Transporter Bridge – Newport, South Wales

IMG_7138_400_600The remarkable Newport Transporter Bridge is one of only six operational transporter bridges left world wide from a total of twenty constructed.

The bridge opened in 1906 and has dominated the Newport skyline ever since.

A transporter bridge is basically a suspended ferry that can operate more efficiently than a conventional ferry.

A high level boom that allows ships to pass underneath is suspended from towers at each end.

The boom carries a rail track on which a moving carriage or ‘traveller’ runs.

A gondola or platform is suspended from the carriage and can be pulled from one side of the river to the other by means of a hauling cable.

The Transporter Bridge is powered by twin 35 horse power electric motors.

Although an ‘aerial ferry’ was the idea of English engineer Charles Smith, the first working example was built by Spaniard Alberto Palacio and Frenchman Ferdinand Arnodin in 1893 at Portugalete near Bilbao in Spain.

Why a transporter bridge?

In 1900 Newport was a very busy port, much of it centred up river from where the Transporter Bridge now stands.

Industry was expanding on the east side of the river which, for the population largely based on the west side, meant a 4 mile walk to cross the river by the town bridge to get to work.

A ferry operated but the ever changing times of the tide and its extreme rise and fall meant this was not a practical method of crossing for work – there had also been a number of fatal accidents.

The Borough Engineer, Robert Haynes, had heard of the new innovative bridges being built on the continent and encouraged the council to visit the newly built transporter bridge at Rouen in France.

A transporter bridge offered an economical solution as tunnelling was technically difficult and expensive and a conventional bridge required a very long approach ramp to gain enough height to maintain a waterway for the tall ships of the day.

Building

Parliamentary approval to build the bridge was sought and secured in 1900 and work began in 1902.

Haynes and Arnodin were appointed joint engineers and the contract to build the bridge was given to Alfred Thorne of Westminster.

The bridge cost £98,000 to complete and was opened on September 12 1906 by Lord Tredegar of Tredegar House.
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