Old Red Iron is the local name given to this railway bridge which spans the river Suir in Waterford, Ireland. Originally built in 1906, it was part of the route which linked Cork and Kerry to the Port of Rosslare via Waterford. The bridge has 9 spans. The central part could open for shipping however it has been subsequently removed. The removed section is now located a couple of hundred metres downstream on the shoreline.
With a length of 367 metres (1,205 ft), the Old Red Iron bridge was once one of the longest in the country and today is not far from Ireland’s second longest bridge, the River Suir Bridge on the N25 Waterford Bypass. The locals call it the “new bridge”. It opened in 2009 and is 230 metres (820 ft) long and 112 metres (367 ft) high. The longest bridge in Ireland is now the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy bridge near New Ross which is also part of the N25 road. It is 887 metres (2,910 ft) long.
The railway line was originally used as a faster route for mail between the transatlantic port of Cobh and London via Rosslare. It closed in 1967 only to reopen again 1970 to service the mineral processing plant near Dungarvan. The Waterford to Dungarvan section of the line was used until 1987 when it was closed to the public. The Old Red Iron bridge was abandoned in 1995 and by 2003, the central section and the track was removed to allow easier access of boats further up the river.
The bridge was used briefly to connect Waterford South Station located near Bilberry to the north side of the river Suir before it closed in 1908 and from there on was used to transport goods to Waterford Stanley and Cherry’s Brewery in Bilberry. Part of the route south of the river Suir has been maintained as a tourist attraction by Waterford & Suir Valley Railway. The route between Waterford and Dungarvan was transformed into the Waterford Greenway, a cycle track which is part of the larger EuroVelo1 route. Over 300,000 people use the greenway every year and plans are afoot to extend it to New Ross and Tramore. Part of the route will connect through the revitalised North Quays in Waterford City.
It is important to note that many of the early railway lines in Ireland have closed over the last hundred years. Waterford, located in the South East of Ireland, once well connected to other towns and cities by rail, now just has two routes. The busiest is to Dublin via Kilkenny and Carlow, the other is to Limerick via Tipperary. The lines to New Ross and Rosslare are maintained but have not been in use since 2010. Waterford also had a line to the seaside town of Tramore which closed in 1960 and was the only Irish railway that never connected to the Irish rail network.
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The line to New Ross has not been maintained in many years and has in fact been formally abandoned recently (2020). The line to Rosslare had to be maintained for 10 years after closure under EU law. The 10 years is now up.