THE FACIT BRANCH: ROCHDALE TO BACUP

 

THE SIAMESE BRIDGES (SD882157)
On the railway (now Healey Dell Nature Trail) about midway between Shawclough & Healey and Broadley stations is a most unusual engineering feature: what are popularly called the Siamese (or Twin) Bridges. Two single-arch stone bridges stand side-by-side, one a little lower than the other, the higher one having formerly carried the single-track railway.

The geology of the Facit Branch route within the miles north and south of Broadley presented problems to the contractors, particularly areas of clay that they encountered when digging cuttings. On the hillside falling westwards to Heap Mill Reservoir the route crossed the path of a small stream, and it was to be bridged with a stone arch approached by a low embankment. However the embankment proved to be unstable and began to slither down the hillside towards the reservoir, taking the bridge with it. There was alarm that the earth and masonry would end up in the reservoir possibly causing it to overspill and threaten the safety of a community lower down the valley.

The contractors managed to stabilise the slip and a second stone-arch bridge was built in place of the first to carry the railway. Remarkably, both bridges stand side-by-side today only yards apart and, of course, at different levels. The abandoned lower bridge has massive retaining walls on its downhill (west) side. The Healey Dell Nature Trail naturally uses the higher bridge as it follows the trackbed of the former railway, but a minor diversion can safely be made to cross the migrated bridge.

The curious pair of bridges has gained the sobriquet ‘Siamese’ as in the former use of the term ‘Siamese’ twins – now called ‘conjoined’ twins.

1929 1: 2,500 OS map. A stream flowing from east to west (right to left) can be seen passing under a bridge on the Facit Branch railway, but a further, apparently pointless, bridge is immediately to its left. This latter bridge was intended to carry the railway, but it slipped down the unstable slope, and a new one was constructed to carry the railway. Both bridges survive today, side-by-side, about midway between Shawclough & Healey and Broadley stations, and are popularly known as
the ‘Siamese Bridges’.
The so-called Siamese Bridges*, between Shawclough & Healey and Broadley stations, in February 2016. In this eastward-looking view the stone arch in the foreground was constructed in the late 1860s to carry the single-track Rochdale – Facit railway over a small stream on the steep hillside above Heap Mill Reservoir. The unstable embankment began to slither down the hillside towards the reservoir, taking the bridge with it; eventually, when the slip was stabilised, the second bridge, a few yards beyond it and, of course, at a slightly higher level, was built to replace it. The retaining ‘wing wall’ of the original bridge (far right) is particularly massive. (*The name is derived from the obsolete term ‘Siamese twins’ – now the term ‘conjoined twins’ is preferred.).
Photo by Alan Young

The secluded Heap Mill Reservoir, now belonging to an angling club, was the apparent destination of the slithering bridge on the Rochdale – Facit railway. The anglers seen on this photo in February 2016 in the high-vis coats are dummies.
Photo by Alan Young


The so-called Siamese Bridges, between Shawclough & Healey and Broadley stations, looking south in February 2016. The lower trackway to the right crosses an arch which was constructed in the late 1860s to carry the single-track Rochdale – Facit railway over a small stream on the steep hillside above Heap Mill Reservoir. The unstable embankment began to slither down the hillside towards the reservoir, taking the bridge with it; eventually, when the slip was stabilised.
Photo by Alan Young

Looking down the gap between the adjacent stone arches (the so-called Siamese bridges*) on the stretch of the Facit Branch between Shawclough & Healey and Broadley stations. The photo was taken in February 2016.The arch on the left was constructed in the late 1860s to carry the single-track railway over a small stream that drained into Heap Mill Reservoir. Unfortunately the unstable embankment at either end of the arch began to slither down the hillside towards the reservoir, taking the bridge with it; eventually, when the slip was stabilised, a second bridge (seen right) at the original position was built, on which the railway tracks were laid. The railway was dismantled in 1967 and the trackbed is now a public right-of-way.   (*The name is derived from the obsolete term ‘Siamese twins’ – now the term ‘conjoined twins’ is preferred.)
Photo by Alan Young

Looking north across the so-called Siamese Bridges* between Shawclough & Healey and Broadley stations. The photo is taken from the approach to the original arch built to carry the Rochdale – Facit railway over a small stream above Heap Mill Reservoir. Unfortunately the unstable embankment at either end of the arch began to slither down the hillside towards the reservoir, taking the bridge with it; eventually, when the slip was stabilised, a second bridge (seen right) at the original position was built, on which the railway tracks were laid.
Photo by Alan Young

Last updated: Thursday, 18-May-2017 16:19:23 BST
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