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Movable Bridges in the British Isles
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Rewley Road Swing Bridge (Sheepwash Channel) - Oxford Canal /River Thames
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Address: Oxford
County: Oxfordshire
Country: England
OS Grid Ref: SP504465
     Nicholsons Guide to the Waterways
     Volume 1, page 137 © 2003 Collins
Type: Swing
Built: 1850
Construction: iron
Power: Manual
Use: Rail
Customer: London & North Western Railway Co.
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Sheepwash Channel swing bridge-a
Sheepwash Channel swing bridge-a
Construction Partners:
Designer: Robert Stephenson
Build Information:
Technical Information: Bridge weighed 85 tons
Visited by: Ted Sedman 1974/Stewart Marchant 2004,
Present Condition: Laid aside
General notes:
Technical details and a description of the bidge were published in an article by S. M. Phillip in the March1907 edition of 'Railway Magazine'. (Railway Maazine is now owned and published by Mortons Media Ltd of Horncastle, Lincolnshire.) Phillip's article was one of a series published in the magazine in that year on the topic of 'Swing and Other Opening Bridges'. Phillip's offering was 'No.2 - On London and North- Western Railway'.

Phillips reported that the bridge was 75 feet long and weighed 85 tons. It was constructed of steel lattice work giirders with stiffeners and curved floor plates. The bridge sat and turned on a and pivot roller path placed at the centre of the bridge. This sat on the bank of the canal, so only half the swing bridge spanned the waterway. Steel blocks were used as sliding bearings at each end of the bridge to stabalise it when trains were crossing over. These were moved by hand operated gearing. The bridge was turned by two men with the motion transferred from the hand cranking mechanism through shafts to toothed cog wheels engaging with the rack.

There was a safety procedure to follow to protect trains. The signal man first set the signals on the approaches to danger, then pulled a leaver which simaltaneously released the blocks on the bridge ends and locked all signals at danger.

Phillips reported that the bridge was being swung about 6 times a day.

When I visited the site in 2004 the bridge parts were laying rotting and overgrown

Ted Sedman reports
"BW booklet (British Waterways Inland Cruising Booklet 6 - 1966) says, "Before a vessel can reach the river a swing bridge under the railway must be opened by the staff of the nearby railway station. Opening the bridge is a laborious and time-consuming task; it is better to use Dukeís Cut if reaching the Thames is a matter of urgency."

Less than ten years later Nicholsonís says, "... This bridge, which needs 4 railway men to open it, has been a notorious obstruction for years, but fortunately BR do not use the bridge much now and only close it to boats when they need to. So the situation nowadays is that the swing bridge is open to boats all through the weekends and every weekday except from 2.30 to 4.30 in the afternoon."

We went that way several times in 1974/1975 and the bridge was never across, but perhaps it was always morning, evening or weekends I wouldnít remember!"

The tracks to the north of the bridge were removed in 1985, and the bridge was then abandoned in the open position, leaving the channel free for waterborne traffic. According to the Oxford Mail archives for 30th April 2003 the Oxford Preservation Trust were looking to raise £200,000 to restore the bridge, based on a feasibility study carried out by the Railway Heritage Trust.

John Powell believes that following the demise of British Rail all abandoned rail bridges fall under the ownership of the British Rail Estates Department Residuary Body. The bridge was reconstructed in 1906 using steel girders. It was closed to passenger traffic in 1951 and to goods traffic in 1984.

The Buckinghamshore Railway was later absorbed by the London and North Western Railway.

By 2012 a partnership had been formed with the intention of restoration - the partnership included the Oxford Preservation Trust, English Heritage and Network Rail (who are still the owners of the bridge).

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Database ref number: 269