Stockport Viaduct

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Stockport Viaduct
Stockport Viaduct in 2012.jpg
Stockport Viaduct
Stockport Viaduct is located in Greater Manchester
Stockport Viaduct
Location within Greater Manchester
General information
Town or cityStockport, Greater Manchester
Coordinates53°24′33″N 2°09′51″W / 53.4091°N 2.1642°W / 53.4091; -2.1642Coordinates: 53°24′33″N 2°09′51″W / 53.4091°N 2.1642°W / 53.4091; -2.1642
Construction started1839
ClientManchester and Birmingham Railway
Technical details
Structural systemBrick arch
Design and construction
EngineerGeorge W. Buck

Stockport Viaduct carries the West Coast Main Line across the valley of the River Mersey in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England (grid reference SJ89089030). It is one of the largest brick structures in the United Kingdom.

Stockport Viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. In 1839, work commenced and around 11,000,000 bricks were used in its construction before it was completed in 1840; the viaduct is 33.85 metres (111.1 ft) high.[1][note 1] At the time of its construction, it was the world's largest viaduct and a major feat of Victorian engineering. Stockport Viaduct is a Grade II* listed structure,[2] and remains one of the world's biggest brick structures.[1]

In the late 1880s, the viaduct was widened to accommodate four tracks instead of two. In the 1960s, overhead catenary lines were installed by British Rail for the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme. In the second half of the 20th century, the M60 motorway, was built, passing through two arches between Junction 1 (A5145 road) and Junction 27 (Portwood Roundabout).


Background and design[edit]

The viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck of the Manchester and Birmingham Railway to cross the River Mersey. Buck worked with the architect John Lowe;[3] the line of the viaduct was partially occupied by the engine house of Wear Mill which was built in 1831. The viaduct was built directly over it with piers at either side of the engine house; the viaduct was historically known as Edgeley Viaduct.[3][4]

Stockport Viaduct is 33.8 meters above the bed of the River Mersey, 546.2 metres long and when built was 9.4 metres wide.[3] It has 22 semi-circular arches with spans of 19.2 metres and is flanked by pair of abutment arches of 5.5 metre span. The arch rings are 900mm thick;[3] the arches and spandrels are built of red brick set in lime mortar with ashlar spring courses. The deck parapets are 2.2 meters high on either side. The distance between the arch crowns and the top of the parapets is 3.6 metres.[3] The red brick piers are 3 metres thick and 12.2 metres high.[3] They are solid up to 7.9 metres above the springings above which they have 685mm thick walls filled with ballast. The piers at the abutments have rusticated facings;[3] the original track bed was 8.7 metres wide, ballasted with sandstone from cuttings along the railway. Track drainage was via 100mm diameter iron pipes through the piers.[3]


The viaduct circa 1854

Several contractors were employed in the viaduct's construction including John Tomkinson and Samuel and John Holme.[3] Work was overseen by the resident engineer W. Adams and later by W.H. Perkins.[3]

At the peak of the work, around 600 workers were employed in shifts to complete the structure; the viaduct was built of layer upon layer of common brick.[4] It took 21 months to construct, cost £72,000 and around 11 million bricks and 11,300 cubic metres of stone were used;[3][2] the scaffolding and centring used to build the arches were reused in the construction of the Dane Viaduct 15 miles to the south.[3]

The Manchester to Stockport line was officially opened on 4 June 1840,[5] but the viaduct was not completed until 21 December 1840.[3] On 16 July 1841, the first train crossed the viaduct and it was opened to rail traffic on 10 August 1842 enabling through services to Crewe and facilitating travel to London.[3][6]

Operational life[edit]

The first section of the Manchester & Birmingham line ran from a temporary station in Travis Street Manchester to a temporary station at Heaton Norris on the Lancashire side of the Stockport Viaduct, it opened for traffic on 4 June 1840 and carried nearly 2,000 passengers per day in the second half of that year. On 10 May 1842, train services were extended from Heaton Norris to Sandbach when Store Street in Manchester opened.

