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RAJENDRA B AKLEKAR

Saving the old plaques. A visit with railway engineers to the under-demolition 164-year-old Carnac Bunder bridge near Mumbai CSMT yielded some fascinating facts. The heavy and rivetted structure is not easy to be cut up and will take a lot of time and skilful work to complete it, keeping the railway lines under it running 24×7. Those days every rivet was calculated equivalent to the weight it will be able to carry and hold the structure.

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Near the lime mortar duct
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Understanding the process

The rivetted plates are just like deftly sewn borders on a cloth piece. A huge amount of meticulous planning, specialised cutters, equipment and lots of patience will be required to carry out the task of bringing down this massive structure.

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A selfie with the historic plaque

The bridge has the century-old lime mortar inside the ducts and channels adding to the strength of the floor bed, which needs to be slowly and carefully chiselled out. The bridge has plaques dated 1858 and 1868, probably the year of beginning the construction and its year of completion, which we are trying to salvage.

The bridge was built about 30 years on a road that originally came up in the 1840s built by an Indian Laxman Harishchandra Ajinkya while he was constructing one of the first wharf and basins of Bombay along the eastern shore.

After the over 160-year-old bridge had been flagged as “dangerous” by IIT Bombay in their audit few years ago with recommendations of immediate closure as it had become a danger for the busy rail traffic passing below, the traffic police had put restrictions on heavy vehicular traffic on the bridge. Despite several pleas by railways, the BMC and traffic police delayed shutting down the bridge completely till the Hancock Bridge was opened last week. Now with permissions from the BMC and the traffic police, the bridge is set to go. Here is what the IIT report says. In engineering terms, two major components of any huge structure are the sub-structure and super-structure. The sub-structure is the part of the building that is underneath the ground, while the super-structure is everything that is above ground. The IIT-B report lists about seven major fault points in the sub-structure, including vegetation growth, cracked surfaces and even loss of parts of the bridge and about three in the supers-structure, finding corrosion and perforations in the main girders, rusted crash barriers at the bottom, with a recommendation that the super-structure shall be demolished “on priority”

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