For Sale: Collapsed Bank

There’s an odd bit of business going on at Gateshead Council. As we can all see when we cross the bridge by Metro, the bit of riverbank which collapsed into the river Tyne in mid January 2011 has been left broken and untended for nearly two years now. It’s nearly impossible to find out anything about it on their website though as none of the obvious search terms turn up anything at all on the matter. So as regards what’s currently happening, I’ve no idea. That would take an FOI request and about a month.

I blogged about it last year. It has interrupted a national cycle path and nobody seems to care about it. Who is responsible for fixing it? Probably, one would think, the landowners. Who is that? The Council, again, you’d think.

But no. At least not yet.

As it happens, that particular little bit of the once delightful Pipewellgate is owned by Nexus, the very folk who carry you over the bridge by Metro. Apparently, thirty-odd years ago when they were building the bridge, they needed a couple of bits of land either side, so they bought the necessary. Well that’s not quite true – the bridge was built for the original Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, before the mass privatisation of all our local services. Nexus just ‘kind of inherited’ the land. All these years later, it’s still theirs. And now they would like very much for the Council to own it back.

Now they are – as responsible landowners providing right-of-way to public cycle-pathers – going to fix the damage. That’s underway, apparently, despite any visible evidence. And this will be to the satisfaction (whatever that means) of GMBC before the title deeds are transferred to the council. So that’s OK then. But they’d also like “to receive a percentage (to be agreed) of any future sale/development value“.A gift that is, as yet, both unlimited and eternal. Wow. Nice.

As the report (Agenda Item 22, dated 24 November 2011, page 119 of 156 in the PDF, their page 117) says, “The area has little potential for development due to its current use as highway and footpath/cyclepath and also its location and topography.” So I don’t quite know why that ‘consideration’ is being proposed without raised eyebrows. Once they’ve got the land back to the council, why would they expect to have or deserve any further interest in it?

Like I said. An odd bit of business.




In the issue of The Engineer dated 2 February 1917 are pictures – on pages 110 and 125, of the Pyrmont Bridge. This is a swing bridge over the Darling Harbour at Sydney. Sydney has, of course, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, built by the same people who had put up a similar structure over the River Tyne at Newcastle in 1926. And Newcastle also has Armstrong’s Swing Bridge of 1876. It’s almost as if the Australians are copycatting the Geordies.


19171109newquebecbridge1024A bridge, the longest cantilever in the world, finally crossed the St Lawrence in August 1917, The photo is from The Engineer, the 9 November 1917 issue, page 403.

Although no Tacoma Narrows, its place in bridgy history is significant. It’s largely due to the two previous failed attempts that we now have professional institutes of engineers, designed to protect both the body municipal and the engineers themselves from those who don’t know what they’re doing or who don’t care how they build.

Not that this seems to have helped Italian Seismologists.


Not too many places on the High Street where you can pop in for a bag of bridges. The Motherwell Bridge Company is, today, quite a large concern. This is an advert from 1917, found amongst all the adverts piled in at the back of the volume containing all of the issues of the journal The Engineer for that year.

This one’s from a Bristol company, Llewellins (an unusual spelling), also still around after 95 years – which is good to see. The great pile of worm and spur reduction gears in the ad is impressive, but there’s no sense of scale. They feel big though.

To get a sense of scale, there’s nothing quite like putting a working engineer in the picture, standing next to the product. Let’s see the ad for one of our very own Steel casters, John Spencer of Newcastle upon Tyne at Newburn.

Finally, still in 1917, there’s this Ferodo ad. The brake-pad people. They are still around but I’m wondering if they are now so embedded into the infrastructure that nobody needs to mention them any more. Last I heard their name was on some small pieces of plastic scenery adorning a scalextric set. And that was when I was a youngster.

Troubled Water Bridge


On page 598 of the 6th December 1912 issue of The Engineer we see a photograph of the newly built floating pontoon which was the fourth Galata Bridge of Constantinople. The accompanying article (p 605 Ibid) tells us that it was built – offsite in Gustavsburg – by the Maschinenfabriek Augsburg-Nürnberg AG.

