Wrought Iron

The Slender Approach

Here’s the best contrast I could find to the heavy bridge at Pearl, Illinois, I talked about recently. That’s the 1889 Smith Avenue High Bridge across the Mississippi River between St. Paul and West St. Paul, Minnesota. That 1905 picture does not give a good sense of the bridge overall – it had 28 spans …

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A Moment In Time, 150 Years Later

That’s the West Main Street bridge in Clinton, New Jersey, spanning the south branch of the Raritan River. Clinton* is in western Jersey, due west of New York City and about two-thirds of the way form NYC to Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Raritan River takes a somewhat circuitous path before joining New York Bay at Perth …

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The Engineering Is Simpler Than The History

This post began with the picture above, a striking 1880s railroad trestle over a ravine, just downstream of a dam. The text on the photo itself identifies as “Bridge near Encarnacion” but doesn’t say where that is and a Spanish name in the western hemisphere doesn’t narrow the field down much. The Library of Congress …

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Standardization, Part 3

Industrial process are inherently standardized. Once you start producing anything on a large scale and with some degree of mechanization, you’re producing it repetitively and therefore in a standard form. But there’s standardization and standardization. It’s worth comparing the first two purely-industrial building materials to be used in the US: cast and wrought iron. Repetition …

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Where It Comes From: Steel

The Edgar Thomson Works, seen above, was a turning point in the wrought-iron versus steel argument in the United States. In 1875, steel was stronger and had more consistent properties, but only incrementally so. It was also more expensive. People chose which metal to use, or mixed and matched within a single project, based on …

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