This page shows photographs of the of the progress of the Great Central Railway ‘Bridging the Gap’ project in Loughborough - restoring the rail link between the north of the GCR and the south of the GCR(N), that was removed in the 1980s (see the Old Photographs Section).
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This exciting project involves some major civil engineering tasks:
The intention is to update this page as work on the project progresses.
The first, and the major, civil engineering task of the project was the construction of the bridge over the Midland Main Line, which is now completed save for the final blue facing bricks.
9/4/17. Work has started next to Preci-Spark, on the south side of the Midland Main Line, with the original embankment being reduced in height. On the right is the Hermitage Brook.
9/4/17. Reducing the embankment has revealed the method of construction of the original GCR bridge abutment. The embankment on the north side can be seen beyond the fence to the right of the signals, 9/4/17.
16/4/17. On the south side of the Midland Mainline the old embankment has been greatly reduced, but still a couple of feet high has been left and is being covered with chippings. Most of the old
abutment will be retained.
Passing is 66019 with a northbound Network Rail works train.
16/4/17. A piling auger has arrived and is positioned on the north side of the Midland Mainline ready to bore the holes for the piling.
16/4/17. Nearby, steel reinforcing assemblies for the concrete piles are being built up.
The original pile boring machine left soon after the last report on 16/4/17, and there was little change from then until a new pile boring machine arrived on 26/5/17. This larger machine is required because of the higher than expected water table, though this has increased the cost of the project — see http://www.gcrailway.co.uk/unify/. So work should restart soon.
28/5/17. The larger pile boring machine stands on the left inside the work compound on the north side of the Midland Mainline.
9/6/17. The pile boring machine stands aside while concrete is poured into a bored hole next to the north side of the Midland Main Line.
9/6/17. Concrete being poured into a pile hole next to the north side of the Midland Main Line.
23/6/17. After completing some of the piles on the north side, the pile boring machine was moved overnight to the south side.
6/8/17. Abutments are being built by forming walls from concrete sections around the piles, inserting reinforcing bars and then filling with ready-mix concrete. On the south side the new abutment is situated between the old GCR brick abutment and the Midland Main Line.
6/8/17. The bridge abutments are progressing where the piles were inserted.
10/8/17. Steel structures are being erected on the concrete foundations of the abutments.
27/8/17. An enormous Liebherr LG 1750 crane has been used to put the abutment cappings in place and will be used to place the bridge into position.
27/8/17. A Meridian on a Nottingham to St. Pancras service passes the gap, which is about ready to take the new bridge, and the Liebherr LG 1750 crane that has been used to put the abutment cappings in place and will be used to place the bridge into position.
3/9/17 The side beams of the new bridge were delivered and installed in the early hours of Sunday 3rd September
3/9/17, 02:05am. The steel ropes are attached to the first side beam of the bridge after delivery by lorry. A Great Central Railway “Bridge to the Future” banner has also been attached.
3/9/17, 02:15am. The first side beam of the bridge is slowly lifted off the lorry, with perfect weather for the operation; dry and with little breeze.
3/9/17. The first side beam of the bridge (the west side) is gently lowered into position on the abutments.
3/9/17. The west side beam of the bridge is fixed to the abutments, about 37 years after the original bridge was removed.
3/9/17. Later that day, an Intercity 125 on the 1F39, 13:55, St Pancras International to Sheffield passes under this new feature over the the Midland Main Line. The banner that was in place during installation has been removed.
3/9/17. From the south side of the Midland Main Line the box-section construction of the side beams can be easily seen. The deck is to be fitted later.
It is readily apparent that the new bridge has been slewed slightly to the east of the original embankment here (the end wall of which can be seen to the left behind the white vehicle), to give room around Preci-Spark.
March 2018. The bridge is nearing completion with just the final facing blue bricks and the handrails needing fitting on the north side. Here 66088 passes under the new bridge with a Network Rail ballast train.
February 2018. On the south side Preci-Spark have had their carpark reinstated. A viaduct will be built over the edge of the carpark.
The original GCR bridge over the Grand Union Canal in Loughborough was never removed after closure of the line and remains in place approximately 120 years after it was constructed. Detailed examination of the bridge has shown that it is substantially sound though some reconditioning is required due to corrosion after all this time. A target of £475,000 has been set to start on the work, and if the money can be raised then it is planned that the work will be carried out when traffic on the canal is very light over the winter of 2018/2019.
For more information visit the Great Central Railway site at http://www.gcrailway.co.uk/unify/.
March 2018. The GCR bridge over the Grand Union Canal, looking west.
March 2018. The GCR bridge over the Grand Union Canal, looking north towards ‘The Gap’. Laying over the right side of the bridge are corroded tubes which carried fibre optic cables as part of a national network—these have now been disconnected.
March 2018. The GCR bridge over the Grand Union Canal, looking south towards the locomotive shed and Loughborough station. The locomotive shed occupies the original trackbed, and since the shed cannot readily be relocated, it is proposed to route the track to the right of the shed.
March 2018. The bridge is substantially OK, but has some corrosion which will need to be fixed. The work has been assessed as possible without having to crane the bridge out.
March 2018. The new bridge over the Midland Main Line is just beyond the old abutment of the GCR at Railway Terrace, which requires a bridge across. The road on the right leads to the Domestic Refuse Tip.
December 2013. Bridges removed from Reading during a Network Rail upgrade which are proposed to be used to bridge Railway Terrace. Here they are shown temporarily stored on the 3M site next to the GCR Loughborough station, before being moved to storage elsewhere since this site is being redeveloped.
British Rail removed the railway embankment from north of the canal bridge to Railway Terrace in the 1980s and used the material to build the chord from the GCR(N) to the Midland Main Line before the bridge over the main line was removed (see the Old Photographs Section).
March 2018. The site of the missing embankment looking south from Railway Terrace. One of the Preci-Spark buildings is on the left and the apex of the roof of the GCR locomotive shed can just be made out to the left of centre.
September 2017. The site of the missing embankment looking north from the bridge over the canal. The crane in the distance was ready to lift the new bridge over the Midland Main Line into position.
When all of the work of rebuilding bridges and the embankment is completed there will still be a large amount of work required in laying track and signalling.
March 2018. Looking south at the back of Loughborough locomotive shed, with its end wall visible in the centre. It is proposed that the new track across ‘The Gap’ will be laid to the right of the shed, requiring this area to be tidied up.
For more information about ‘Bridging the Gap’ visit the Great Central Railway site at http://www.gcrailway.co.uk/unify/.
© 2001-2018 Text and photographs copyright Nigel Tout, unless otherwise indicated.