In the early days, many companies had been formed all over the UK to construct railways, and one of the most famous and successful was The Great Western Railway Company of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great Victorian engineer, whose plans not only included a wide gauge railway to Bristol and the West Country, but also to offer trans-Atlantic passenger services departing from London, Paddington, to New York, via the sea port of Bristol, and featuring the world’s first iron hulled, screw propeller driven steam passenger liner, the SS Great Britain launched by Prince Albert in 1843. With the line passing through Slough, just a couple of miles from the Queen’s residence at Windsor, it made commercial sense to construct a line to Windsor in the hope of Royal patronage.
The GWR therefore constructed an elevated section of track in timber but this was subsequently rebuilt on brick arches. These extend from the station in Windsor town centre to the north west of Eton. To cross the river, Brunel built a “bow and string” style rail bridge upstream from Windsor to carry the gently rising track across the river and up to Windsor Central Station, the track ending within yards of the Castle walls. This Great Western branch line from Slough was first opened on 8th October 1849. A plaque has been erected on Baths Island adjacent to Brunel’s Bridge giving details. Brunel’s bridge, the oldest wrought iron bridge still in service, is a unique example of Industrial archaeology.