A paint job Tamil Nadu

Scherzer’s link on Pamban bridge is back in action after repairs


The Scherzer’s span, a 65.23-metre rolling lift span, opens like a pair of scissors to allow ships to pass through the Pamban channel.


The 105-year-old Pamban Rail Bridge, at 2.06 km, is the second longest sea bridge in India (after the Bandra-Worli sea link) and connects the pilgrim island of Rameswaram with the mainland.

On this bridge is a vital link, a Scherzer’s span, a 65.23-metre rolling lift span that opens like a pair of scissors to allow ships to pass through the Pambam channel.

The span, named after William Donald Scherzer, the American engineer who designed it, is a technological marvel. Although it operates in a highly corrosive environment, the span has only once been closed: for 85 days from December 2018 to February 2019, when officials noticed cracks in some critical portions. Train services were suspended while the link was repaired.

The Scherzer’s span has since been strengthened, as it has to operate for a couple of more years until a new bridge is constructed. Experts from IIT-Madras and the Structural Engineering Research Centre in Chennai have indicated that the link could well function for a few more years if maintained well.

The Southern Railway, meanwhile, has commissioned its painting: more than a dozen workers are now carrying out the gigantic task of applying zinc chromate and red oxide zinc chromate — anti-corrosive paints — on the structure. The link requires some 1,000 litres of these two primers and 500 litres of aluminium paint for just a single coat. “But even as we paint one side, the other side gets corroded. The span will be given another coat after three months,” says an official.

The Scherzer’s span, earlier lifted once a week, is now opened once a month.

Text by D.J. Walter Scott and images by L. Balachandar.

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