Caher viaduct, co Tipperary (1852)

From the earliest days of railways in Ireland, there were plans for a line linking the southern port of Waterford with the western port of Limerick. The route chosen, after some debate, was Waterford-Carrick-on-Suir-Clonmel-Caher-Limerick, following for much of its route the river Suir. At the historic town of Caher in south county Tipperary, the railway made its only crossing of that river, just west of the station building.

Construction was much delayed by financial problems and the onset of famine. In March 1851, The Builder noted that the famous railway engineer William Dargan was in the town of Caher, that a loan of £300,000 had been received from the government, and that it was hoped the line would be opened as far as Clonmel by the end of the year (8 Mar. 1851, vol. 9, no. 422, p. 152).

Later in October an update was given, stating that the line from Limerick to Caher would be open by November 1851, and to Clonmel by the end of the year (25 Oct. 1851, vol. 9, no. 455, p. 679). The new station houses at Caher and Clonmel were reported as complete by September 1852 (18 Sept. 1852, vol. 10, no. 502, pp. 599-600). The same article said that a design for the viaduct by Dargan had been approved, noting ”This bridge, with embankments, will be 800 feet long.’

The viaduct’s romantic medievalising architecture, echoing the fabric of the town itself and in particular Caher Castle to the south, should not detract from its less than happy history: it has twice collapsed, in the 1950s, and in 2003 (there were fatalities in the first of these accidents). Now it has been very substantially rebuilt. The delicate ‘half-turrets’ of the intermediate piers have been lost over time, probably after the 1950s reconstruction work (contrast below with this). Down by the river bed can be seen the damage caused to the east plinth by the derailed carriages crashing through the deck. Ironically the line now only carries the lightest of traffic from Limerick Junction to Waterford, and its future is very much in doubt.

On my visit the river Suir was in flood, and the light conditions not ideal. Here is the map link.






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