Rhodesia’s famous Victoria Falls Bridge is to be repainted, but it will be a re-paint job with a difference for on some parts of the structure no fewer than thirteen old coats of paints will have to be removed before the actual painting operation can be started and it might be well into next year before the whole operation is completed.
Normally the bridge is repainted every six years, but on this occasion, the first time ever, it is being completely ‘stripped down’ to the metal and approximately 5,000 gallons of paint will be used in the process of the ‘face lift’.
Work started on this gigantic task early in June when the first scaffolding was lowered to provide a platform for the special gang, two dozen strong, that is engaged on the ‘cleaning up’ process. They are using special pneumatic chipping hammers and pneumatic rotary wire brushes. When the work is in full swing over 630 labourers will be employed on the operation.
Once the structure has been completely ‘stripped’, and before the primer coast of 70-30 red lead and red oxide is applied, the steel will be heated to a hand temperature by means of gas flame torches. Altogether some 2,000 gallons of a ‘first’ decorative coat, and 1,000 gallons of a ‘second’ or final decorative coat will then be applied.
As the final, or ‘decorative’ two coats of general purpose non-bitumastic paint can only be applied in the dry season, this might take the operation into next year. Although the Zambesi is now slowly getting lower, there was still a tremendous volume of water pouring over the lip of the falls when preliminary work was commenced making conditions most unpleasant for those working in what amounted to a constant drizzle.
The present operation involving the complete ‘stripping’ of the bridge is the result of a series of special tests that have been carried out by the Rhodesia Railways Analytical Laboratories working in close association with the New Works and Bridge Section of the Engineering Division.
The Victoria Falls Bridge is probably one of the best known and most photographed structures of its type in the world. Opened on September 12, 1905, by Professor Darwin, it is 650 feet long with a centre span of 500 feet. The southern approach span is 87 ft 6 in and the northern span 62 ft 6 in. The rail track and roadway are some 310 feet above the high water level and for many years the structure was among the world’s highest.
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