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

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Chapter II

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

2. - Line 86 - The East Coast Route - Lecce - Brindisi - Bari - Foggia - Pescara - Ancona - Bologna.

In peace and in war this was one of the most important lines in Central and South Italy. In its length of 800 kilometres it connects the important Adriatic ports of Brindisi, Bari and Ancona with Bologna, the principal exchange station of the Po valley. From a military point of view, it has a particular interest in that not only was it the main L. of C. for the Eighth Army during the grater part of their Italian campaign, but also that every Tn. Railway Construction Unit with the exception of 3 Rly. Tele. Coy., has contributed in some measure to its reconstruction.

Figure 7. - Line 86 between Fossacesia and S. Vito. Deviation round demolished tunnel.

Starting in the South at Lecce, the line runs as single track through the wide fertile coastal plain past Brindisi to Bari. Here the line becomes double and continues along the coast to Barletta where it turns inland across the wide Foggia plain to Foggia and San Severo. At San Severo the line becomes single again and continues in a Northerly direction until it again meets the sea coast at Ripalta. From Ripalta the coastal plain is narrow, and in some places virtually non-existent and so the line follows the coast closely, crossing the important rivers Fortore, Trigno

Figure 8. - Line 86. Concrete retaining wall in construction.

Figure 9. - Line 86. Tunnel reconstruction in open cut showing centreing, with debris only partially excavated from demolished tunnel.

and Sangro close to their mouths. In places the line tunnels through headlands. At Pescara the coastal plain broadens and the line crosses the broad and deep Pescara river by a single span steel lattice girder bridge. The line continues to follow the coast as far as Porto Recanati where it turn inland. From Porto Recanati the line climbs over the hills South of Ancona and through a tunnel and drops down into the town of Ancona itself. Here the line becomes double once again and again follows the coast crossing the wide rivers Esino, Cesano and Metauro up to the town of Pesaro. Here it diverges from the coast for 15 kilometres climbing over low hills and through a tunnel until it reaches the sea coast once more, which it follows up to the town of Rimini. At Rimini it turns North-West finally leaving the coast and follows a straight line up the plains of the Po to Bologna crossing numerous rivers of medium size. The line is steam operated throughout, although the section Ancona-Bologna was electrified, it is not likely to be restored for some time to come owing to war damage.

Figure 10. - Line 86. Steel Through Plate and Lattice Girder spans over Marecchia Canal just North of Rimini Station. The first stage of repair involved the removal of the right hand spans, and the crossing of the canal by U.C;R.Bs. This work was carried out by 161 Railway Construction Company, R. E. from 25 September, 1944 to 26 November, 1944 under Job Nº. 86/333. The second stage (at the doubling of the line) involved the jacking back into position of the left hand spans for reuse. This work was carried out by 150 Railway Construction Company, R.E. from 27 January, 1945 to 6 March 1945 under Job, Nº. 86/333A.

From Lecce to Termoli, a distance of 360 kilometres, the line was lightly damaged, the principal damages being deliberate demolitions of four large bridges over the rivers Ofanto, Cervaro, Fortore and Biferno and extremely heavy bomb damage to the station yards at Foggia. From Termoli North to the end of the line at Bologna, damage, nearly exclusively due to demolition, was more intensive than on any other main line in Italy. Of 153 bridges in this length, of span of 5 metres or greater, 118 were destroyed most of them completely. Out of the 14 tunnels, 13 were demolished. Out of the 440 route kilometres of line, 250 route kilometres were demolished of which 43 kilometres had been "processed" by the "Rooter" and 42 kilometres were completely dismantled and all sleepers removed; the remaining 165 kilometres were demolished by cutting the rails with explosive charges.

The repair of the line was carried out in three stages. First, from its Southern extremity to a point three miles North of Ortona the line was reconstructed by 1212 and South African, Groups during the period September 1943 to July 1944. Second, from Ancona to the terminus at Bologna the line was reconstructed by 1, South African and 4 (Indian) Groups during the period August 1944 to June 1945. Nº. 1 Group covered more than three quarters of this work. Third, from the point three miles North of Ortona to Ancona the line was reconstructed by 1212 Group and I.S.R. Contractors working under A.C. supervision, the two organisations operating jointly, during the period October 1944 to July 1945. Times of construction are admittedly not short, but this was due in the first two cases to slow progress by the Army and in the third case to the fact that the work was largely carried out by civil contract labour under a low military priority.

