Monday, June 30, 2008

Welland Viaduct

If you are travelling from St Pancras to Leicester or somewhere further north on a Sunday, you will sometimes be told that your train is being diverted and will take longer to reach Leicester than usual. This means that you will arrive into Kettering on one of the little-used slow platforms and that, a mile or so north of the station, your train will leave the Midland main line. Instead of passing through Market Harborough, your train will go through the 1930s steel town of Corby and then cross the broad Welland valley on a magnificent viaduct. English Buildings has just visited it:

It’s imposing, this vast viaduct, but hardly beautiful. In her Shell Guide to Northamptonshire, Juliet Smith tells us how to look at it: ‘It is best seen in dull weather or at dusk, when the ugly materials used by its Victorian builders, an indiscriminate mixture of blue and red brick, cannot detract from the effect of the classical proportions of arch and pillar’. The artfulness of the proportions is enhanced by making every ninth pier (marked with a pilaster) slightly wider than the rest, setting up a rhythm that reduces the monotony.

Proportions are all very well, but what’s really impressive is the way the viaduct takes us on a mental journey back in time. To stumble across this structure is to be transported to the world of the Victorians, and to come face to face with their engineering flair, their determination, their ruthless ability to get big things done. All their major engineering projects – bridges, tunnels, sewers, and the rest – take the breath away with their sheer size and nerve.

Welland Viaduct was opened in 1878 as part of a line from Glendon Junction (just north of Kettering) to Manton Junction in Rutland, which was built to shorten the route from London to Nottingham. At three-quarters of a mile long, it is the longest masonry viaduct on a British railway. North of the viaduct your train will pass Rutland Water then go through Oakham and Melton Mowbray before arriving at Leicester from the north. It is almost worth missing Market Harborough for.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I thought it was called Harringworth Viaduct...?