The Conwy Tubular Bridge

The Conwy Tubular Bridge. 5¼ x 7¾ inches. A steel-plate etching by an unknown artist, taken from a Victorian scrap-book, circa 1855.[Click on image to enlarge it.]

Robert Stephenson’s tubular bridge (1849) was one of the many engineering miracles of the nineteenth century. The use of an extended box to carry the railway line was daringly innovative, an approach also deployed at the Britannia Bridge, which crosses the near-by Menai Strait. This anonymous image is hardly accomplished – the bridge’s perspective is inaccurate and the drawing mechanical – but it does have some historical value; though clumsily drawn it represents the free mingling of the old and new in mid-Victorian culture. The castle reminds us of the medieval past, while the new bridge (with its crenelated gateways, supposedly to fit with the castle, though glaringly at odds with it), is a symbol of the new industrial age; a miniscule train puffs into the tunnel/bridge on the left hand side, while the foreground is occupied by sailing boats, the reminders of an older technology. Thomas Telford’s suspension bridge (1826) for carriage is glimpsed at the right, another symbol of a time replaced by the motive power of steam.

Scanned image and text by Simon Cooke. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Created 20 May 2017