Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 133,812 pages of information and 211,901 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Howrah Pontoon Bridge

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1855/6 In the view of the increasing traffic across the Hooghly river, a committee was appointed to review alternatives for constructing a bridge across it.

1859/60 The plan was shelved

1868 The plan was revived when it was decided that a bridge should be constructed and a newly appointed trust vested to manage it.

1870 The Calcutta Port Trust was founded and the Legislative department of the then Government of Bengal passed the Howrah Bridge Act in the year 1871 under the Bengal Act IX of 1871, empowering the Lieutenant-Governor to have the bridge constructed with Government capital under the aegis of the Port Commissioners.

Eventually a contract was signed with Sir Bradford Leslie to construct a pontoon bridge. Different parts were constructed in England and shipped to Calcutta, where they were assembled together. The assembling period was fraught with problems. The bridge was considerably damaged by the great cyclone on 20 March 1874. A steamer named Egeria broke from her moorings and collided head-on with the bridge, sinking three pontoons and damaging nearly 200 feet of the bridge.

1874 The bridge was completed at a total cost of INR2.2 million, and opened to traffic on 17 October of that year. The bridge was then 1,528 ft. long and 62 ft. wide, with 7-foot wide pavements on either side. Initially the bridge was periodically unfastened to allow steamers and other marine vehicles to pass through. Before 1906, the bridge used to be undone for the passage of vessels during daytime only. Since June of that year it started opening at night for all vessels except ocean steamers, which were required to pass through during daytime.

From 19 August 1879, the bridge was illuminated by electric lamp-posts, powered by the dynamo at the Mullick Ghat Pumping Station.

As the bridge could not handle the rapidly increasing load, the Port Commissioners started planning in 1905 for a new improved bridge.

See Howrah Bridge

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