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Timber Railway Bridges in the Nineteenth Century

Nicholas Bill

Timber railway bridge 1  timber railway bridge 2

A huge number of very dramatic timber railway bridges were constructed in the 19th century. This fascinating PhD traces the use of timber structures in railway construction, encompassing the discussion of these structures in text books of the time and using the inspection records, tracing the location of all the major examples. It groups these into a series of types and provides archive photographs of examples and original drawings. It also demonstrates why these structures are so little discussed and known: they were never intended to last and were built to get lines open as quickly as possible. In most cases there was an intention to build other bridges to replace them from the beginning and usually the original bridge was replaced within 30 years. Dr Bill’s PhD thus provides a fascinating glimpse into a lost world, but also important insights into building in timber at a time where it is increasingly being discussed as a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel. Dr Bill now works as a consultant engineer.


Nicholas Bill, "Design and construction deficiencies of timber railway bridges”, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Engineering History and Heritage, Volume 167, Issue 4 (1 Nov 2014), pp.182–195

Nicholas Bill "The safety record of timber railway bridges in the UK: 1840–1870”, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Engineering History and Heritage, Volume 167, Issue 1 (1 Feb 2014), pp.34–46

Nicholas Bill, "Laminated-timber-arch bridges of Joseph Locke (1805-60) and his assistants", Construction History, Vol. 29, No. 2 (2014), pp. 39-62

Nicholas Bill "Timber-lattice bridges on railways in the UK: 1840–1870" Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Engineering History and Heritage , vol. 166:3 (2013), pp. 136-145