Abandoned bridges?

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Abandoned bridges?
Posted by gabe on Thursday, December 25, 2008 12:37 PM

Throughout the countryside, one of the most tell-tale and lasting signs of an abandoned rail line are huge metal bridges spanning some creek or roadway, yet, sadly, no longer supporting tracks.

This raises a few questions:

(1)  In the discussions to extend a push-pull Metra-like rail passenger operation in Indianapolis, they are talking about extending the Indiana transportation museum line downtown via the now abandoned Monon.  One of the problems/expenses is the need to re-bridge I-70.  Someone who claimed to know what they were talking about said that this isn't a big deal, as there are 14 abandoned rail bridges in Indianapolis, and it is simply a matter of chosing the one that works best.  He also indicated that this is the reason why they leave such bridges intact--so they will be ready to replace another bridge when the time comes.

Is this true?  Are abandoned rail bridges regularly used for this purpose?  How often does this happen?

(2) When the price of scrap metal is through the roof, it always surprises me that so many very large bridges like these do not get introduced to the cutter's torch.  Is this because the bridge has more long-term value as a replacement?

(3) How do they remove these bridges?  Some of them are very large, perhaps too large for any single crane to move--especially so, when it is considered that there is no longer a rail line or roadway to deliver the crane.  (FYI, I think there is a difference between removing for scrap and removing for reuse.  Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect the former is much easier).

(4) Is it ever the case that soem of these bridges are simply abandoned altogether?  Does anyone own them/can anyone--who can do so without tresspassing--go cut them for scrap?  Don't laugh at this question, I realize the answer is probably/usually no.  But, it would seem like some hopelessly abandoned bridges that are simply rusting away, policy would be better served by letting anyone who can scrap them at a profit to do so.

(5)  Assuming they keep bridges around for re-use, is there a directory somewhere of abandoned rail bridges, showing location and type of abandoned bridges?

Thanks,

Gabe

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Posted by CShaveRR on Thursday, December 25, 2008 1:26 PM

gabe

Throughout the countryside, one of the most tell-tale and lasting signs of an abandoned rail line are huge metal bridges spanning some creek or roadway, yet, sadly, no longer supporting tracks.

This raises a few questions:

(1)  In the discussions to extend a push-pull Metra-like rail passenger operation in Indianapolis, they are talking about extending the Indiana transportation museum line downtown via the now abandoned Monon.  One of the problems/expenses is the need to re-bridge I-70.  Someone who claimed to know what they were talking about said that this isn't a big deal, as there are 14 abandoned rail bridges in Indianapolis, and it is simply a matter of chosing the one that works best.  He also indicated that this is the reason why they leave such bridges intact--so they will be ready to replace another bridge when the time comes.

Is this true?  Are abandoned rail bridges regularly used for this purpose?  How often does this happen?

(2) When the price of scrap metal is through the roof, it always surprises me that so many very large bridges like these do not get introduced to the cutter's torch.  Is this because the bridge has more long-term value as a replacement?

(3) How do they remove these bridges?  Some of them are very large, perhaps too large for any single crane to move--especially so, when it is considered that there is no longer a rail line or roadway to deliver the crane.  (FYI, I think there is a difference between removing for scrap and removing for reuse.  Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect the former is much easier).

(4) Is it ever the case that soem of these bridges are simply abandoned altogether?  Does anyone own them/can anyone--who can do so without tresspassing--go cut them for scrap?  Don't laugh at this question, I realize the answer is probably/usually no.  But, it would seem like some hopelessly abandoned bridges that are simply rusting away, policy would be better served by letting anyone who can scrap them at a profit to do so.

(5)  Assuming they keep bridges around for re-use, is there a directory somewhere of abandoned rail bridges, showing location and type of abandoned bridges?

Thanks,

Gabe

You've got an interesting subject here, Gabe, and I suspect you'll get a lot of examples, with relatively fre specific answers to your questions, because what may make sense for one time, region, or railroad might not in other cases.

I suspect that the larger a bridge is, the more likely it is to remain in place, because of the expense or inconvenience involved in demolishing it.

Recycling?  It's definitely done, and if you can find some abandoned bridges in Indy that would save expense over using new materials, so much the better (I don't trust your "expert", though--it sounds like a generalization to me!).    Best example of this being done today:  UP's new bridge across the Des Moines River, which is using some of the steel from the abandoned MILW crossing of the same river (and, as an answer to another of your questions, the old bridge will remain up, according to currwent plans, though it will be used only as an auxiliary track and a service road).  And it isn't always bridges that get recycled:  I understand that one of the C&O's newer mining spurs has bridges made out of former turntables.

A couple of lovely bridges had been employed by the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin to cross over highways in DuPage county in the 1950s.  They lasted long after the railroad was abandoned, and served hikers and bikers on the Illinois Prairie Path to an extent that they probably never served trains (both in time and volume).  But when it came time to improve the highways underneath them, they had to go, probably about 30 years after they were originally abandoned.  Other more mundane girder bridges in the same area had been removed with the railroad.

Bridges disappeared along with the railroad itself on the most recent abandonment I can remember--the CGW line through town, in the mid-1980s.  Some were good, heavy girder bridges, and I'm sure CNW could make them useful elsewhere.  The bridge over the CNW main line, though, wasn't quite as sturdy--and it also represented a clearance problem for the line beneath it.  So it disappeared, too.

Safety can play a role in bridge demolition, too.  Over the Calumet River, next to the Chicago Skyway, are three massive lift bridges.  Only one is now used, carrying NS and Amtrak over the river. There used to be four bridges--two PRR and two NYC, two tracks apiece.  One of the railroads was taking down one of these bridges in the mid-1960s, when an accident dropped one of the massive trusses into the river, killing two workers.  I suspect that's why none of the rest of them have disappeared.  There are a number of other unused movable bridges in the Chicago area; I suspect that problems associated with their demolition, be they the urban surroundings or the river traffic beneath them, will keep them in place until such time as they may be needed elsewhere (I'm thinking of the now-unused C&WI lift bridge next to Torrance Avenue south of the city--that's a fairly modern bridge, and UP might decide to reuse the span in the future).  But the CNW bascule bridge on the old line that went to Navy Pier will probably sit there until a disaster brings it down, just because it's hemmed in by buildings.  And I've heard that the two bascule bridges south of the Loop (the B&O bridge, long unused, and the St. Charles Air Line bridge, permanently in the railroad position) have been suggested for preservation as landmarks!  In answer to your fourth question, I doubt that these could be scrapped by anyone at a profit--if they could have been, the railroads themselves would take them out.

So, Gabe...have I succeeeded in not answering anything?

Edit:  I see RWM has followed me up with authoritative answers for some of the stuff I was being intuitive on.  Thanks, buddy!

Merry Christmas!

