A historic bell located at the top of Runcorn’s iconic Britannia railway bridge has been removed by helicopter ahead of a full restoration by Network Rail.
The navigation bell, which used to sound when there was fog to warn approaching ships on the Manchester Ship Canal of the viaduct’s location, was removed on Sunday as part of the £6m restoration of the viaduct.
It is being restored to mark the bridge’s 150th anniversary in October this year, and the bridge itself is being repaired and restored as part of the Great North Rail Project which is providing a better, more reliable railway across the north of England.
Because of the height and location of the bell, 100ft above the river, a helicopter was the only option to safely remove the iconic piece of history.
Helena Williams, scheme project manager at Network Rail said: “Given the bell was situated 100ft above the river, we used a helicopter to remove it so it could be safely whisked away for restoration.
“As the bell is no longer in use, it will be restored and the put on display in the Brindley Theatre to be mark the vital role it played in helping ships safely navigate across the Manchester Ship Canal.
“The ongoing restoration of the Britannia railway bridge, as part of the Great North Rail Project, will help keep it safe and in use for decades to come.”
Derek Twigg, MP for Halton said: “It’s great to see to see that Network Rail is undertaking this vitally important work on one of the Mersey’s and Halton’s most iconic structures the Britannia Railway Bridge, I look forward to visiting the bridge in a few weeks’ time to see the work for myself. I am also delighted that the historic bell is going to be fully restored and put on display in the Brindley Theatre.”
Since October 2017, Network Rail’s Team Orange have been strengthening, waterproofing and refurbishing the bridge’s timber, steel and brick structures. This essential work forms part of the Great North Rail Project and will help make this busy railway bridge, that is well used by freight and passenger services, more reliable and safe.
The bell will be donated to the Brindley Theatre in the town to celebrate the bridge’s 150th birthday on 10 October.