Calcutta icon, painted and lit - October makeover for Howrah bridge

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  • Published 17.09.04
The first attempt to join Calcutta and Howrah was made in 1874, when a floating pontoon bridge with a detachable middle part was built on the Hooghly. This is the original Howrah bridge
Later, with increase in traffic volume, the need was felt for a cantilever bridge. London-based firm Rendel Palmer and Tritton completed its design and drawing
In 1937, Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co. took over building of the bridge. It was completed in 1942, for Rs 250 lakh
Built with 26,500 tonnes of steel, this was the Howrah bridge. It was opened in February 1943, by plying a tram on it
On June 14, 1965, it was renamed Rabindra Setu, though Howrah bridge continues to be the more popular name

Howrah bridge will burn bright in the summer of 2005.

And it will take all of 30,000 litres of fresh paint ? and then 10,000 bulbs ? for the city?s enduring landmark to wear a whole new look. The makeover of the historic bridge will begin from October.

The Calcutta Port Trust authorities are planning to follow up the fresh coat of paint by illuminating the bridge, ?permanently?, a few months down the line.

?The reason we are painting it this year is because the bridge completes its 60th year,? Calcutta Port Trust chairman Anup Chanda said on Thursday.

The massive operation of painting the colossal structure, built with 26,500 tonnes of steel, will begin on October 17, the birthday of Calcutta Port Trust, which was the executing agency for the construction of the bridge and which still maintains it.

Howrah bridge, according to chief engineer Siddhartha Chatterjee, will get a fresh coat of paint for the first time since 1998-99, and the operation will take six months to complete.

So, the target month for a new-look Howrah bridge is April 2005.

?But our effort will be to ready it by February, as the bridge was opened in that month of 1943,? said Chatterjee.

Two coats of synthetic aluminium paint, with a primer of zinc chromate before that, is the combination to be applied on the bridge.

Chatterjee, involved in putting the painting plan into action, said: ?A huge quantity of paint is required because the bridge itself is enormous ? 2,150 ft long from one end to the other, and 280 ft tall from the foundation.?

A minimum of 60 workers and a maximum of 250 will be required every day for a period of six months at a stretch.

?First, the existing paint is scraped and peeled off and then, the three coats are put in place. It is a painstaking task, but senior officials are there to supervise every step,? the chief engineer added.

The shade used ? aluminium ? has remained the same from the time Howrah bridge was born in 1942, because ?after all, that has become so integral to the very essence of the bridge that no one thought of changing it?, explained Chatterjee. The budget estimate for painting the bridge is Rs 70 lakh.

Next up, the illumination. ?We will use 10,000 bulbs ? each between 25 and 40 watts ? to light up the bridge. Howrah bridge is lit up every year for some days during the river festival in winter. It is expected to require the same number of bulbs when the bridge is lit up permanently a few months from now,? an official added.

Traffic diversions required for the painting are yet to be worked out with police.