After the initial reconstruction by N.º 1, N.º 1212, and the South African Groups; N.º 4 (Indian) Group took over maintenance and improvement works on this line with the following units under command:

120 Indian Rly Const. Coy., I.E.
122 Indian Rly Maint. Coy., I.E.
136 Indian Rly Maint. Coy., I.E.

Some of the more interesting repairs carried out on this line were.

a) Bridges over Rivers Ofanto and Cervaro between Barletta and Foggia.

these works were carried out by 160 Railway Construction Company, R.E., in the very early days of the campaign before Tn. Stores had started to arrive in the country in any quantity. Each bridge had three spans each of about 60 feet. Small supplies of L.S.U.S.T. were available but suitable bridge spans were not. Completely on its own initiative therefore, the unit devised

Figure 11. - Line 86. Three, double-treble 60 ft. Bailey Spans constructed by 160 Railway Construction Company, R.E. from 3 October, 1943 to 15 October 1943, under Job Nº. 86/2 to cross the River Ofanto at St. S. Margherita di Savoia Ofantino. The original bridge was a masonry viaduct.

A design for, and erected Bailey Bridge spans over the gaps capable of carrying rail traffic. In the Ofanto bridge, three spans each of 60 feet were used and in the Cervaro bridge, 2 spans of 50 feet and one span of 80 feet were used, supported on L.S.U.S.T. piers. The Bailey Bridging was a Double Treble construction with the track laid on the timber decking which was constructed at the level of the bottom of the top tier of panels. Additional strengthening was carried out to the decking, and the bridge was stiffened by welding additional sway bracing. The bridges carried heavy traffic for 18 months without trouble before being retired in favour of a permanent repair.

Other gaps were spanned by the same unit on this line by the use of Bailey Bridging (notably River Biferno, 4x60 ft. plus 2x50 ft. Deck spans), but the Ofanto and Cervaro bridges remain the pioneer effort.

Figure 12. - Line 86. Viaduct over R. Biferno at Campomarino constructed by 160 Railway Construction Company R.E. from 23 October, 1943 to 27 November 1943, under Job N.º 86/12. An 8x1 Deck type continuous Bailey was used, four spans being 60 ft., and 2 of 50 ft. The original bridge was a masonry viaduct.

b) Bridge over River Fortore at Ripalta.

Repairs to this bridge were carried out at various times by 10 Railway Construction Company, R.E., and by Nº. 2 Railway Bridging Section, R.E., under command of R.C.E. 1212. The general scheme consisted of lifting and re-using the undamaged portion (43 metres) of a partially demolished 59 metre steel girder span. Work commenced on 16 October 1943 and traffic passed over a temporary repair on 27 November. The bridge was undermined by a flood on the night of 1/2 January 1944 and was not reopened until 15 January 1944. As a result a permanent repair was put in hand which was completed on 24 June 1944. A further description of this work is given in Chapter III, Section 1.

c) Bridges over Rivers Trigno and Sangro between Termoli and Ortona.

These bridges were the first two examples encountered of a type of bridge which was to become very familiar before the campaign was over. The Trigno bridge (Km. 321.6) consisted of 17 brick arches, each of 12 metres clear span, and the Sangro bridge (Km 490.0) consisted of 24 similar arches. Both these rivers vary considerably in their discharge at varying times of the year and except in time of flood, the grater part of the waterway is dry. The surrounding county is low-lying and so the height of the bridges is small. Both bridges were completely demolished.

Repair work on the Trigno bridge was carried out by 160 Railway Construction Company, R.E., 38 Railway Construction Company, S.A.E.C., and 45 Mech. Equip. (Tn.) Platoon, R.E., and on the Sangro by 40 Railway Construction Company, S.A.E.C., all under the command of R.C.E. (S.A.E.C.). Work on the Trigno bridge commenced on 15 November 1943 and the bridge was opened for traffic on 20th December; further works then put in hand were finally completed on 20 April. Work on the Sangro bridge commenced on 12th December and the bridge was opened to traffic on 27 January: further works then put in hand were finally completed on 1st April 1944.

