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British Industrial History

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Warehouse Point Bridge (USA)

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Passing Windsor Locks you come to one of the finest bridges in this country - the great Iron Truss Bridge across the Connecticut at Warehouse Point, midway between Hartford and Springfield. It is 1,525 feet long, weighs including track and floor beams upon which the track rests, about 800 tons, and cost $265,000. The chief engineer of this noble structure was Mr. James Laurie, a Scotchman by birth, who, for several years was President of the board of Civil Engineers in this country, and was for a time at the head of the Government engineers in Nova Scotia. He was assisted by Theo. G. Ellis, Engineer of the Hartford Dyke. The plans were made in 1862 and submitted to a Philadelphia firm, but owing to the great demands upon American iron workers, for Government work, for war purposes, it could not be built in this country as soon as required. After some delay it was decided to have the bridge built in England, and in January, 1864, Mr. Laurie sailed for Europe to give out the contracts. On arriving in England he proceeded to Manchester where he contracted with William Fairbairn and Sons, they agreeing to make the iron for the bridge by the first of December. Subsequently it appearing that they would not be able to finish the work as soon as specified, part of it was given to the London Engineering and Iron Ship Building Co. In about a year the bridge was shipped from Liverpool and London, and in June, 1865, work upon its erection was begun. About one hundred workmen, many of whom came specially from England, were employed and in Feb. 1866 it was completed.

'There are seventeen spans in the bridge, the longest of which, the channel span, in the center of the river, is 177-1/3 feet. Eight of the other spans are 88½ feet each, another is 140 feet, another 76¾ feet, another 43 feet and another 25½ feet, making the exact total length of the bridge 1,524½ feet.

'Each span consists of a wrought iron truss, composed of horizontal plates, angle and T iron. The width of the deck of the bridge upon which the track rests is 17¾ feet. Of the iron truss, canal span, 16 feet, of the channel span 12-2/3 feet, and of the others, 10-1/3 feet. The height of the truss-channel span, 16-2/3 feet, canal span 12-1/3 feet, and of the other 11 feet.

'The horizontal plates in the four chords are from 15 to 25 feet in length, from one-fourth to three-fourths of an inch in thickness, and about eight inches in width. At the joints a short plate is riveted to each side of the main plate, and is so arranged that no two joints meet in the same place. The plates and angle iron, which are riveted together, give each chord a trough like shape. From the upper to the lower chord on each side of the bridge, are iron posts, made of plate, angle and T iron. Across the posts on an angle of 45 degrees, extending from the bottom to the top chord on each side of the bridge, are bars of a few inches in width. In the short span these bars cross but one post to which it is firmly riveted, in the next longer two posts, and in the channel span three. The posts being several feet apart, from five to five and three-fourths feet, they give a lattice like appearance to the bridge. Extending through the truss are lateral and vertical tie bars which help support it.

'The spans are securely fastened to the piers below. One end of each span rests upon four iron rollers which turn upon an iron bed-plate, and between the ends of the spans is a space of an inch and a half, allowed for expansion. These rollers are upon every other pier - the ends of the spans upon the intervening ones are firmly secured to the masonry, so there can be no possibility of the bridge getting out of place.

'The frame of the bridge was all put together in England before shipping and then part of it taken down. This was done to detect any mistake that might have occurred. There are 175,000 rivets, from three-fourths to one and one eighth inches in diameter, in the bridge. Part of them were put in by machinery in England and the remainder by hand while the bridge was being erected.

'The piers of the old bridge, which are of Monson granite, were used, after raising them to a greater hight, and new ones were built between the old, doubling the number. To build the bridge and maintain the old one so as not to delay the trains, while the work was in progress was an undertaking of no small magnitude. It was however accomplished and of the 22 to 28 trains that crossed the bridge daily not a detention of a single minute was caused to them. The lower chords of the iron bridge were placed upon blocking two feet in thickness, which rested upon the piers, and during Sunday when there was no train to pass the completed span was lowered to its place by means of hydraulic jacks.

'The weight of the bridge, not including track and floor beams, is 624 tons and its cost in England in gold was $85.58 per ton. In New York in currency, its cost was $241.54 per ton. The freight from London and Liverpool to New York was $3.75 per ton. Some of the other items of cost are as follows: Freight from London and Liverpool to New York, $2,342.10; duty, $30.12 per ton; making a total of $18,796.40; paid premium on gold, $73,120.68; cost of bridge in England, $53,400.22; cost of iron work, erected, $173,109.62; cost of labor for erection, including tools, $16,985.34; cost of masonry, $15,744.07. It will be seen by this that the premium on gold which was then in the vicinity of 100, amounted to $19,720.46 more than the cost of the bridge in England, when ready for shipment.

'The track passes over the top of the bridge, excepting the span over the canal, and the view up and down the river is very fine. The distance from the top of the rails to low water mark below is 47 feet.

'This is the most extensive iron bridge in the United States.....' [1]

The bridge was rebuilt in 1903-4.[2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] 'Burt's Illustrated Guide of the Connecticut Valley' by Henry M. Burt, 1866
  2. 'William Fairbairn: the experimental engineer' by Richard Byrom, Railway & Canal Historical Society, 2017