Monday, 20 August 2018

The Eiffel Bridge of Trichy is no more

I just came across the news that two piers of the 800-meter long bridge across Kollidam river in Tiruchy have broken due to the force of the flood in the river. This bridge was one of the historically significant structures in peninsular India. I did a feature story on that for the City Express in 2015 when I was with The New Indian Express. Rightly three years after that, the bridge is now gone. It was the first feature I wrote as a journalist, so my language too would be primitive -  apologies. Here is an excerpt from that.

Source: Maalaimalar

In the list of still existing century-old riveted steel structures like the Eiffel tower, there are a lot of unsung architectures that were moved to the blind spots of people. The steel girder bridge which was built across river Kollidam in the early 1930s during British rule by Braithwaite and company is one such less popular architecture. Comparing to the age of the Eiffel tower, Kollidam bridge is just three decades younger to it.

The bridge stretches between Tiruvanaikovil of Srirangam Island and No-1 toll gate along the ‘Grand Trunk Road’. Being the only medium that connected the city with the Northern parts of the state, until the late 20th century, it was the only route to reach major cities like Chennai and Bengaluru.

I still remember the days I travelled to Samayapuram through this bridge with my dad. It was a part of our day-to-day life. The bridge played a vital role in connecting us with Manachanallur, Thuraiyur, Musiri and other important places along the other bank of Kollidam until a bridge was constructed recently near Kulithalai.

Source: The Hindu
It was very hard to identify the year of its construction from the inscription stone laid at the entrance of the bridge as it was covered completely due to sticking of posters and pamphlets. But, the year of manufacturing was embossed as 1928 along with the construction company’s name on every steel bar and girder along that 800-meter long structure.

“Our society lacks in awareness on the historical importance of various monuments and heritage sites available around and that is the ultimate reason for such acts like sticking of posters, urinating and writing on monuments, walls and sculptures”, claimed M Arockia Samy Xavier, Head, Department of History, St Joseph’s College.

He also insisted that “it is the duty of the government and educational institutions to teach the people and sensitise them about the value of such treasures which are least bothered”. He also said that “in Western countries, especially in Europe every single heritage site is properly maintained and preserved by their governments. It is because they are well aware of the value of history rather than being with a materialistic attitude”.

Now a new bridge similar to that of Napier Bridge across the Adyar basin in Chennai is being built parallel to this steel bridge to balance the growing up traffic rush in Trunk Road. The current steel bridge hardly supports two-way traffic and so heavy vehicle entry was closed since 1995 through this bridge except for a few town buses.

“Once the new bridge opens up for traffic the older one will become defunct. Instead of leaving it dormant, PWD may concentrate on renovating it and make it a heritage site. Or at least it can be left open for cyclists and pedestrians”, said S Jayaram, a retired Assistant Executive Engineer from PWD. “Technically speaking, it costs very less to renovate riveted structures”, he added.

Sources say that the bridge came into the function in the year 1935. Means this year would be its 80th anniversary. If Jayaram’s words are put into action, yet another heritage site in Tiruchy might be added to the row.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Tiruchy, August 17, 2015.