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PB&NE - Philadelphia Bethlehem & New England RR - Bridges - Bethlehem, PA

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PB&NE - Philadelphia Bethlehem & New England RR - Bridges - Bethlehem, PA
Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Thursday, March 10, 2011 3:17 PM

For those who don't know, 'back in the day' the PB&NE was Bethlehem Steel Co.'s wholly-owned "common carrier" switching line at and in its Bethlehem, PA plant.  It connected directly with 2 'outside' railroads, the Lehigh Valley RR to the north and the Reading RR to the south and west, so as to enable the steel co. to get pretty good rail access and some competition on rates, etc.  Although "The Steel" has been gone now for about 10 years, the railroad and a small fleet of switchers still survives and thrives, under the name of "BethIntermodal" of Lehigh Valley Rail Management ("LVRM"), serving a small (but growing) industrial park on portions of the site of the old steel mills, and a pretty busy multi-faceted intermodal and transload terminal - NS Triple Crown's RoadRailers, double-stacks, piggyback, etc. - see:  http://www.bethintermodal.com/  and   http://www.bethintermodal.com/locations/bethlehemfac.shtml  

A book on the PB&NE and other internal steel plant railroad operations - including both narrow and wide-gauge ! - has been published: Bethlehem Steel Railroading, by Nevin S. Yeakel*, Publisher: The Railroad Press (August 19, 2008), 56 pages, ISBN-10: 1931477272, ISBN-13: 978-1931477277, about $25, per:   http://www.amazon.com/Bethlehem-Steel-Railroading-Nevin-Yeakel/dp/1931477272 

(*Several others also by Mr. Yeakel - perhaps earlier versions or drafts - appear to be at the Bethlehem Public Library only, but I haven't seen them yet.)

Nevertheless, there doesn't seem to be any photos of ithe PB&NE's 2 largest bridges available on-line, although there are many of tis locomotives - see: http://www.railpictures.net/showphotos.php for "PBNE" and/ or "LVRM", etc., and about the middle of this webpage: http://www.thebluecomet.com/crlvline3.html 

So to fill that evident void in cyberspace, I herewith submit several of my recent efforts for general edification and amusement.  I disclaim any greatness in these photos - they were done quickly over a couple of lunch hours with a mere pocket digital camera while keeping an eye out for the busy road traffic, and I had no ability to adjust the exposure for the darkness of the subject and underneath and the great contrast with the bright sky above.  Maybe someday I'll get back with a better camera and time and lighting conditions good enough to take advantage of it . . .

Old PB&NE herald on the 'new' (circa 1960's I guess, from its appearance and construction) high bridge over PA Rt. 412 about 1 mile north of I-78 at Hellertown, at these Lat./ Long. coords. per the ACME Mapper 2.0 application: N 40.60863 W 75.33953

Long view of same, looking northward, with a train being shuffled on the bridge - the 'newish' Sands Bethlehem Casino is about 1 mile ahead on the left, built on some of the former BSCo plant:

The bridge(s) over Shimersville Road and the Saucon Creek a little to the east, at: N 40.61160 W 75.33657  One of my colleagues jokes that this bridge has about a year's worth of production of steel from the mill in it.  Actually, it's a pair of parallel ballasted deck truss bridges, which are not identical, and that makes them appear more massive than they really are.  I'm not sure when they were built - a fair guess is early in the 20th century for one of these bridges, when the slag from the older plant was dumped out this way, as well as serving the coke ovens farther south; the other bridge probably dates to the early 1940's, when the plant expanded onto another 1,500 acres (2-1/2 square miles) off to the east as part of the build-up for the World War II industrial effort.  That expansion is now just about all gone/ demolished, and has been partially replaced by a new 'brownfields re-use' industrial park - LVIP VII, see: http://www.lvip.org/AvailableLand.htm - part of which is the LVRM intermodal terminal. 

