[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

Prev Contents Next

Chapter II

Section III.
Railway Construction considered in relation to the ultimate Railway system

11. - Line 71. Mestre - Conegliano-Udine-Pontebba-Tarvisio-Austrian Border.

Description of the Line.

No diagrams are included to illustrate this line.

From the industrial town of Mestre on the mainland, opposite the port of Venice, the line runs in a northerly direction across the Venetian plains to the rail junction of Treviso. Continuing North from Treviso, it passes through various towns until it reaches Conegliano, where it turns north-east and still in the Venetian plain proceeds through Sacile, Casarsa to Udine. In this length from Mestre, it crosses rivers, which in summer have no great flow, but at the spring thaw or after heavy rainstorms become broad irresistible floods, coming as they do from the mighty Dolomite range and the great catchment areas in the north east of Italy. The line is double track, steam operated in this section.

From Udine, the line once more turns North and continues, more or less in this direction, until it enters the foothills of the Dolomites, where it begins to wind its way through udulating country up to Gemona. The surroundings then becomes mountainous, and the railway twists and twines its way through precipitous gorges and valleys, following the line of the River Fella up to near its source at the border town of Tarvisio, whence it takes a north-easterly course over the border and down into the Austrian town of Villach. In this length, the line is single track electrified.


a) The line is double track from Mestre to Udine, a distance of 126 kms. in which there are 52 bridges of 5 metres span or greater, and of these only 3 are large viaducts. In this stretch, all three of the large viaducts and one other large bridge were demolished by our bombing. The demolished structures and approaches thereto were thickly sown with unexploded «Butterfly» bombs at the Piave and Tagliamento bridges. Damage to the track was not heavy except at places where the second track had been dismantled to repair the first.

b) The section Udine to Tarvisio, is single line, and is heavily engineered (especially from Gemona, Km. 29 to Tarvisio). Damage was mainly confined to the work of the Air Forces who proved themselves to have been very thorough. In the total length from Udine to the Frontier (98 kms) damage to the track, except at major structures, was negligible. Between Udine and Pontebba (Km. 69) there are 82 bridges of which 10 had been destroyed or damaged. Of these, all but the two largest, the Dogna and Peraria, had temporary repairs, or in one case, a deviation effected by the Germans. Of the 26 tunnels between Km. 31 and Pontebba, (there are no tunnels from Km. 0, Udine to Km. 31), three were damaged and required repairs.

Repair of the Line.

The line was repaired in two sections:
1) - Mestre-Conegliano-Udine.
2) - Udine-Gemona-Pontebba-Tarvisio-Frontier.

1) - Mestre-Udine.

The Mestre-Udine section was repaired by the South African Railway Construction Group from the middle of May to 20 August, 1945, with the following units under command:
38Railway Construction Company, S.A.E.C.
39Railway Construction Company, S.A.E.C.
61Tunnelling Company, S.A.E.C.
62Tunnelling Company, S.A.E.C.

On one of the viaducts, the Meduna, works were carried out by the following units of C.R.E. Troops, S.A.E.C.:
11Field Company, S.A.E.C.
13Field Company, S.A.E.C.
22Field Park Company, S.A.E.C.
under the direction of R.C.E. (S.A.E.C.).

There were four bridges or viaducts requiring repair in this section, the Piave, Livenza, Meduna and Tagliamento. The initial scheme to open the line out to Udine was carried out making use of temporary German repairs or deviations to the damaged or demolished bridges. The line to Udine was opened on 28 May, 1945. Meanwhile more permanent reconstructions were carried on, the table given below shows the allocation of the works:

39.3071/1Piave38 R.C. Coy
61 Tun. Coy
20/20m. Arches14/75' U.C.R.B. Deck.
2/25m. Y.B., L.G., Truss.
3/68'.3" Y.B., P.G.
1/73' Y.B., P.G.
1/25m. German R.S.J.
65.2771/2Livenza61 Tun. Coy1/24m. Arch1/85' UCRB Deck.
81.8471/3MedunaCRE. Corps. Tps
8/20m. Arches3 Arches repaired as before
in reinforced concrete.
97.9571/4Tagliamento39 R.C. Coy.
62 Tun. Coy.
36/21.2m. Steel
spans Deck
25 of Original P.C. Deck Spans
11/25m. YB.

