Demolition of the Dillichip Bridge
Dillichip Bridge No More – Almost
Dillichip Bridge which carried the railway siding from Alexandria Station to the former UTR Dillichip Works is no more – almost. Work has being going on for a month now (October – November 2014) to dismantle the Bridge, which was built in 1876, although the final stages have proved a little bit more difficult than anticipated. Gordon Burns in his book, Bridging the Leven gives a history of the Bridge including its more recent use as a pedestrian bridge. It was as recently as December 2004 that Dillichip Bridge was closed to the public and stripped to a basic structure.
There will be few in the Vale who remember the railway line in use by a Dillichip Works engine or Pug taking railway wagons between the Works and the main line. The line ran between the west side of Vale of Leven FC’s Millburn Park and what are now the Vale Academy’s playing fields. We’re not sure when the railway line became derelict, but Dillichip Works was closed by the UTR in the late 1930’s. After the outbreak of World War 2, the Works was taken over by REME and used, amongst other things as a repair depot e.g. to repair Army motor cycles. Perhaps the military continued to use the line at this time.
In any event, it was certainly disused by the late 1940’s. However, it came back into use for pedestrian access to the new Vale Academy from Bonhill (and eventually the hillside estates) when the new school opened at Place of Bonhill in the summer of 1962, as can be seen from the aerial photo. In the event, it never had the volume of traffic over it that the other ex-railway bridge now pathway – the Stirling Bridge which links Jamestown and Rosshead – has maintained over the years.
Although it carried important water and gas pipes across the Leven, its closure in 2004 to pedestrians made its dismantling inevitable at sometime. Work started on this in October 2014 and the first things to go were the pipes, which were cut up on site. The large crane which can be seen in the photographs was a key feature of the dismantling work, but even it was defeated for a time by an unexpected feature of the original building of the bridge – the central truss seems to have been more securely attached to the piers than the demolition engineers had planned for. The trusses of bridges are typically loosely fitted to allow for expansion and movement, but not the central one at Dillichip. What was expected to be a half-hour lift by the crane became a lot longer than that as the truss refused to budge and the workmen have had to figure out both the problem and a solution. So the central span, minus the bed of the bridge which carried the track, still stands in the river but both of the end trusses on either bank have been removed.
It remains to be seen what is going to happen to the stone piers, two of which stand in the river, but in every other respect Dillichip Bridge 1876 – 2014 will soon be just another Vale memory.
We’re grateful to Benjy Boyle for most of the following photos.
Centre Span Unattached
Bonhill Side Unattached
Railtrack Bed Removed
Alexandria/Renton Side Unattached