WINDMILL LANE BRIDGE (THREE BRIDGES)

[Source: Nick Catford]

Long after the Grand Junction Canal was completed, the Great Western & Brentford Railway commissioned their chief engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel to survey where and how the railway should pass beneath the canal and Windmill Lane on its route to Brentford. He chose a point where the road and canal crossed to build a unique example of a bridge where three modes of transport are directly superimposed on each other.

An 1858 engraving showing an artist’s impression of Windmill Lane bridge before the
Brentford branch opened.

Known locally as 'Three Bridges', it was part of the last railway project engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Work began in 1856 to carry both Windmill Lane and the Grand Junction canal over the double-track broad gauge Great Western & Brentford Railway in a deep cutting 34ft below road level at the same point, so that the line of the railway would avoid violating the view of Osterley Park. (Osterley Park is now a National Trust property with more than 100 acres of landscaped parkland and lakes surrounded by more than 200 acres of active farmland.) The bridge is close to the top of the Hanwell flight of locks and is very close to the spot where the eponymous windmill once stood - attracting the attention of local Brentford artist Joseph Mallard William Turner.

A canal boat is being towed under Windmill Lane c1906.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

The principal design features of the bridge are a central brick pier supporting large metal beams which surround the canal in an 8ft deep cast iron trough, and vertical girders and side walls with arches which support the road. While the bridge was under construction, the railway company had to accept any responsibility for disruption to canal traffic and agree to pay a fine of £10 per hour should the canal become temporarily out of commission.

1877 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map

1896 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map

Herapath's Railway Journal for 16 July 1859 describes the bridge and its construction: 'The canal had to be diverted by means of a cast iron trough 8ft in depth. The towing path consists of cast iron roadway plates bracketed out from the side of this trough, and the whole structure is borne upon powerful brickwork abutments, supported in the middle of a central pier. 140 tons of cast ironwork were used in this work and the cost of its construction was about £5000'.

A canal boat is being towed under Windmill Lane as a steam rail-motor passes under then canal c1910.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


In 1862, not long after the line opened, the fame of the Three Bridges had spread to Italy, and at the request of the Royal Italian Commission, a number of photographs were taken for display at the Turin Science Museum. The bridge, which is now a scheduled ancient monument, has always been a popular location for photographers and proved a good vantage point in the
1980s when a DMU shuttle was operated between Southall and Brentford Town goods yard on two separate days. The latter, on 15 July 1984. was to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Three Bridges. Sections of original GWR bull-head rail can still be seen on the southern side, being used as both fencing posts and a rope rail, directly under the road bridge itself


A steam rail-motor passes under the canal before September 1913.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

A clearly posed promotional photograph taken in 1923 shows Lyons Tea lorries on Windmill Lane bridge, Lyons tea on the side of the canal boat and a Lyons Tea wagon being hauled by the train.

A loaded goods train passes under Windmill Lane bridge in July 1960.
Photo by David Pearson

A view from the road bridge in the 1960s showing the three modes of transport.

Windmill Lane bridge looking west in 1972
Photo by Ian Baker


B.R. (S.R. - S.W. Division) ‘Crosstown railtour’ bound for Southall has just passed under Windmill Lane bridge on 2 November 1974.
Photo by Ian Baker

A DMU shuttle service run by the Great Western Railway Preservation Group has just passed under Windmill Lane bridge bound for Southall on 28 August 1983.
Photo by David Pearson

A DMU shuttle service run by the Great Western Railway Preservation Group to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Three Bridge has just passed under Windmill Lane bridge bound for Brentford on 15 July 1984. Note the spectators on both the canal and road bridges.
Photo by John Wells

Windmill Lane bridge seen from the Grand Union Canal in March 2013
Photo by Nick Catford

Aerial view of Windmill Lane bridge seen from the east.


Click here for more pictures of Windmill Lane bridge


 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]




Last updated: Thursday, 18-May-2017 16:24:12 BST
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