Carl

Railroader Emeritus (practiced railroading for 46 years--and in 2010 I finally got it right!)

CAACSCOCOM--I don't want to behave improperly, so I just won't behave at all. (SM)

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Posted by Railway Man on Thursday, December 25, 2008 2:34 PM

gabe

Throughout the countryside, one of the most tell-tale and lasting signs of an abandoned rail line are huge metal bridges spanning some creek or roadway, yet, sadly, no longer supporting tracks.

This raises a few questions:

(1)  In the discussions to extend a push-pull Metra-like rail passenger operation in Indianapolis, they are talking about extending the Indiana transportation museum line downtown via the now abandoned Monon.  One of the problems/expenses is the need to re-bridge I-70.  Someone who claimed to know what they were talking about said that this isn't a big deal, as there are 14 abandoned rail bridges in Indianapolis, and it is simply a matter of chosing the one that works best.  He also indicated that this is the reason why they leave such bridges intact--so they will be ready to replace another bridge when the time comes.

Is this true?  Are abandoned rail bridges regularly used for this purpose?  How often does this happen?

.  No, they are not regularly reused if larger than about an 80-foot through plate girder, which won't be long enough to clear-span even one-half of a modern multi-lane interstate highway.  For anything larger the cost of dismantling, transportation, cleaning, repair, rework, re-erection, and engineering almost always considerably exceeds the cost of building new.  This is assuming the bridge in question even has a sufficient load rating (E-60 would be the minimum for a passenger-only operation), is in good condition (most are not), isn't coated with something hazardous such as lead-based or asbestos-containing paint, and the bridge has the correct length and clearances.  Most old bridges are rivet-connected, not bolt-connected, and any connections that are unmade for disassembly have to be re-engineered with high-strength bolts.  The pins usually have to be replaced on pin-connected bridges, along with the bars.

(2) When the price of scrap metal is through the roof, it always surprises me that so many very large bridges like these do not get introduced to the cutter's torch.  Is this because the bridge has more long-term value as a replacement?

No, it's because the cost of dismantling a large bridge vastly exceeds its scrap value.  Explosive dismantling is the cheapest method, but if the bridge is over a navigable waterway, or an urban area, that is not a practical solution.  The USCG and USACE will not let a bridge be dropped into a navigable waterway; if it falls down it has to be fished out.  Dismantling a bridge is high-risk and the fatality rate is high.

(3) How do they remove these bridges?  Some of them are very large, perhaps too large for any single crane to move--especially so, when it is considered that there is no longer a rail line or roadway to deliver the crane.  (FYI, I think there is a difference between removing for scrap and removing for reuse.  Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect the former is much easier).

If explosives is not feasible, then piecemeal dismantling using cranes on dry land if the bridge can be reached, and if not then small, light, stiff-leg derricks erected on the bridge itself, dismantling each panel, then relocating back to the next panel joint and repeating the process.  Once the bridge is separated in the middle it becomes a cantilever.  Many bridges have deteriorated in strength to the point that they won't tolerate this.  Often falsework has to be erected to keep the bridge from collapsing during the process.  Falsework over a navigable waterway is of course not usually feasible.  Quite a few large bridges were erected on dry land, floated to site on barges, and lifted into place.  Reversing the process is difficult if the bridge has deteriorated; the bridge may not be able to take the stresses introduced during the process.  Once the bridge is back on barges, it can be taken to dry land and dismantled.

(4) Is it ever the case that soem of these bridges are simply abandoned altogether?  Does anyone own them/can anyone--who can do so without tresspassing--go cut them for scrap?  Don't laugh at this question, I realize the answer is probably/usually no.  But, it would seem like some hopelessly abandoned bridges that are simply rusting away, policy would be better served by letting anyone who can scrap them at a profit to do so.

When a rail line and its structures are abandoned, ownership of the land and structures either retains with the railway or transferred to someone -- someone owns it.  While in some historic cases the title might be clouded or vague, in a case where someone gets hurt, the title will be figured out, and unpleasant suprises will appear for those who thought their liability was severed.  Historically, the structures, if the railway didn't see a use for them and sold the right-of-way containing a bridge to someone, that someone got the bridge as a bonus -- and inherited the liability of the bridge falling down, someone falling off it, etc.  More recently, railways and agencies have paid a lot more attention to what happens to the bridges, tunnels, land, and everything else.  Some significant rights-of-way containing large bridges that were abandoned in the last 30 years, such as the Milwaukee Road on St. Paul Pass and through Washington State, were tranferred to state or federal government agencies as recreational trails, and the government agency accepted the liability of the bridges.  

As example of how the disposition of "abandoned bridges" has changed and people pay much more attention now, there are at present several embargoed or service-discontinued rail lines in the U.S. with numerous large structures and tunnels that will eventually either be repaired and resorted to service, or abandoned.  If abandonment is chosen, law such as NEPA and fisheries laws administered by USFWS will require the rail line owner to (1) seal the tunnels (2) remove bridges that span navigable waterways (3) remove bridges that are hazards for falling down (3) remove embankments that will erode and damage federal and state-regulated fisheries (4) remove the track materials (5) dispose of the ties in an approved landfill (6) stabilize slopes that will collapse or erode and damage adjacent property.  It all gets very expensive, and in the case of one line I am intimately familiar with professionally that the owner does not want to invest millions of dollars required to restore it to service, they will eventually have to confront the truth that it is actually take more millions to abandon it. 


(5)  Assuming they keep bridges around for re-use, is there a directory somewhere of abandoned rail bridges, showing location and type of abandoned bridges?

 

No, but there is a private web site showing the status, as far as it is known, of many historic bridges in the U.S., both roadway and railway.  It is not complete, not entirely accurate, but it is quite interesting and I've wasted many fun hours browsing through it.

http://www.bridgehunter.com/

RWM

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Posted by Modelcar on Thursday, December 25, 2008 3:06 PM

I know of RR bridges right here in Muncie, thru truss....2 {end to end}, that have been abandoned at least...35 plus years.  Big heavy steel units that appear like they will stay there for a hundred years if the concrete / stone pillars stay in place.

Also know of one girder bridge at least 2 sections end to end, back in Pennsylvania that have been abandoned at least 50 years and still in place.  Road bed severed long ago.  It's a shame the two in Muncie can't be put to use where a need exists as they sure do look like they could hold massive weight.  Steam engines use to ply this route and they were built to support them.

And Gabe if you read this....Those two are just north of the depot {now trail head}, about a quarter of a mile.  The Trail bridge {girder}, crosses White River just parallel to them.

Quentin

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Posted by MTB on Thursday, December 25, 2008 3:25 PM

There was a recent article on Trains News Wire about the bridge on the old Milwaukee Road line to Rapid City, SD. It's now in the middle of a farmers field and in danger of collapse. Seems it was more cost effective to repair/stabilize it than remove it. Many of the abandoned Milwaukee trestles and bridges are still in place.

