New book spans Connel Bridge story

Mike Rayworth with his book on Connel Bridge.

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Ever since childhood car journeys, Appin man Mike Rayworth has held a fascination for bridges.

The award-winning bridge engineer has just written a new booklet telling the story of Connel Bridge.

The publication’s first run of 100 sold out within 24 hours and the next delivery of 500 more is due soon.

Copies will be on shelves soon at the Port Appin Store, Connel Village Store, online and at Waterstones in Oban.

Before moving to Appin more than two decades ago, Mike’s former home overlooked the bridge, which some would dub as being ‘over the top’ in design.

But there is very good reason for its over-design, speculates Mr Rayworth.

After the collapse of the ‘spidery’ Tay Rail Bridge during a violent storm in 1879, all future British bridges were designed to be much more robust.

The Tay Bridge had been designed by Sir Thomas Bouch using lattice girders and wrought iron cross-bracing, but its collapse brought death to all passengers on the train that was crossing it that fateful day. With his reputation ruined, the designer also died within the year. Needless to say, his design for the Forth Road bridge was not used.

When Connel Bridge was completed in 1903 it was novel for its time, it is only the second largest cantilever bridge in Europe after the Forth Rail Bridge.

Mr Rayworth said: ‘So many people cross it to get from A to B and back again and think it’s interesting but don’t go beyond that thought. That’s why I wrote the book. It gives the ins and outs and details about why it was built as it was.

‘It’s all very readable by laypeople, except for one chapter that gets a bit technical, but only mildly so!

Mr Rayworth first book was all about the reconstruction of Appin’s Jubilee Bridge, as for his next project, it is not likely to result in something that will be printed, he says.

‘I’m very interested in bridge collapses but I can’t write about that because it means someone has done something wrong and it’ll end up in court – I don’t want to join them,’ he said.

During his working life, Mr Rayworth was responsible for a number of bridges in the Oban area, including the one at the end of Argyll Square crossing the Black Lynn.

In 1965, Mr Rayworth, who worked in Cumbria for  a number of years earlier in his career, received the Miller Prize from the Institute of Civil Engineers for a technical paper about the development of a unique method, never used before, to strengthen Kendal’s Victoria Bridge.

That paper was presented at the Institution’s HQ in London and he has been asked to present it again – 55 years later – in November to the Kendal Engineering Society.