NOTE: YB = Yunnan Burma; L.G. = Lattice Girder; P.G. = Plate Girder

The Piave Bridge - originally demolished by Allied bombing had a partially completed deviation commenced by the Germans. For the initial repair, this deviation was completed by C.R.E., Corps Troops, S.A. E.C. For the second repair to the original structure, the site was cleared of rubble, the piers, rebuilt in concrete from the original foundations. The steelwork, as given in the table above, was raised into position by crane and erected on falsework. The bridge was opened to traffic on 13 August.

The Livenza Bridge - originally destroyed by bombing was repaired using an 85 ft. U.C.R.B span. The bridge was opened to traffic on 17 July. A temporary German repair was used till this work was completed.

The Meduna Bridge - three completely demolished 20 metre arches were rebuilt in reinforced concrete and two other arches were patched. The method adopted for pouring the concrete was follows. A light Bailey was spanned across the gaps of the destroyed spans. The concrete was bogeyed over this bridge on Decauville track and poured at the required positions. Work was started on 1st July and completed by 20 July. A low level river crossing sufficed until this job was complete.

Figure 88. - Line 71. Tagliamento Viaduct, Job Nº. 71/4. A general view of the demolished structure, The repair was carried out by 39 Railway Construction Company and 62 Tunnelling Company, S.A.E.C., frown 2 June 1945 to 20 August 1945. The viaduct was opened to traffic on 14 August 1945. Note the low level deviaton in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.

Figure 89. - Line 71. Meduna Viaduct, Job Nº. 71/3. An artist's view of reconstruction work in progress. The new arches have been turned. The Bailey on the left of the picture is the Road Bridge. The work was carried out by C.R.E. Corps Troops, S.A.E.C. from 1 June 1945 to 20 July 194,5. Final works were completed on 31 July 1945.

The Tagliamento Bridge - originally the viaduct was 36 twin, 21.2 metre Plate Girder spans, very severely damaged by bombing, further the site was littered with unexploded «Butterfly» bombs. Of the 72 original spans, 25 were found to be worth patching and were erected using falsework and cranes. 80 per cent of the piers were destroyed down to river bed level and had to be reconstructed. The remainder of the spans were Yunnan Burma girders and in view of the enormous amount of rivetting required, an I.S.R. Contractor was given a contract to carry out this work. The repair was opened to traffic on 14 August, prior to this a low level deviation was in use, (See Figure 88.)

2. - Udine-Gemona-Pontebba-Tarvisio-Frontier.

The repair to this section was carried out by Nº 1 Railway Construction and Maintenance Group, R.E. with the following units under command:
150Railway Construction Company, R.E.
161Railway Construction Company, R.E.
46Mechanical Equipment (Tn) Platoon, R.E.
1Railway Bridging Section, R.E.

Immediately after the Armistice, May, 1945, as the first necessity was a rail link with Austria, arrangements were made to make use of existing temporary German repairs in this section and so enable the line to be opened up to Gemona (Km. 29 from Udine) from which a road link would operate to Pontebba, whence the line was open into Austria.

In the initial stages of reconstruction, assistance was given by 22, A.G.R.E. until the arrival of the railway construction units from the Bologna area, about the first week in June.

The major jobs in this section, the Peraria and Dogna bridges are dealt with fully at Chapter III, Section 4 and 5 respectively.

Other works involved the repair and replacement of temporary German repairs, and the repair of damaged tunnels. Through rail communication, Udine to Austria was eventually established on 1 August, 1945. Demolished arches of the Rivoli Bianchi viaduct (Km. 33), at which a dry weather deviation, originally constructed by the Germans, existed, were reconstructed by an I.S.R. contractor. Damage to tunnels was likewise repaired by I.S.R. Contrators, assisted where necessary by the Railway Construction Units.

Prev Contents Next

[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

Alessandro Tuzza