Both these bridges became available for repair at about the same time, and at a time when railway bridging supplies were by no means as plentiful as could have been desired. The cost of repairing a total of 41 arches each of 12 metres span was prohibitive, and yet it was essential to open the railway past these obstacles quickly. It was therefore decided to fill part of the gap at each bridge with an earth embankment.

Figure 13. - Line 86. Viaduct overt T. Trigno at San Salvo repaired by 160 Railway Construction Company, R.E. from 13 November, 1943 to 13 May 1944, under Job Nº. 86/17. The first repair involved the use of 5 Nº. 40 ft. Sectional Plate Girder spans, the remaining 12 spans earth filled. However in view of the danger of restricting the waterway of the river in flood, 5 of the filled spans were re-excavated and bridged by 5 Nº. 40 ft. R.S.J spans.

At the Trigno bridge, 12 of the original spans were filled, and 40 ft. sectional spans used to span the remaining five openings. At the Sangro bridge, 14 of the original spans were filled and of the ten gaps left open six were spanned with three 90 ft. U.C.R.B. spans supported at their centres by concrete piers built on the original foundations and the remaining four were spanned by 40 ft. sectional spans. In both bridges piers were built of concrete founded on the original pier foundations.

When the line had been opened it was considered that the waterway had been restricted too much and that if a heavy flood were to occur, there was a distinct possibility that the safety of the line would be endangered. At the Trigno bridge, five 45 ft. R.S.J. spans were inserted under traffic in place of the earth bank recently tipped. At the Sangro bridge, fifteen 10 ft. rail and concrete box culverts were constructed under traffic through the bank about half a mile North of the bridge.

d) Moro Tunnel.

The Moro tunnel was probably the most troublesome tunnel to repair on Line 86. It is located about 3 kilometres South of Ortona at Km. 374. This had, besides several minor demolitions, a large demolition about 400 feet from the South end, another 30 feet long about 700 feet from the South end, a third 50 feet long about 450 feet from the North end and about 60 feet of lining at the North portal. The total length of the tunnel is 1,600 feet, the overburden was 60 feet deep and was soft and unreliable, having been disturbed by the demolitions.

Repairs to the tunnel were executed by 38 and 39 Railway Construction Companies, S.A.E.C., and by 62 Tunnelling Company, S.A.E.C., all under command of R.C.E. (S.A.E.C.) Work commenced on 12 January 1944, the first train was passed on 10 April and work was finally completed at the end of May 1944.

The first demolitions caused little trouble. About half the arch including the crown had remained standing and it was only necessary to repair about 40 feet of wall on each side. At the second demolition about 25 feet of the arch had collapsed but the walls were sound. The formation above had fallen for a height of about 30 feet above the crown but fortunately stood until it was possible to replace the arch ring. Between the second and third demolitions, the tunnel was filled with water to a depth of about 6 feet for 350 feet. Several springs flow into the tunnel and when it was finally opened the discharge amounted to fully 20,000 gallons per hour.

The third demolition gave great trouble. In the first place it was not possible to work on the South end until the second demolition had been repaired, on account of the water and access to the job. Attempts were made at the beginning to clear the spoil at the North end but after a few days work, a mud rush occurred burying three Indian Pioneers. Two were extricated but the third was killed. Next, attempts were made to clear the overburden from the top with bulldozers, but this was during the bad weather of February and March. After a few day work all machines became bogged and this method had to be abandoned. There was only 60 ft. of overburden on top of the tunnel and in good weather this would have been a quick method. About 20 ft. was cleared by means of the machines before their use had to be abandoned.

Lastly the slowest method of all - timbering from the inside - had to be resorted to. The arch was timbered by putting in 'I' beam steel frames and spiling above them with 20-lb. rails and slowly removing the spoil to springing level. When this was completed, the whole was underpinned and carried on heavy 12 inch x 12 inch timber frames placed close to the walls. Then excavation of the bottom spoil started and the walls to springing level were replaced in short sections of about 6 ft., using rapid hardening cement. The whole of the material from arch to foundations was shattered and all had to be close timbered as excavation proceeded. The presence of large quantities of water and the necessity of timbering all the shattered material in the walls in order to get the concrete in added to the slowness and difficulties of the job.