The widening of the viaduct

In the late 1880s, the viaduct was widened to accommodate four tracks;[3] the London and North Western Railway, formed in 1846, sought to have four tracks so that slower trains could be accommodated. Between 1887 and 1889, the viaduct was widened by approximately 6.8 metres along one side. The engineer Francis Stephenson retained the dimensions and form of the viaduct for the additional work.[3] Additional tapered piers were built and another abutment arch at the Stockport end was added to carry the wider deck.[3]

In 1929, the arch above Heaton Lane was repaired after several bricks fell from the soffit;[3] the degraded condition of the brickwork was attributed to unseasonably high temperatures in the summers of 1915–1917 which had caused raising in the viaduct's track and parapet. Areas of damaged brickwork were replaced with reinforced concrete, the arch was re-grouted and steel rails were installed.[3]

Street-level view of the Stockport Viaduct. Note the presence of the overhead electrification gantries

In the 1960s, overhead catenary lines were installed for the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme.[7]

On 10 March 1975, the viaduct was granted Grade II* listed building status.[3] In 1989, the viaduct was restored at an estimated cost of £3 million; the brickwork was cleaned to improve its appearance[3] and floodlights were installed to illuminate it at night time.[6]

In the second half of the 20th century, the M60 motorway around Manchester, was constructed,[3] its three-lane carriageways pass through two of the viaduct's arches between Junction 1 (A5145 road) and Junction 27 (Portwood Roundabout).[3]

In late 2007, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council objected to service changes by CrossCountry, which had proposed to reduce the number of Manchester to Birmingham trains stopping at Stockport by 50 per cent. Councillor David White claimed that an 1840 Act of Parliament guaranteed that all trains passing over the viaduct had to stop at Stockport station.[8] In response Labour MP Andrew Gwynne stated "Sadly no such Act of Parliament exists, although it is common currency in the town that it does. I made enquiries with the House of Commons Library and the Parliamentary Archives back at the time some intercity trains stopped using Stockport, it appears it is purely an urban myth."[9]

In 2011, the viaduct was refurbished by Network Rail but by 2018 its condition had declined, limestone staining (caused by failing waterproofing measures) and graffiti are present in multiple areas; local authorities are considering legal action to force Network Rail to address its condition.[10][11]

The viaduct is mentioned in literature in the introduction to the Northern Mill Towns in Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. In the creative arts, it has been portrayed in works by L.S. Lowry.[3]

Stockport rail accident 1948[edit]

A rail accident on the viaduct occurred on 30 November 1948 at 19:40 when in the darkness and thick fog a Buxton train ran into the back of a Crewe and Disley train that was stopped at the signal at the south of the viaduct waiting for a platform. Although the collision was at 10–15 mph, because of the inertial mass of four locomotives, the last (eleventh) coach of the Crewe–Disley service telescoped into the tenth carriage. Five people were killed and 27 were seriously injured; the impact point was approximately in the centre of the viaduct. The inspector attributed the cause to the driver of the lead engine of the Buxton train, which was stopped at a signal just south of Heaton Norris railway station misinterpreting a shout from the assistant porter as having been from the guard giving permission to proceed, which the guard should have obtained from the signal box under Rule 55; as the signal was not visible in the dense fog: The train passed the signal at danger.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ c.f. Göltzsch Viaduct in eastern Germany.


  1. ^ a b Historic England. "Stockport Railway Viaduct (76880)". PastScape. Retrieved 25 April 2008.
  2. ^ a b Historic England. "Stockport Viaduct (1356861)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 29 February 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x “Stockport Viaduct.” ‘’’’, Retrieved: 11 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b Edgeley Viaduct, Stockport, about 1890, Science and Society Picture Library, [1]
  5. ^ Francis Whishaw, The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described, J. Weale, 1842, p. 306 google books
  6. ^ a b Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. "Stockport Viaduct". Archived from the original on 13 March 2008. Retrieved 24 October 2008.
  7. ^ John Andrew Fairhurst. "Stockport Viaduct". Retrieved 20 April 2008.
  8. ^ Morley, Victoria (14 November 2007). "Stop! Trains just 'passing through'". Stockport Express. M.E.N. Media.
  9. ^ Gwynne, Andrew (29 August 2012). "Rail services to London via Stockport to be retained – MP". Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  10. ^ Scapens, Alan. "Legal action could be taken against Network Rail over state of Stockport Viaduct.", 6 February 2018.
  11. ^ Scapens, Alan. "Stockport Viaduct is filthy and badly needs waterproofing. But it's not going to happen any time soon...", 24 April 2018.
  12. ^ “Report on the Collision which occurred on 30 November 1948, at Stockport in the London Midland Region British Railways.” ‘’’’, Retrieved: 7 August 2013.

External links[edit]