17 November 2015

Century-old bridge over India's oldest rail lines to live on!

Rajendra B. Aklekar

rajendraa (@) gmail.com

One of the few oldest remaining road bridges over India's first train line in Mumbai will be demolished today as a part of an upgrade process to be replaced with a new one by the next year. However, the bridge will live on as old plaques and artefacts on the bridge would be carefully removed and incorporated in the new design of the bridge to retain its historic and heritage character. The Central Railway in Mumbai has issued a note saying that the bridge will remain closed for traffic on November 18 of vehicles and pedestrians as the dismantling process begins.

The old iron and stone Hancock Bridge between Sandhurst Road and Byculla stations on Mumbai railway was proving to be too low for new technology suburban electric trains, limiting their speed in the section and affecting the punctuality of the city’s lifeline as a whole.

The line from Mumbai CST to Thane was the first train line opened in India in 1853 and then called the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company. It was renamed as Central Railway in 1951.

“The new bridge that is being built will be taller and bigger, allowing even double-deck trains to pass under it,” a railway official said. The work is being done by the Central Railway and the local civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in co-ordination. The BMC had deposited Rs 2.6 crore with the railways for the demolition and shifting of utilities and pipes. Elaborate traffic diversions have been put in place due for the dismantling process. Details here: Traffic

The chief engineer of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation SO Kori said that the old plaque and other artefacts on the bridge will be removed carefully and embedded in the new bridge design. The plaque has dates of its construction and the bridge name carved in stone.

The original Hancock Bridge was built in 1879 and rebuilt in the 1920s. It was named after Colonel HF Hancock, who was a member of the Municipal Corporation and also its president between 1877 and 1878. The bridge has a simple stone carved inscription on stone blocks that says: 1879 - Hancock Bridge Rebuilt 1923.

Once work on this is over, the next on the agenda is to dismantle and replace the 147-year-old Carnac Bridge in January 2016, on the same line, closer to Mumbai CST. While the Carnac Bridge connects Crawford Market with the dockland area, Hancock Bridge connects old Mazgaon and Dongri areas. The Carnac Bridge named after former Bombay Governor James Rivett Carnac and a jetty named after him further east, has multi-lingual stone plaques that too will be saved during the upgrade.

While the three corners of Carnac Bridge, built in 1868, have the name of the bridge inscribed in three languages, English, Devnagari and Gujarati, the fourth side announces the dates of its opening and a symbol of an anchor.

Details and history of more such bridges and lines here: http://goo.gl/NtJhB4