The Gateway to Kolkata

Mr. Walton of M/s Rendel, Palmer & Triton, was under tremendous pressure. He had to design a suspension bridge that could replace the pontoon bridge across the River Hooghly. The Chief Engineer of the Port Trust, Mr. J. McGlashan did not like the way the pontoon bridge interfered with the north-south river traffic.

The work of the building of the bridge had already been delayed due to World War I. Now, under the Chairmanship of Sir R. N. Mukherjee, the order for the bridge’s construction was placed on M/s.Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, while Mr. Wanton was supposed to design it.

Mr. Wanton’s design demanded a massive 26,000 tons of steel for the construction. Thanks to the World War II, England had sent only 3000 tons to India. In such a critical situation, Tata Steel was asked to supply the remaining 23,000 tons of high tension steel, which they did well within time.

The work of the construction of the bridge was freshly given to a local engineering firm, The Braithwaite Burn & Jessop Construction Company. They started creating two anchorage caissons for the suspension bridge. All was going well till one fateful night, when during the process of grabbing out the muck to enable the caisson to move, the ground below it yielded, and the entire mass plunged two feet, shaking the ground. So tremendous was the impact that a temple on the Hooghly shore was destroyed.

The work of sinking the caissons continued. Finally, the foundation was completed in 1938. It took another three years to erect the cantilevered arms of the bridge and construct the two halves of the suspended span.

The bridge was finally ready by December 1941, and hailed as the ‘Gateway to Kolkata’. Since then, the Howrah Bridge has been one of the most remarkable landmarks of all times.

Did You Know?

Howrah Bridge is not only a cantilever bridge, projected horizontally in space, supported on only one end, it is also a structure which does not have any nuts and bolts!