Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis

(Bridge HunterHistoric BridgesJohn Weeks III, John MarvigHAER, Neil Gale's blog3D Satellite)

I noticed that Historic Bridges rated both the National and Local Historical Significance as 10. It looks like the river was rather high when the HAER photographer visited the bridge.

Dave Hall posted

Deron K. Edwards shared
Vintage St. Louis & Route 66
September 6, 1833 - Thirteen-year-old James Buchanan Eads and his family arrived in St. Louis on a steamboat. Fire swept the boat as it approached the landing, and eight people were killed. Eads, his mother and two sisters lost everything but the clothes on their backs. Eads sold apples and newspapers on the streets to help his family make ends meet.

Forgotten Railways, Roads, and Places postedThe Eads Bridge in St Louis, MO. Top photo taken in September 2012 under normal water levels, the bottom in 1993 at the height of the Mississippi River flooding during that year. Top photo: Wikipedia Commons, bottom photo: Larry Stiles #eadsbridge #bridge #stlouis #mississippiriver #flooding #history

Bill Edrington posted five photos to a Big Four Railroad Group with the comment:
Eads Bridge was the first bridge to span the Mississippi River at St. Louis, in 1874. I&StL and Big Four passenger trains used it; however in 1889 the Merchants Bridge was built farther north in an attempt to break the monopoly of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. (TRRA eventually got control of it too.) Most Big Four/NYC through trains used Merchants Bridge for many years, bypassing East St. Louis, but some local trains continued to use Eads Bridge. In these shots taken this morning you can see the Casino Queen across the river in East St. Louis, which stands on the location of the old Big Four freight house. The railroad's Lower Yard was on the riverfront there. Also, a westbound MetroLink light-rail train can be seen crossing Eads Bridge. In the last two shots a BNSF coal train heads south on the TRRA elevated line, which connected Merchants Bridge to Union Station, running beneath the west approach to Eads Bridge. If you had ridden the Knickerbocker, Southwestern Limited or Missourian to or from St. Louis, you would have gone this way.
Art Wallis Two additional pieces of information to add to Bill's excellent post. The Bridge, and its various subsidiary enterprises like the Wiggins Ferry, came under the control of Jay Gould. From that point, the charges levied against participating railroads became onerous, and remained that way, even after TRRA was owned by a consortium of connecting railroads.

Also, a major reason Eads fell out of favor with using railroads was the connecting tunnel which carried the bridge line under parts of downtown St. Louis on its way to Union Station. Built, I believe, at roughly the same time as the bridge, it was tightly constricting and curved, which eventually caused clearance difficulties. You can see these tunnels, sort of, when you ride the rapid transit line to and from the riverfront or Illinois, because they were reused for this purpose.

There are more comments in the posting that contain photos of the MetroLink that now uses the lower (rail) deck.

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Eads & MLK bridges from Gateway Arch
Gene Smania, 6-89
License: Released into public domain
I remember reading a book on Eads and this bridge in the 1970s. There is so much that could be said that I have been reluctant to tackle this topic. But Bill's photos have motivated me to try.

Fortunately, HAER, page 3, has done some of the writing:
This National Historic Landmark is significant as the first bridge and one of the first structures of any kind to make extensive use of steel. The Eads Bridge was one of the first bridges in the United States employing pneumatic caissons, among the deepest submarine construction work ever, employing the largest caissons then accomplished anywhere. It was the first bridge to be built entirely using cantilever construction methods, avoiding the need for falsework; and it was the first bridge to use hollow tubular chord members. Eads Bridge was also the first bridge designed so that any part could be easily removed for repair or replacement. With three spans over 500 feet long, some 200 feet longer than any built previously, its construction was a significant engineering feat. The National Historic Landmark boundary extends between the two roadway touchdown points.
Eads developed a fortune and an appreciation for the power of the Mississippi River by salvaging sunken steamboats. During the Civil War, he signed a contract with the government for seven ironclad gunboats, organized a work force of 4000 workers, and launched all seven within 100 days. "Eads' first gunboat, the St. Louis, was the first ironclad boat in America and the first such boat to engage in a naval battle anywhere, on February 6, 1862 at Fort Henry. Eads invented a steam-actuated rotating gun turret for his ironclad gunboats, which played a significant role in multiple Civil War battles." [HAER]

After the Civil War, he turned his attention to the problem of building the first bridge over the Mississippi river that was downstream of the confluence with the Missouri River. In 1866, Congress issued a charter to the St. Louis and Illinois Bridge Co. to build a bridge at St. Louis. But the opposition added restrictions to the charter with the intent of making the bridge impossible to build. The opposition to this bridge not only included the usual bridge opponents such as steamboat and ferry companies, it included investors in railroads that used Chicago as a gateway. In addition to the usual restrictions of a wide (>500') and high navigation channel, they added that it could not be a suspension bridge and that it could not use falsework (i.e. obstruct shipping during construction). (All previous proposals to span the river at St. Louis used the suspension bridge design.)

