The River Tyne

Tuesday, 28th March 2006 by

Today we’re going on a little tour of bridges over the River Tyne, which flows between Newcastle Upon Tyne and Gateshead, England. Seriously, stick with me, there’s some really cool ones to see :-D

Starting at the edge of the high-res images to the west of Newcastle, the first bridge we encounter is the Newburn Bridge (1893) which only allows traffic to travel over it one way at a time.

Newburn Bridge

Next up (when these pictures were taken) is the Blaydon Bridge (1990) which carries the “longest named road in Britain” – the A1, over the Tyne on its way between Edinburgh and London – a trip of 409 miles (658 km).

Just after that is the Scotswood Rail Bridge (1871), which was decommissioned in 1982, and now only carries water and gas mains.

Still in use however is the Scotswood Road Bridge (1967), a quietly impressive tied arch suspension bridge with a nice shadow.

Next, the Third Redheugh Bridge (1983) – thus named as two previous incarnations of this crossing have been replaced over the years. In fact you can still see the Southern Abutment of the second bridge.

Another rail bridge now, the King Edward VII Rail Bridge (1906). This bridge was built to allow trains to leave Newcastle Central station in either direction, by forming a giant loop over the river.

The strange-looking white bridge we encounter now is the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge (1981) which was built to carry the Tyne and Wear metro system (a contender for Britain’s oldest commuter railway among other firsts).

Now we come to the High Level Bridge (1849), a combination road and railway bridge. You can’t see any cars on it because they run along a lower level – directly underneath the railway.

Immediately after that we find one of the largest swing bridges in the world* (see updates at end of post). Completed in 1876 the bridge’s swinging section measures 86 metres (281 feet) in length and weighs 1200 tons – which can apparently be turned through 180 degrees in just 3 minutes (not bad for something 130 years old I thought).

Continuing east we find a bridge which may look vaguely familiar… this is the Tyne Bridge (1928), which is quite clearly based on the design of the previously posted Sydney Harbour Bridge ** (see updates at end of post).

Which brings us (eventually!) to the final, most recent, most expensive and most striking bridge over the Tyne. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2001) is a foot and cycle bridge which has huge hydraulic rams on either side, which tilt the bridge back on special pivots to allow small ships and boats to pass underneath – earning it the nickname of the ‘Blinking Eye’ bridge.

If you’ve never seen it in person then there’s loads of images around of the bridge in action. Lots of people have however, as it’s become a serious tourist attraction – and for 22 million quid I should certainly think so too!

If you’ve still not had enough of the River Tyne, make sure you follow it all the way out to sea, taking in the giant cranes, various half-built ships, a movable test gas rig, lots of ship-shaped holes and a pair of twin lighthouses along the way.

*Update: Scott Ventura says:

the El Ferdan Railway Bridge across the Suez Canal is the longest swing bridge, with a swing span of more than 300 meters

**Update 2: cookie monster says:

the mythology is that Sydney was the inspiration for the Tyne design and conceived first. The Tyne was finished first and Sydney just took longer to get built.

Thanks to Lindsay Marshall, Astec123 and everyone else who submitted any of these. Also big thanks to cycle-routes.org for making this trip for real (scroll down for the full cycle-level tour).