Leyburn footbridge restored thanks to chance conversation

From left, Helen Ashworth inspects the refurbished footbridge with Cleveland Bridge UK staff Peter Ridley, Liam Cameron, Michael Richardson, John Weir and Gary Kipling.

A Victorian railway footbridge in Leyburn has been restored to its former glory thanks to a chance conversation aboard a Wensleydale Railway train.

Darlington-based Cleveland Bridge UK agreed to carry out the work after learning that the footbridge, which is to be installed at the heritage line’s station in the town, was in a poor state of repair.

Wensleydale Railway acquired the footbridge, which dates from the 1880s and once stood at Brigg station in Lincolnshire, from Network Rail last year and had launched an appeal to fund the work.

However, Jim Mawson, Cleveland Bridge’s head of operational delivery, was enjoying a trip on the volunteer-run railway when he began chatting to the guard, local volunteer Ken Monkman, who told him of the project.

The company readily agreed to use its expertise in the bridge building and refurbishment sector to support the not-for-profit organisation.

Sections of the footbridge’s corroded metalwork have been replaced or repaired by Prest Engineering Ltd and the structure shot-blasted and repainted by Cleveland Bridge.

Several of the wooden steps have also been replaced.

The bridge, originally commissioned by the Manchester Sheffield Lincoln Railway, will be transported to Leyburn in three sections and installed at Leyburn station in September following the peak visitor season.

Helen Ashworth, the line’s volunteer co-ordinator and lead fundraiser, said: “Wensleydale Railway is run by volunteers and relies on the generosity and goodwill of local companies and benefactors to help us continue and improve.

“Cleveland Bridge UK very kindly agreed to restore this footbridge and in doing so has preserved a wonderful piece of railway heritage as well as providing an attractive and practical addition to our station in Leyburn.”

Jim Mawson said: “Cleveland Bridge is a specialist in bridge refurbishment and rehabilitation and this particular bridge is on a slightly smaller scale than our current contract involving the Humber Bridge!

“However, our staff have drawn on those same skills, gained from more than 150 years of engineering expertise, to carry out this restoration – safe in the knowledge that this footbridge will continue to be appreciated by passengers using Wensleydale Railway for many more years to come.”