Cannington Viaduct – Uplyme – July 2010

Derelict Places

Help Support Derelict Places:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Veteran Member
Veteran Member
Jul 4, 2010
Reaction score
The arsehole of the Cosmos
History source from Kent Rail​
This remains as the most imposing and impressive remnant of the charming 6¾-mile single-track branch line to Lyme Regis, which was promoted under the auspices of the ‘’Axminster & Lyme Regis Light Railway’’. Arthur C. Pain was appointed as independent engineer of the line and he was accompanied in this task by two of his sons, Edward and Claude, who acted as assistants. Construction of the branch commenced on 19th June 1900, a Light Railway Order having been secured in the previous year. The ‘’Light Railways Act’’ had passed successfully through Parliament in 1896 and made viable numerous local and rural railway projects, standard and narrow gauges. Essentially, the Act permitted certain minor railways to be constructed without the need to seek Royal Assent. More importantly, such railways could also be built to much lower standards than ‘’proper’’ main lines and trunk routes: line side fencing, signalling, and track curvature criteria were all relaxed. This reduced building costs substantially, but also imposed severe operating restrictions: top speeds were particularly low, and weight issues limited the range of stock that could be used. Lower building standards also had another consequence: infrastructure would wear out quickly.

The viaduct was required to span a valley 5½ route miles from Axminster, and at the time became an engineering project of some note, for it was one of few such structures to be made entirely of concrete, rather than brick. Building work was subcontracted to ‘’Baldry & Yerburgh’’ of Westminster, London (a partnership between one Henry Osborne Baldry and one John Eardley Yerburgh), and cement for the concrete was shipped in by sea to Lyme Regis Cobb. The concrete itself was the product of flint extracted from cuttings in the local area. A 1000-foot-long cableway was suspended above the valley, supported on either side by wooden pylons, and was used to move materials in place for construction. The viaduct’s design comprised ten elliptical arches of 50-foot span, the tallest of which rose to a height of 92-feet. Overall viaduct length and width were 606-feet and 16-feet respectively, and the Light Railway Order meant that the foundations were not required to penetrate deeper than 10-foot below the ground. These foundations would permit a pressure of 3½-tons per square foot to be exerted on the structure. The arches were formed using sections of pre-cast concrete, whilst the remainder of the viaduct was built using mass concrete that had not been reinforced. Unfortunately, the nature of the terrain, coupled with the need to keep construction costs low, saw Cannington Viaduct become problematic early on in its existence. The structure was built upon a surface of sandstone and clay, and before completion, the western extremity of the viaduct began to suffer from subsidence. As a result, a permanent supporting jack, also of concrete construction, had to be built within the third viaduct arch from the western embankment.

The branch line opened to traffic on 24th August 1903, and thereafter the viaduct led an unproblematic life, despite the initial incidents of subsidence. The nature of the route’s construction ensured that it was restricted to operation by small tank engines from the outset. The branch was closed completely on 29th November 1965, under Western Region auspices, when the lines west of Salisbury had entered the nadir of their fortunes. The Lyme Regis service had been operated by WR diesel multiple units since 4th November 1963. The viaduct is now protected with a Grade II listing.

First came across this superb viaduct in 1986 when there were no gates and it was possible to walk across as it was a virtual lawn at the time. The grills now covering the refuges were also a later addition. According to the nice chap I spoke to who has lived in the cottage below the viaduct for 20 years, these features were added to prevent the bungee-jumpers who had targeted it from gaining access. No comment from me on that one.

Did a quick search and found that Foxylady had beaten me to it. Ah well, this is my take on it.

Despite having two ropes and no real fear of heights, I still didn’t fancy a solo traverse on either side at the eastern end. The western end although doable is heavily overgrown on the approach and I decided to wait until this dies back a bit later in the year.

An early pic of the viaduct​


Back to the present​




The reinforced arch​

Arch frame support corbels left as is rather than faced back flush once the arches were complete



Few more from different viewpoint​




The ‘fail’ at the top. Foxy had warned me about this barrier.​


Tie bars at eastern end, post main construction I believe​




Parapet recessed panels​


The most tantalizing view of the day​

That’s it for now. Did have a quick nose at the quarry but will wait for the Jurassic guide to accompany me I think. She needs to get out more. :mrgreen:
LOL! Ain't that the truth! :p

Nice to see you made it there, Munchh. Nice pics, and liked seeing the other bits and bobs. :)

Thanks FL. And it was the western end I went up originally when we got on top. It all came back to me once I got there. Looking forward to the Quarry, let me know when you're ready. :)
Crackin' report Munchhy !!! Good pics too !!! Could be time for a weekend away with Mrs Fluff and the little fluffettes !! Oh they're lucky people !!!;)
Crackin' report Munchhy !!! Good pics too !!! Could be time for a weekend away with Mrs Fluff and the little fluffettes !! Oh they're lucky people !!!;)

Haha thanks Fluffy. Yep, get in the car and drive mate. We got loads of good stuff down here! Just don't tell everyone.

Oh crap, I just did :p
Great report that but some scary reading about subsidence and shallow footings. Not sure I'd want to bungee jump from where the grills are you hit the arch upright under it. Great setting though :)
Theress some Good shots in there Munchh, was the Undergrowth that bad near the West end?

Having just seen headsofdeadsurf's post, I can see that there is little undergrowth at the position his shot was taken from. Indeed, I felt that the western end was do-able and the middle was probably 'clear' as confirmed by his pic.

Great report that but some scary reading about subsidence and shallow footings. Not sure I'd want to bungee jump from where the grills are you hit the arch upright under it. Great setting though :)

LOL me neither mate. I didn't comment on what the old guy said about this because I think these measures (gates and grills) were part of the listing activity and therefore Health & Safety based.

Also I heard or read somewhere that the parapets themselves are considered potentially unstable and so where (if you knew that) would you anchor the bungee and feel comfortable about it anyway. I figured that if the 'bungee jumpers tale' was true then they would have anchored between two refuges and jumped in the highest arch's centre line, possibly closely followed by a shedload of concrete. :p

Did the traverse a couple weeks ago. Undergrowth not a problem


Thanks for the info mate and well done for getting on top. A few questions;

I assume there is a second gate? Do you have a pic of the western end? Did you get on the trackbed from the west or the east? Did you get all the way across?

My aim was to get all the way across on the trackbed from the eastern end. :)