Heritage Locations

Keadby Sliding Drawbridge

A unique sliding drawbridge over a canal on the railway  between Doncaster and Scunthorpe.


Period of construction:
1900 - 1949

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Althorpe Railway Station, Althorpe, Scunthorpe, DN17 3HL

DN17 3HL

Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

A crossing of the Stainforth & Keadby Canal by the railway was first made in 1866. The previous bridge was a swing bridge with its pivot located at the other side of the canal to the drawbridge. Some of the remains of the foundations for the swing bridge can still be discerned. One of the main reasons for using a sliding bridge was to facilitate replacement of the old swing bridge, minimising disruption to rail services.

The sliding bridge was constructed in 1925 by Sir William Arrol of Dalmarnock (Glasgow). The structure and much of the mechanism remains original. An interesting feature of the bridge is that it is battery operated. Whilst the bridge is not in use a set of 64 batteries, similar to those used in submarines, are being trickle charged. The bridge is operated using electrical power provided by the batteries. The batteries act as a back up system and they provide DC power to the motors which was originally controlled using a tramcar type of controller.

The bridge comprises an open riveted steel framework which is rectangular on plan and which the railway passes over on a skew. In the railway opened position it is supported on the nose abutment, the front wedges and the rear wedges.

Control of the bridge is by a railway signalman from the adjacent signal cabin. An interlock with the railway signalling system ensures that the bridge cannot be opened unless rail traffic is prevented from crossing the bridge.

The main actuators of the bridge are a set of hydraulically driven lifting jacks, two sets of electrically driven wedges and an electrically driven winch haulage drive which operates through an open gearbox with a six foot diameter differential gear.

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, Oxford, ISBN 0 19 211697 5 (1997)

Bonavia, Michael, Historic Railway Sites in Britain, Hale, ISBN 0 7090 3156 4 (1987)

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

Jowett, Alan, Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland,  Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0086-1. (March 1989)

Morgan, Bryan, Railways: Civil Engineering, Arrow, ISBN 0 09 908180 6 (1973)

Morgan, Bryan, Railway Relics, Ian Allan, ISBN 0 7110 0092 1 (1969)

Simmons, J., The Railways of Britain, Macmillan, ISBN 0 333 40766 0 (1961-86)

Simmons, J. The Victorian Railway, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0 500 25110X (1991)

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

Turnock, David, An Historical Geography of Railways, Ashgate, ISBN 1 85928 450 7 (1998)

Opening Times:
Visible at all times, best seen from the canal.

How To Find:

By boat: Easiest to find from the canal, just west of Keadby.

By road: Take Trent Road westward out of Keadby and at Chapel Lane turn left. This leads to bridges over the railway and then the canal just west of the sliding bridge.

In Keadby there is also a swing road bridge over the canal adjacent to the locks leading down to the river Trent.


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