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Since the 24th October through till the 1st November the railway through the Calder valley has been severed in both directions to allow for some very important work to take place at Todmorden. A £3.7m Great North Rail Project investment is seeing the 1840-built Grade II listed structure grit blasted to its bare metal to allow structural repairs to take place.

180-year-old bridge designed by railway pioneer George Stephenson is a skew bridge over the Rochdale canal. The single 31 m (102 ft) cast iron span, consists of a pair of bowed ribs with vertical hangars projected above the ribs in an ornamental Gothic arcade. The abutments are semi-octagonal castellated turrets. The whole structure looks very grand and must have been incredibly impressive in its day, projecting the power of the new railways.

Meanwhile, Taylors bridge, which carries the railway over Rose Bank Road just to the West of Todmorden station has been completely reconstructed with two disused sections permanently removed as part of the same investment.

Sadly, due to other commitments and the lousy weather we’ve been having, I didn’t have chance to visit and record the work until Friday 3oth, by which time Taylors bridge had been replaced, with all the old spans removed and the new ones dropped into place by a huge crane (which had already left the site. Network Rail and its contractors were busy replacing the track, ready for services to restart. Here’s a selection of images from my visit.

Trains from Leeds were terminated at Hebden Bridge where there’s a crossover that allows them to reverse and work back ‘right line’. Here’s 195128 which was preparing to do exactly that after depositing me. From Manchester, services were terminating at Rochdale, whilst a rail replacement bus service worked between the two points.
My rail replacement bus was this ex-Transport for London vehicle which I many well have used when it worked on the capital’s route 25!
With Todmorden station in the background, ‘team orange’ are replacing track over the new Taylors bridge. Concrete sleepers had been put into place earlier and the engineers are busy clipping new rails into place over them.
The days of moving rails using teams of men have largely disappeared. Nowadays the work has been mechanised. Here, a road rail vehicle (RRV) has been fitted with a special extendable arm to move lengths of rail.
A few hours later the rails have all been installed and the RRV has changed tools. Now, fitted with a bucket, it’s being used to spread ballast over the new sleepers before a tamping machine arrives to consolidate the stones and adjust the line and level of the new track to ensure its fit for passenger service on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, here’s George Stephenson’s 1840 bridge over the Rochdale canal at Gauxholme. Most of the bridge has been cocooned in sheeting to protect the workers from the elements but also to cut down on noise and dust from the grit-blasting. As you can see, people are living very close to the work.
A closer look at the Todmorden end of the bridge. Track has been removed to allow inspections to take place whilst the parts of the bridge facing the track have already been grit-blasted and treated whilst the line’s been closed as it would be impossible to carry out this work with trains still running.

Despite the awful weather we’ve been having whilst the work’s been going on (including this weekend, there high winds and heavy rain as I’m writing this on Sunday evening!) it’s expected that the railway will be open to traffic on Monday morning.

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