While this was being done a shaft 30 ft. x 30 ft. was sunk from the top, heavily timbered and strutted with 12 inch x 12 inch timber and with sleepers as lagging. The shaft was 40 ft. deep and eventually exposed the top of the arch timbering which was then removed and a reinforced concrete arch ring put in. This covered half the break in the arch and it was possible to run trains through the tunnel on 10 April - three months after the job had started. A second shaft was then sunk next to the first and on the line of the tunnel, and in the same way the remaining 25 ft. of concrete arch was put in.

e) Pescara River Bridge at Pescara.

This bridge carries Line 86 across the Pescara River about a mile from its mouth. The bridge crosses the river in a single steel span of 64 metres with two short approach spans. The original spans were destroyed by the Germans during their retreat in May 1944. The most interesting point about this bridge is that it is the largest single span steel girder bridge erected in Italy by British Railway Construction troops.

The work was done by 160 Railway Construction Company, R.E., under command of R.C.E. 1212 and assisted by I.S.R. Contractors. Contractors work started on the bridge in October 1944, 160 Coy. started work on 7 March 1945 and the bridge was opened to traffic on 10 May.

Owing to Railway Construction troops being employed on work of higher priority, the original intention was that the whole of the line from Ortona to Ancona, including this bridge, should be repaired by civilian contract, and work was started on that basis. In order that the work should be completed in time to be of military use, however, it was necessary to lend military aid to the works of greater magnitude on the line. As this bridge was one of the key points to the opening of the line and progress by the contractor was slow, 150 Coy., was moved in to take over the work.

The civil scheme for the repair of the bridge envisaged the use of a steel span of the requisite size which had been intended for a bridge over the river Po and was lying at a steelworks at Arezzo ready for use. The erection was to be carried out on falsework piled in the river. When 160 Coy., took over the job, work was so far advanced on the civil scheme that no advantages could have been gained by altering it.

The civil scheme was therefore adopted by 160 Coy. The steelwork was erected on falsework in its final position across the gap and was rivetted up. The work was completed five days ahead of the opening of that section of the line. But for the timely intervention of 160 Coy., it is certain that this bridge would have delayed the opening of the line for many weeks.

f) Del Castellano Tunnel - Ancona.

Reopening of this tunnel proved to be the key job to the re-opening of the section of line between Ortona and Ancona. Originally estimated to open on May 15, traffic did not pass through the tunnel until June 30. As, however, the tunnel was only 2 kilometres South of Ancona a road link was operated from the opening of the remainder of the line on May 15, until the completion of the tunnel.

The work was carried out by an I.S.R. Contractor under the supervision of A.C. Assistance from military sources was provided by issue of stores and plant to the job, and assistance, by loan and operation of mechanical equipment, was provided by 45 Mech. Equip. (Tn.) Platoon, R.E.

The tunnel has a total length of 1,569 metre and about 250 metres length at each end was demolished. There were no internal demolitions in the tunnel. As the overburden at the points of demolition was shallow, it was decide to excavate from the surface with draglines. As soon as the debris of demolitions was all cleared, traffic would be allowed to run through the open cut, and the tunnel lining restored under traffic.

This plan went well until a few days before completion. Unfortunately at this point a heavy fall or rain caused an extensive earth slip in the cutting at the South end of the tunnel. This slip did not respond to clearing, as any earth cleared from the toe of the slip was quickly replaced by further movement. It became apparent that all hopes of running traffic through an open cut would have to be abandoned and that the line would remain closed until the tunnel lining could be restored. The restoration of the lining in brickwork was therefore put in hand immediately with contract labour. During the whole process of restoration of the lining, draglines had to be kept in operation to control the slip which was continually on the move.

g) Bridges over Rivers Cesano and Metauro between Ancona and Pesaro.

