Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trail/Penn Bridge over Schuylkill River sout of Reading, PA

(no Bridge Hunter?, 3D Satellite)

Gregory D. Pawelski posted two photos with the comment: "Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch Angelica bridge over the Schuylkill River in Popular Neck south of Reading, Pa. - Then and Then"

Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch Angelica bridge over the Schuylkill River in Popular Neck south of Reading, Pa. circa 1885. (Historical Society of Berks County)

Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch Angelica bridge over the Schuylkill River in Popular Neck south of Reading, Pa. circa 1955. (John W. Barriger III Photo) Although this photo was taken in 1955, it still looks the same today. I'm not going out on the NS bridge to get a Now photo unless Brian Artim wants to get one when he returns from shifting at Ridgeview industrial track.

Chicago's $200 million transit station to nowhere

I have read about new bridges that went to nowhere because funding was obtained for the bridge, but not for new roads to connect the bridge to existing roads. Hopefully, the needed roads got built and the bridges became useful. But this is the first time I have read about a new train (subway) station that has no trains. Furthermore, it is a big station. It is part of the Block 37 fiasco. I have mentioned that our family had the Christmas tradition of eating in the Walnut Room of Marshal Fields when our girls were young. One year we had a table next to a window that overlooked State Street. It struck me as odd that there was a skating rink on the other side of State Street. And that was about all there was. Looking at a 1999 historical aerial, you can see a rectangle with rounded corners. That was the rink. In 2002 you see a vacant block except for a little buidling along the middle of Dearborn Street. In 2005 it still looks empty. In 2007 you finally see some buildings again. I haven't done serious research about Block 37 because I'm sure it would be depressing. My understanding is the city bought the land and tore down the buildings with the expectation that a developer would do great things with the land. But it turned out to be like the old post office --- one developer after another would draw some nice looking pictures of what they planned to build, but nothing got built. As part of the city's vision to build a great new block, they built the Block 37 superstation under the block that ran the full diaganol of the block from Randolf and Dearborn southeast to State and Washington.

Crain's Chicago Business
It was to connect with the Blue Line at the Dearborn Street corner and the Red Line at the State Street corner. If I understand the Crain article, they were also planning to lay tracks between the two lines to offer express service using their two most popular lines. They got the 28-foot high hole dug under Block 37 before the recession of 2008 hit. Another $150 million is needed to finish the station. Maybe they could spiff it up a bit and use it as an "event space" for large weddings and corporate meetings. Perhaps add some folding walls so they could rent multiple rooms of variable size. Or maybe a rich person could buy it and build a model train layout. With that much space one could do several levels of G-scale tracks. If I understand the financing correctly, no federal tax dollars were wasted building this concrete lined hole in the ground.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tay Rail Bridge

The Tay Bridge is famous in bridge history. Finished in February 1878, it was the longest (nearly two miles) bridge in the world. But what made it famous is that at approximately 7:15pm on December 28, 1879, during a terrible storm, as a train with 75 passengers crossed the "high girders," they collapsed. No one survived. The piers of the replacement bridge were built next to the masonry piers of the original bridge to help combat tidal erosion. [Paul Johnson's comment on his posting] Because of the shadows from the bridge, it is hard to see the old piers. I chose this excerpt from the satellite image because two of the three piers stand out. The wrought iron girder spans did not collapse, and they were transferred to the present Tay Bridge where they are still in use today! [TayBridgeDisaster]
Denny Quartieri posted
Ladies and Gentlemen: First Tay Bridge. Unfortunatly it became a Creepy Halloween Tale but in Christmas' Eve.
Photo from National Library of Scotland
Tay Bridge from north
Photograph of the first Tay Bridge before its collapse.
Photo from National Library of Scotland
Tay Bridge from south after accident
Photograph of the first Tay Bridge after the collapse of a large section.

