Portumna bridge, co Offaly (1911)

A non-railway structure for a change: Portumna bridge (1911), over the river Shannon. Located around a mile east of the town of Portumna, this bridge crosses the Shannon at Hayes’ Island, and forms part of the N65 road from Portumna to Borrisokane (and Birr). The lifting section is still in operation, with the times posted near the bridge. It replaced an important pre-Famine bridge which was described in some detail in an article by Thomas Rhodes in the Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, 1 June 1844, pp. 245-46 (see below). Here is the map link (the 25″ map does not appear to load correctly).

Description of pre-Famine bridge, demolished c. 1911, and illustrated here: ‘[Thomas Rhodes] describes a bridge which has been erected across the river Shannon at Portumna, to form a communication between the counties Galway and Tipperary, at the spot where a timber bridge formerly stood. The present structure is composed of straight cast iron girders, resting piers formed of timber piles, leaving thirteen openings of 18 feet 6 span each between the Tipperary shore and Hayes Island, and twelve openings of the same span between the island and the outer pier of the swivel bridge, which is 40 feet 6 inches span, and is close to the Galway shore. The total length of the bridge is 558 feet 6 inches, exclusive of the width of Hayes Island, upon the centre of which are placed the toll house, and a stone obelisk [seemingly demolished c. 1911?] commemorative of the building of the bridge under the direction the Commissioners of the Public Works for Ireland…Extracts from the journal of Mr. Smith, the superintendent of the works, give the dates of the commencement and termination of the several parts from which it appears, that the first stone of the abutments was laid on 13th September, 1838, and that the whole structure was finished on the 13th January, 1842.’

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Looking west, with the lifting section in the distance.

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The view north of the river Shannon: the next crossing is at Banagher, co Offaly, and then at Shannonbridge and Athlone.

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The western section of the bridge, showing the lifting section in the distance.

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