Pamban Rail Bridge (Pamban Railway Scissors Bridge), Rameshwaram, Ramanathapuram
Rameswaram is an island and is connected to the main land only by the Pamban rail and road bridges. The far end of Rameswaram Island is Dhanushkodi. So, to go out of Rameswaram, one has to pass through the Pamban Bridge. It was India’s longest sea bridge for 96 years till 2008. The train bridge opens up in the middle when ships pass underneath. Pamban Rail Bridge connects the mainland to the Rameswaram Island.
This 2.06 Km long rail bridge was built with stones from a distance of 320 km and sand from 160 kms. The bridge was constructed on 145 stone pillars. A portion of the bridge opens up like a pair of scissors to let the ships pass under it. Hence it is also called as Scissors Bridge.
On December 22, 1964 the devastating cyclone brought down the entire bridge and the Indian Engineers rebuilt the same precisely in 45 days and made it operational once again. This proved the superiority of Indian Engineers.
According to Indian Railways' chief construction engineer, the bridge is located in the world's second most corrosive environment after Florida, making its maintenance a challenging job. The location is also a cyclone-prone high wind velocity zone. The bridge consists of 143 piers and the centre span is a Scherzer rolling type lift span. Each half of the lifting span weighs 415 tonnes.
The Pamban Bridge is a railway bridge on the Palk Strait which connects the town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. The bridge refers to both the road bridge and the cantilever railway bridge, though primarily it means the latter.
Opened on 24 February 1914, it was India's first sea bridge, and was the longest sea bridge in India until the opening of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in 2010. The rail bridge is for the most part, a conventional bridge resting on concrete piers, but has a double leaf bascule section midway, which can be raised to let ships and barges pass through.
Pamban Railway Bridge was the first Indian bridge which is built across the sea. It is generally referred as the queen of Indian bridges. The railway bridge is 6,776 ft. (2,065 m) long. It was opened on 24 February 1914, construction having begun in 1911.
However, plans for a bridge had been suggested from as early as 1870 as the British Administration sought ways to increase trade with Ceylon. The bridge has a still-functioning double-leaf bascule section that can be raised to let ships pass. The adjacent road bridge was opened in 1988.
The railway bridge historically carried metre gauge trains, but Indian Railways upgraded the bridge to carry broad gauge trains as part of Project Unigauge, work that was completed on 12 August 2007. Until recently, the two leaves of the bridge were opened manually using levers by workers.
Around 10 ships — cargo carriers, coast guard ships, fishing vessels and oil tankers — pass through the bridge every month. More work was carried out on the bridge in 2009 to strengthen it to enable it to carry goods trains.
After completion of the bridge, metre-gauge lines were laid from Mandapam up to Pamban station. From here the railway line bifurcated, one line towards Rameshwaram about 6.25 miles (10.06 km) up and another branch line of 15 miles (24 km) terminating at Dhanushkodi.
The section was opened to traffic in 1914. The Ministry of Indian Railways sanctioned Rs. 25 crore to replace the existing 65.23 – meter – long rolling type span, which opened like a pair of scissors to allow the vessels to pass the bridge with 66-meter – long single truss span which could be opened with the press of the button.
The noted Boat Mail ran on this track between 1915 and 1964 from Madras – Egmore up to Dhanushkodi, from where the passengers were ferried to Talaimannar in Ceylon. The metre-gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi was abandoned after it was destroyed by the 1964 Dhanushkodi cyclone. The bridge was subsequently restored to working conditions under Elattuvalapil Sreedharan in just 46 days.
On 13 January 2013 the bridge suffered minor damage when a naval barge drifted into it. The tug towing a naval barge from Kolkata to Karwar near Mumbai ran aground hitting rocks on 10 January during bad weather.
The 220 tonne barge then drifted into the bridge causing part of it to tilt slightly and requiring repair work to the piers. In 2013 it was reported that Indian Railways had applied to UNESCO for the bridge to be made a world heritage site.
On December 23, 1964, A Super cyclonic storm struck the Pamban Bridge with the velocity of 240 Km/hr after swept off the entire Dhanushkodi & upturned the Pamban – Dhanushkodi passenger Train with 150 passengers. Part of the Pamban Railway Bridge was shattered and broken because of the catastrophe. After this disaster, the Indian Railway Engineers team had been come up with a 6 month plan to set back the tracks on place and repairing of bridge.
The bridge was renovated and restored again in just 46 days under the leadership of I.E.S officer E.sreedharan renowned as Metro man. For his quick heel action to the Pamban Bridge he was honoured by Railway minister Award by that year. The 100th year celebration of the Pamban rail bridge was celebrated in 2014 February 24. Recently Pamban Bridge is nominated for UNESCO’s heritage status.
The bridge spans a 2 km-strait between mainland and island and is the only surface transport link between the two. The mainland end of the bridge is located at 9°16’56.70’N 79°11’20.12’E.
The bridge spans a length of 6776 feet (2.065 meters) and has 143 piers. There is a double leaf bascule in the center of this bridge. This bascule section opens up and let the ships and boats to cross the Pamban Bridge over the sea. Based on the records averagely there are 10 to 15 large boats or ships (coast guard boats, cargo ships, container ships etc.,) pass beneath this bridge every month.
The bascule was designed by “Scherzer” a German engineer, the bascule part of the bridge is called as “Scherzer rolling type lift span” and have the length of 220 feet and weight of 200 tonnes (each leaf weighs 100 tonnes separately). Till date these heavy weight leaves are lifted manually by workers operating levers on either side. The environment where The Pamban Rail Bridge stands is said as world’s second most corrosive environment and also this region is a Cyclone prone and high velocity wind zone.
· Length – 2.06 KM
· Number of piers – 143
· Structural Design – Cantilever, bascule Bridge
· Railway Track – Broad Gauge
· Crosses – Palk Strait
· Connecting Railway stations – Mandapam – Pamban
· Location – 9°16´56.70´´N 79°11´20.12´´ E / 9.2824167° N 79.1889222° E