Royal Albert Bridge Plymouth
River Tamar
Devon PL5 1LB
 
 
 
 
The two bridges crossing the Tamar River and the boundary between Cornwall and Devon are well known Plymouth landmarks.
 
The modern road bridge was built in 1961 but the Royal Albert railway bridge is 150 years old and an Isambard Kingdom Brunel masterpiece. Its unique shape consists of two lens-shaped iron trusses 100 feet (30.5 metres) above the water with conventional plate-girder approach spans. The total length of the bridge is 187.5 feet (666.8 metres) and it carries the main rail line to Cornwall.
 
Bridge Construction
The top chord of each main truss is comprised of a heavy tubular arch in compression, while the bottom chord comprises a pair of chains. Each of the trusses is simply supported and therefore no horizontal thrust is exerted on the piers, which is crucial in view of the curved track on either side.
 
Between these two chords are supporting cross-bracing members and suspension standards which hang beneath the bottom chord to carry the railway deck which is a continuous plate beam.
 
It took Brunel 6 years to perfect the design and construction began in 1854. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert opened the bridge in May 1859 but Brunel was too ill to attend; he died just 4 months later aged 63 years.
 
In large metal letters above the portals on each end are the words “I K Brunel Engineer 1859” – a memorial to this amazing engineer and entrepreneur. For admirers of this man’s work the Brunel Museum in Rotherhythe, London is well worth a visit.
 
Getting up close to the Bridge
It is still possible to travel over the bridge by using a train on the Cornish Main Line, and pass below it on the River Tamar. Cruise boats operate between Phoenix Wharf, Plymouth, Saltash, and Calstock. There are also several view points around the bridge.
 
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Viewpoints
An excellent view of Brunel’s bridge can be obtained from the toll-free foot and cycle path on the south side of the Tamar Road Bridge. An area of grass beside the motor vehicle toll booths gives a view of the Devon end of the railway bridge.
 
The Devon piers can be reached from the waterfront at St Budeaux. The yard where the spans were constructed was situated alongside the bridge at the foot of the road down the hill (St Budeaux Passage).
 
At Saltash Quay in Cornwall, the foreshore at Saltash runs right up to the pier that supports the Cornish end of the main span. An inscribed stone commemorating the bridge can be found beneath on the hillside alongside Fore Street.
 
Saltash Station Platform ends just before the run on to the bridge so it is a great place to catch a view of a train coming over it. A new commemorative plaque was unveiled at Saltash station on 4 May 2009 to recognise the 150th anniversary of the bridge.
 
A Brunel Masterpiece
For Architecture and train buffs, a visit to this Brunel masterpiece is a must.
 
Google Map - Royal Albert Bridge