The LMS / LNWR swingbridge in Oxford is one of only two scheduled monument swing bridges in England and is the last significant hand operated main-line rail swingbridge in existence in Britain.
It sits astride the Sheepwash Channel, which links the River Thames into the Oxford Canal. Its location, adjacent to the current high-level railway bridge, is somewhat confusing now, surrounded by modern town housing on the site of the former LNWR goods yard.
Built in 1850 to a design by Robert Stephenson, it is understood to be the earliest moving-element railway bridge in Britain to retain its original mechanism. It connected the LNWR (later LMS) Rewley Road station to the south (now demolished and moved to Quainton Railway Centre) with the LNWR locomotive depot and lines to Bicester and Bletchley, to the north. It enabled the lines to cross the Sheepwash Channel whilst still allowing boats to pass along what was then an important commercial waterway into Oxford.
The bridge was rebuilt about 1890 and the majority of the surviving structure is from that period. Rewley Road station closed in 1951, with the remaining services diverted into the main station, though the coal yard continued in use until 1984, when the bridge was fixed in the open position.
It got a scheduled monument listing in 1993, when the surrounding railway land was being sold off for housing, and is currently owned by Network Rail. However there has been a very active campaign for preservation by the Oxford Preservation Trust, who have managed to raise mush of the funding needed for restoration. In the next few months, ownership will be handed to the trust from Network Rail and work will commence. There’s still a shortfall in the funding required, if you are able to help please contact the trust.
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