William Evans and the Conwy Bridge
| The Conwy tubular bridge and the Britannia
tubular bridge across the Menai Strait were both designed by Robert Stephenson
for the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company and were the first of their type.
The first built was the Conwy bridge which is one of three bridges now adjacent
to the castle. It was built in 1848 and still carries rail traffic. An earlier
suspension bridge designed by Thomas Telford was built in 1826 to carry road
traffic but is now closed, having been replaced in 1958 by a modern concrete
structure. Since then a further crossing has been provided in the form of
a road tunnel.
Original Litho of Conwy Bridge
Train emerging from bridge, passing castle
Telford's bridge (L) and Tubular Bridge (R) from castle
Two books provide evidence that the Conwy rail bridge was built by William Evans.
|The Britannia And Conway Tubular
Bridges by Edwin Clark, Resident Engineer
Published by Day and Son, and John Weale, London.
Viewed at Conwy Library, High St Conwy, 16th August 1993.
of the Construction of the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges,
by William Fairbairn CE (MICE),
Published by John Weal, 59 High Holburn, London, 1849.
Viewed in the library of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 24 Great George St, Westminster, 30th July 1993
The book gives many details of the testing of model tubes and the construction of the two bridges. It also contains a number of letters between Fairbairn and Stephenson. It has several references to `Evans' as the principal contractor but does not identify him further. The excerpts below also give some indication of the considerable scale of the work, its technological inovation and Evans' obvious success in the venture.
(p.131; Stephenson to Fairbairn, undated:)
(p.137; Fairbairn to Stephenson, 2nd February
(p.143; Stephenson to Fairbairn, Nov 31st 1847:)
(p.154:) "... During the progress of the construction of the tubes for the Britannia Bridge, the machine work was found (according to the opinion of Mr Mare, the contractor) both expensive and inconvenient on account of the size and great weight of the plates, and the difficulty of suspending them over the machine. These drawbacks were not however experienced by Mr Evans, the contractor for the Conway tubes, who overcame every difficulty by the introduction of powerful travelling cranes, which enabled him to rivet the greater part of the bottom and sides of both tubes by the machine."
(p.156; Stephenson to Fairbairn, 23rd August 1847:)
(p.159; Fairbairn to Stephenson, 24th Dec 1847:)
(p.160:) ... About this time Mr Stephenson expressed a desire that everything connected with the transport of the tube, particularly the pontoons which had to float it, should be minutely examined. This was accordingly done; and the vessels which had been constructed by Mr Evans the contractor, appeared defective, both as regards workmanship and construction, considerable alterations were ordered to be made; by the introduction of strong bulkheads, decks, and tie bars, and by a thorough recaulking, the pontoons were rendered perfectly secure and fitted for the work they had to perform.
Of interest is the list of subscribers to the publication of Edwin Clark's book which include: