The original railway bridge over the Vasai creek bridge built in the 1860s that connected the old Bombay Baroda and Central India (BB&CI) Railway, now called Western Railway, with Mumbai city is being pulled down after years of service in November 2020.
Western Railway officials said they will keep the heritage of the bridge alive. “We will examine if we can retrieve the builders’ plates (seals on the bridge so that they can be displayed at the Churchgate heritage gallery,” a senior official said. Coincidentally, UNESCO heritage week begins from November 19-25.
The BB&CI Railway (WR) started its origins with the construction of a 29-mile rail line between Ankleshwar to Utran in Gujarat. In 1864, it was extended to Mumbai.
Though the bridge was not in use, it remained iconic for over a century as it was always historically used to signify Western Railway. The old remains of the bridge are being dismantled with the help of boats and water cranes. Officials said the said bridge numbered 75 between Bhayander and Naigaon was abandoned in 1983 and was auctioned for metal scrap in Feb 2020.
Due to lockdown and onset of monsoon, the work of dismantling had been delayed and now started on November 5 and is expected to be complete by 26 January, 2021.
“Building a bridge across Bassein (Vasai) creek was a challenging task. By nature, the creek is tidal, the difference between the highest and lowest tides being 15 ft and the depth of water from the highest to the lowest varying from 15 to 41 ft. The first bridge across the creek was opened to traffic in 1864. It consisted of spans of 60 ft. deck warren type girders carried on 2 ft 6 inch diameters cast iron screw piles. The island Panju, located in the mid-stream, divides the creek into north and south creeks. The south creek was crossed by 69 such spans and the north by 25,” recalls late former Western Railway General Manager Anoop Krishna Jhingron in his book, Western Railway Heritage – Traditions & Legend.
“In course of time, both the girders and the foundations were found to become weak for higher loads and despite strengthening of the bridges, ultimately it became necessary to replace the bridge. Therefore, in 1927 at a distance of 120 ft from the old, a new bridge was built across the creek. However, with increasing traffic levels, this bridge too was later found inadequate and hence in 1990 another bridge was constructed across the creek. The old bridges (No. 73 & 75) were abandoned and existed, often used by the residents of Panju island as pedestrian bridges. These bridges represent an important stage in the bridge building activities on BB&CI Railway,” he adds.