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Severn Bridge Disaster Memorial

Photographs  John H. Luxton 2012

The memorial (left) was erected at Purton in 2010 to remember the Severn Bridge Disaster of October 25, 1960. The Harker Fuel tankers WASTDALE H and ARKENDALE H became lost in dense fog whilst trying to enter Sharpness Dock. The vessels drifted up river colliding with the Severn Railway Bridge causing two spans to collapse onto them which resulted in the vessels exploding. Five crew were lost and three were saved. The vessels still lie in the mud side by side, upstream from the site of the bridge, where they came to rest (right).

The Severn Bridge which carried the former GW&LMS Joint Railway over the River Severn and Gloucester and Sharpness canal was never repaired. By the mid 1960s British Railways Western Region decided to demolish the bridge. The first contractor Nordman Construction chartered the large shearlegs floating crane MAGNUS II to remove the spans. However, the company found itself in financial difficulties and the contract was not completed. It was not until 1970 that almost all the remaining metal work was removed. Today the base of some piers are visible in the mud at low water and one pier can be seen lying on its side (above). The substantial remains of the swing span stone pier over the Gloucester and Sharpness Ship Canal and the east side abutment remain prominent landmarks. Beside the pier is a metal model of the swing span, however, the model does not include the signal box which was mounted on it. This also housed the steam engine which opened and closed the span to provide head room for larger vessels heading up the canal.  Visit Forgotten Relics for an illustrated history of the bridge. 

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