The Ilkeston Woodside Model Railway Club’s annual show was full of people admiring the many model railway sets that were on display. The Club had kindly constructed a set up for us which included a scale model of Bennerley Viaduct and this gave us the chance to talk to people about the project.
A man peered into the set and exclaimed “I nearly blew that up”. Eric Harris informed me that at some time in the early seventies, he had come out of the army where he had been an explosives expert. Back in civvy street, amongst other jobs, he went into the demolition business. When British Rail had no further use for their redundant viaduct, they asked companies to submit tenders for its demolition. Eric put in a tender. He explained that he was going to blow up the viaduct and put it on its side to make the dismantling of the structure easier. However, he added that due to its wrought iron construction, the metal had no scrap value so the price of the tender could not be offset by the price of the scrap. In addition, the costs of transporting and disposing the wrought iron significantly added to the cost of the demolition. The tender price was too high and it was rejected. Had the viaduct been built of steel, it is more than likely that it would have been demolished. The choice of construction material, wrought iron, proved to be its saving grace.
Eric looked fondly at the model viaduct and said that he was glad that he did not get the contract and he wished the project well for the future. The image is entitled “With the Viaduct in his Hands”. It is always pleasing to hear stories about the viaduct – these personal stories are an important part of the viaduct’s history.