Heritage Locations

Truro Viaduct

The longest of the forty two railway viaducts in Cornwall which replaced an original by Brunel.


Period of construction:
1900 - 1949

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Station Road, Truro TR1 3HH


Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

The Cornwall Railway, built to the 2.14 m (7 ft 0¼ in) broad gauge, ran from Plymouth to Falmouth. The section from Plymouth to Truro opened in 1859 when the Saltash Bridge was opened. The extension to Falmouth was completed in 1863. The original section remains open as part of the London to Penzance main line, the Truro to Falmouth line being operated as a branch. It was leased by the South Devon, Bristol & Exeter and Great Western Railways and in 1889, the Cornwall amalgamated with its three associate companies.

The Cornwall Railway viaducts were mostly built on stone piers but with spans of timber fans. This design was chosen by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in order to reduce the cost of their construction, but at the expense of high maintenance costs. The route crossed forty five rivers and deep valleys. Of these forty two were crossed by timber viaducts of various types. The remainder were the River Tamar at Saltash crossed on the Royal Albert Bridge, the River Fowey at Lostwithiel crossed by a low three-span viaduct (two spans being timber, the central one iron), and the river and canal at Par crossed on a five-arch low stone viaduct.

Replacement of the viaducts started in 1875 but led to a dispute between the Cornwall Railway and the Great Western Railway which leased the line. The lease precluded the conversion of the broad gauge line to standard gauge, and the Cornwall Railway refused to pay for the widening of the viaducts during rebuilding to accommodate a double line of standard gauge tracks (it had been built as a single-track line).

Following the amalgamation of the two companies on 1 July 1889, all the remaining viaducts were replaced, those between Saltash and St Germans being replaced by a deviation line, the remainder being either rebuilt in situ or having a replacement viaduct built immediately alongside. Because of this, many of Brunel's original piers still remain today.

The longest viaduct in Cornwall is at Truro. It was built of stone in 1904 and is 405 m (1,329 ft) long with sixteen arches and a maximum height of 26 m (86 ft). It was the last replacement of a Brunel viaduct. From the train, it provides a magnificent view of the city. Alongside it, fourteen of the original Brunel piers are still standing. 


Biddle, Gordon, Britain's Historic Railway Buildings, Oxford University Press, ISBN-10: 0198662475 (2003)

Biddle, Gordon & Nock, O.S., The Railway Heritage of Britain : 150 years of railway architecture and engineering, Studio Editions, ISBN-10: 1851705953 (1990)

Biddle, Gordon and Simmons, J. The Oxford Companion to British Railway History. ISBN 0 19 211697 5 (1997)

Binding, John, Brunel's Cornish Viaducts, Atlantic Transport Publishers, ISBN 0-906899-56-7 (1993)

Clinker, C.R., The Railways of Cornwall 1809 - 1963, David and Charles, (1963)

Conolly, W. Philip, British Railways Pre-Grouping Atlas And Gazetteer, Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 0-7110-0320-3 (1958/97)

MacDermot, E. T., History of the Great Western Railway, volume II 1863-1921, Great Western Railway (1931)

Osler, Edward, History of the Cornwall Railway 1835-1846, Avon-Anglia Publications, ISBN 0-905466-48-9 (1982)

Smith, Martin, British Railway Bridges and Viaducts, ISBN 0 7110 2273 9 (1994)

Woodfin, R. J., The Cornwall Railway, Bradford Barton (1972) 

Opening Times:
Visible at all times.

How To Find:
By road: Off A39. The viaduct crosses the northern part of the city and is best seen from Treseder's Gardens, off B3284, St Clement Street.


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