The principal interest in these works is firstly in the similarity of the problem to that of the Trigno and Sangro bridges described above (paragraph c) and the dissimilarity of the solution thereto and secondly in the novel type of superstructure used. Like the Trigno and Sangro these bridges consisted of a long series of arches of 12 metres clear span, the Cesano had 14 arches and the Metauro had 21 arches, and like the Trigno and Sangro all were demolished nearly to ground level.

The reconstruction of both of these bridges was carried out by Nº. 1 Railway Bridging Section, R.E., under command of Nº. 1 Railway Construction and Maintenance Group, R.E. Work on the Cesano commenced on 22 August 1945 and was completed on 28 September. Work on the Metauro bridge commenced on 28 August 1945, traffic was passed on 30 September and work was completed on 14 October.

From experienced gained since the repair of the Trigno and Sangro bridges, the wisdom of filling any considerable part of the gap, of such bridges as these, was very much open to doubt. It was therefore decided that only six of the demolished arches in the Metauro bridge could be filled and that the Cesano bridge would have to be completely restored by bridging. The implementation of this decision was assisted by the fact that stocks of W.D. bridging were rather more plentiful than at the time of construction of the Trigno and Sangro bridges. As all the

Figure 14 - Line 8. River Cesano Viaduct, North of Senigallia. The original bridge was 14 spans of 12 metre masonry arches which were completely demolished. Nº. 1 Railway Bridging Section, R.E. carried out the repair, using 33 inch deep R.S.Js continuous over several supports (see the text below), the piers being rebuilt on their original foundations. Work commenced 22 August, 1944 and was completed 28 September 1944, under Job Nº. 86/312.

Figure 15. - Line 86. River Metauro Viaduct just South of Fano. The original bridge was 21 spans of 12 metre arches. 15 spans were reconstructed in the same manner as for the Cesano Viaduct, except that the piers, due to lack of bricks and need for speed were completed in L.S.U.S.T., 6 spans were earth filled. The work was carried out under Job Nº. 86/317 by Nº. 1 Railway Bridging Section, R.E., and 46 M.E. (Tn) Platoon. Work began on 28 August, 1944 and the bridge was opened to traffic on 29 September, 1944. Further protection works to the earth filled spans were carried on up to 9 January, 1945.

Foundations in each bridge were intact and easily traceable, the work of clearance and reconstruction of piers went on apace. In the case of each bridge, brick shells were built to the form of the piers and progressively filled with concrete reinforced with rails. This method, incidentally, was standard practice in Italy for reconstruction of bridges, as it was found to be more economical and was usually just as quick as timber shuttering. Usually 3 ft to 4 ft. of brick shell was built and was then followed up by a lift of concrete up to the top of the brickwork, a further lift of brickwork was then built, followed by a further lift of concrete.

At the time the bridges were constructed, the area was fairly far forward and as it was more expeditious to obtain supplies of bricks from existing stocks in local brickworks or from the rubble of nearby demolished villages than to bring them forward from rear areas. Unfortunately before the Metauro bridge could be completed these supplies dried up, and as time was pressing, the piers were completed in light steel trestling. This gave a rather peculiar appearance to the bridge, but the design was non the less sound.

Figure 16. - Line 86. River Cesano Viaduct. The internal bracing and splice connections of the continuous girders.

While this work was going on there was considerable activity back in Rome where the steel-work for the superstructure was being prepared. Considerable thought had been given to the selection of a suitable superstructure for these bridges. Although stocks of bridging at this time were adequate to meet normal demands, the repair of both bridges either in 40 ft. sectionals or U.C.R.B. would not have been possible. Stocks would have permitted a mixture of these types of bridging being used, but the effect would have been prejudicial to future commitments. It was therefore decided to make use of some Yunnan Burma Joists 33 inches deep and 34 feet 10 inches long of which a considerable supply was available. In their existing condition there was little call for their use as they were extremely cumbersome to handle as compared with standard W.D. 35 ft. spans. Calculations showed that these joists could be used for 16 B.S.U. loading at a speed restriction of 30 m.p.h. with one joist under each rail. The spans centre to centre of piers were 46 feet and centre to centre of bearings 43 feet. In order to reduce the number of splices in the bridge and also to economise in steel and provide a more rigid structure, it was decided to fabricate the joists so as to be continuous over groups of three spans. As erected, the Cesano bridge had one single simply supported span at each end of the bridge and the intervening twelve gaps were spanned by four sets of continuous spans. The same principle was adopted for the Metauro, but owing to slight variations in the spacings of the piers of the original bridge, small modifications were introduced. The fifteen gaps were spanned in the following way: starting from the South end of the bridge - one single simply supported span, next one girder continuous over two spans, next one girder continuous over three spans, next one girder continuous over six spans, finally one girder continuous over three spans.

