TRANSPORTER BRIDGES: A BRIEF HISTORY
The concept of transporter bridges - with passengers and vehicles travelling on a platform suspended from a high-level span - dates from the late 19th century; the world’s first example was opened in 1893, in Bilbao, Spain. Down-river from Warrington, the road transporter bridge between Widnes and Runcorn was opened in 1905 and survived until 1961 when it was replaced by a modern suspension bridge. Today, traffic has grown so much that a second fixed bridge is under construction. Others were built at Newport over the River Usk and at Middlesbrough, over the Tees, which has featured frequently in TV dramas, but the one at Warrington is believed to be the only one that carried railway rolling stock. Like the Widnes-Runcorn one, the original Warrington transporter bridge also opened in 1905. It was built to carry light goods and passengers to the cement manufacturing works on the site and also carried a pipeline for carbonate sludge. It survived until the 1960s. When the current bridge opened ten years later, slightly to the south, it meant that three of the world’s handful of transporter bridges were on the River Mersey, according to an article in Towpath Talk magazine by canals writer Harry Arnold. In later rail-operated years, wagons were hauled around the site by a Fowler 0-4-0 diesel shunter, Persil, named after Crosfield’s best-known product and now preserved at the Ribble Steam Railway.