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 25, 2008 8:23 PM

Another example is a former MILW bridge in Minneapolis right near the Metrodome that is now used by the Minneapolis LRT.  It was part of the lead heading to the MILW's depot on Washington Ave.  I used to park over by Dome Souveniers for Twins games (until they jacked-up the parking costs) and there were still some of the old rail visible that hadn't been completely paved-over.  When they put the LRT in all those remnants were ripped-out, but the MILW bridge was re-used (I don't know if they did any structural upgrades to it).

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Posted by Lyon_Wonder on Thursday, December 25, 2008 8:32 PM

Here in downstate Illinois, I know there’s several overpasses from the former north-south C&NW tracks that UP abandoned in the late 1990s and are still in place, over NS’s Hannibal sub tracks and old US-36 at Curran,  over I-72 and over a county road called the “Old State-Old Jacksonville” road.  In Springfield, when the NS and KCS (former Wabash and GM&O) tracks in the southwest part of town were relocated from the city limits to just north of I-72 in 1994, much of the former NS tracks and it's overpasses were converted into a pedestrian walkway.
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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Friday, December 26, 2008 9:04 AM

Ditto on much of what RWM had to say.  I wouldn't say that moving and reusing a railroad bridge for another rail line is impossible or never done - one of the southeastern US railroads reused a long (like 300 ft. ?) lift bridge by moving it from 1 river to another within the last 10 years or so - but it is extremely rare.  Further, even if the bridge is in perfect shape, the modern heavier freight car gross weight ranges of 263,000 to 286,000 to 315,000 lbs. may render them obsolete for anything other than industrial siding or light-duty branchline service.  Also, while I've seen some "standard designs" to facilitate such relocation and reuse, most bridges were really built to suit their specific location, particularly if there are any angles in the stream/ road/ track/ etc. below, or if it is curved (really a series of angled bridges).  Unless you're extremely lucky to have an exact match or a narrower crossing needed, there's usually not enough extra strength built in to them to reconfigure them for the same distance as a straight span at a 90-degree angle.

Another aspect is that years of dust and dirt accumulations - esp. coal and cement dust, but there are others equally bad - in the joints and connections, when soaked by rainwater, become pretty corrosive.  The result is that very often the section thickness is reduced considerably - by half is not uncommon, the rivet or bolt holes become enlarged to irregular shapes and paper thin, and I also understand (but can't confirm) that the metallurgy changes in ways that make it more brittle. 

Also, if it's a ballast-deck type structure, the lower portions may have been encased in concrete.  There too corrosion will occur, and it is practically impossible to clean concrete off the members sufficiently to reuse them, again especially at the joints.

That said, it's more common that the old railroad bridges are reused or "repurposed" for either transit / light rail vehicles or road use of some kind (plus rail-trails, of course), mostly right where they are, and sometimes not far away.  One of my college professors - a structural engineer - was familiar with the Pittsburgh street railway system, and said when they did that they were always amazed at how much extra load-carrying capacity was left in the bridge, even after generous deductions for such section loss from corrosion, poor metallurgy, fatigue from the cyclic loading history, frozen joints, etc.  Occasionally they are reused for light-duty roads such as logging or forest roads, industrial access roads, hunting camps, etc. 

With regard to removals - back in the late 1960's the spectacular Lehigh & New England R.R. multi-span "curved" deck-truss bridge over the Lehigh River at Lehigh Gap, PA (about halfway between Palmerton and Slatington) was dynamited into the river in the fall, and then fished out with cranes over the winter.  Also I believe that several of the Western Maryland's great steel truss bridges on its western or Connellsville extension were removed, even though ti would have been better to keep them for the rail-trail that now occupies that right-of-way.  Closer to home, Pennsylvania had a program from the mid-1980's until recently (may still be in place - just haven't seen much done with it lately) to remove "orphan*" railroad  bridges that adversely impacted highways, such as with low overhead clearances, narrow openings, poor sight distances through them, etc.  (* In this context, "orphan" meant those bridges for which there was no reliable documentation as to who had ownership and/ or maintenance responsibilities, or most importantly for this context, who was responsible for their ultimate removal; or if the railroad was responsible, then it was defunct or that responsibility had been lifted by the bankruptcy and reorganization / ConRail process, etc.).

Locally, a few years ago the former Easton & Northern- a Lehigh Valley subsidiary and branch - through plate girder bridge over 25th Street in the western portion of the Easton, PA area - about 1/4 mile south of U.S. Route 22 - was removed in connection with the construction of a new drugstore nearby (Wal-Green's, I think).  But the same branch lines's spindly high bridge - like 2,121 ft. long, mostly eye-bar deck trusses - over the Lehigh River, from the main line on the south bank to wind up the escarpment at the north bank, remains in place.  When almost all of that line was sold to Palmer Township for a rail-trail in 1997, the Quit-Claim Deed" from ConRail to the Township made it abundantly clear that all ownership and responsiibility for removal of that bridge was transerred to the Township.  But then again, that bridge is now listed in the Historic American Engineering Record ("HAER") as No. PA-540 - see: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?hh:61:./temp/~pp_Iu2C::

"Significance: This structures is significant for its highly complex geometry, with skew trusses carrying trucks on a reverse curve. It possesses a remarkable degree of integrity for a 19th century steel truss bridge on a freight railroad."

Well, enough for now. Hope this was helpful. 

- Paul North.

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by mudchicken on Friday, December 26, 2008 11:00 AM

The moment the bridge removal costs exceed the salvage value the bridge stays - unless the STB/ICC dictated that the bridge be removed (usually for drainage reasons) in it's environmental decisions...

Recently UP and the Missouri Rails/Trails (Katy Trail) bubbas got into a ruckus over the old Missouri River MKT span near Boonville that UP wanted to salvage and move elsewhere.

Closer to Gabe: Look at the Wabash River bridge of the former CSX/B&O/CH&D/CI&W between Hillsdale and Montezuma near the IL/IN state line (Parke County, IN)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by Wdlgln005 on Friday, December 26, 2008 12:14 PM

 The USCG may have a list for some of the bridges. I hope they get inspected sometime to be sure they don't pose a navigation risk. Some bridges are moved & reused somewhere else. They must be floatted on barges and sent to the new site.

