turnpikes to be at least 35 feet wide measured on the square or at right angles to the direction of the road when the bridge was on a skew. Timber bridges were a common feature on Britain’s early railways as wood was in plentiful supply, making timber bridges cheaper to construct than wrought iron bridges. Unlike other civil engineers of the period, Brunel disliked using cast iron for bridge beams because he considered it to be weak under tension and of brittle nature, resulting in sudden failures. This stance was vindicated by the Royal Commission set up to investigate the Dee Bridge failure in May 1847. At Olton, this timber bridge was never built and instead a wrought iron plate girder bridge with a bowed balloon top was constructed. (see image 'gwro2695' and gwro2692').

Robert Ferris