Monthly Archives: October 2011

Homage Found

In casting a net in a search for more in depth information on the Sullivan Railroad Bridge, I’ve thus-far turned up a strange dichotomy. Both hugely deep information about some of the fine day to day type details of a kind almost always lost to us, that, and a complete void in the side of things which often does survive.

Strangely and sadly, it seems almost certain there are no known photographs of this bridge. The Sullivan RR replaced it in 1882 with an Iron Lattice variant. Photographs or even stereoscopic cards potentially do exist, and yet sit undiscovered in some dusty attic.

Here a map is seen prepared for planning of the ’05 Steel Arch, the Sullivan RR is still a going concern, not yet gobbled up by the B&M.

The deep findings are to do with the bridges designer, and hands on engineer, George Alanson Parker, who I referred to in an earlier entry. (see Lost to Evermore) In the following both the effort to build the Sullivan is described, as well as the PB&W RR Bridge, which I described in “Lost”

Sources suggest, and it seems almost entirely probable that it was in the framing of the Sullivan that George came to know, and have the kind of entire faith in the man, that saw him recruit Nichols Powers to the effort to build the bridge at Havre de Grace.

A “Powers” is here listed as among those George knew as being of those “the best worth knowing”. I’m always suspect of those who find in history what they wish to find, yet see no revisionism in wondering if this was our Nichols.

I reproduce the description of George’s career here in its entirety, well, because it is way cool source material, and it seems to merit a “bump” back out into the light of the present day.

Sister Bridge

Those who read the last entry, and clicked on the the image at the bottom, (to expand to a larger version) perhaps noticed that the Tucker was closely paralleled by a second Covered Bridge. I thought I’d put up a brief entry on that construction, now one hundred and twelve years gone.

This was a Double Barreled Railroad Bridge built for the Cheshire Railroad by the Massachusetts Firm of Boody Stone & Company, and said to have been built under the direct supervision of Lucius Boomer, who would go onto move to the mid-west and form a bridge building partnership of some renown.

The bridges 1849 construction was challenged in a lawsuit all the way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court by Mr & Mrs Tucker, citing the inherited limitations of Colonel Hale’s charter and exclusive rights to build or keep a bridge within two miles in either direction, the chartered limits of his holding. This challenge was denied, in part because the Railroad bridge was intended for an altogether different purpose. Damages were assessed, but seemingly limited to compensation for confiscated land. Ironically the Railroad bridge was heavily traveled by pedestrians seeking to avoid the toll, so heavily the Railroad came to see it as a safety problem and a bit of a nuisance. And this unintended and unauthorized traffic, on this bridge and another nearby bridge built by the Sullivan Railroad, (which we will discuss in a future entry) quite clearly would have cut into the profitability of the Tucker Toll Bridge.

The bridge is often described as having been a Howe with arches, and Wm. Howe’s third Patent Truss (and the variation which would go onto be used with the greatest frequency, though typically without the arches) No. 4726 does include arches, and was patented in 1846, about the time the Cheshire was being planned. Though the following photograph clearly tells us it was a a Burr with Counter Braces.

These are seen as a possible variation in Mr. Burr’s Patent drawings, though were seldom used. However Counters would have been absolutely necessary in a Burr bridge designed to carry the heavy rolling loads of rail traffic, to buttress and counter the massive bending moments being imparted by the Braces (compression diagonals) to the Posts.

It is unclear as to whether this truss type confusion started because Boody Stone & Company were in time counted among Howe’s authorized agents, or perhaps it was mixed up with the nearby Sullivan. It is also not impossible that the Counter Braces and the X they formed, had something to do with this case of mistaken identity.

The Cheshire was removed in the Autumn of 1899 after the completion of its replacement, a two span stone arch.

A but brief window through time, now long closed, three bridges over Bellows Falls. Beyond The Tucker can be seen the bottom half of The Cheshire and the interface with its pier at midspan , beyond it, is its stone arch replacement, construction in process with arch falsework forms still in place.

High Water

With the continuing influences of high water, my researching attentions have turned for a time to the Bellows Falls Vermont area and the works of area Bridgewright Sanford Granger, builder of The Bartonsville. The now heavily damaged Worral, also bridging the William’s River in Rockingham, the town which includes the village of Bellows Falls, is the last standing example of his bridgewrighting.

Bellows Falls has twice been home to the most famous bridge in the nation. Most recently, just over a century ago the area became home to a new steel parabolic arch bridge, then the longest single span in the country at 540′, though these long span beginnings had their start with wooden framing and in the very first year of our newly independent nation, with Col. Enoch Hale petitioning the New Hampshire General Assembly for “The Liberty and Privilege of Building and Keeping a bridge at the Great Falls called Bellows Falls in the Town of Walpole in said State” Two years later on February 10th 1785 the newspaper The Massachusetts Spy reported :

Widely acknowledged as a first in long span timber bridges, and sometimes described as a first in cantilever type bridges, largely because of the image shown here. Thought to be the only such image accurately rendered, the 1791 ink on paper drawing by famous period artist John Trumbull.

Though in all likelihood, with the timber in this bridge being open to the weather, and requiring a regime of heavy and routine maintenance which would have seen few original pieces survive through to the end of its service, the Colonel’s bridge, in some form, survived until 1840 When Sanford Granger used it as falsework for the construction of its replacement, The Tucker Toll Bridge.

Sanford was born 12 March 1796, in Chesterfield New Hampshire, and died 17 May 1882, at Bellows Falls, Vermont. He married Abigail Stevens on 26 February 1826, she was born 16 January 1800 on the Vermont side of the Connecticut in Chester. A couple born on opposite sides of a river and a bridge, which would help shape both their lives.

Like his father Eldad before him, Sanford operated a sawmill, his on the Vermont side, on the Saxton’s River in Westminster, a town neighboring Bellows Falls. Though additionally, he maintained a brickyard, as well as a bridgewrighting carpenters yard and built many area bridges.

The Westminster Library is home to the archives of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges and is made available to those doing bridge research. I hope to make use of the archives and other local sources to find additional information about Mr. Granger and perhaps find whatever remains of his operations, while working there on the Saxton’s, as part of the crew to soon repair recent high water damage to the Hall Bridge in Saxtons River Village, which is like Bellows Falls, a borough of Rockingham.