Photo from National Library of Scotland
Pier no. 8: looking west

Paul Johnson posted
Paul Johnson Bouch was pilloried at the enquiry. He relied upon the foremost authority in the country for wind pressure and wind speed figures. The expert hadn't even been to the Tay. Poor workmanship, design of the jibs and cotters of the columns by a sub contractor, employing someone who knew little of maintaining metal structures, missing rivets, and patched castings all had an effect. The carriages of the time were lightweight and it was not unknown for a carriage to be lifted from the rails in strong winds all contributed to the disaster. Bouch built a six times safety margin into the bridge based on the figures he was given. There is some conjecture that the train derailed and struck the bridge.
This is the first time I have read that Bouch consulted with a wind pressure expert. So it was really the expert that was at fault. Some descriptions I read implied that Bouch did not even consider the lateral force of winds. But he did consider it. However the figure he used, 10 lbsf/sq ft, was not large enough for the weather conditions in a river near the open seas. [TayBridgeDisaster]

I-95 Bridge over Piscataqua River between NH and ME

(Bridge Hunter3D Satellite)

Bridge Hunter indicates the span is 756 feet long, but it does not mention the clearance above water.

Photo by Will Truax taken in July 2014, License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)
Street View
Three of the five photos posted by Joe Dingley with the comment: "The bridge between new Hampshire and Maine over the naval ship yard." (Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, 95+ photos)



Monday, October 9, 2017

Fore River Bridges in Quincy, MA

(Old Bridge Hunter, Temporary Bridge Hunter, New Bridge Hunter, no Historic Bridges, Satellite)

A video of the removal of the lift span of the temporary bridge while the lift span of the new bridge goes up and down. Note the height of the blue aerial platform on this side of the old bridge tower. That looks very top-heavy to me.

Screenshot (source)
Copying a couple of satellite views because they catch the new bridge in different stages of construction.


A swing bridge was built in 1902.
Photo from MassDOTdesc
[The swing span is in the background of this photo of a shipyard]
The original deck truss bridge was built in 1936 and rehabilitated in 1954. "Route 3A has been the main route to the South Shore, ever since the Hingham and Quincy Bridge and Turnpike Corporation was formed in 1808. A swing bridge was built here in 1901-1902, but proved a bottleneck, both to shipping, with the shipyard upstream, and to extensive South Shore traffic. The new bridge, with a total length of 2,216 feet, and a 60 foot roadway, included a 175-foot draw span, of the double leaf rolling lift type, designed to open or close in one and a half minutes." [HAER]
Photo from HAER

Boston Public Library, CC BY
Chicago still has several truss drawbridges that are much older than this one. The survival of Chicago's bridges is a testament to Chicago's willingness to maintain their brides and/or to the corrosive affects of salt water. Bridge Hunter indicates that both the superstructure (steel) and substructure (concrete) were in poor condition. It might also be a testament to the silly federal funding policy --- they will pay 80% of the cost of a new bridge but nothing for maintenance.

"In the late 1990's the 1936 bridge was found to be badly deteriorated and in 2002, traffic was directed off it and onto the current temporary bridge. In 2004, after appropriate historical documentation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the 1936 span was demolished. Though the temporary bridge is safe today and regularly inspected by MassDOT, it is rapidly reaching the end of its useful life and must be replaced. The new permanent vertical lift bridge will cost approximately $244 million to build and will carry the 32,000 vehicles that use the 3A corridor for at least 75 years to come."  It will improve the vertical clearance from 175 to 250 feet. And in the closed position it has a clearance of 60 feet allowing most sailboats to pass underneath without impacting traffic flow.

weirdpix, License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
USNSM USS Salem CA139 & Vertical Lift Drawbridge
The following three photos were extracted from a handout for the 2/9/2012 public meeting from MassDOTdocuments. There are several more renderings on MassDOTviews.

Figure 2: Rendering of the proposed vertical lift bridge in the closed position.  
Figure 3: Rendering of the proposed vertical lift bridge in the open position.  
Figure 4: Rendering of the proposed vertical lift bridge at night.  
The project was delayed by 650 days (about 1.75 years) "due to fabrication issues with the counterweight sheaves and the time needed to manufacture and deliver replacements for them. The sheaves are an essential component of the bridge designed to last for the structure's lifespan." [MassDOTdesc]

I wonder which country the sheaves were made in. The contractor should have sent someone there to test the metal during fabrication. Some of the eight sheaves were shipped with cracks! Each sheave is 20 feet in diameter, weighs 85 tons, and costs $1.4 million. I'll bet they sent someone to supervise the construction of the replacements. "State transportation officials declined to say who manufactured the sheaves, where they came from, what happened during the fabrication process, or how many broke....Mayor Susan Kay of Weymouth said she was told that the sheaves were made in Alabama and that the delay would be about 10 months." As I suspected, I helped pay for that bridge: "About 80 percent of the Fore River Bridge funding will come from federal grant anticipation notes, which are bonds backed by the future federal grant money. The other 20 percent will come from Massachusetts taxpayers." [BostonGlobe] As mentioned above, the 1.75 year delay turned out to be about another year past 10 months.