This view is looking eastward - the near span now has only a gravel roadway on it:    

 

This view is looking westward - the near span is the one with 2 tracks on it - note the floodlights and the metal guard to keep debris off the trains from falling onto the roadway:

 Looking southward - the span carrying the 2 tracks is one the left, and is presumably the newer one - note the solid and 'cleaner' "I-beam" type members as compared to the 'lacy' built-up cross-braced members on the span to the right which carries just the roadway, although they are all still riveted together.  The laid-up stone abutment below looks kind of crumbly to me, but it's the concrete behind and above it that really carries the weight of these bridges.  Note that the bottom chords of the one on the left bear on the low concrete foundation there - but the lower chords of the one on the right are just hanging in mid-air !  What's up with that ?

 

The answer can be seen in this photo of the other end of that span, looking northwesterly.  The bearing point is at the upper right, on top of the high concrete wall, and the rightmost member slopes down at about a 45-degree angle, so that the overall shape of this bridge resemble a series of "WWWW" strung together - there are no vertical or horizontal members at the very ends.  In contrast - although it's hard to see in this photo's view - the other truss has a rectangular shape, with a vertical and a horizontal member at each end, kind of like this: "|WWWW

 

Now, why was that done ?  Well, I surmise it's the same reason as the left truss has all those lacy webbed built-up members - back in that day, steel was expensive and labor was cheap, so it was worthwhile to take the time to fabricate and rivet together all those little pieces.  Likewise, for the slight added cost of a taller abutment wall for the end bearings, that bridge could save several dozen tons of steel by eliminating those end vertical and horizontal members.  In contrast, when the other truss was built, steel material was easier to come by - "they made it here", remember ? - so it was faster and more economical to just use single solid pieces that needed minimal fabrication.  And actually erecting that other truss would be a lot easier without needing as much temporary 'falsework' to support it over the roadway and creek, and less effort put  into the strengthening of the higher bearing wall, etc. 

Maybe some more photos and a few more comments on other details when I have more time, and if there's more interest in this.   

- Paul North.   

 

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, March 10, 2011 4:54 PM

Heck, you've got my interest.  I'm not too knowing of the engineer-side of the things, but I always like seeing the difference in bridge designs.  I *think * I've been under that one bridge in Hellertown while in a van once. 

 

Ever see the bridges on the (former, I guess) sister road in Steelton on the Steelton & Highspire RR?  One track crossing 3 bridges in a row - each bridge of a different design.  Neat stuff. 

   The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by CShaveRR on Thursday, March 10, 2011 7:01 PM

zugmann
Heck, you've got my interest.  ...  Neat stuff.

 

Probably took Zug's original note slightly out of context, but I, too, have been fascinated by many large railroad bridges.  Chicago is a great place to see such things, and I'm proud to say that I've been both over and under a large number of the railroad bridges in this region. 


Maybe some year we'll get to your neck of the woods, Paul, and see for ourselves some of the good stuff you've shown us.  On our vacation next month we're going to see a few of the railroad bridges over the Ohio River (from Ohio to points south and east).

Carl

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Friday, March 11, 2011 12:12 PM

Carl - Ever see one of Lehigh Heavy Forge's - LHFX - cars ?  That's one of the remaining BSCo operations there, now owned by WHEMCO - see: http://www.lhforge.com/   Here are 2 links to photos (not mine) of them:

 http://www.railcarphotos.com/PhotoDetails.php?PhotoID=4229 

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/rslist.aspx?id=LHFX 

Off to maybe get some more photos over thataways . . .

- Paul North.

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by CShaveRR on Friday, March 11, 2011 12:26 PM

No LHFX in my logs, Paul--another good excuse to get over that way!  I forgot how long ago it was that we were in eastern Pennsylvania (Philly doesn't count!), when my peripatetic sister lived there (had to be at least 15 years ago!), but we're going to have to get out that way again sometime--visit my freight-car-freak friend in Coplay, see these bridges, those cars, and maybe let you take us on a tour of somewhere!  (We did get to Shavertown when we were up in the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area--nearly got chased out by floodwaters!)

Carl

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

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, March 11, 2011 1:09 PM

If you're really lucky, you may catch one of the hot ingot cars in Allentown.  Usually can catch them on the head end of the intermodal trains that make pickup/setouts at Bethlehem.