Eads knew that iron was not strong enough to support an arch over 500'. But that steel would be. Fortuitously, the Kelly/Bessemer process made steel an economically feasible construction material in the late 1860s. For example, the first steel rails were rolled in 1885. So a steel arch design is how Eads worked around the no-suspension-bridge restriction.

Since the trusses of an arch must be supported before they are joined, Eads pioneered the cantilever technique of building both arches from a pier at the same rate and tieing them together so that the weight of each truss would hold up the other truss. That is how he got around the no-falsework restriction.
Historical Photo from Historic Bridges
A key requirement of Eads' design was that the piers would go down to bedrock. The deep water and sands of the riverbed required some piers to be almost 100' below the water surface to reach bedrock. This was probably a more severe restriction than any invented by the writers of the charter. I remember from reading that book so many years ago that he was a pioneer of using the pneumatic caisson in America because he effectively "invented" the bends. (He learned of the pneumatic caisson technique from a tour of engineering projects in Europe.) The term "bend" is derived from the workers bending over from agonizing pain after they came back to the surface after working in the pressurized air compartment at the bottom of the caisson. "Of the 352 men in the east pier air chamber, 80 would be affected, 12 would die, and two would become paralyzed." [John Marvig]  I also remember from reading a book about the Brooklyn Bridge many years ago that Roebling's project also had problems with the bends. I believe they were the ones that figured out that the workers need to enter a decompression chamber after their work shift and gradually return to atmospheric pressure. (The air pressure at the bottom of the caisson is high enough to offset the weight of the water column they are working under. The deeper they dig, the higher the pressure of the air that they are breathing.)

"Per Eads standards, all parts were to be tested and be of the highest grade of metal. This was quite unusual, and set a new precedent in bridge construction." [John Marvig] Since this bridge was the first major application of structural steel, quantities of quality steel were needed at an unprecedented scale. I learned from a PBS show about Andrew Carnegie that he built a steel plant to supply the needed steel. In fact, this is how he got his start in the steel business.

On the day when the final piece was to be installed in the first (west) arch, the temperature was 100 degrees. Because of the expansion of the steel by the hot day, the space between the two trusses was not big enough for the final piece! John Marvig says "it was cut and a plug inserted." I remember from the book that Eads used hoses to pour water over all of the arch members to cool them down so that they contracted enough to make room for the final piece.

The bridge opened to pedestrians on 5-24-1874 and 15,000 people walked across it. The upper-deck road opened on 6-3-1874, and six days later a train crossed using the lower deck. A grand opening spectacle witnessed by nearly 500,000 people was held July 4, 1874 after a fully loaded test train had crossed the bridge a few days earlier. Today the lower deck carries the light-rail MetroLink and the upper deck was completely refurbished by 2003 to be a 4-lane highway. (Street View)

William A. Shaffer posted
From the Camera of Floyd Richards: (Circa 1930s)
Eads Bridge at St. Louis, MO
(Photo by Floyd Richards - Collection of William A. Shaffer)

