Our image today is taken from a newspaper photograph of 1936, and shows the old railway viaduct, which carried the Clifden Railway across the Corrib. In the background you can see the Headford Road naked to the world, not a building in sight. It was largely bog and marsh on the river side of the road, green fields on the Bohermore side.
You can see the bend in the railway line at the Woodquay side, and many times, groups of local children would wait at the end of the bridge, and then, as the train came around the bend, they would run like hell along the bridge, and then roll down the banks on this side as the poor unfortunate (and I am sure terrified) train driver drove by. The railway tracks were also very useful if you wanted to flatten pennies, and the bridge was a mecca for those who liked to dive into the river. More people jumped than dived, and though there was plenty of water, many a bloodied nose surfaced. Most would dive from the bridge level, but there were those who could not resist diving off the top of the girders.
The photograph is too hazy to make out any real detail of the Commercial Clubhouse, but you can see the houses on Waterside, and the plots behind. Barely visible in the foreground, beside the bridge is the old Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club.
The railway bridge consisted of three spans of 150 feet, with a 21 foot span in the center which could open to allow boats and steamers through from the sea and canal to the lake. The bridge was built in 1894, and it was used for forty years until it was closed in 1935. When this photograph was taken the bridge although very finely constructed, had fallen into some disrepair due to lack of maintenance. The metal structure of the bridge was sold to the Hammond Lane Foundry as scrap for £10. It may have made economic sense at the time, but today it seems like madness.
It is ironic that on the original newspaper caption to this photograph, the writer seemed to be regretting the loss of a good place from which to view the regatta more than anything else.
Iarnród Eireann, in association with the County Council are opening an exhibition entitled "Irish Railways, 1834-2002" in the atrium of the County Buildings on Monday next (25th February 2002) at 5:30pm. The launch will be followed by a lecture entitled "County Galway's Railway History, An Overview" by Paul Duffy. All are welcome.