It’s the second pontoon bridge at that site, connecting Galata and Stamboul with 1542 feet of German Bridginess, and replaced the one built forty years earlier. Most of the Golden Horn traffic is diverted from another bridge, slightly awkwardly positioned, upstream. Construction began in the summer of 1910. It was fire-damaged in 1992 and replaced by a non-pontoony one.

Small passenger boats could travel under it, and a floating opening provided passage for others. The troubledness of the water refers to the situation at the time, what with the First Balkan War‘n’all.

Après Tay

The Tay Bridge disaster at the end of 1879, it’s hard to appreciate now, had quite an impact upon the British psyche for some time. In February 1881 for example, the Solway Viaduct failed – but without loss of life – due to a spot of icing up.


WITHIN little more than a year after the Tay Bridge disaster, we have to report the failure of the Solway Viaduct, near Annan, forming the most important part of the Solway Junction Railway, and until this week, a connecting link between England and Scotland. On Sunday and the two following days a large portion of the Viaduct was swept away, as already reported in our columns, by the shoals of ice, which, since the thaw set in, have been drifting down the channel. In former years the thaw has been accompanied by high winds, breaking up the ice and saving the Viaduct; but this season no wind has arisen, and the packs have been carried down in unbroken masses, hurling themselves against the piers, carrying everything before them. The accident has been unattended by any loss of life, owing to the vigilance of the railway authorities, who had watchmen stationed, who gave timely warning.

People were still nervous of steam engines. And with some reason, because boilers exploded rather more often than one would wish. An issue of The Engineer, from early in 1881, carries a report about an MP – Hugh Mason – who wished to do something about this.

THE president of the Manchester Steam Users’ Association, Mr. Hugh Mason, M.P. for Ashton-under-Lyme, is bringing in a bill for the prevention of these catastrophes, by which so many lives are constantly sacrificed. This bill is to be read a second time on Wednesday, the 16th inst. The following is a circular letter which has been addressed to each member of Parliament, and gives in brief the scope of the measure :—

Boiler Explosions Bill. – Second reading, February 16th.
House of Commons, February 4th, 1881.
SIR, — You cannot fail to he aware of the frequency of steam boiler explosions, and the lamentable loss of life resulting therefrom. By two explosions that occurred last year – one at Walsall, on the 15th of May, and the other at Glasgow, on the 5th of March – as many as fifty persons were killed, and forty-nine others injured.

The measure proposed with a view to preventing these disasters is of a very simple character. Its object is to make better provision for inquiries with regard to boiler explosions, whether fatal or not, so that the true cause may be arrived at in every case, and the responsibility brought home to the right party. In the event of a boiler explosion at sea, such an investigation as that proposed in this bill is held under the Merchant Shipping Acts 1874 to 1876; and in the event of a railway disaster — as, for instance, the fall of the Tay Bridge — such an investigation is held under the Regulation of Railways Act, 1871. The Boiler Explosions Bill, 1881, therefore, does not propose to introduce any new principle, but only to extend one already adopted, and to secure as full an investigation for every explosion occurring on land as that already secured for every explosion occurring at sea.

There is no doubt that the majority of boiler explosions could be prevented by competent periodical inspection; but it is not proposed in this measure to go so far as to render inspection compulsory. It is thought better to be content – for the present at all events – with a more moderate measure, trusting that the institution of a searching investigation in the case of every explosion will prove sufficient to arouse steam users to a due sense of their responsibility, and thus render further legislation unnecessary.

It will be seen that this measure does not in any way lessen the boiler owners’ responsibliity.

We trust we may have your support in bringing this measure forward, feeling sure you will agree with us in the importance of arresting, as far as possible, the present sacrifice of human life from steam boiler explosions.

Hugh Mason,
Thos. Burt,
Henry Lee,
Henry Broadhurst.

An act was passed in 1882, and another in 1890. They have been neither repealed nor superseded

Brooklyn, May, 1883