May 18, 2017, Presentation from MassDOTdocuments
The temporary lift bridge, nicknamed the Erector Set, taught the local residents that they wanted the new bridge to use bascule spans rather than a lift span to avoid the ugliness of the towers. While researching the new bridge, I noticed that many public meetings were held. But towers were built anyhow. Page 5 of the Vollmer Study Presentation indicated that Bascule, as well as Fixed and Tunnel, alternatives were considered in addition to Vertical Lift. The drawspan for the 1936 bridge was 175 feet. [HAER] (The Vollmer Study Report indicates the drawspan was 220 feet.) The requirement for the movable span for the replacement bridge is 350 feet. [p16 VollmerStudyReport]

The disadvantages of the two types of movable spans are discussed starting on page 18 of the Vollmer Study. One I had thought of: "a larger substructure." I guess no one on the study committee bothered to look at how the Chicago engineers alleviated this disadvantage --- the pony truss. In fact, page 86 of the report indicates that they looked at only one bascule bridge for reference. The three joint disadvantage was new to me. I guess they couldn't invent some sort of gutter to alleviate this disadvantage. The disadvantage of wind load when the bridge is open is serious because they wanted a solid deck. By the way, in Chicago the first non-swing bridge was for Halstead Street, and it was a lift bridge. But a lift bridge was not tolerated for streets closer to the loop for aesthetics reasons. Aesthetic considerations is why Chicago was forced to learn how to design bascule bridges.

On page 23 of the Vollmer Report they provide a cost estimate for each of the options considered. They don't indicate if the bascule bridge had 40 or 70 feet of clearance. But the movable options differ by just a few tens of millions of dollars. I'll but the cost overrun because of the delay caused by the bad sheaves cost much more than that. At least I did not have to help pay for the tunnel option, which was much more expensive. Considering how badly Massacusettes screwed up the Big Dig through Boston, I'm very relieved they did not choose the tunnel option.

Furthermore, they never considered the option that came to my mind about half way through the report. Since the need for such a high and wide movable span is because of oil tankers going to the Citgo Terminal, build a pipeline north from Citgo to share the dock at Sprague Terminal. Then you can have a fixed bridge at just 70 feet, which would have been much cheaper than any of the considered options and had the advantages of low maintenance and no traffic disruption.

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This video made by the company operating the "blue stuff" has such bad (way too "jerky") editing that it makes me glad we have the above video from the bridge contractor.
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This video of the span move was much easier to watch.
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

TV and Radio Dials ("Don't touch that dial")

I subscribe to the daily Chicago Tribune and on October 3 the bag included a copy of the Sun-Times as an advertisement. So I had a chance to read the Garfield comic that had three frames. The first frame shows Garfield watching a flat-screen TV. The TV had the narration of DON'T TOUCH THAT DIAL. The second frame had Garfield thinking OKAY, I WON'T. The third frame had Garfield breaking the fourth wall and thinking AND WHAT'S A DIAL?

I have already discussed a dial phone. Garfield's comic reminded me that a tuning dial is history for both radios and TVs.

TV Tuning Dial

My first TVs, including my first color TV --- a 19-in RCA XL100 --- had dials for selecting the channel.

Photo by Bmuscotty88, CC BY-SA
I had to hunt on the web for a while to find a photo of a TV that was old enough to have a dial and with enough resolution that you could see the numbers on the dial.
Digitally zoomed
When I was a kid, our TVs had just the top dial without the U. That is, the TV could receive just the VHF (Very High Frequency) channles 2-13. To change channels, you had to get up off your seat, walk across the room to the TV, and turn the dial to the new number. When you turned the dial, it would "click" (actually, "clunk" is probably more accurate) at each number. And you had to turn it rather strongly to get it to move to the next number. When I took the cover off a TV, I noticed that what is on the backside of that dial was rather complicated. It was several inches deep consisting of several banks of selector switches. It always blew my mind trying to figure out how they were manufactured in the factory. The newer model shown in the photo supports UHF (Ultra High Frequency) channels as well. If my memory is accurate, that dial turned smoothly.

