John Speller's Web Pages Ballochmyle Viaduct

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Ballochmyle Viaduct
"In order to attain the summit of the country near New Cumnock, the line required to cross the river Ayr at an elevation of 178 feet above its bed. The river where the Ballochmyle Bridge is thrown over is about 100 feet wide, and runs between high and rocky banks, which are used as abutments for the great centre arch. The viaduct consists of seven arches, the centre one being 180 feet in span, certainly the largest arch in the kingdom. The three on either side of it are each 50 feet in span, and all semi-circular in form. The stones of the great arch are on the outside 5 feet deep at the springing, and 4 feet at the crown. The material for the ring stones is of a particularly fine, compact, and hard quality of white freestone, brought from the neighbourhood of Dundee; the other material is of red sandstone, taken out in large blocks from a quarry immediately adjoining. The time occupied in building this stupendous bridge was four years and three months, the total cost being about 41,000. The view of Ballochmyle Bridge is taken near the spot where Burns first saw the lass of Ballochmyle. The structure reflects much credit on the contractors, Messrs. Boss and Mitchell." -- Robert Wilson, Guide to Dumfries and Surrounding Neighbourhood via the Glasgow and South-Western Railway(Glasgow, 1852), p. 16. The viaduct was designed by John Miller (1805-1883) of Edinburgh, Engineer of the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway. The central span of the Ballochmyle Viaduct, 180 feet wide, is to believed to be the widest stone arch ever constructed anywhere in the world.

The following is the obituary of the Viaduct's designer, John Miller, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Vol. XIV (1883), p. 96:
"John Miller, M.Inst.C.E.
Mr John Miller was born at Ayr on the 26th of July 1805. He was educated at the Academy of his native town, and on leaving it entered a solicitor's office; but feeling no liking for the legal profession, he determined to abandon it for that of a Civil Engineer. After making himself well acquainted with the theory and practice of engineering, he became a partner of Mr Thomas Grainger, M.Inst.C.E., whose office was in Edinburgh. Whilst in partnership with that gentleman, he was engaged in constructing roads in various counties in Scotland, and in the south of Ireland, and was acting engineer for the Dundee and Arbroath Railway; the Glasgow, Ayr, and Kilmarnock Railway; the Edinburgh and Glasgow North British Railway. He also designed and constructed the North British Railway, Edinburgh to Berwick, and the Edinburgh and Hawick Railway; the Dundee and Perth Railway ; the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway. Mr Miller was also engineer for many other lines, both in Scotland and England. In November 1845 he deposited in Parliament plans for upwards of 1500 miles of railway. On the above railways there are probably some of the finest viaducts in Great Britain, notably the Almond Valley Viaduct, consisting of 46 arches of 50-feet span ; the Dunglass Viaduct, the centre arch of which has a span of 135 feet; whilst the centre arch of the Ballochmyle Viaduct has a span of 180 feet. Mr Miller, however, always considered the Lugar Viaduct, with nine arches of 50-feet span, and four of 30-feet span, as his greatest work. The rails of that viaduct are 150 feet above the River Lugar. Mr Miller retired from the profession of Civil Engineer in 1850. In 1868 he was returned to Parliament as one of the members for the city of Edinburgh, but lost his seat at the General Election in 1874. He purchased the estates of Leitheuhopes in Peeblesshire, and Drumlithie in Kincardineshire, and devoted a great part of his time to improving them. He died on the 8th May 1883. Mr Miller at the time of his death was Senior Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and was elected a Fellow of this Society in 1841."
Ballochmyle Viaduct from Wilson's Guide to Dumfries, 1852
Ballochmyle Viaduct in 1906
Ballochmyle Viaduct in 2006, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Postcard of Ballochmyle Viaduct, c. 1910
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