Calder Viaduct

Calder Viaduct

During the rapid expansion of the network during the 1840s, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway built a 4½-mile connecting branch between its own Wakefield-Goole line at Pontefract and the North Midland’s Normanton-Leeds route at Methley Junction. Constructed by two contractors, Mr Thornton and Messrs Pearson & Woodhouse, it opened on 1st December 1849.

The line was straight for much of its length and demanded relatively light engineering. The most significant feat was located close to its western end – a viaduct comprising three 70-foot spans over the River Calder, crossing it on a skew of about 42 degrees. Known as Bridge No.13, it is 122 yards in length.

The substantial eastern abutment is stone-built, featuring a substantial oversail and copings which extend along the full length of the structure. It suffers from extensive cracks and bulging, resulting in the installation of a tie bar and pattress plates. There is evidence that the abutment has moved at some point, the line of the viaduct being displaced northwards at its east end. On the abutment’s north side is a triangular wing wall to retain the river bank.

Pilasters mark the junction with the main structure. Brick was used for the arches, framed by substantial masonry voussoirs which had to be individually designed and cut to accommodate the skew. The spandrels have been locally pushed outwards over the arch barrels, again prompting the use of tie bars and pattress plates. The piers are formed of dressed-stone blocks and protected by modest cutwaters.

At the western end, the abutment is slightly smaller and in generally better condition.

The line over the viaduct was closed to rail traffic on 23rd February 1981 and the tracks had been removed by January 1983. A proposal to incorporate the structure into a network of local cycle paths was submitted to Wakefield Council in 2010; seven years later, a tarmac surface was laid along its centreline and handrails provided. Sections of the masonry oversail were also replaced. However work to extend the path east and west from the viaduct has not yet been progressed.

March 2019