The fact that we did not have a remote and we could not channel surf was not an issue because we had only three channels --- ABC, CBS, and NBC. Since there was just one TV in the house and just three channels to choose from, who was going to watch what was planned out long before it was TV time.

Why just three networks for so many decades? Sending video signals across the country was difficult. Fortunately, using underground coax cables across the country was invented about the time that TV was invented. One was laid across my grandfather's farm in northeast Indiana.
  • 1936 — AT&T installs experimental coaxial telephone and television cable between New York and Philadelphia, with automatic booster stations every ten miles. Completed in December, it can transmit 240 telephone calls simultaneously.
  • 1941 — First commercial use in USA by AT&T, between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. L1 system with capacity of one TV channel or 480 telephone circuits.
  • 1949 — On January 11, eight stations on the US East Coast and seven Midwestern stations are linked via a long-distance coaxial cable.
Microwaves and satellites had to be invented to afford enough channels to make channel surfing a meaningful activity. Then when we were forced to switch to digitial channels, channel surfing became a joke because it took so long for each channel to buffer up and display an image. And with the advent of fiber optic transmission making streaming possible, channel surffing became even more obsolete.

I had read that the mechanical turner was the weak spot in the XL100 TVs. But that turned out to be OK because soon after I bought my color TV, I bought my first VCR --- a JVC for $800. (The last VCR I bought new cost $30.) So the turner on the TV set on channel 3 for most of its life because I used the remote of the VCR for channel selection. I finally threw that 19" color TV away after a couple of decades, not because it quit working, but because I wanted a bigger TV.

Radio Tuning Dial

Radios had a knob that turned the shaft of a variable capacitor. There would be a cord that wrapped around the shaft of the little tuning knob and then the cord went around a big pulley on the variable capacity. It would take many turns of the knob to go from one end of the dial to the other. And you had to remember the numbers of the AM stations that you liked. (There was no FM radio when I was a kid.) To this day, I remember from the 1960s that WOWO (Fort Wayne, IN) was 1190 and WLS (Chicago) was 890. I no longer remember the frequency for WCFL, the other top-hits radio station.

I don't know what the lower scale in the photo was. When I was looking at pictures of older radios, I noticed that most of them had both scales.

A variable capacitor has two banks of metal plates. The lower bank was fastened to the frame and was stationary. The other bank of plates was attached to the shaft. In this case, when you turned the shaft clockwise, you would rotate the plates out of the stator plates, which decreased the adjacent surface area and decreased the capacitance. Likewise, turning the shaft counterclockwise put more area of the rotor plates next to the stator plates and increased the capacitance.
By the time radios were being installed in cars, the dial had been replaced by a slider.
Nathan Gryszowka
For a slider, the cord between the knob and the capacitor pulley was run across the top of the scale and the needle was attached to the cord.

Photo from CollectorNet
The first purchase I made with my own money (lawn mowing and babysitting) was a portable transistor radio. I added a blue rectangle on the photo to highlight the "teeth" that stuck out on the side of the radio. These were on the tuning dial. This dial was directly attached to the variable capacitor shaft. There was no cord to "gear down" the number of turns between the knob and the capacitor shaft. It required careful thumb movement to tune in a station.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Indiana Rail Road (INRD)/IC Shuffle Creek Trestle

(Bridge Hunter, no Historic Bridges, Birds-Eye View)

The Tulip Trestle is not the only trestle that the IC's Indianapolis Southern Railroad built to get across the hills of Southern Indiana from Effingham, IL to Indianapolis, IN.

Robert Brummett posted
Tulip Trestle Jan 18, 2012.Arizona Eastern E8 6070 pauses atop the Shuffle Creek trestle for a quick INRD-sanctioned photo stop on the way to Indy.
[I don't know why the comment begins with Tulip Trestle.]
Photo taken by Richard Koenig in October 1977, from Bridge Hunter

Richard added the following comment in Bridge Hunter to correct their caption on the above photo:
My picture from 1977 shows an Illinois Central Gulf empty unit coal train traveling south (rather than east). It's returning to the coal fields in western Indiana/eastern Illinois.
The Illinois Central was always a north-south railroad, and so this branch from Effingham, Illinois, to Indianapolis, Indiana, (nicknamed the Hi-Dry) gets the same treatment, with Indy being toward the northern end of the branch.
He also added four more photos.