The fabled Skerne Bridge is located in Darlington, northern England. The bridge which was constructed in 1825, spans the River Skerne. It recently celebrated its 195th year since its opening and is currently the oldest operative railway bridge in the world.
Back then, designing and establishing a bridge capable of withstanding the heavy loads of railways was extremely challenging. Similar facilities were mostly used by people and horses, therefore, a railway bridge was a revolutionary project at that time.
The bridge was initially designed by Ignatius Bonomi, an English architect and surveyor. The structure is made out of sandstone blocks and features a central arch. It was established to provide a passage for the Stockton and Darlington railway.
The railway was also the first to carry travelers using a steam train. “The bridge carried the first passenger trains and it will remain an essential part of Darlington’s railway for years to come,” Paul Rutter, route director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, stated.
Three years after its completion (1928), cracks appeared at the bridge after the embankments on both its sides settled. The following year, earth retaining walls made out of sandstone were erected at each corner of the bridge to stabilize the ground and prevent further cracking. The embankments are still visible today.
Years later, the bridge was retrofitted to enable double railway passages since it was designed with a single line. The south side of the structure remained the same but its north side was widened.
Half a century ago, the bridge was nominated as a "Scheduled Ancient Monument" and was characterized as an example of an early and well-preserved railway bridge.
Despite the fact that the facility had been well preserved over the years, the surrounding area was considered neglected. In 2016, an upgrade project to renovate the infrastructure around the bridge initiated. A cycleway and approach footpaths were established under the bridge. Construction works were completed a year later, celebrating the 192th anniversary of the bridge.
Recently, the structure received improvement works which included removing vegetation and cutting trees so that the bridge is more noticeable. Moreover, it was partially painted and graffiti was removed. According to Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, more upgrades are underway for the 200th anniversary of the bridge in 2025. “This is an important piece of railway history, and it is vital that it is protected and maintained for future generations to use and enjoy,” he said.
The video below shows a railway passing over the Skerne Bridge.