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Posted by Lyon_Wonder on Friday, December 26, 2008 1:19 PM

There's the former C&NW bridge across the Mississippi at Keithsburg IL that was abandoned in the early 1970s.  The bridge is mostly still there, except for the lift span and another section.

http://www.johnweeks.com/~jweeks/upper_mississippi/pagesB/umissBR09.html 

On June 30, 1981, a group of youth decided that the bridge would make a good launching point for their private fireworks display. A shell entered the bridge tenders shack and exploded. That set the shack on fire, which then set the grease on the bridge mechanism on fire. The fire eventually caused the lift span to fail and drop into the Mississippi River. The accident blocked river traffic for several days until the US Army Corps of Engineers could remove the collapsed bridge section. Later, a second bridge section and the piers were removed to make a very wide navigation channel. The rest of the bridge survives some 25 years later. There is some track on the Iowa side. The track has been removed from the Illinois side, and the right of way has been removed in places to facilitate water flow in the back water areas.

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Posted by Falcon48 on Friday, December 26, 2008 2:14 PM

Railway Man

gabe

Throughout the countryside, one of the most tell-tale and lasting signs of an abandoned rail line are huge metal bridges spanning some creek or roadway, yet, sadly, no longer supporting tracks.

This raises a few questions:

(1)  In the discussions to extend a push-pull Metra-like rail passenger operation in Indianapolis, they are talking about extending the Indiana transportation museum line downtown via the now abandoned Monon.  One of the problems/expenses is the need to re-bridge I-70.  Someone who claimed to know what they were talking about said that this isn't a big deal, as there are 14 abandoned rail bridges in Indianapolis, and it is simply a matter of chosing the one that works best.  He also indicated that this is the reason why they leave such bridges intact--so they will be ready to replace another bridge when the time comes.

Is this true?  Are abandoned rail bridges regularly used for this purpose?  How often does this happen?

.  No, they are not regularly reused if larger than about an 80-foot through plate girder, which won't be long enough to clear-span even one-half of a modern multi-lane interstate highway.  For anything larger the cost of dismantling, transportation, cleaning, repair, rework, re-erection, and engineering almost always considerably exceeds the cost of building new.  This is assuming the bridge in question even has a sufficient load rating (E-60 would be the minimum for a passenger-only operation), is in good condition (most are not), isn't coated with something hazardous such as lead-based or asbestos-containing paint, and the bridge has the correct length and clearances.  Most old bridges are rivet-connected, not bolt-connected, and any connections that are unmade for disassembly have to be re-engineered with high-strength bolts.  The pins usually have to be replaced on pin-connected bridges, along with the bars.

(2) When the price of scrap metal is through the roof, it always surprises me that so many very large bridges like these do not get introduced to the cutter's torch.  Is this because the bridge has more long-term value as a replacement?

No, it's because the cost of dismantling a large bridge vastly exceeds its scrap value.  Explosive dismantling is the cheapest method, but if the bridge is over a navigable waterway, or an urban area, that is not a practical solution.  The USCG and USACE will not let a bridge be dropped into a navigable waterway; if it falls down it has to be fished out.  Dismantling a bridge is high-risk and the fatality rate is high.

(3) How do they remove these bridges?  Some of them are very large, perhaps too large for any single crane to move--especially so, when it is considered that there is no longer a rail line or roadway to deliver the crane.  (FYI, I think there is a difference between removing for scrap and removing for reuse.  Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect the former is much easier).

If explosives is not feasible, then piecemeal dismantling using cranes on dry land if the bridge can be reached, and if not then small, light, stiff-leg derricks erected on the bridge itself, dismantling each panel, then relocating back to the next panel joint and repeating the process.  Once the bridge is separated in the middle it becomes a cantilever.  Many bridges have deteriorated in strength to the point that they won't tolerate this.  Often falsework has to be erected to keep the bridge from collapsing during the process.  Falsework over a navigable waterway is of course not usually feasible.  Quite a few large bridges were erected on dry land, floated to site on barges, and lifted into place.  Reversing the process is difficult if the bridge has deteriorated; the bridge may not be able to take the stresses introduced during the process.  Once the bridge is back on barges, it can be taken to dry land and dismantled.

(4) Is it ever the case that soem of these bridges are simply abandoned altogether?  Does anyone own them/can anyone--who can do so without tresspassing--go cut them for scrap?  Don't laugh at this question, I realize the answer is probably/usually no.  But, it would seem like some hopelessly abandoned bridges that are simply rusting away, policy would be better served by letting anyone who can scrap them at a profit to do so.

When a rail line and its structures are abandoned, ownership of the land and structures either retains with the railway or transferred to someone -- someone owns it.  While in some historic cases the title might be clouded or vague, in a case where someone gets hurt, the title will be figured out, and unpleasant suprises will appear for those who thought their liability was severed.  Historically, the structures, if the railway didn't see a use for them and sold the right-of-way containing a bridge to someone, that someone got the bridge as a bonus -- and inherited the liability of the bridge falling down, someone falling off it, etc.  More recently, railways and agencies have paid a lot more attention to what happens to the bridges, tunnels, land, and everything else.  Some significant rights-of-way containing large bridges that were abandoned in the last 30 years, such as the Milwaukee Road on St. Paul Pass and through Washington State, were tranferred to state or federal government agencies as recreational trails, and the government agency accepted the liability of the bridges.  

As example of how the disposition of "abandoned bridges" has changed and people pay much more attention now, there are at present several embargoed or service-discontinued rail lines in the U.S. with numerous large structures and tunnels that will eventually either be repaired and resorted to service, or abandoned.  If abandonment is chosen, law such as NEPA and fisheries laws administered by USFWS will require the rail line owner to (1) seal the tunnels (2) remove bridges that span navigable waterways (3) remove bridges that are hazards for falling down (3) remove embankments that will erode and damage federal and state-regulated fisheries (4) remove the track materials (5) dispose of the ties in an approved landfill (6) stabilize slopes that will collapse or erode and damage adjacent property.  It all gets very expensive, and in the case of one line I am intimately familiar with professionally that the owner does not want to invest millions of dollars required to restore it to service, they will eventually have to confront the truth that it is actually take more millions to abandon it. 


(5)  Assuming they keep bridges around for re-use, is there a directory somewhere of abandoned rail bridges, showing location and type of abandoned bridges?

 

No, but there is a private web site showing the status, as far as it is known, of many historic bridges in the U.S., both roadway and railway.  It is not complete, not entirely accurate, but it is quite interesting and I've wasted many fun hours browsing through it.

http://www.bridgehunter.com/

RWM

  Your answer is pretty comprehensive.  However, since I've been involved in rail abandonments and post abandonment disposition issues, let me give a little additional technicolor.  Numbers match those used in your note:

(1) Like you, I'm not aware of any "practice" of leaving bridges in place for eventual reuse elsewhere.  Where you find bridges left in place after a rail abandonment these days, it is usually for one of five reasons: First, the railroad didn't own the bridge at the time of the abandonment. Rail bridges over expressways, for example, are typically owned by the highway authority.  Second, the right-of-way may have been transferred to a "rails-to-trails" organization which has not yet developed a trail. These tranaction are very common in modern rail abandonments. In fact, a major advantage to a railroad of doing a "rails-to-trails" deal is avoiding the costs of dismantling bridges, sealing tunnels, etc.  Third, the railroad only "discontinued service" over a line but did not abandon it.  The former D&RGW Tennessee Pass line in Colorado is an example (although, in this scenario, the track is normally left in place as well as the bridges).  Fourth, the current owner of the property wanted the bridge left in place at the time of the transfer,  Fifth, the abandoning railroad was bankrupt, walked away from assets it couldn't monetize and then liquidated.  There are other reasons bridges can be left in place following abandonment (for example, the railroad may have been abandoned in an era where bridge removal wasn't an issue), but these are the main ones I could think of. 

