Historic Victorian railway arches saved in deal between English Heritage and Network Rail

By Richard Moss | 18 August 2014

Grade II listed Chorley Flying Railway Arches saved from demolition in a collaboration between English Heritage and Network Rail

a photo of large brick arches being craned into a railway cutting as men in hard hats look on
Grade II listed Chorley Flying Railway Arches being lifted back into place. © Network Rail
A set of elegant Victorian railway arches thought to be one of only two surviving examples of their type in England have been saved from demolition in a collaboration between English Heritage and Network Rail.

The 16 Grade II listed Chorley Flying Railway Arches, built in 1843 on the Bolton and Preston Railway,  braced a railway cutting in Chorley, Lancashire. However they were at risk of being lost forever to enable a £400 million project to electrify the line.

To save them English Heritage and Network Rail agreed the stone arches would be carefully recorded in situ, then removed to secure storage and temporarily replaced with steel versions.

Railway Arches being lifted back into place
© Network Rail
Now works are nearing completion the original arches have been reinstated in a slightly higher position to allow the installation of electrification equipment through the tunnel.

"These arches are an important example of Victorian innovation,” said Cathy Tuck, English Heritage Heritage at Risk Project Officer for the North West.

“They were needed to strengthen the retaining walls of the cutting as it was feared that the clay behind might force the walls inwards causing them to collapse on the trains. It was a rarely used but very elegant solution."

The original arches have each been given a permanent slender steel brace to meet modern safety regulations. This marriage between historic aesthetics and 21st century structural safety margins has allowed Network Rail to run the line to modern standards while preserving the appearance and significance of the original arches.

John Johnson, Project Manager at Network Rail, said the project was part of a £1bn+ investment to provide a better railway and boost the economy across the north of England.

“We are upgrading a Victorian railway, and it is important that we maintain that link to its heritage,” he said. “We have worked closely with English Heritage to make sure that the Chorley flying arches have been reinstated in their rightful place.”

Railway Arches being lifted back into place with a large crane.
© Network Rail
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