   The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by billio on Saturday, March 12, 2011 6:50 PM

Wow!  The steel roads built their structures to handle the heaviest traffic tonnages.  These PB&NE bridges would have done justice to the PRR's New York -- Chicago main line.  And the massively heavy construction was justified:  years ago (c. 1972 or thereabouts), I was informed by a Union Railroad colleague (URR switched the US Steel Pittsburgh District mills) that the URR handled more tonnage than Union Pacific -- didn't haul it too far, mind you, but haul it URR did.  Clearly, the same design mentality is reflected in the PB&NE structures.

Cheers, and thanks for sharing.

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Posted by switch7frg on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:41 AM

Smile   Paul ; thank you for the pictures . Your description of the design is interesting.  Weight and stress transfer is visible.  I am waiting for info on the subject matter.

                                                    Jim

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Posted by HO Hobbyist on Thursday, July 11, 2019 7:06 AM

CShaveRR

 

 
zugmann
Heck, you've got my interest.  ...  Neat stuff.

 

 

Probably took Zug's original note slightly out of context, but I, too, have been fascinated by many large railroad bridges.  Chicago is a great place to see such things, and I'm proud to say that I've been both over and under a large number of the railroad bridges in this region. 

 

Maybe some year we'll get to your neck of the woods, Paul, and see for ourselves some of the good stuff you've shown us.  On our vacation next month we're going to see a few of the railroad bridges over the Ohio River (from Ohio to points south and east).

 

 

I recommend you come to this area of PA. Many railfan spots on the Lehigh Line, some great some decent. Not all that many bridges though...

Modeler of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Bethlehem PA, 1971 and railfan of Norfolk Southern's Lehigh and Reading Lines of the modern day.

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, July 11, 2019 7:38 AM

billio
Wow!  The steel roads built their structures to handle the heaviest traffic tonnages.

I dare say that most rail bridges built "back in the day" were pretty stout affairs.  Of course, this was before the era of "just enough" engineering, too.

I know of one bridge here that hasn't been used in years, but still stands and likely could handle today's rail traffic.  A bridge in Hancock, NY that was built to accomodate two Erie six foot guage tracks still handles regular traffic between Port Jervis and Binghampton.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, July 11, 2019 8:56 AM

PDN: isn't there some history of this as a key link in the short-lived but oh! so dramatic Reading Combine?  That would account for a certain amount of perceived 'overbuilding' beyond what a simple 'owned carrier' might engage in.

P.S. in the picture of the two bridges, 'what's up with that' is that the inverted truss achieves the same effective loading with less steel.  The 'box truss' at the left uses the 'triangle' at each end primarily as a transition to the upper chord of the truss proper, and could be made in much lighter material (in fact, I believe we discussed some Canadian Grand Trunk bridges that showed precisely this characteristic).  If you do a 'thought experiment' of sorts and invert the bridge on the right and bring its bearings down to the level of the one on the left, you will see more clearly what is involved.

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, July 11, 2019 11:30 AM

Don't forget - STEEL railroads handled trains of these

I believe empty they had a lightweight of 100 TONS - loaded 200 or more tons.  Cars were not used in interchange service.

Worked B&O's Haselton tower in Youngstown.  Erie was the first road to the area.  Erie serviced a steel mill that was located at the rear of the tower.  The Erie's Main tracks were located on the FAR side of the double Main tracks of B&O, PRR & NYC.  With the Erie being original carrier in the area, the agreements negotiated with the other carrier allowed the Erie to operate their trains 'without delay'.  To reach their Main Tracks from the mill they had a series of hand throw crossovers over each of the intervening carriers tracks - which the Erie could open without requesting permission from any of the carriers.  The crossovers were protected by a Statutory Stop on each carriers tracks.  The Erie hot bottle trains would operate from the mill behind Haselton tower to the mills rolling plant at a location known as DeForest Jct. about 12 miles away.  Nothing stopped the Erie.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, July 11, 2019 12:07 PM

The bottle cars have gotten heavier.  The cars on the Arcelor bottle train between Indiana Harbor and Riverdale ride on four six-wheel Buckeye trucks and gondolas are inserted as spacers to distribute the weight.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul

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