Having said this, there are some major exceptions where old bridges have been moved to a new location for reuse.  The most recent one I can think of is the new UP Kate Shelley Bridge in Iowa, which is reusuing the spans from the abandoned Milwaukee Road bridge over the same river valley.  Another UP example is the Osage River bridge UP wants to build in Missouri, which would reuse the approach spans from the former MKT bridge in Boonville (the planned demolition of that bridge is a cause celebre in that part of Missouri).

(2) Your observation that the demolition costs of a large bridge will typically be vastly greater than its salvage value is absolutely correct - railroads call it "negative salvage value".  This, in fact, is an issue in Port of Coos Bay's planned acquisition of the CORP Coos Bay line.  In the STB proceedings, the Port has been arguing that the "negative salvage value" of the line's bridges should be deducted from the line's purchase price.  CORP's position, on the other hand, has been that this adjustment shouldn't be made because it wouldn't necessarily have to remove the bridges (for example, they could be included in a "rails-to-trails" sale).  STB sided with CORP on this issue in setting the price of the sale, but the Port has asked for reconsideration of the issue.

With respect to demolition practices, it is actually quite common for large railroad bridges over navigable waterways to be dropped into the waterway by explosives and then removed in pieces from teh waterway.  According to press reports, that's what UP plans to do with the long lift span on the Boonville Bridge. There's a real danger of an unintentional collapse if a large span (particularly a truss) is dismantled in place.  

(3)  See above.

(4) Under the property laws of most states, if a bridge isn't removed, the current owner will typically be the owner of the underlying property, unless the property was transferred by conveyance (as opposed to reversion) and the conveyance document specifically excluded the bridge.

(5) I'm not aware of any national directory either. 

  

 

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Posted by ButchKnouse on Friday, December 26, 2008 3:07 PM

MTB

There was a recent article on Trains News Wire about the bridge on the old Milwaukee Road line to Rapid City, SD. It's now in the middle of a farmers field and in danger of collapse. Seems it was more cost effective to repair/stabilize it than remove it. Many of the abandoned Milwaukee trestles and bridges are still in place.

The difference between stability and demolition was $50,000, paid by the state of South Dakota. SD bought hundreds of miles of Milwaukee track to keep it from disappearing 30 years ago. BNSF leased what they wanted to use for 25 years before they finally bought it. The bridge in question is between Rapid City and Kadoka, and the last train was a Milwaukee. They are building a bike trail on the ROW between RC and Farmingdale, and they want to extend it all the way to Kadoka eventually, about 50 miles. The old ROW runs through some beautiful scenery. East of Kadoka, to Mitchell, the line is used by Dakota Southern and it still owned by the state. It connects to BNSF at Mitchell, but DS has trackage rights to Sioux City, IA on the BNSF, so DS is no longer a captive of BNSF. Now they can ship with UP and CN (or CP?) out of Sioux City. That was part of the deal when the state sold BNSF the track they had been leasing. For the last few years DS hasn't been able to ship grain off of the Mitchell to Kadoka line because the BNSF was charging them so much it was cheaper for the elevators on the line to truck their grain north to the DM&E.

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Posted by Falcon48 on Friday, December 26, 2008 5:05 PM

Paul_D_North_Jr

Ditto on much of what RWM had to say.  I wouldn't say that moving and reusing a railroad bridge for another rail line is impossible or never done - one of the southeastern US railroads reused a long (like 300 ft. ?) lift bridge by moving it from 1 river to another within the last 10 years or so - but it is extremely rare.  Further, even if the bridge is in perfect shape, the modern heavier freight car gross weight ranges of 263,000 to 286,000 to 315,000 lbs. may render them obsolete for anything other than industrial siding or light-duty branchline service.  Also, while I've seen some "standard designs" to facilitate such relocation and reuse, most bridges were really built to suit their specific location, particularly if there are any angles in the stream/ road/ track/ etc. below, or if it is curved (really a series of angled bridges).  Unless you're extremely lucky to have an exact match or a narrower crossing needed, there's usually not enough extra strength built in to them to reconfigure them for the same distance as a straight span at a 90-degree angle.

Another aspect is that years of dust and dirt accumulations - esp. coal and cement dust, but there are others equally bad - in the joints and connections, when soaked by rainwater, become pretty corrosive.  The result is that very often the section thickness is reduced considerably - by half is not uncommon, the rivet or bolt holes become enlarged to irregular shapes and paper thin, and I also understand (but can't confirm) that the metallurgy changes in ways that make it more brittle. 

Also, if it's a ballast-deck type structure, the lower portions may have been encased in concrete.  There too corrosion will occur, and it is practically impossible to clean concrete off the members sufficiently to reuse them, again especially at the joints.

That said, it's more common that the old railroad bridges are reused or "repurposed" for either transit / light rail vehicles or road use of some kind (plus rail-trails, of course), mostly right where they are, and sometimes not far away.  One of my college professors - a structural engineer - was familiar with the Pittsburgh street railway system, and said when they did that they were always amazed at how much extra load-carrying capacity was left in the bridge, even after generous deductions for such section loss from corrosion, poor metallurgy, fatigue from the cyclic loading history, frozen joints, etc.  Occasionally they are reused for light-duty roads such as logging or forest roads, industrial access roads, hunting camps, etc. 

With regard to removals - back in the late 1960's the spectacular Lehigh & New England R.R. multi-span "curved" deck-truss bridge over the Lehigh River at Lehigh Gap, PA (about halfway between Palmerton and Slatington) was dynamited into the river in the fall, and then fished out with cranes over the winter.  Also I believe that several of the Western Maryland's great steel truss bridges on its western or Connellsville extension were removed, even though ti would have been better to keep them for the rail-trail that now occupies that right-of-way.  Closer to home, Pennsylvania had a program from the mid-1980's until recently (may still be in place - just haven't seen much done with it lately) to remove "orphan*" railroad  bridges that adversely impacted highways, such as with low overhead clearances, narrow openings, poor sight distances through them, etc.  (* In this context, "orphan" meant those bridges for which there was no reliable documentation as to who had ownership and/ or maintenance responsibilities, or most importantly for this context, who was responsible for their ultimate removal; or if the railroad was responsible, then it was defunct or that responsibility had been lifted by the bankruptcy and reorganization / ConRail process, etc.).