1880 Photographer unknown, Library of Congress, WTTW video and article

Bob Freitag shared
Eads Bridge from the Illinois side, completed. July 1874. Photograph by Robert Benecke, ca. 1874. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. By 1875, St. Louis was a major railroad hub, connected in every direction through a spider web of tracks. The recently finished Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world and the first major crossing of the Mississippi River in the country.
Peter MetrinkoPeter and 705 others joined RAILROAD BRIDGES, TRESTLES, TUNNELS AND CUTS within the last two weeks. Give them a warm welcome into your community! Eads and Washington Roebling (Brooklyn Bridge) quarreled over caisson designs. There's a short discussion here of the two bridges, and a long discussion of the disagreement, which led to a lawsuit by Eads for patent infringement. However, there is a middle section of the article that discusses how caissons work which I found interesting. I have taken pictures of both bridges, but nothing worth showing. 
http://www.gandhieng.com/.../St.%20Louis%20Bridge,%20the...
Thomas Finger It's still there - roadway on the top and the MetroLink light rail line using the rail deck below (along with the tunnel under downtown). Just a few years ago the metal work was completely refurbished, repairs and replacements made as needed and then repainted in shiny black paint. The bridge looks wonderful today.
John Fulmer posted  (source)
Elephant ...stress/weight testing the strength of newly completed Eads Bridge.
Might have been a publicity stunt. LOL.
The elephant thing was an old wives tale that an elephant wouldn’t cross an unstable bridge - that they have some kind of sixth sense about shaky bridges.
Al Smith It was the first steel bridge, previous bridges (much smaller) having been made of much weaker iron, so the populace had misgivings about its strength. The elephant myth was deliberately circulated and created curiosity. Will the elephant cross or not? It crossed, greatly increasing people’s trust in the strength of the bridge. It was a Barnum and Bailey world.
Matthew Minton the bridge started construction in 1867 and opened in 1874.
Ronald Elliott Capt. J.B. Eads was as much a self-taught genius in his fields as was Ho, Abraham Lincoln. I ONLY regret the fact that I grew up fully aware of the bridge, while utterly clueless about the massive service he did for the Federal Union by his invention and partial design and total construction of the seven (7) "City Class" riverine ironclad gunboats; three of them at Carondelet MO, and four down at Mound Bayou, IL. Flag Offficer David G. Farragut and Brig. Gen U.S. Grant scored early and vital victories with them, many months before U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia battled at Hampton Roads. Capt. Eads was a genius and a patriot who did MUCH to help the Union win the war of Rebellion.

Deron K. Edwards shared
Mike Seelig Isn't that the old Admiral on the left?Myron Sievers Mike Seelig yep, before the shiny aluminum skin got old and buckled from age.Thomas Finger The large boat in the background was the steamboat Admiral, built on the railroad carferry "Albatross". It is now scrapped. The smaller "swaybacked" boat in the center is the Goldenrod Showboat - the last remaining showboat on the river. Tragically it has also been scrapped. Fortunately, the Delta Queen has been given freedom once again by Congress and will hopefully be sailing the rivers again soon. A sight that will never be repeated.Alan Ardanowski I estimate the date of the pic at 1957 based on the cars.


David Cantrell posted
East St. Louis 1907
Joan Hirlinger Treis shared
1896 Tornado.
Kerry Touchette My great great grandmother Josephine Wolfer was walking up the stairs when the tornado pulled the 3 story exterior wall off the house and almost sucked her into the tornado.Many of the surrounding houses were reduced to piles of rubble.
[It looks like the top deck got blown off, but the main arches of the approach survived. They have already used wood to build a temporary upper deck. The comments are inconsistent about the view: MO looking South or IL looking North. Both sides had five arches in the approach back then. Below are street views of each side, but I still can't decide the photo's view. St. Louis got hit worse, but East St. Louis was also hit.]

Street View, MO side looking South
Street View, IL side looking North
This is the comment that argues the IL side.
J Charles Binder commented on Joan's share
This is Eads under DESTRUCTION. As a matter of fact, I would suggest the description be changed to "The 1896 Tornado in EAST St. Louis, Illinois." because the post's photo is of the Illinois side of the river with the bridge under repair.

Bob Gill commented on Joan's share
This was actually one of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history. 255 people died, and over a thousand were injured. More than 5000 people were homeless and lost all of their possessions.

It also affected East St. Louis, as well and much of the downtown area and the train depots on Bloody Island were completely destroyed.

The 1896 tornado season has the distinction of being one of the deadliest in United States history. There were at least 40 killer tornadoes spanning from April 11 to November 26; including this one, the only one to kill more than 100 people in two separate cities
Mary Beth Paynter Engler commented on Joan's share
Mary Beth Paynter Engler commented on Joan's share
Deron K. Edwards shared
More construction of the Eads Bridge
Title: The St. Louis Bridge: Erection of west arch, showing cables to joints 6, 9, and 12
Date Created/Published: 1881.
Medium: 1 print.

Deron K. Edwards shared
Eads Bridge in St. Louis, August 1873

Vintage St. Louis & Route 66 posted four photos with the comment: "Happy Birthday Eads Bridge! Trivia: Can you name the highways that crossed the Eads?"
Vintage St. Louis & Route 66 Trick Question: It never carried any highway. The bridge was owned by the Terminal Railway Association.
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Flood of 2019
Deron K. Edwards shared
Current [6/14/2019] flooding around Eads Bridge in St. Louis.
John Diehl amazing, the bridge piers are completely submerged. Really high water.
[See flood for river level information.]

Digital Research Library

A dramatic photo of the underside

Video from a train. You can see the lower cords of the arches go by.

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