The girders and splice plates were fully drilled in the workshops in Rome and were railed to the site as separate components. After erection all joints fully rivetted. Cross bracing frames were welded together as individual components in Rome. On arrival at site, the frames were built into the bridge and sway bracing added, all field joints in all of the bracing being welded.

h) Bridge over River Foglia at Pesaro.

This bridge, which lies just to the North of Pesaro station, had consisted of five masonry and brickwork arches, each of 12 metres clear span and was about 10 metres high from river bed to rail level. The bridge had been the subject of heavy air attack and four of the arches had been completely demolished and one of the piers had been severely damaged at its foundations. Repairs to the bridge had been put in hand by the Germans and when the bridge was captured these had the appearance of being virtually intact. The whole bridge was charged and wired for demolition. After closer inspection and consideration of the German repairs, it was decide that the complete reconstruction of the bridge would have to be undertaken. This was put in hand in three stages. First, improvement of the German repairs to open the line quickly to traffic. Second, a further repair on the line of the second track. Third, permanent reconstruction of the whole bridge.

Figure 17. - Line 86. River Foglia Viaduct just North of Pesaro. The timber trestles and R.S.J. spans shown above were used by the Germans in their reconstruction of the viaduct after bombing, and are typical German rapid repairs. As a first repair by British forces, this enemy repair was strengthened. Work was carried out by 159 Railway Construction Company, R.E., under Job Nº. 86/324 from 11 September, 1944 to 7 October, 1944.

The first two stages of the work were carried out by 150 and 159 Railway Construction Companies, R.E., under command of Nº. 1 Railway Construction and Maintenance Group, R.E. Work on the repair of the bridge commenced by 159 Coy. on 11 September 1944 and the first stage was opened to traffic on 3 October. The second stage was commenced by 159 Coy. and was completed by 150 Coy. on 22 February 1945. The final stage of the work was carried out by I.S.R. contractors under the direction of A.C.

In the first stage of the repair it was decided to use as much of the German repairs as possible. The remaining arch was too badly cracked to be of further use and to be demolished. Several of the German joists were found to be cracked and had to be rejected. Likewise, all the German timber trestles except one were discarded. For the remainder, however, the existing remnants of pier foundations, and the superstructure were accepted and re-used for the sake of effecting a rapid repair. Temporary light steel trestles were erected alongside to carry the weight of the German steel joist superstructure during the reconstruction of the piers.

Figure 18. - Line 86. River Foglia Viaduct. In the first repair unstable enemy wooden trestles were replaced by L.S.U.S.T. The second repair was carried out in the doubling programme of the line, using R.S.J. and U.C.R.B. spans. This second stage was carried out under Job 86/324A by 150 Railway Construction Company, R.E., and 159 Railway Construction Company, R.E. from 23 October, 1944 to 30 March, 1945.

On completion of the first stage, it was decide to proceed with the second stage as this would remove the bottleneck from a long stretch of double track and as the construction could be carried out at some leisure, it would be possible to build a structure more resistant to winter floods. During this stage, considerable time was spent dressing the demolitions down to the undamaged parts, the piers were brought up in masonry and a long span was included to obviate use of the badly damaged North pier. In addition a sheet piled cofferdam was constructed around the North pier to facilitate the impending excavations at that point during the permanent repair.

Third stage consisted of restoration of the original arched structure in brickwork and the recovery of the steel spans by I.S.R. Contractor. The work was simple and straightforward.

During the first two stages of the reconstruction much time was lost and trouble caused by intermittent flooding of the river and by the wet and bitterly cold weather conditions.

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

Alessandro Tuzza