The Old Yamuna Bridge, crossing the Yamuna in Delhi, India. Photo credit: Anu Pushkarna, in The Hindu of 19 June 2016, by kind permission of THG Publishing Private Ltd. Commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee.[Click on the image to enlarge it.]

The twelve-span iron bridge was constructed in 1863-1866, as no. 249 on the line from Kokata to Delhi. Completing the crucial railway link between the old and the new capitals, it had a special significance, and is still considered iconic. It symbolised the change of an era: work started, as R. V. Smith points out, just after the death of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last of the Moghul emperors. Zafar had resisted the old East India Company's plan to have trains coming into the city just right behind his palace — the Red Fort. But he had been deposed and exiled to Burma and the EIC itself had been superseded by the British government. Its army barracks stood in the grounds of the fort now.

Smith, a veteran chronicler of Delhi, says that the bridge was "entrusted to" one Robert Macpherson — a choice of words that suggests that he was the executant engineer. Standard histories of the early railways in India, now readily available in the Internet Archive, fail to name the original designer or designers. The same is true of more recent books on this popular topic. But, according to the Institution of Civil Engineers in Britain, "the whole of the bridges and viaducts" along this line were originally designed by Eugenius Birch (the famous seaside pier-designer) in partnership with his elder brother John Barris Birch ("Obituary," 415). In this connection, it is worth noting that it is on the same pattern as the old Naini Bridge on the Allahabad — Mughalsarai section of the line, completed not long before it ("Yamuna Railway Bridge").

Adaptations may well have removed the Delhi bridge far from its mid-Victorian conception: in the early twentieth century, for instance, the single-track line was converted to a double one to cope with the increased volume of rail transport, and new provision was made for road traffic. As a rail bridge, it will soon be superseded by the new Yamuna Bridge that is being constructed beside it. But it will continue to be used for vehicular traffic ("Yamuna Railway Bridge").


Eugenius Birch. Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Vol. 78 (4/1884): 414-16. The ICE [Institution of Civil Engineers] Virtual Library. Web. 28 June 2020.

Smith, R. V. "A Bridge of Stories." The Hindu. 19 June 2016.

"Yamuna Railway Bridge (Delhi)."

Created 28 June 2020