The Railway Viaduct, Athlone

Railway Bridge Athlone
© Westmeath Library Service

The single greatest engineering feat during the construction of the Dublin-Galway line, was the construction of the railway bridge across the Shannon at Athlone.

The bridge, which was 542 ft. long, was designed by G.W. Hemans, and built with an opening central span to accommodate the tall superstructures of sailing craft.

The contractors were Messrs. Fox and Henderson, who shipped the massive iron-work to Limerick and transferred it from there to Athlone by barge.

The twelve cylindrical pillars, each ten foot in diameter, made engineering history in December 1850, when the chief engineer, Mr Milner, demonstrated how they could be placed in position by means of compressed air.

The first commercial train to cross the railway bridge in Athlone did so on Monday 21st July, 1851.

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