The Pamban Bridge is a cantilever bridge on the Palk Strait which connects Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. It refers to both the road bridge and the cantilever railway bridge, though primarily it means the latter. It was India's first sea bridge. It is the second longest sea bridge in India (after Bandra-Worli Sea Link) at a length of about 2.3 km. The rail bridge is for the most part, a conventional bridge resting on concrete piers, but has a double leaf bascule section midway, which can be raised to let ships and barges pass through.
The railway bridge is 6,776 ft (2,065 m) and was opened for traffic in 1914. The railroad bridge is a still-functioning double-leaf bascule bridge section that can be raised to let ships pass under the bridge.
The railway bridge historically carried metre-gauge trains on it, but Indian Railways upgraded the bridge to carry broad-gauge trains in a project that finished Aug. 12, 2007. Until recently, the two leaves of the bridge were opened manually using levers by workers. About 10 ships — cargo carriers, coast guard ships, fishing vessels and oil tankers — pass through the bridge every month. From the elevated two-lane road bridge, adjoining islands and the parallel rail bridge below can be viewed.
After completion of bridge metre-gauge lines were laid by them from Mandapam up to Pamban Station, from here the railway lines bifurcated into two directions one towards Rameshwaram about 6.25 miles (10.06 km) up and another branch line of 15 miles (24 km) terminating at Dhanushkodi. The section was opened to traffic in 1914.
The noted boat mail ran on this track between 1915 and 1964 from Madras-Egmore up to Dhanushkodi, from where the passengers were ferried to Talaimannar in Ceylon. The metre-gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi was abandoned after it was destroyed in a cyclone in 1964.
The bridge was subsequently restored to working conditions under E. Sreedharan in just 46 days.
On 13 January 2013 the bridge suffered minor damages when a naval barge that went adrift close to the Pamban Rail Bridge collided with the century old structure that's vying for UNESCO's heritage status. The ship that was towing a naval barge from Kolkata to a port near Mumbai first went aground hitting rocks on the January 10 following bad weather. Disaster followed as the vessel remained stuck just 50 metres away from the rail bridge. The barge that was afloat around 100 metres away hit the Pamban Rail Bridge
The bridge spans a 2 km-strait between mainland and island and is the only surface transport link between the two.
This bridge, constructed by the Indians over a hundred years ago and still in good condition, is a marvel of engineering. Until recently, the bridge formed Pamban island's only link with the Indian mainland. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims on pilgrimage to the holy Hindu shrine of Rameswaram cross the bridge every day.
According to Dr Narayanan, the bridge is located at the "world's second highly corrosive environment", next to Miami, US, making the construction a challenging job. The location is also a cyclone-prone high wind velocity zone. This Bridge consist of 143 piers and the centre span is a Schrezers rolling type lift span. It's 220 ft (67 m) long and each of 100 tonnes.
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