Caring for our heritage for the future

Caring for our heritage for the future

Published 7 May 2021 | Average read time
4 min read
Stories Industry-leading Our railway structures

We’re privileged to look after a railway that dates back hundreds of years – and are proud to ensure its survival for future generations.

If you take a scenic rail trip in the coming year, you’ll enjoy stunning views around Britain …

Ribblehead Viaduct

Gallery: the Ribblehead Viaduct

This spring we completed our restoration the world-renowned Ribblehead viaduct in North Yorkshire. Visitors to the Ribble Valley will be able to enjoy views of this iconic piece of Victorian railway architecture in all its glory after months of specialist repairs.

From November last year, 100ft-high scaffolding towers moved across seven of the viaduct’s 24 arches to carry out masonry, drainage and repainting work. 

The work has secured the Grade II* listed structure’s future as an historic landmark and vital railway link.

Where? The scenic Settle-Carlisle railway line.

Why you should visit when you can: The Ribblehead Viaduct sits at the heart of one of the world’s most beautiful railway routes. Follow the popular walking trails to take in the landscape and Victorian architecture the area is well known for.

Royal Albert Bridge

Video: Television presenter Tim Dunn gets an extra special view of the Royal Albert Bridge

The Royal Albert Bridge recently starred in the second series of Tim Dunn’s The Architecture the Railways Built on Yesterday.

It’s linked Cornwall with the rest of England since 1859 and we gave the bridge a new lease of life in 2009 after it had carried almost a billion tonnes of rail traffic since Victorian times.

We refurbished the bridge’s two main spans and, three years earlier, had unveiled Brunel’s name on the bridge to celebrate the bicentenary of Brunel’s birth. Until then, his name – had remained hidden for decades.

Where? Between Plymouth and Saltash – the Gateway to Cornwall.

Why you should visit when you can: Saltash is popular with visitors to the nearby Tamar Valley in the Tamar Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

The Glenfinnan Viaduct – one of the world’s most famous pieces of railway infrastructure and the longest mass concrete rail bridge in Scotland – captured the imaginations of a new generation when it appeared in the Harry Potter films.

Each summer, it attracts thousands of visitors a week eager to catch a glimpse of the Jacobite Steam Train, which runs from Fort William to Mallaig on the West Highland Line – one of the most scenic railway journeys in Britain.

Hege Hernæs, curator of the Glenfinnan Station Museum, at which the Jocobite stops, said: “The steam train crossing the viaduct is an iconic image. It now signifies Scotland.”

The viaduct’s engineering and societal importance date to 1901, when its opening made it one of the last major constructions of the Victorian railway revolution.

Today, the concrete’s weathering from the strong wind and rain of the Highlands gives it distinct character – something Network Rail ensures remains; the bridge is Grade A listed, meaning it is nationally important and we must refrain from cleaning off the marks from the rain that drains through it.

Our engineers in Scotland regularly inspect the bridge from the ground to ensure it stays safe for your journeys. They also send a special team of abseilers up the viaduct to give it a much closer, more detailed inspection and assess any need for repairs.

Where? In the Highlands of Scotland, on the West Highland Line, near Fort William and Mallaig.

Why you should visit when you can: The West Highland Line travels through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. Hop on a train from Glasgow Queen Street all the way to Glenfinnan station or the beautiful fishing port of Mallaig right at the end of the line – with no changes! You can leave your luggage with the friendly staff at Glenfinnan station and head out to explore the Highlands on foot.

Read more:

The Architecture the Railways Built – Bristol Temple Meads

The Architecture the Railways Built – Royal Albert Bridge

The Architecture the Railways Built – Wemyss Bay

The Architecture the Railways Built: Severn Bridge Junction

The Architecture the Railways Built – Ribblehead Viaduct

The Architecture the Railways Built – Ffestiniog Railway

People and the railway: the Railway Heritage Trust

Film: the magic of the Glenfinnan Viaduct

Film: discover the Network Rail archive

People and the railway: reconnecting Scotland