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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Crossing the Tamar

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 08, 2020


[64-365] 8th. October 2020- This is a post about two bridges. The Tamar river is the boundary between Devon and Cornwall and there are various ways to get across. Here, in Plymouth there are two bridges, rail and road. The older bridge is the rail bridge in the background with it's distinctive curved tubes and the newer bridge is the road bridge where these shots were taken as a drive by. Thanks Camellia for inspiring me to do a drive by. No high hedges here to hide the view.


A word of advice though when you change your camera batteries as you leave the house in a hurry, put them in the correct way around. There I am, window wound down and poised ready to cross the bridge and.........nothing. There follows a lot of cursing and fumbling while I have to open it up to discover my positive and negative are two positives instead. And, yes, I know you are shocked to find out I curse.


The older curved structure is the Royal Albert Bridge. I'm only guessing but Albert, consort of Queen Victoria is probably the second person in line for the award of most things named after them, Victoria probably winning the title. Our current Queen Elizabeth has reigned for longer but in modern times we named a lot more things after ordinary commoners. I am only guessing when I make these bold claims.


The Royal Albert Bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, they don't name people like that anymore, not unless you are a minor celebrity with delusions of grandeur.


Its unique design consists of two 455-foot (138.7 m) lenticular iron trusses 100 feet (30.5 m) above the water, with conventional plate-girder approach spans. This gives it a total length of 2,187.5 feet (666.8 m). It carries the Cornish Main Line railway in and out of Cornwall. It is adjacent to the Tamar Bridge which opened in 1962 to carry the A38 road.


The demands on the design of the bridge were set by The Admiralty, as access to the naval port of Plymouth was paramount. Several designs were rejected due to the height and also due to the demand that there be only a single pier in the navigable part of the river. This was how Brunel solved the problem


Lenticular-Great word. My word for the day, and I actually know the meaning of this one already, lens shaped. Lentils are so named for the same reason being lens shaped. I am quite partial to lentils, particularly the little red ones that come split in two. How do they do that? People have died opening an oyster and that is quite large, I can only just focus on a red lentil they are that small and that is with varifocal lenses. So I definitely need lenses to see my lentils. So who do they get to split lentils, Lilliputians? Dhal is the best thing about lentils, when they cook down to a lovely smooth texture and you add the spices and dip in some chapati, or even better paratha.


Officially, adjective. The definition of lenticular is shaped like a lens or resembling a lens. An example of something lenticular is the lens of an eye.


I already said that. So just to be clear, I think the massive tubey things that form the arches are formed in a lens shape. So now, the next time I see The Royal Albert Bridge I will be thinking of dhal and paratha.


Surveying started in 1848 and construction commenced in 1854. The first main span was positioned in 1857 and the completed bridge was opened by Prince Albert on 2 May 1859. Brunel died later that year and his name was then placed above the portals at either end of the bridge as a memorial. Work was carried out during the twentieth century to replace the approach spans and strengthen the main spans. It has attracted sightseers since its construction and has appeared in many paintings, photographs, guidebooks, postage stamps and on the UK £2 coin. Anniversary celebrations took place in 1959 and 2009.


The photos are taken from the Tamar Bridge (You see my point, it's not called the Queen Elizabeth Bridge although there are several of those elsewhere).


During the 20th century, there was increasing demand to replace or supplement the Saltash and Torpoint ferries, which could not cope with the rise in motor traffic. The Government refused to prioritise the project, so it was financed by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall County Council. Construction was undertaken by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company and began in 1959. It was unofficially opened in October 1961, with a formal presentation by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in April 1962. A reconstruction of the bridge began in 1999 after it was found to be unable to support a European Union requirement for goods vehicle weights. The work involved building two new parallel decks while the original construction was completely rebuilt. The project was completed in late 2001 and formally opened by Princess Anne in April 2002. The extra decks have remained in use, increasing the bridge's capacity.


I always think that there is one handy thing about a monarchy, there's always one along every so often and some spare ones about in case the main ones are busy. This is the perfect example, The Queen Mother was on hand to open it first time around and her Granddaughter showed up to open it the second time around. And being an inherently hierarchical sort of an institution we get a Queen for the newbuild and a Princess for the repairs. If they put a bit of tarmac down next year it will probably be the Duke of Portwrinkle. Don't laugh, Portwrinkle is very real and will feature in my next post.


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