center pier was completed to a height of 12 feet (3.7 meters) above river level.

Four hollow octagonal cast-iron columns, 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter and stiffened by cross-bracing, rise from the center pier to the same height as the tapering masonry piers at the ends of the approach viaducts. Two columns support each of the huge main trusses. Those trusses were fabricated on the riverbank. Each comprises a curved, wrought-iron elliptical tube 16.75 feet (5.1 meters) wide—constrained by the single-track railroad—and 12.25 feet (3.7 meters) high, forming a flat arch that carries the weight of the superstructure. The arch is connected to massive catenary iron chains at eleven equidistant points by pairs of vertical standards, braced by diagonal bars; the chains support the girders under the railroad deck, 110 feet (34 meters) above high-water mark.

Beginning on 1 September 1857, the first 1,200-ton (1,016-tonne) truss was floated into position on four pontoons. Through the combined efforts of 500 men on shore and on five vessels at strategic points in the river, it was put into place with great accuracy. As the masonry pier progressed, the truss was raised a little at a time by hydraulic jacks. By July 1858 it had reached its full height, and the second was ready for floating into position. The process was repeated for the second truss. At their landward ends, the trusses are carried by piers, with arched openings through which the railroad passes.

The bridge was opened by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert—hence the name—on 3 May 1859, just a few months before its creator, Brunel, died. Its construction made possible a continuous rail journey between London and Truro. A branch line to Falmouth opened in 1863 and was later extended to the new docks then being built. A neighboring suspension bridge carrying the A38 road over the Tamar was completed in 1961. Early in 1998 the Royal Albert Bridge was refurbished. The £1.2 million (U.S.$1.75 million) project involved cleaning back the paintwork to bare metal and repainting and replacing much of the timber deck, all without unduly disrupting the rail services.

See also

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Further reading

Binding, John. 1997. Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge: A Study of the Design and Construction. Truro, UK: Twelveheads Press.

Hay, Peter. 1973. Brunel: His Achievements in the Transport Revolution. Reading, UK: Osprey Publishing.

Vaughan, Adrian. 1993. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Engineering Knight-Errant. London: J. Murray.

The Royal Pavilion

Brighton, England

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton (1817–1822), “a grand oriental fantasy” with Indian domes and minarets and Chinese interiors, is a fascinating example of the diverse architectural styles allowed in the Regency period, which was otherwise dominated by refined neoclassical architecture. Two elements were necessary for its realization: an esthetically adaptable architect—in this case, John Nash (1752–1835)—and a client powerful enough to get what he wanted—the Prince Regent (later King George IV, 1762–1830), More importantly, it is probably the first attempt by any architect, freed from classical and Gothic precedents, to use cast iron to make legitimate architecture.

George, Prince of Wales, first visited the coastal resort of Brighton (then Brighthelmstone) in 1783. He was already deep in gambling debts, a heavy drinker, and a notorious womanizer. In 1784 he again visited Brighton and in the same year fell in love with the twice-widowed Maria Fitzherbert. When she refused to become his mistress he agreed to marry her, but secretly, because English law prohibited royalty from marrying Catholics. Two years later his comptroller, Louis Weltje, obtained from Thomas Kemp, Member of Parliament for Lewes, a three-year lease with an option to purchase on a timber house facing the sea at Brighton. He relet it to the prince, undertaking to rebuild it. Between May and July 1787 the architect Henry Holland enlarged and converted the modest but “respectable” farmhouse to the Marine Pavilion, a double-fronted Palladian affair with a domed Ionic rotunda. Maria was provided with a nearby villa.

In 1795, attempting to persuade Parliament to pay his accrued debts of £650,000, the prince entered a