In Victorian Britain rail travel was a hugely popular mode of transport.
By the middle of the 20th Century, however, British railways were struggling to survive. Costs had spiralled and the railways were losing millions of pounds every year. The government decided on drastic action. Between 1950 and 1973 more than 2000 railway stations were closed and thousands of miles of railway track taken out of use.
This period in British history is often looked back on with sadness. Many small communities felt cut off when railway lines were closed, thousands of railway workers lost their livelihoods and numerous uniquely scenic journeys were no longer possible. Happily, in recent years a number of old lines and stations have been reopened and there seems to be an appetite for reviving more of them.
One of the casualties of the cuts in the 1960s was a branch line to Aberfeldy in Perthshire, off the main Perth to Inverness line. The route required a number of bridges to cross the River Tay, and one of these was located in the village of Logierait, a few miles east of Aberfeldy.
When the line was closed in 1965, although the bridge had lost its original purpose, it provided a very useful link for local communities. When the rail tracks disappeared it found a new role for itself as a crossing for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
By the 1990s Logierait bridge was falling into disrepair. In an effort to save it from complete closure, enterprising locals set up The Logierait Bridge Company to raise money for vital repairs. By 2001 they had raised nearly half a million pounds and a full programme of repair work began.
As well as being one of the few remaining bridges in Scotland built to this design, using an open lattice structure of girders along its length, Logierait is the only community-owned bridge in the country.
A sign above the bridge states that any vehicles crossing it do so at their own risk, which adds an extra frisson of excitement for those brave enough to take on the challenge. I expect it is, in fact, in better repair than many publicly funded bridges, given the amount of care and attention it’s received in recent years.
Well done, citizens of Logierait, for saving this fine bridge for the present and the future. I always enjoy driving across it, and perhaps one day if the Aberfeldy branch line is revived, I might even cross it in a train.