'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’ is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.
Commissioner: Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway Company
Engineer: John Chaloner Smith
Contractor: Michael Meade & Sons, Dublin
Ironwork: Sir William Arrol, GlasgowLoopline Railway Bridge
‘A skiff, a crumpled throwaway, Elijah is coming, rode lightly down the Liffey, under Loopline bridge, shooting the rapids where water chafed around the bridge piers, sailing eastward past hulls and anchor chains, between the Customhouse old dock and George’s quay’ - James Joyce, Ulysses.
In 1881, the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway Company proposed the construction of a contemporary railway viaduct across the Liffey, east of Butt Bridge, to extend the Dublin and Kingstown line from Westland Row (now Pearse Station) to Amines Street (now Connolly Station). The link was deemed vital, particularly for conveying transatlantic passengers and mail coming from Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) and Queenstown (Cobh). Objections were manifold and strenuous, particularly from those who realized this new bridge would ‘disfigure’ the City by cutting off the splendid view of the Custom House from O'Connell Bridge. Despite these protests, the bridge and viaduct went ahead and building commenced in 1888 under John Chaloner Smith, Chief Engineer to the Railway Company. In 1939, the labour leader James Larkin blamed the bridge on the Unionists and Irish Parliamentary Party, lambasted it as ‘the foulest thing that ever disgraced the city’. For all that, the Loopline is not such a bad-looking bridge. It's rather an epic reminder of the latter days of the Industrial Age. It’s simply the location that boggles and makes it such a subject of dislike. Until the recent boom in Docklands activity, the Custom House was cut off from the main City. Thankfully, the shift of business downriver will bring it back into focus.
The bridge consists of a three span bridge of twin wrought-iron latticed girders, with a total length of 118 metres. It is supported on a double row of cast-iron piers that rise above high water level. It carries two tracks, with the clear width of the deck between the supporting girders being 8.53metres. The bridge was formerly well-known for the huge advertisements that hung upon its faces, most notably for Guinness and Irish Permanent.
‘Discussing these and kindred topics they made a beeline across the back of the Customhouse and passed under the Loop Line bridge where a brazier of coke burning in front of a sentry box or something like one attracted their rather lagging footsteps’ – Joyce, Ulysses.