The Watercress Line has had an ambition for almost two decades to erect a footbridge across its running line and yard at Ropley to provide a premium vantage point for passengers to view the railway. It was thought that the King's Cross footbridge might be suitable and discussions with Network Rail started in October 2009, but it took two years to complete the arrangements.
The bridge was dismantled and removed from Kings Cross in late 2008, as part of Network Rail’s major upgrading of that station. However, because the whole building, including the footbridge, was grade 1 listed English Heritage and Camden Council (the planning authority) insisted that a new use be found for the footbridge. Network Rail very kindly donated the bridge and made a substantial grant towards the costs of transport, shot blasting of many layers of lead based paint and priming.
It took eight lorry loads to move all the components, weighing perhaps 200 tons, from Network Rail’s storage in March, Cambridgeshire to Eastleigh, Hampshire where the shot blasting & painting were done. Construction at Ropley started in November 2011 and has continued for more than 18 months.
A grant of £12,000, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has funded a project to research and interpret the history of the bridge and the company that made it. Volunteers will undertake research in various archives around the country. New educational and visitor resources will be created so that people can learn more about this fascinating part of our industrial heritage. The children from Ropley Church of England School have carried out a number of activities as part of this.
David Snow, who has driven the project for the railway, said "We are absolutely delighted to have secured this iconic structure for the Watercress Line, and look forward to it becoming a major feature of our railway. We are truly grateful to Network Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support and grant funding.
Sir William McAlpine said ’I am delighted that we have been able to facilitate the restoration and re-use of this iconic bridge, which has appeared in so many films, including ‘The 39 steps’ and ‘Elizabethan Express’, as well, of course, as ‘Harry Potter’. We hope that it is as successful in its new life as it was in its original one.’
This footbridge was regularly visited by Harry Potter film fans prior to removal from Kings Cross, so it should make the Watercress Line a new destination for Potter tourism. We look forward to welcoming these fans, and hope that they will enjoy learning about our engineering heritage as exemplified in the steam trains we operate and the buildings and structure that we maintain.”
The footbridge was formally opened on Tuesday 11th June 2013. Sir William McAlpine, chairman of the Railway Heritage Trust, cut a ribbon and unveiled a plaque recording the grant given towards the cost of the project by the Railway Heritage Trust. He also unveiled two decorative wrought iron scrolls showing the name of ‘Andrew Handyside & Co Ltd Derby & London’, which company manufactured the huge cast & wrought iron bridge in 1892. These scrolls are on the mid-landing of the staircase.
To Here !
Click on the image below to watch the story of the King's Cross footbridge, from London to Ropley Yard.