A French Connection?

The “Eiffel” Viaduct

Over the years, newspapers have referred to Bennerley as “the Eiffel Viaduct” leading many to believe that Gustav Eiffel had some part in its construction. Eiffel did design some spectacular wrought iron viaducts such as the Garabit in the Massif Central and the Maria Pia bridge in Portugal. He is also internationally famed for constructions such as the Eiffel Tower and the internal support structure for the Statue of Liberty. Eiffel’s chosen material for most of his structures was wrought iron and he frequently used the kind of wrought iron latticework we can see in the Bennerley Viaduct. Other than those comparisons, Eiffel had nothing at all to do with Bennerley Viaduct.

The Busseau Viaduct

However, there may be a French connection. Bennerley was reputedly modelled on the Busseau Viaduct, designed by Wilhelm Nordling, which crosses the Creuse Valley in Central France. It is easy to see the similarities in construction between the Busseau and Bennerley as the wrought iron lattice design is integral to both structures. The Busseau is still in use today for railway traffic.

There are similarities in construction between the
Busseau and Bennerley Viaducts
Image by Alan Albuary

Two Iron Giants

Despite there being no direct connection with Eiffel, the viaduct still gets affectionately referred to as “Cotmanhay’s Eiffel Tower”. However, unlike the Eiffel Tower, Bennerley Viaduct was built as a commercial structure designed to perform a practical function whereas the Eiffel Tower was built as a temporary “showpiece” structure to demonstrate France’s prowess at the 1889 Paris Exposition. At that time, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world by a considerable margin so it was clear that size mattered. On that note, if you put the Eiffel Tower on its side, Bennerley Viaduct  would be nearly 400 feet longer! Bennerley Viaduct truly is an Iron Giant.

The Eiffel Tower and Bennerley Viaduct – two Iron Giants built for very different purposes