Cahir Viaduct (1955 & 2003) Co. Tipperary, Ireland

The Cahir Viaduct carries the Limerick - Waterford railway across the River Suir at a skew, near the town of Cahir in Co. Tipperary. Originally built in 1852, the three span box girder bridge is supported by cut limestone abutments and piers and the bridge ends are decorated with crenellated turrets.

Around 4.30 a.m. on December 21st 1955, in fine, clear, if dark conditions, the Beet Special 3 (B.S.3), en route to Thurles, sped into Cahir station, entered a siding, crashed through the buffers and went through the floor of the viaduct. The locomotive, tender and 22 of the open wagons plunged into the water over 12 metres below, resting at an angle of around 30 degrees and with the front wheels under about 3 metres of water. 10 wagons remained on the tracks. Train driver, Cornelius Kelly and the fireman, Francis Frahill were killed but the guard, at the rear of the train, survived.

A government enquiry, led by T.L. Hogan, found that the bridge was in no way implicated in the accident, that, inexplicably, danger signals were ignored and while the steam brakes of the train were partially applied it was too little and too late. In addition, Coras Iompair Éireann, then the railway operator, was criticised for how the siding inappropriately dead ended at a bridge abutment yet was in use for everyday rail traffic.

The rebuilding of the Cahir Viaduct resulted in few structural changes, other than the replacement of 18 of the original 95 wrought iron cross girders with those of steel. From time to time other, minor, repairs were made, mostly dealing with corrosion of the iron work.

Image of Cahir Viaduct (1955 & 2003)

Cahir Viaduct, Co. Tipperary, Ireland

© Irish Rail

Then on October 7th, 2003, on a mild, overcast morning at around 6 a.m. a 2 locomotive, diesel train hauling 22 purpose built cement wagons en route from Limerick to Waterford, derailed with 12 wagons crashing through the deck of the viaduct and into the river below. There were no fatalities or injuries as the locomotive had already crossed and the other wagons, while derailed, stayed on the viaduct. Once again, the official enquiry found that that the bridge structure in no way contributed to the accident and that the blame largely laid with the secondary deck which carried the tracks and for which Iarnród Éireann had responsibility. In fact, it was commented that the necessary new bridge should be engineered as the old which had admirably withstood two major assaults.

Following €2.6 million upgrade and repair works, the Cahir Viaduct reopened on 23 September 2004.