The Loopline Bridge, completed in 1891, connects the rail services of the north and south city, the River Liffey being the natural frontier between the two. In these respects it has two further names: The City of Dublin Junction Railway Bridge and the Liffey Viaduct.

Transport and communication were key to Victorian industrialisation. The all important mail arriving by steamship at Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) and Queenstown (now Cobh) required a continuous rail connection including a link from Westland Row on Dublin’s south side to Connolly Station on the north side. From there the mail could transfer to the northern line to Belfast, then the second city of Ireland. The Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway company instructed its engineer, John Chaloner Smith, and he duly designed the latticed iron bridge we see today.

Image of Loopline Bridge

Loopline Bridge (2010)

© Dublin City Council

Over the Liffey the Loopline is supported by cylindrical cast iron piers and rests on faux granite piers on the north bank in an attempt to blend with the Custom House. The bridge is slightly more than 6 metres above street level and consists of three straight spans of 38, 40 and 39 metres. The Loopline has always excited controversy. The view of Gandon’s Custom House - standing regally on the north bank of the Liffey, where the river twists gently and built at a slight angle so as to be best appreciated from O’Connell Bridge - was and is at the heart of the controversy.

In 1993 The Institute of Engineers of Ireland held a major competition with the objective of replacing or altering the bridge to enhance that view of The Custom House and the quays. The elegant, winning design of Kavanagh, Mansfield, Bullen costed then at £1.8 million was built only in model form. The sturdily designed bridge seems destined to taunt Dubliners with its ugliness for some time yet having only once come under any real threat of destruction. In 1916, the armed steamship, the Helga, hit the bridge in the course of reducing Liberty Hall to rubble. It was repaired. In November 2004 the decision was made to remove the advertising hoardings on its sides and allow the bridge to stand on its own merits.