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Manchester Ship Canal Railway - Detroit Bridge, Salford

Twin-track swing bridge built in 1941 to carry part of the 231 mile Manchester Ship Canal Railway, the largest private railway in the United Kingdom

Red Wheel Site:
Transport Mode(s):

Erie/Huron Basins, Salford Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ

M50 3AZ
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About Manchester Ship Canal Railway - Detroit Bridge, Salford

The Detroit Bridge was formerly the twin-track railway bridge that linked the Manchester Ship Canal Railway, a cargo railway system on Manchester and Salford Docks, to Trafford Park.  The bridge is made from steel and was constructed by Dorman Long and Co. Ltd.  It was originally sited across the Ship Canal close to Trafford Road Bridge to replace an older single-track railway bridge that had been erected in the late nineteenth century.

The rail system of the Manchester Ship Canal Company was integral to the operation of the Manchester Ship Canal during the late 19th and 20th centuries.  The Canal opened in 1894 to provide ocean-going vessels with a direct route to Manchester and the Manchester Ship Canal Railway was built to service freight to and from the canal docks to the nearby industrial facilities.  The Railway was also connected to the national rail network and therefore played a role in transporting the cargo which came into the Port of Manchester around the country.  At the peak of its activities in the 1940s, the Manchester Ship Canal Railway had 75 locomotives, almost 2,700 wagons, 231 miles of track and employed over 790 people.  The largest concentrations of rail and equipment were at Salford Docks, but there were also facilities at Partington North Coaling Basin and Glazebrook.

When the Manchester and Salford docklands were closed in the 1970s, it was decided to retain the bridge as a feature of the redevelopment of The Quays.  In 1988 a sailing licence was acquired to float the bridge down the Ship Canal on pontoons to a new position across the former No. 9 Dock where it is currently used as a footbridge.

Our thanks to Alexandra Mitchell for this entry



The following Grand British Experimental Railway documentary was made by Granada TV in 1980 . It celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Liverpool-Manchester railway. Presenter Bob Greaves takes a trip on today's line and introduces a dramatised reconstructions of important facets of the railway's construction and history, including the Rainhill Trials, Edge Hill Station and the building of the Sankey viaduct. It describes the rivalry between Manchester Ship Canal and the later Liverpool and Manchester Railway which was a threat to the canal, and the politics associated with resisting the new technology.

By road off the A5063 and The Quays

By tram Harbour City stop

Booth, A. ‘The Manchester Ship Canal and its Railway’, Railway Bylines Annual, No. 3 (1999), pp.32-56.

Cox, A. ‘Manchester Ship Canal Railways’, Railway World, Vol.11 (1959), pp.581-592.

‘End of Steam on the Manchester Ship Canal Railway’, Railway World, Vol. 27 (1966), p. 395.

Gray, E. A Hundred Years of the Manchester Ship Canal. (Bolton, 1993).

Gray, E. Salford Quays.  The Story of the Manchester Docks.  (Trafford, 2000).

Gray, E. The Manchester Ship Canal.  (Stroud, 1997)

Jones, N. ‘Manchester Ship Canal Railway’, Trains Illustrated, Vol. 12, (1959), pp.488-495.

Leech, B. T. The History of the Manchester Ship Canal (1907)

MacFarlane, H. ‘Manchester Ship Canal Railways’, Railway Magazine, (1903), Vol. 12, pp.464-470.

MacFarlane, H. ‘Manchester Ship Canal Railways’, Railway Magazine, (1903), Vol. 13, pp. 10-16.

‘MSC’, Industrial Railway Bulletin, (1982), Vol. 8: 334, p.22.

Owen, D. The Manchester Ship Canal. (Manchester, 1983).

Scholes, J. ‘Manchester Ship Canal Co Ltd’, Railway World, (1992)

Thorpe, D. The Railways of the Manchester Ship Canal (Poole, 1984)

‘The Manchester Ship Canal Railway’, Backtrack, Vol. 11 (2001), pp.644-645.

‘The Locomotives of the Manchester Ship Canal Co., Bridgewater Department’, SLS Journal, Vol.44, No. 520, (1968), pp.325-326

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR