The Charlton Viaduct
The Charlton Viaduct was originally built to take the Somerset and Dorset Railway across the valley. Nowadays it is the longest viaduct on the Somerset and Dorset Railway route and towers an impressive 15 meters above the Sheppey River.When it was built in 1874, Charlton was the longest of seven viaducts built along the 26 mile stretch of the Somerset and Dorset Railway, situated between Evercreech Junction and Bath. The 'S&D 'or 'slow and dirty' as it was affectionately known was eventually closed by Dr. Beaching in 1966.
The Evercreech Junction to Bath line crossed the difficult Mendip hills and consequently had five tunnels and the seven large viaducts. Bath Road viaduct, also in Shepton Mallet, is still standing; however, the Charlton Viaduct was the longest at nearly 300 meters and is perhaps the finest of the entire Somerset and Dorset Railway.
The original structure was built for a single track but between 1888 and 1894 most of the line was doubled, so the viaduct was widened by about 15ft on the inside of its curve.
The viaduct comprises 27 arches. Each spans 28ft and is built of squared rubble and limestone masonry except for the arch barrels and parts of the widened span which are brick. The viaduct was in continuous use until 40 years ago apart from a brief period after the war. English Heritage restored the stonework in 1996 at a cost of £300,000.
The Charlton Viaduct is more than just a reminder of the mighty age of steam; it is a stunning and vast classical backdrop that could have been painted by Claude Lorraine. The rolling Mendip hills are visible through the 27 arches which span the valley, portholes to another type of garden, and a reminder of the harmony between nature and man's creations.