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Ballochmyle Viaduct

A stately railway bridge which carries the Glasgow South Western Line over the River Ayr between Mauchline and Catrine in East Ayrshire, the Ballochmyle Viaduct is both the highest railway viaduct in Britain and has the longest arch. It reaches 54m (177 feet) in height and comprises seven masonry arches; a massive semi-circular central arch some 55m (181 feet) in length, with three 15.2-m (50-foot) approach arches on either side, giving a total span of 146m (480 feet). The river here lies in a gorge and its rocky banks formed abutments for the principal arch of the viaduct which, when the viaduct was completed in 1848, was the biggest masonry arch in the world.

The bridge was designed by John Miller (1805-83) of the Edinburgh firm of Granger & Miller and built by Ross & Mitchell on the Cumnock Extension of the Ayrshire Railway. William McCandlish was the resident engineer. Construction began in 1846 and the Ballochmyle Viaduct was built of local red sandstone taken from quarries which were opened for the purpose on either side of the river, with a harder sandstone that came from a quarry near Dundee used for the arch ring. Approximately 15,008 cubic m (530,000 cubic feet) of stone was used, along with 1416 cubic m (50,000 cubic feet) of wood and six tons of iron (as ties, braces and bolts) for the temporary centering. The total cost was around £11,000 and involved around 400 workmen, with not a single accident during the construction. The viaduct was strengthened by Carillion Plc in 2013-14, working on behalf of its owners Network Rail, to cope with heavier trains.

The Ballochmyle Viaduct was first listed in 1971, a listing which was upgraded to Category-A in 1989. It was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 2014. A plaque at the base of one of the piers of the viaduct was unveiled by Geoff French, President of the Institution, and Provost Jim Todd of East Ayrshire Council on 25th April 2014.


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