Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge

Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge (officially Monkwearmouth Bridge, also called Wearmouth Railway Bridge or Sunderland Railway Bridge) is a railway bridge built in 1879, crossing the River Wear at Sunderland and Monkwearmouth. The bridge lies adjacent to and upstream of the Wearmouth Road Bridge.

Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge
Monkwearmouth Bridge (left), Wearmouth Bridge (right), 2006
Coordinates54.9093°N 1.3831°W / 54.9093; -1.3831 (Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge)
OS grid referenceNZ396573
CrossesRiver Wear
Official nameMonkwearmouth Bridge
Other name(s)
  • Wearmouth Railway Bridge
  • Sunderland Railway Bridge
OwnerNetwork Rail
Maintained byNetwork Rail
Heritage statusGrade II listed
Network Rail Bridge IDLEN3-260
Preceded byQueen Alexandra Bridge
Followed byWearmouth Bridge
DesignVierendeel truss bowstring arch
MaterialWrought iron
Longest span300 ft (91 m)
Clearance below86 ft (26 m)
Rail characteristics
No. of tracks2
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrified1500V DC
DesignerThomas Elliot Harrison
Constructed byHawks, Crawshay and Sons
Fabrication byJohn Waddell & Sons
Opened1879 (1879)
Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge
Location in Tyne and Wear

Originally built as part of the Monkwearmouth Junction Line, it provided the first direct railway link between Newcastle and Sunderland. The bridge is now used by Tyne and Wear Metro and Durham Coast Line services.

History and design

The bridge was built as part of the infrastructure for the Monkwearmouth Junction Line, which opened in 1879; a connecting line across the River Wear to link line of the former Brandling Junction Railway at Monkwearmouth to the south bank at Sunderland and the line of the former Durham and Sunderland Railway.[1][2]

The bridge was designed by T.E. Harrison: it consisted of a 300 ft (91 m) main span, an iron bowstring bridge, constructed from box girders connected by a Vierendeel truss with curved corner strengthening to create elliptical voids in the bracing. The iron bridge was supported 86 ft (26 m) above high water level on the Wear. At either end of the bridge were three 25 ft (7.6 m) span masonry arches. Hawks, Crawshay and Sons built the ironwork, John Waddell was contractor for the stonework.[1][2] At the time of its construction it was claimed to be the largest hogsback iron bridge in the world.[3]

The structure was grade II listed in 1978,[3] planning consent was required for alterations to the structure circa 2000 for works relating to Metro construction: for the installation of overhead line electrification;[4] and for the construction of a station (St Peter's Metro station), constructed on the northern approach viaduct of the bridge.[5] In 2007 the bridge underwent repairs and strengthening, including the installation of 45 new transverse beams.[6]


The bridge and railway allowed trains to run directly from Newcastle to Hartlepool, by creating a through line from Newcastle to Sunderland.[1][3]

Since 2002, the bridge has also carried the Tyne and Wear Metro. It is part of the modern (2012) Durham Coast Line.[7]


  1. Tomlinson, W.W. (1915), The North Eastern Railway; its rise and development, Andrew Reid and Company, Newcastle; Longmans, Green and Company, London, p. 685
  2. Rennison, Robert William (1996), Civil Engineering Heritage: Northern England (2 ed.), Thomas Telford Publishing, p. 65, ISBN 07277 2518 1
  3. Historic England. "MONKWEARMOUTH RAILWAY BRIDGE OVER RIVER WEAR WITH VIADUCT TO NORTH (1207051)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  4. Sources:
  5. MacKay, K. R. (1999). "Sunderland Metro - Challenge and Opportunity". Proceedings of the ICE - Municipal Engineer. Institute of Civil Engineers. 133 (2): 53. doi:10.1680/imuen.1999.31757.
  6. Sources:
  7. "SUNDERLAND RAILWAY BRIDGE",, retrieved 11 October 2012
Next bridge upstream River Wear Next bridge downstream
Vaux Bridge
B1539 road 
Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge
Grid reference: NZ396573
Wearmouth Bridge
A183 and A1018 roads 
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