rail bridge was constructed late in the 19th century and connected
Sharpness with Lydney over the River Severn.
Severn Rail Bridge from Sharpness to Lydney
(picture courtesy of Gerald Cook)
the evening of October 25th 1960, high tide was at 11.15pm and there
were a number cargo barges on the river which were looking for the
entrance to Sharpness docks. Navigation was hampered by a thick
fog which covered the river.
barges - the Arkendale and the Wastdale - came up the river together
and missed the navigation lights for the dock due to the fog. They
went on to collide with the rail bridge, taking out one of the upright
columns and causing two spans to fall onto them.
resulting impact caused the barge's cargo of around 5,000 gallons
of petrol to ignite, setting the Severn on fire in the area around
addition, a 12 inch gas main which crossed the bridge from Sharpness
to Lydney was also severed.
whole river, side-to-side, was ablaze for about a mile up stream
and flames could be seen as far away as Coaley Peak (near Dursley)
through the fog that night.
men lost their lives as a result of the collision but it could have
been much worse.
were strengthening the spans across the bridge on that particular
night but they chose to take a break because Henry Cooper was fighting
in a heavyweight boxing match.
workers had retired to the signal box at Severn Bridge station to
listen to the boxing match on the radio. Had they not done that,
the death toll could have been far higher.
bridge was never repaired and stood for several more years with
the missing spans. It was finally dismantled in the late 1960s.
a reminder of that night the remains of the two barges still lie
in the River Severn just off Purton.
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