Chenab bridge: A future icon of Indian Railways heritage

This figure is a few years old. Indian Railways (IR) has 1,47,523 railway bridges, classified under heads of important bridges, major bridges and minor bridges. About 700 of those bridges are “major” ones.

Usually, when we think of IR heritage, we have in mind steam locomotives such as the 1855-built “Express” and “Fairy Queen”, numbered EIR-21 and EIR-22 respectively (EIR stands for East Indian Railway). Housed respectively in Perambur and Rewari, both are remarkably still in working order. But heritage isn’t only about locomotives (steam or otherwise), coaches and wagons. It is also about buildings, stations, bridges and tunnels and much else.

IR’s heritage inventory includes several bridges. Many bridges are old and when constructed, they were marvels of engineering. For figures on old bridges in IR, people generally quote a 2015 CAG report: 36,470 are more than 100 years old and 6,680 more than 140 years old.

Some of these must be phased out, rehabilitated in some fashion or completely reconstructed. Because of the way “heritage” is defined, not every old bridge is listed in IR’s inventory. The old Yamuna bridge in Delhi (known as Lohe-ke-Pul) is an example. For years and years, people remembered these bridges — Jubilee Bridge between Hooghly Ghat and Garifa, Yamuna Bridge in Naini, the bridge across the Mahi in Bhairongarh, Netravati bridge near Mangalore, Old Godavari bridge (Havelock bridge) in Rajahmundry, Pamban bridge, Abdul Bari bridge across Sone, Aryankavu bridge near Punalur, Dapoori viaduct near Pune and Nanjangud bridge across Kabini.

That one, across Kabini, was constructed in 1735. Originally used as a road bridge, from around 1889, railways started using this bridge.

Indian Express
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