Loop Line bridge

Loop Line bridge

In Brief

The "Loop Line bridge" is a heavy railroad bridge that crosses the Liffey on the east side of central Dublin, continuing over city streets on the north side to the Amiens Street station and on the south side to the Westland Row station. It was built in 1891 to connect train lines on the two sides of the city, "looping" between the two stations in a large arc. Its elevated structure, occasioned by the need for ships and city traffic to pass beneath it, spoiled views of the large, handsome neoclassical building just to the northeast: the Custom House.

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This prominent Dublin feature is first mentioned in Lotus Eaters, when the elegant woman whom Bloom has been ogling, waiting for her to climb up on a jaunting car and reveal glimpses of her underwear, rides off "towards the Loop Line bridge." The "bridge" here is quite a few blocks from the water, passing over Great Brunswick Street on its way to the nearby Westland Row (now Pearse) railway station, where it terminates.

One chapter later, in Hades, the carriage in which Bloom is riding along Great Brunswick (now Pearse) Street passes "under the railway bridge" near Westland Row station. In the space between the two chapters Bloom has traveled southeast to Paddy Dignam's house in Sandymount, and is now revisiting the area he walked through before.

The bridge proper (that is, the part that crosses the river) figures in Wandering Rocks, when the throwaway which Bloom has thrown away on the O'Connell Street bridge drifts past its pilings: "A skiff, a crumpled throwaway, Elijah is coming, rode lightly down the Liffey, under Loopline bridge, shooting the rapids where water chafed around the bridgepiers, sailing eastward past hulls and anchorchains, between the Customhouse old dock and George's quay." In 1904 oceangoing ships moored both upstream and downstream of the Loop Line bridge, navigating past the immediately adjacent Butt Bridge by virtue of its swiveling central section.

The action of Eumaeus takes place under the northern part of the bridge, behind the Custom House. Stephen and Bloom, we hear, "made a beeline across the back of the Customhouse and passed under the Loop Line bridge where a brazier of coke burning in front of a sentrybox or something like one attracted their rather lagging footsteps." This is the post of Gumley, guarding the Corporation's stones.

From the nearby cabman's shelter, Bloom sees the old sailor Murphy "gaping up at the piers and girders of the Loop line rather out of his depth as of course it was all radically altered since his last visit and greatly improved." Bloom, then, is much in favor of this recent feat of mechanical engineering in service of railway connectivity, accomplished during Murphy's long absence. He does not seem to be bothered by any aesthetic violence it may have done to the Georgian cityscape.

At its northern end, the bridge runs into the Amiens Street (now Connolly) station, the departure point for northbound trains. This station too is mentioned in Eumaeus and Ithaca.

JH 2014
Photograph showing the old swiveling Butt Bridge in the foreground, the Custom House in the background, and the Loop Line bridge between them. Source: southdublinlibraries.ie.
1950s photo by William York Tindall of the bridge from the corner of Great Brunswick Street and Westland Row, with a train heading to the nearby station. Source: The Joyce Country.
Photograph by YvonneM of the Loop Line Bridge in 2011 as seen from the new Butt Bridge. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Detail from period map showing the Loop Line loop between the Westland Row and Amiens Street stations in dark black. Souce: www.gutenberg.org.