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Rewley Road Swing Bridge, Oxford

A neglected 1850s former LNWR railway swing bridge in the middle of a housing estate in Oxford 


A bit of history first. Oxford used to have two railway stations side-by-side, the GWR station served London, Birmingham and the Cotswolds while the neighbouring Rewley Road LMS station served Bicester, Bletchley, Bedford and Cambridge. Just north of both stations is the navigable link between the Thames and the Oxford Canal, the picturesquely named Sheepwash Channel. Oxford Rewley Road was at a lower level than the GWR station so to avoid impeding navigation on the Sheepwash Channel its tracks passed over a rather unusual double track swing bridge. Rewley Road station closed in the 1950s but its coal yard remained in use into the 1980s so the bridge survived. In the 1990s the Rewley Road site was redeveloped, the Said Business School was built on the station building site and houses were built on the coal yard site. Thus the swing bridge was left intact but marooned in a sea of houses and apart from one scrub clearance a few years ago by some enthusiasts has returned to nature. The original Rewley Road station building also survived, it was transported to the Quainton Railway Centre in Buckinghamshire.

Anyway, to the site itself. Access is fairly easy, there is a security fence to negociate, but no security guards. Once inside your only foe is vicious brambles.
Here's an overview of the site showing both sides of the channel and the bridge itself. The GWR main line is in the background.



This end-on view should give an idea of the level of decay.

Once up on top (careful - rotten wooden deck!) I headed straight for the winding gear. As you might expect it's not too different from that on a turntable. There are two sets of winding gear, one on each side.

Underneath the deck are some hefty reduction gears

And beneath them is the final drive. As you can see the pit is full of water.

Back up on top, I find that the main components of the bridge have all been marked, as can be seen in this picture. I hope that's with a plan to dismantling it and reassembling it on a preserved railway somewhere.


And of course, the obligatory chair shot. "LNWR 1906 BS85". About the only evidence on site of the company that originally built and operated the bridge.

On the other side of the channel is the locking mechanism. Another windlass and reduction gear...

...that moves a sliding bar that would have located with the bridge on closure.

This is not a big site. Nor is it the most exciting site you will see. But it is as far as I am aware a unique surviving piece of railway engineering so it is worth a visit. I have no idea whether there are any moves to preserve it but I very much hope that there are. If you would like to visit it, access is from Rewley Road or from the Thames Path via the Sheepwash Channel towpath. Hazards are brambles, rotten woodwork on the bridge deck and the channel itself which can have a strong current.

Site overview from one of the bridge's brick pillars.