Locally, a few years ago the former Easton & Northern- a Lehigh Valley subsidiary and branch - through plate girder bridge over 25th Street in the western portion of the Easton, PA area - about 1/4 mile south of U.S. Route 22 - was removed in connection with the construction of a new drugstore nearby (Wal-Green's, I think).  But the same branch lines's spindly high bridge - like 2,121 ft. long, mostly eye-bar deck trusses - over the Lehigh River, from the main line on the south bank to wind up the escarpment at the north bank, remains in place.  When almost all of that line was sold to Palmer Township for a rail-trail in 1997, the Quit-Claim Deed" from ConRail to the Township made it abundantly clear that all ownership and responsiibility for removal of that bridge was transerred to the Township.  But then again, that bridge is now listed in the Historic American Engineering Record ("HAER") as No. PA-540 - see: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?hh:61:./temp/~pp_Iu2C::

"Significance: This structures is significant for its highly complex geometry, with skew trusses carrying trucks on a reverse curve. It possesses a remarkable degree of integrity for a 19th century steel truss bridge on a freight railroad."

Well, enough for now. Hope this was helpful. 

- Paul North.

  I was at a short line meeting last year where an FRA bridge specialist gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on railroad bridge inspection and maintenance.  But his most memorable line was his comment on all of the press reports about the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse being an example of again infrastructure (it was 40 years old).  His comment was that, on a railroad, it would be considered "infant mortality." 
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Posted by Railway Man on Friday, December 26, 2008 5:18 PM

Falcon48

I was at a short line meeting last year where an FRA bridge specialist gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on railroad bridge inspection and maintenance.  But his most memorable line was his comment on all of the press reports about the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse being an example of again infrastructure (it was 40 years old).  His comment was that, on a railroad, it would be considered "infant mortality." 

 

Myself and at least two other frequent contributors to this forum were in the same audience ... railroading is a pretty small world.

RWM

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Friday, December 26, 2008 5:34 PM

Falcon48
I was at a short line meeting last year where an FRA bridge specialist gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on railroad bridge inspection and maintenance.  But his most memorable line was his comment on all of the press reports about the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse being an example of again aging [? - PDN] infrastructure (it was 40 years old).  His comment was that, on a railroad, it would be considered "infant mortality." 

That's pretty funny - and so true.  How many of them are still around today and carrying much larger loads than ever contemplated when they were built - Thomas Viaduct, Starrucca Viaduct, Tunkhannock Viaduct, James J. Hill (?) Bridge across the Miss. in Minn. - St. Paul, Rockville Bridge - these are all stone or concrete, but also the Hell Gate Bridge, and many, many others of all kinds.  John G. Kneiling once observed - aside from the technical uncertainties of the times necessitating pretty large factors of safety to provide for and overcome a lot of the unknowns - that Chief Engineers of railroads were important men in their communities, knew they were building important projects, and were not to be trifled with - their word and judgment governed !  (I think we've all heard the line from our mentors about the Chief Engineers of the day coming down the line being more important than an act of God or Jesus Christ, etc., so there's truth to that.)  It shows in how long these structures have lasted.

- Paul North.

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by Falcon48 on Friday, December 26, 2008 6:56 PM

Paul_D_North_Jr

Falcon48
I was at a short line meeting last year where an FRA bridge specialist gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on railroad bridge inspection and maintenance.  But his most memorable line was his comment on all of the press reports about the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse being an example of again aging [? - PDN] infrastructure (it was 40 years old).  His comment was that, on a railroad, it would be considered "infant mortality." 

That's pretty funny - and so true.  How many of them are still around today and carrying much larger loads than ever contemplated when they were built - Thomas Viaduct, Starrucca Viaduct, Tunkhannock Viaduct, James J. Hill (?) Bridge across the Miss. in Minn. - St. Paul, Rockville Bridge - these are all stone or concrete, but also the Hell Gate Bridge, and many, many others of all kinds.  John G. Kneiling once observed - aside from the technical uncertainties of the times necessitating pretty large factors of safety to provide for and overcome a lot of the unknowns - that Chief Engineers of railroads were important men in their communities, knew they were building important projects, and were not to be trifled with - their word and judgment governed !  (I think we've all heard the line from our mentors about the Chief Engineers of the day coming down the line being more important than an act of God or Jesus Christ, etc., so there's truth to that.)  It shows in how long these structures have lasted.

- Paul North.

  My tendency to make stupid typos has struck again - yes, it should have been "aging".  I'm the world's worst proofreader - I see exactly what I expect to see.

One major thing that helps the longevity of railroad bridges is that they don't use salt on them.

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Posted by Lyon_Wonder on Friday, December 26, 2008 7:02 PM

Paul_D_North_Jr

Falcon48
I was at a short line meeting last year where an FRA bridge specialist gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on railroad bridge inspection and maintenance.  But his most memorable line was his comment on all of the press reports about the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse being an example of again aging [? - PDN] infrastructure (it was 40 years old).  His comment was that, on a railroad, it would be considered "infant mortality." 

That's pretty funny - and so true.  How many of them are still around today and carrying much larger loads than ever contemplated when they were built - Thomas Viaduct, Starrucca Viaduct, Tunkhannock Viaduct, James J. Hill (?) Bridge across the Miss. in Minn. - St. Paul, Rockville Bridge - these are all stone or concrete, but also the Hell Gate Bridge, and many, many others of all kinds.  John G. Kneiling once observed - aside from the technical uncertainties of the times necessitating pretty large factors of safety to provide for and overcome a lot of the unknowns - that Chief Engineers of railroads were important men in their communities, knew they were building important projects, and were not to be trifled with - their word and judgment governed !  (I think we've all heard the line from our mentors about the Chief Engineers of the day coming down the line being more important than an act of God or Jesus Christ, etc., so there's truth to that.)  It shows in how long these structures have lasted.

- Paul North.

 

I wonder how resilient a modern river rail crossing would be if one were built today?  Probably box girder or concrete with few if any truss spans with enough height to avoid the need for a vertical lift span.  Most highway river crossings built in the last 40 years have been box girder, concrete or tied arch, with cable stayed spans becoming popular in the last 20.     

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Posted by Railway Man on Friday, December 26, 2008 7:25 PM

Lyon_Wonder

I wonder how resilient a modern river rail crossing would be if one were built today?  Probably box girder or concrete with few if any truss spans with enough height to avoid the need for a vertical lift span.  Most highway river crossings built in the last 40 years have been box girder, concrete or tied arch, with cable stayed spans becoming popular in the last 20.     


