Lansdowne Bridge: The Phenomenal Structure of Sindh Province

The Lansdowne Bridge Rohri at the city of Sukkur is a bridge over the Indus River between Sukkur and Rohri town of Sindh province, Pakistan. Any visitor to Sukkur-Rohri Pakistan is commonly awe struck by the greatest man made monuments in the place. They are two in number. One is the over 1 century old Lansdowne Bridge and the other is the Ayub Bridge.

A marvel of nineteenth-century engineering, the ‘longest ‘rigid’ girder bridge in the world’ at that time, it was started in the year of 1887. Its design was made by Sir Alexander Meadows Rendel; he designed the Lansdowne Bridge Rohri at Sukkur over the Indus River, which when it was completed in the year of 1889 was the largest cantilever bridge in the world. The girder work, weighing a massive 3,300 tons, was manufactured in the city of London by the agency of Westwood, Baillie and erected by F.E. Robertson, and Hecquet.

Background of Lansdowne Bridge Rohri

Indus was bridged at Attock in the year of 1887 and that permitted Railways in India to run from the Western most post of Khyber Pass to the eastern city of Calcutta.

India’s rail link to the port of Karachi city was although, yet broken at the Indus flowing between the towns of Rohri and Sukkur. Indus wasn’t bridged between Kotri and Hyderabad city either hence trains ran on Karachi-JamshoroLarkana-Sukkur route as early as the year of 1879 and then they were ferried across to Rohri and vice versa on a river ferry.

At Sukkur the river Indus flows through a gap in a range of low limestone hills and gets categorized into 2 channels (Sukkur and Rohri channels) by an island known as Bukkur. The Bukkur Island thus offers the best place for a river crossing. Bridging the channel between the areas of Bukkur and Rohri wasn’t so easy. The river bed here is not rocky but silty which made it complicated to construct a bridge pier. Hence, bridge designs were put forward to construct a bridge without a pillar. One such design was for an arched bridge but it wasn’t considered in the time period of 1870s. Interestingly later on in the year of 1962 the river was bridged utilizing a very similar design that came to be known as the Ayub arch.

History of Lansdowne Bridge Rohri

The Indus Valley State Railway had reached Sukkur in the year of 1879 and the steam ferry that transported eight wagons at a time period across the Indus between Rohri and Sukkur was discovered to be cumbersome and time-consuming. The ferry link became redundant when Lord Reay, Governor of Bombay, deputizing for Lord Lansdowne the viceroy, launched the Bridge on the day of March 25, 1889. As summer comes early to Sukkur and the heavy European-style uniforms of the time would have been uncomfortable, the opening ceremony took place early in the morning. At the event, Lord Reay unlocked a largely ornamental padlock which held shut the cumbersome iron gates guarding entry to the bridge. The collected dignitaries then walked across the bridge and adjourned to breakfast followed by toasts under a shaman. The bridge offered the railway link between the city of Lahore, in the heart of the granary of British India, and the port of Karachi city on the Arabian Sea.

When the great steel Ayub arch was built (1960–1962), railway traffic was moved there. About 100 feet apart, the 2 bridges seem like one from a distance. The Ayub arch became the world’s 3rd longest railway arch span and the 1st bridge in the world to have “the railway desk slung on coiled wire rope suspenders.” The consulting engineer was David B. Steinman of New York, proponent of ‘vocational aesthetics’. It charged about 2 crore rupees and the foundation stone was laid on the day of December 9, 1960. It was launched by President Muhammad Ayub Khan on the day of May 6, 1962.

Technical Briefs

Between the time period of 1872 and 1882 bridge survey was conducted and different people recommended 5 different bridge proposals. None of them was considered entirely feasible at that time period. An engineer by the name of Sir Alexander Rendel was then called in and he proposed a design consisting of 2 anchored cantilevers, each 310 feet long, carrying a suspended span of 200 feet in the middle. Fa, this design was believed to be feasible and after that came to be known as the Lansdowne Bridge Rohri. The girder work of this bridge was provided to Westwood, Baillie & Co. of London. The bridge was 1st put together in the contractor’s yard. The 170 ft tall cantilevers of the bridge when assembled made quite a conspicuous scene in London. By the year of 1887 the steel work started to arrive at the cities of Sukkur and Rohri. The bridge construction was then initiated under the supervision of F.E. Robertson and Hecquet. Their names are written to date on a plaque on each cantilever of the bridge.

The construction of Lansdowne Bridge was no joke. It is claimed that bridge designer did not thought much about how the bridge would be constructed in real life. Giant derricks, each weighing 240 tons and each being 230 ft in length had to be erected leaning out over the water and at the similar time they had to incline inwards in the plane at right-angles to the line of the bridge. And as if that was not complicated enough, horizontal tie girders 123 ft long and weighing 86 tons each had to be assembled at a height of 180 ft. This indeed was an issue in the time period of 1880s.

When both cantilevers were completed, work began on the center span. The bridge designer had intended that 200 feet long span would be assembled on boats and then hoisted up. This plan didn’t work in practical as Indus sustained to be quite violent six months of the year owing to floods. In the end, Robertson constructed another temporary bridge to give a platform on which the suspended span could be put together. The temporary staging weighed 56 tons. The permanent girder work of the 200 feet span was erected and riveted in 4 and half days. This is a good going even with today’s standards. In the time period of 1880s Robertson’s men did not have pneumatic tools or electric drives.

The Human and Monetary Cost of Lansdowne Bridge

The construction of Lansdowne Bridge claimed six lives. 4 men felled from the dizzy heights and two were knocked out by falling tools on them. The charges of bridge were Rs 2,696,000 involving Rs 276,000 that were spent on foundations merely.

 

 

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