The Bridges


The Cornwall Railway Act received Royal Assent on 3rd August stipulating a route from Plymouth to West Cornwall, meaning the lower reaches of the Tamar would have to be bridged. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as Chief Designer and Engineer.

Also at this time.. Neptune was observed!


Watched by some 20,000 spectators, the first truss was floated out into the Cornish half of the river supported by two barges.


His Royal Highness Prince Albert officially opened the bridge on 2nd May 1859. Several thousand spectators attended that day, although guests from Cornwall were late for the ceremony as their train broke down at Liskeard. I.K. Brunel died of a stroke on the 15th September.

Also at this time.. Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ controversially provided scientific evidence on the evolution of animals, including humankind.


Introduction of the express service from London Paddington to Penzance with limited stops on 1st July. After a competition in a railway magazine the name ‘Cornish Riviera Express’ was chosen. The train left Paddington at 10:10 arriving in Penzance at 17:10. It still runs to this day.

Also at this time.. The Wright Brothers developed the first practical fixed wing aircraft named the ‘Wright Flyer III’


The Royal Albert Bridge approach spans were replaced. Work could not disrupt the running of the ‘Cornish Riviera Express’, the Great Western Railway’s premier train service from London Paddington to Cornwall.

Also at this time.. John Logie Baird carried out the first transatlantic television transmission between London and New York.


Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge completed and collapsed


US troops depart from Saltash Passage for the beaches of Normandy. In the build up to the invasion, images of the unique Royal Albert Bridge were blacked out to prevent revealing a vital position to the enemy.


Queues for the Saltash ferry were becoming unacceptable. Cornwall County Council and Plymouth City Council agreed that another crossing was required.

Also at this time.. The start of the Korean war.


Consulting Engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson completed a report offering four possible options for crossing the Tamar. This included two tunnels and two bridges.

Also at this time.. The first transatlantic telephone cable goes into operation from Newfoundland, Canada to Oban, Scotland.


The Tamar Bridge Act received Royal Assent.

Also at this time.. Launch of the USSR’s Sputnik 1 the world’s first artificial earth satellite.


The Royal Albert Bridge was floodlit from May to September to mark 100 years since it first opened. Other events included a firework display.

Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company Limited were appointed to build the Tamar Bridge and work began in July.

Also at this time.. The British Motor Corporation launched the Morris Mini designed by Alec Issigonis.


The Tamar Bridge was opened on 24th October 1961 and approximately 4000 vehicles used it each day.

Also at this time.. The Berlin Wall is erected separating East and West Berlin.


The Tamar Bridge was formally opened by HRH the Queen Mother on 26th April 1962 in a grand ceremony which involved a fly-past by four Shackleton aircraft and two naval frigates on the river.

Also at this time..The Cuban Missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.


The last locomotive hauled Cornish Riviera Express service was taken over by High Speed Trains.


An EU directive announced increased vehicle weights.

Also at this time.. Live Aid concerts held in London and Philadelphia raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia.


A decision was taken to strengthen the main deck and add two new lanes, following an assessment revealed the bridge would be unable to cope with 40 tonne vehicle loading in the long term.


Work started on adding two orthotropic cantilever lanes either side of the bridge, which traffic could run on while the original road deck was replaced.

Also at this time.. Work was slightly delayed owing to an influx of tourists travelling to Cornwall to watch the Solar eclipse of 11 August 1999.


Work was completed in 2001 at a total cost of £34 million.

Also at this time.. The Mars Odyssey was launched into Martian orbit to study geology, radiation in the environment and for signs of water.


The Tamar Bridge was officially reopened by Princess Anne on 26 April 2002, exactly forty years after the initial opening.

It was the world’s first suspension bridge to be widened using cantilevers, and the world’s first suspension bridge to be widened and strengthened while remaining open to traffic.


Work starts on refurbishment of Royal Albert Bridge.


HRH Princess Anne visits to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Tamar Bridge.

Also at this time.. CERN scientists announced the discovery of neutrinos breaking the speed of light. This was amended a year later, as neutrinos are consistent with the speed of light.


Work started in 2010 on refurbishment of the Royal Albert Bridge is completed.

Also at this time.. Queen Elizabeth II became Great Britain’s longest reigning monarch.


Cornish Riviera Express High Speed Trains replaced by Class 802’s.

Also at this time.. Flying Scotsman entered Cornwall for the first time in its history across the Royal Albert Bridge.


Bridging the Tamar visitor and learning centre opened its doors to celebrate the engineering legacy of the Tamar Estuary’s historic bridges.

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