Movable bridges are still the logical choice for rail in locations where high-level relocation is not feasible, e.g., almost all urbanized locations.  Modern rail bridges (built in the last 20 years) include several truss bridges (e.g., Sioux City, Iowa, over the Missouri) and are designed for 100-year lifespans.  The likelihood of most of today's rail bridges exceeding the lifespan of most of the bridges of a century ago is pretty good - we know a lot more now than we did then.  The idea that "all railroad bridges designed and erected a century ago are wonderful" is ahistorical.  There were some real turkeys, too, that are now either long gone, or we wish they were long gone.

RWM
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Posted by jeaton on Friday, December 26, 2008 7:37 PM

Railway Man

Lyon_Wonder

I wonder how resilient a modern river rail crossing would be if one were built today?  Probably box girder or concrete with few if any truss spans with enough height to avoid the need for a vertical lift span.  Most highway river crossings built in the last 40 years have been box girder, concrete or tied arch, with cable stayed spans becoming popular in the last 20.     


Movable bridges are still the logical choice for rail in locations where high-level relocation is not feasible, e.g., almost all urbanized locations.  Modern rail bridges (built in the last 20 years) include several truss bridges (e.g., Sioux City, Iowa, over the Missouri) and are designed for 100-year lifespans.  The likelihood of most of today's rail bridges exceeding the lifespan of most of the bridges of a century ago is pretty good - we know a lot more now than we did then.  The idea that "all railroad bridges designed and erected a century ago are wonderful" is ahistorical.  There were some real turkeys, too, that are now either long gone, or we wish they were long gone.

RWM

Even with a design for a 100 year life, does any part of the design figure in the steps for removal when the time comes, either at the planned replacement date, or earlier if conditions require?

 

"We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo Possum "We have met the anemone... and he is Russ." Bucky Katt "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in physics

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, December 27, 2008 2:50 PM

Just to be clear, the ex-MILW bridge that was between Madrid and Woodward didn't sit abandoned very long.  Once the UP had permission to abandon the line they started to pull out the spans.  They sat at Boone for a while.  All that's lleft at the bridge site are concrete pillars. 

You'll be able to tell the reused spans.  They are the ones with the graffiti. 

Jeff 

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Posted by Convicted One on Sunday, December 28, 2008 12:09 PM

I believe that Gould's old "Wabash Bridge" in Pittsburgh PA  ultimately was dismantled, melted down and restructured with the express intent of re utilizing it in the Dravosburg Bridge.

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Posted by erikem on Sunday, December 28, 2008 9:44 PM

Falcon48

I was at a short line meeting last year where an FRA bridge specialist gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on railroad bridge inspection and maintenance.  But his most memorable line was his comment on all of the press reports about the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse being an example of again infrastructure (it was 40 years old).  His comment was that, on a railroad, it would be considered "infant mortality." 

 

Case in point  was the bridge that collapsed near Carlin, Nevada at the age of 102 years.

I'm also reminded of what Prof. Henry Petroski says about bridge maintenance, that regularly repainting the bridge does wonders for extending the life of a steel bridge. It is likely that the Golden Gate bridge will outlast many RR bridges built at the same time due to the continuous repainting of the Golden Gate bridge. An example of a RR bridge not being painted is the truss bridge on the AT&SF Surf line just north of Oceanslide, there's a blank spot between "ship" and "Santa Fe" that used to read "and travel", which implies the bridge was last repainted before 1970. 

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Posted by Victrola1 on Monday, December 29, 2008 10:54 AM

May the size of the stream bridged effect the decision to leave in place? The M&StL span at Keithsburg, IL mentioned earlier is an interesting case. In the 1970's there was a proposal to bring grain hoppers from the Iowa side onto the bridge and unload them in barges below. It went nowhere.

Shortly after the fire and lift span collapse, I asked some area residents why the rest of the bridge had not been removed. The reply was the Corps of Engineers said the bridge was solid and in case of "national emergency" a short respaning of the navigation gap would permit transit by heavy vehciles. Interesting, but heresay at best.

As the only bridge for 50 miles between Burlington and Muscatine, IA, mutterings in the past surfaced about using the abandon bridge for highway traffic. The width of the single track span made that idea impractical. Area interests more recently have advocated reopening an auto ferry from nearby New Boston, IL.

How long this abandon structure may remain standing with no maintenance is a whole different matter.

 

 

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Posted by mudchicken on Monday, December 29, 2008 11:35 AM

erikem

Falcon48

I was at a short line meeting last year where an FRA bridge specialist gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on railroad bridge inspection and maintenance.  But his most memorable line was his comment on all of the press reports about the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse being an example of again infrastructure (it was 40 years old).  His comment was that, on a railroad, it would be considered "infant mortality." 

 

Case in point  was the bridge that collapsed near Carlin, Nevada at the age of 102 years.

I'm also reminded of what Prof. Henry Petroski says about bridge maintenance, that regularly repainting the bridge does wonders for extending the life of a steel bridge. It is likely that the Golden Gate bridge will outlast many RR bridges built at the same time due to the continuous repainting of the Golden Gate bridge. An example of a RR bridge not being painted is the truss bridge on the AT&SF Surf line just north of Oceanslide, there's a blank spot between "ship" and "Santa Fe" that used to read "and travel", which implies the bridge was last repainted before 1970. 

The bridge at Carlin, NV would still be there if the derailed train had not struck it. (Kind of a problem with large span thru-truss structures, they tend to not to not be redundant - take out one member and the whole thing goes like a house of cards)

Wonder if this becomes an AREMA presentation in the next few years on the replacement?

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Monday, December 29, 2008 12:41 PM

erikem
[ snip] Case in point  was the bridge that collapsed near Carlin, Nevada at the age of 102 years.

I'm also reminded of what Prof. Henry Petroski says about bridge maintenance, that regularly repainting the bridge does wonders for extending the life of a steel bridge. It is likely that the Golden Gate bridge will outlast many RR bridges built at the same time due to the continuous repainting of the Golden Gate bridge. An example of a RR bridge not being painted is the truss bridge on the AT&SF Surf line just north of Oceanslide, there's a blank spot between "ship" and "Santa Fe" that used to read "and travel", which implies the bridge was last repainted before 1970. 

As an elaboration on mudchicken's observation on last weekend's collapse of the UP RR Carlin, NV bridge, it's age had nothing to do with that - instead, the collapse was most likely directly caused by the impact of the derailing train into one of the diagonal end posts on one side of the end "portal".  Since those members are always in a heavy compression ("squeeze down") type of loading, it would have buckled immediately - kind of like the proverbial "cutting it off at the knees".  Once the impact occurred, there's practically no saving of that kind of bridge, and this is true even if it been completed just last week out of new materials with a modern design.  That happens fairly often - I'll guess at about once a year or so - and as such is just an inherent and inevitable risk that "comes with the territory" and is assumed when that design is selected.

