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Bailey Bridge

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Blairmore Bridge, 2006
Blairmore Bridge
© william craig

A Bailey Bridge is a portable, pre-fabricated, truss bridge deployed by military engineers, which can be used span gaps of up to 200 feet (60 m), and is strong enough to carry tanks.

The bridge was designed by Sir Donald Coleman Bailey, OBE (September 15, 1901 – May 5, 1985), who had an interest in bridges and was a civil servant with the War Office during World War II. He is said to have spent much of his spare time experimenting with model bridges as a hobby, and when he came up with the design which eventually became the Bailey Bridge, he showed his model to his superiors, who were quick to organise experiment with a full-sized example.

The design offered many advantages: it did not require a crane for construction, and could be built from one side of a gap and extended over rollers until it met the other side, when jacks could be used to remove the rollers. The components were light enough to be carried by a 3-ton truck, and handled by only two or three engineers, meaning that a large squad was not required for assembly. No special tools were required for assembly, and the parts were simply held together by steel pins driven in with a sledgehammer. To increase the strength and carrying capacity of the bridge, its handrail sections could be doubled, or even or trebled up, in which case the third set would be mounted above the existing handrails. Decking was initially bare timber, but this was later supplemented by steel plates fixed on top, to prevent tanks tracks chewing up the wooden surface.

Blairmore Burn

The bridge shown in the photographs lies across the Blairmore Burn, on the western shore of Loch Long to the north of Dunoon, and carries traffic for Castle Cottages and Beaumaris Farm. A resident of the cottages who lived there in the late 1940s recalls that it is a genuine World War II item, purchased at a sale of Government surplus, and installed over the burn to replace an earlier bridge which still lies beneath.

Even though the bridge has received little (or no) maintenance for at least 60 years, it continues to carry light traffic.

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