Wednesday, June 14, 2017

BNSF/Northern Pacific Bridge over Chambers Bay at Steilacoom, WA

(Bridge Hunter, Historic Bridges, Birds-Eye View, 3D Satellite)

A David Honan Photo

From Historic Bridges, Source: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, 1914
I learned of this 1914 Strauss direct-lift bridge while studying a Strobel direct-lift bridge. But the Illinois River bridge no longer exists. So this is the last remaining direct-lift bridge in America.

Dwight Scott posted
As the Signal Maintainer at Steilacoom, WA for the BNSF RR I maintained double mainline lift span Bridge 14 for 15 years.
Robert Scott posted
"Puget Sound's Golden Gate"
A fiery sun has set over the Olympic mountains as a northbound BNSF train bound for Canada crosses Chambers Bay on a unique drawbridge known by the railroad as "Bridge 14"
This bridge almost stands alone in the volumes of unique railroad bridges. Designed by renowed bridge engineer Joseph Strauss, it was only one of three ever built. The direct lift bridge was built in 1914 at the site in Steilacoom, WA and has been in continual use since. It remains as the only bridge of its design still in use in the United States.
Strauss went on the much larger projects including being the chief bridge engineer of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
Greg Hall The designer of this bridge also built Bridge 4 in Ballard. Though not as nice to photograph as this one.

BNSF Chambers Creek Lift Bridge near Steilacoom, WA 5/27/17
BNSF rebuilt the foundations and much of the steel work in 2004. "When the bridge was built, the average weight of a rail car was 40 tons and the  average length of a train was 50 cars. Today,  the average car weighs 142 tons, the average train 100  cars. After years of withstanding immense tonnage from division rail traffic, the bridge╩╝s seats began  to founder, causing the structure to rock back and forth." They removed the old seats and built news ones. "Cement used to pour new seats was shipped to the job site using cement trucks loaded on flat cars. Each pour produced 18 yards of new concrete." [BNSF Northwest Division News, pp8-9]

One of the new seat sections

Robert Scott took a night exposure of one of the last Amtrak trains to use this route as it crossed this bridge. Scott's comment indicates this route is much more scenic than the new route. The first Amtrak train on the new route crashed because the engineer was going 80mph through a 30mph curve. Amtrak engineers should quit demonstrating that speed limits are real. If you exceed them by a factor of two, you will regret it.

Jeff Lewis posted two photos with the comment:
"Steilacoom Washington is the “home” of one of the more unusual railroad bridges in the United States. Bridge 14." The man who designed that little bascule lift bridge went on to engineer the Golden Gate bridge. Joseph Strauss is largely responsible for the famous bascule bridges that span the Chicago river as the founder of the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago. - Images by Steve Carter, 2018.
In July, 2017, an Amtrak engineer caused a derailment because it ran a stop sign and hit a derail because the bridge was in the upright position. BNSF has installed positive train control on this route but Amtrak won't have the equipment installed in their locomotives until 2018. The speed limit for the bridge is 40mph. [SeattleTimes] I'm too lazy to research if this is the route that is being bypassed by the new route that had a derailment on its inaugural run. The new route is a little faster (10 minutes if I remember correctly), but much less scenic. [Use the label bridgeStrauss to find notes in this blog concerning his more typical heel-trunion bascule design.]

Joe Tessmer shared
Georgie Li posted
Bridge 14 in Steliacoom, WA is a lift bridge that occasionally sees a lift for boats to pass underneath. Amtrak Coast Starlight #11 was held at Pioneer just north of the bridge to let the boats pass.
Katherine Brown commented on Georgie's posting
Our train wreck last July on Cascade
Steven J. Brown posted
EMD/Oakway SD60 9019 (built 1986 became CN 5459) leads southbound over Chambers Bay on Bridge 14 at Steilacoom, Washington - March 21, 2004.

Oil-Electric provides more information and pictures.

Robert W. Scott wrote an article about this bridge in Trains Magazine, Feb 2018, pp. 38-41.

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