And further on Prof. Petroski's observation:  He's right, but the benefit from repainting is not the paint itself - not on the body of the main members, anyway - although it certainly doesn't hurt.  Instead, the benefit is that on a regular basis somebody gets down and under there, and cleans all the dirt, debris, and rust off - usually by sandblasting or similar, often down to the bare metal - especailly at the connections, where such deleterious things tend to happen the most, and the worst if left to progress otherwise unchecked.  Similarly, recall that with last year's Minnestoa I-35 bridge collapse, there were allegations that the accumulation of pigeon droppings and the like in the narrow crevices at the joints precluded thorough inspections (although the NTSB report concluded that the inadequately designed gusset plates were responsible for the failure).  

That cleaning also provides an opportunity for a better visual (and other methods of) inspection - not always done, though.  More importantly, the waterproofing & protective of paint ("anti-corrosive coating or covering") is reapplied in continuous layer(s) / coat(s).  Further, any moving connections - pins, rollers, and the like - are at least cleaned, and that also provides an opportunity for them to be lubricated to ensure their ongoing proper functioning.  It's very much like going to the dentist's office at the recommended twice-a-year interval for preventative teeth cleaning and inspection by the hygienist - hope they don't find anything, but at least they have an opportunity to look and fix anything before it gets worse, and also clean off the gunk to keep that from accumulating any more, and so on.

- Paul North.

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by MOPACnut on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 12:54 AM

 Guess i'll share a story. 

The abandoned MO-PAC line between Osawatomie and Herrington is loaded with bridges of every type (from wood open deck trestles to through trusses), and all but 1 are still intact because the plan is for it to become a trail (abandoned in 1995, and only a couple of small portions have been converted so far). The one that was taken out spanned a heavily used county road south of Miller, KS which was a hinderance to trucks with high/wide loads or large farm equipment (and did get hit a couple of times). The bridges along the portion converted to trail East of Council Grove (and the one over Highway K-99 at Admire) have had chain link fence put on both sides for safety (but it looks like....Angry).

 There's another in danger of being removed. A combination concrete and plate girder ballasted deck (of which there's several along the line) that spans US-75 North of Lyndon. The county wants it removed because it prevents high/wide's from passing. And every so often one will try it and find they can't pass, tieing up the highway for awhile as they get turned arround. The trail group doesn't want it removed because it would sever the trail (can't have horses and cyclists crossing a 65MPH highway, at the base of a hill). So the solution is take it out, widen the ROW and put a new bridge in. Which will only cost over a million dollars. Money the county or KDOT doesn't have.

 Personally, i don't want it taken out. Though there's similar bridges, this one has ornate cast iron railings on both sides, and did have a MP heralds until 1994 (i haven't been able to tell if it was painted over or removed).

 I know i've got photos somewhere.

I preferr "Rail" over "trail".
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Posted by erikem on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 1:26 AM

mudchicken

The bridge at Carlin, NV would still be there if the derailed train had not struck it. (Kind of a problem with large span thru-truss structures, they tend to not to not be redundant - take out one member and the whole thing goes like a house of cards)

 

Which gets back to the FRA guy's comment about a forty year old bridge collapsing being considered "infant mortality". Age would have been a cause for blame if the bridge near Carlin collapsed under normal traffic - I figured that the collapse was related to the derailment (and probably should have been more explicit about it).

My other point was that there is nothing magical about RR bridges other than having to be built stoutly to maintain sufficient rigidity for handling RR traffic.
 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 8:19 AM

OK, I think I now "get it" - erikem's point regarding the Carlin, NV bridge.  At the risk of "putting words into your mouth", what I'm "taking away" is that as just one handy example, it was only 102 years old - to which the 40-year old Minnesota bridge was indeed a comparative infant (or mayber teenager).  Also, that "but for" the happenstance of that career-ending derailment, the bridge may well have continued to be in regular service for many more years. 

One thing I'm curious about, though it'll probably be tough to find an authoritative answer:  How much of that bridge was still "original" from its circa 1906 construction ?  (I'm thinking of the old joke about the French Canadian woodsman's axe - "Yah, I've replaced the handle 6 times and the head twice, but she's still the same old axe !") 

The reason I ask is that back then (1906), the typical "Cooper's loading" for railroad bridges probably would have been not more than the E-55 to E-60 range (per WIlliam D. Middleton in his book Landmarks on the Iron Road: Two Centuries of North AMerican Railroad Engineering, Indiana University Press 1999, ISBN 0-253-3559-0, pg. 9).  Since today's design loading's for steel bridges are in the E-80 range, it is possible that the 1906 bridge had to be upgraded over the years to handle heavier modern trains.  On the other hand, back then such things were often conservatively designed and built = excess capacity.  The modern standard is not that much higher, so the 1906 bridge may have been OK to continue using with either none or only a few upgrades and replacements of selected components.

One of the more challenging tasks for the "B & B" crews ("Bridges & Buildings") is to replace / renew / upgrade individual structural components in an existing structure, between trains, but it can be and is done.  And so I'm wondering if and to what extent that was done to this bridge ?  Just food for thought.

- Paul North.

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by Railway Man on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 9:54 AM

Paul_D_North_Jr

One thing I'm curious about, though it'll probably be tough to find an authoritative answer:  How much of that bridge was still "original" from its circa 1906 construction ?  (I'm thinking of the old joke about the French Canadian woodsman's axe - "Yah, I've replaced the handle 6 times and the head twice, but she's still the same old axe !") 

The reason I ask is that back then (1906), the typical "Cooper's loading" for railroad bridges probably would have been not more than the E-55 to E-60 range (per WIlliam D. Middleton in his book Landmarks on the Iron Road: Two Centuries of North AMerican Railroad Engineering, Indiana University Press 1999, ISBN 0-253-3559-0, pg. 9).  Since today's design loading's for steel bridges are in the E-80 range, it is possible that the 1906 bridge had to be upgraded over the years to handle heavier modern trains.  On the other hand, back then such things were often conservatively designed and built = excess capacity.  The modern standard is not that much higher, so the 1906 bridge may have been OK to continue using with either none or only a few upgrades and replacements of selected components.

 

I haven't been to that particular bridge in about 10 years, but I don't recall seeing anything on site that made me think then that anything had been done other than tie replacement, ever.  In most cases of bridges of that nature, to my knowledge nothing has been done absent a specific injury or failure.  The most common repair or improvement is to piers or abutments following a scouring event or subgrade setllement, but not to the steel span itself.

Most of the main line bridges in the West from that era that I've dealt with are E-72, when re-rated.  Some are E-80.  Branch line steel bridges in the West from that era I've dealt with are usually E-60, assuming no significant loss from corrosion.

RWM

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