A MAJOR renovation of the West Cork Hotel railway bridge could offer the town of Skibbereen an eco-friendly facility to host exhibitions and other events, according to the architect.
The plan is to put a glass skin and metallic roof on the landmark structure, which closed in 1961, to protect it into the future.
Architect Barrie Stanley and hotel owner Tim Looney are behind the ambitious West Cork Hotel Railway Bridge Renovation Project which was launched last week.
‘The railway came to Skibbereen in 1877 and the bridge was built between 1891 and 1893. It was unfortunately closed in 1961,’ said Mr Stanley.
‘The railways are a huge part of our heritage as well, because they were the only connector then, so a lot of people who emigrated from here went on the train and the last that was seen of them was at the train station,’ said Mr Stanley.
Inspired by a visit to the Tower Bridge in London, Mr Stanley noted the bridge in Skibbereen was of a similar structure. He then suggested to Mr Looney that something should be done with such a beautiful structure outside the landmark hotel.
‘There are a lot of similarities between the two bridges and they use the structure over there for exhibitions and functions. However, the Skibbereen bridge is 40% wider than the London bridge, and this is significant as there is more room available.’
He outlined that a metallic roof would be put on the top of the bridge and a glass skin wall to accentuate the beauty of the structure. There would be no need for additional toilets or kitchens, thus cutting the cost of the project.
‘Crowley Carbon, one of the leading energy efficient engineers on the planet ,and owned by a Clonakilty man, have agreed to help us with this,’ added Mr Stanley. ‘I have this idea of putting solar panels on the existing roof which would heat the underfloor heating, as it has to work all year round.’
Speaking to The Southern Star, following the launch of the project, which was also attended by a visiting delegation from the State of Maine, Tim Looney said that they have come up with a design and a way of protecting the structure, which will stop it from deteriorating.
‘It’s in the interest of everyone to see this bridge protected. It is a protected landmark and there aren’t any others like this in the country,’ said Mr Looney.