About the author  ⁄ Frank Griggs, Jr., Dist. M. ASCE, D. Eng., P.E., P.L.S.

Dr. Frank Griggs, Jr. specializes in the restoration of historic bridges having restored many 19th Century cast and wrought iron bridges. He is a Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at Merrimack College in N. Andover, Massachusetts and is currently an independent consulting engineer. Dr. Griggs can be reached at fgriggsjr@twc.com.

John A. Roebling Bridge

A bridge across the Ohio River connecting Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky, was suggested in the 1820s. A charter for the bridge was granted in 1826 by the State of Kentucky and a second charter approved by Kentucky in 1840. Charles Ellet, Jr. (STRUCTURE, October 2006) submitted a plan for a wire cable suspension bridge in the same year.

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The Niagara River gorge had long separated the United States from Canada. It varied in depth up to 239 feet and in width generally between 800 and 1000 feet between the Falls and Lewiston. In 1845, Charles B. Stuart, then working on the location of the Great Western Railway in Canada, was looking for a way to connect his line with the Rochester and Niagara Falls branch of the New York Central.

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A bridge had been proposed at Wheeling for many years to connect the eastern and western portions of the National Road across the Ohio River. The legislatures of Virginia and Ohio incorporated the Wheeling and Belmont Bridge Company in 1816 and authorized them to erect a bridge. The company, in 1836, built a wooden covered bridge from the west end of Zane’s Island to the Ohio shore.

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In 1838, an arsonist burned Lewis Wernwag’s Colossus Bridge (STRUCTURE, June 2014) over the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia. Its 340-foot main span was, at the time, the longest single span bridge in the United States. Charles Ellet, Jr. (STRUCTURE, October 2006) immediately proposed replacing it with a wire cable suspension bridge. By this time, several Finley Chain Bridges were built in the Philadelphia area as well as a short lived, long-but-extremely-narrow, pedestrian wire bridge across the Schuylkill River built by Josiah White and Erskine Hazard.

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This is the first in a series on early suspension bridges. It starts with James Finley (STRUCTURE, November 2008), who designed and built the first iron chain suspension bridge (1801-1802) with a horizontal deck across Jacob’s Creek just south of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania on Old Route 119. Chain bridges with a deck resting directly on the chain had been built for years, but were only for pedestrian traffic.

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Parts 1 and 2 of this article can be found in the December 2015 and January 2016 issues of STRUCTURE magazine.

The newly accepted design of the Quebec Bridge maintained the 1,800-foot main span with straight upper and lower chords on the anchor and cantilever spans. All of the parts, especially the lower compression chords, were much larger than the Phoenix Bridge/Cooper design.

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Part 1 of this article was published in the December issue of STRUCTURE magazine.

A total of 75 men were killed instantly, with 11 escaping with their lives, in the bridge collapse on August 29, 1907. How could this have happened? Weren’t Cooper and the Phoenix Bridge Company acknowledged to be leaders in the bridge building business? The Engineering News wrote:

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The first in a three part series on the Quebec Bridge.

In the middle of the 19th Century, the St. Lawrence River had not been bridged. In early 1852, the City Council of Quebec City requested Edward W. Serrell to make a study of the problem and make recommendations for a bridge. His major bridge at this time was the suspension bridge he built across the Niagara River connecting Lewiston and Queenstown.

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The East River separating Manhattan Island from Long Island was long a barrier for people and goods traveling into and out of what was called New York City. Manhattan Island was formed by the East River, on the east, the Harlem River on the North, and the Hudson River, frequently called the North River, on the west. The East River is more like a strait connecting Long Island Sound with New York Harbor. Near the junction of the Harlem River, Long Island Sound and the East River is a zone of erratic currents called Hell Gate.

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The Pittsburgh, Carnegie & Western Railroad, commonly called the Wabash line, had tracks in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio generally running southwesterly from Toledo to St. Louis, but there was interest to connect to Pittsburg as a step in becoming a transcontinental railroad. The plan was to connect with the tracks of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad at Toledo and then run southeasterly towards Wheeling on the Ohio River, where a short branch line would be built from Pittsburg Junction to Mingo on the Ohio River. From that point, there were two options:

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