Zwijndrecht & Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Following on from my post about a bridge over the Savannah River in Georgia, USA, this week I thought I’d take a look at the area another bridge; this time the giant lift-bridge between the towns of Zwijndrecht and Dordrecht in the Netherlands.

“Grote Kerk Dordrecht” by bertknot is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In case you haven’t guessed, it’s that white, futuristic looking structure towards the rear of the picture 🙂

I’ve probably said this already in previous posts but I’m not entirely sure I’m a fan of modern Netherlands architecture, however… it’s definitely a bridge that makes a statement, it’d be a very interesting scratchbuilding project and it’s shear size means it would make it an eye-catching model on an exhibition layout.

So let’s find out a bit more about the Zwijndrecht, Dordrecht and the bridge itself…

Zwijndrecht is a town in south Holland on the western bank of the Oude Mass river.


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On the opposite bank of the Oude Mass is the town of Dordrecht, the rail-served industrial areas around Dordrecht harbour and the associated rail interchange yard.

The area between Zwijndrecht and Dordrecht railway stations has the potential to make a very interesting European themed model railway. There’s the two stations themselves, the lift bridge that’s the subject of this post and the Dordrecht harbour railway and associated interchange yard. It’d be possible to create something similar to Lance Mindhiem’s Downtown Spur layout but set in Europe, with the freight only harbour railway in the centre and passenger operations on the mainline around the perimeter. Here’s a picture of what I’m envisioning:

I haven’t accurately scaled this plan, it’s more of a ‘what if’, but after some ‘back-of-an-envelope’ calculations I think the layout, as shown, would require roughly 16ft x 16ft (450cm x 360cm). That’s still quite a large space for the UK where we’re not usually blessed with large basements, sheds or spare rooms but you could reduce the number of walkways and thus the overall footprint by simplifying the layout of the harbour railway tracks in the middle of the plan.

If you are one of the lucky ones with space and that track plan is not enough, further to the east of Dordrecht are other areas that would make interesting additions to this track-plan including the Chemours chemical plant I discussed in this post, the passenger branch line up to Sliedrecht and even the Betuweroute.

But back to the centre-piece of this potential layout, the bridge:

There are actually two bridges at this Oude Maas crossing point, a through-truss road bridge with a drawbridge and a four-track rail bridge with a lift section.

The rail bridge uses four spans to cross the Oude Mass, starting at the Zwijndrecht side (the west or left bank in the satellite image above) there is a short plate girder span, two through-truss spans and then the lifting span.

The image below is taken from the north-side of the bridge and you can clearly see the four different spans and bridge types:

Railway Bridge in Dordrecht Seen From Veerplein in Zwijndrecht by Smiley Tourist – Own work
CC BY-SA 3.0, View Image

There’s also a useful high-resolution aerial picture of the whole bridge/s including the western and eastern banks on the http://www.hollandluchtfoto.nl website.

So let’s see how big this bridge would be in N scale:

She’s a beast! I didn’t even bother showing T-Trak modules with this one. The two red boxes above represent a pair of 1050mm x 400mm modules. This means to accurately recreate the full span of the bridge and a little of the bank on either side you’d need about 2100mm or 7ft.

However there’s no reason why you couldn’t use a little selective compression and shorten the through truss section of the bridge (as shown below) to significantly reduce the overall footprint of the bridge without losing it’s character:

Railway Bridge in Dordrecht Seen From Veerplein in Zwijndrecht
Original Image by Smiley Tourist (Modified By NScaleNotes)
CC BY-SA 3.0, View Image

I bet that picture will cause some confusion when Google Images scrapes it off this page and starts presenting it to people searching for pictures of the Dordrecht/Zwijndrecht bridge 🙂

I think what appeals to me about making models of bridges is the variety in the major components of a bridge and fine details needed to make a convincing replica. Just take a look at this photograph taken from the adjacent road bridge to see what I mean:

Spoorbrug Dordrecht by Bertknot – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0, View Image

You’ve got the concrete piers covered in protective timber cladding, the steel girder and lattice structure of the bridge deck and trusses, the assortment of ladders, walkways and lifting cables and finally the modern tower structure that supports the lifting section.

Here’s another shot of the same part of the bridge:

Brugwachter Oude Maas (Koffiefilter) bij Dordrecht – Own work, CC BY 2.0, View Image

The building in the foreground is the bridge control room (known locally as the coffee filter). It’d be an interesting little scratch-building project in itself but what really drew my attention is the subtle taper and curved edges of those seemingly simple white columns that support the lifting section of the rail bridge; those would be a real challenge to model.

If you wanted to have a go at recreating the bridge there’s a lot of reference photos available from different sources on the Internet that I don’t have the space to feature here just search for ‘Dordrecht bridge’.

One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is the lifting action of the bridge. So here’s a nice YouTube video of the lifting sections of both the road and rail bridges in operation:

That’s about it for the bridge itself but I’m sure I’ll feature other nearby railway locations in future posts. For now, I hope that’s been interesting and if it inspires anyone to build a replica or create a Netherlands themed layout then please get in touch and let me know.

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