Friday, October 5, 2018

1892+1944 UP/SP/Texas & New Orleans Pecos River High Bridges near Langtry, TX

(1892 Bridge Hunter, 1944 Bridge Hunter, HAER, National Park Service including construction photos, Satellite)

The Pecos River gorge has been the location of two of the world's highest bridges: the 1892 Pecos Viaduct and the current structure, its 1944 successor. Increased traffic during World War II necessitated the replacement of this critical link on a major east-west railroad. Though built
under material and labor constraints caused by the war, this 1390'-6"-long continuous steel cantilever truss' austere design is nonetheless in harmony with its remote desert setting. The Pecos River High Bridge is also significant for technical achievements, such as its 275'-high slip-formed concrete piers.
  [HAER data, p1]

Mark Fuller posted
This is one of my favorite. Don’t look down!
Lang Thompson Says. Pecos High Bridge Ht 321 Ft, L 2100 Ft, The old bridge over the Pecos River near Langtry, Texas.
Peter Metrinko This is a fascinating bridge. I found a complete history of it., it was in use through WWII! The page also has construction photos, and a mystery - are parts of the bridge still in use on other bridges? Thanks, Mark Fuller.
Oh, another page shows you the replacement bridge. There's a picnic site - so if anyone wants to go to Langtry TX.

Jeff Baumann Looks like a 5mph wind would just blow it right over! Not enough cross beams for my liking! I'm amazed it's supporting that train.

Sam L'Huillier shared
Deron Keith Edwards shared

The record breaking 320'-10 3/4" high 1892 bridge replaced a low bridge built a decade earlier that required 11 torturous miles of track to descend down to river level. [HAER data, p3]

A different exposure:
Bob Dunn posted
High bridge sees its dawn over the Sunset Route
November 3rd, 1891
On this day in 1891, construction began on the Pecos High Bridge in Val Verde County. Completed in early 1892, this structure was actually the second bridge built to serve trains traveling on the Southern Pacific's Sunset Route, and the new crossing greatly shortened the route of the rail line. Located at a deep gorge of the Pecos River, the mammoth structure was an engineering marvel supported by twenty-four towers and spanning a total length of 2,180 feet. Rising 321 feet above the river, the bridge was the highest railroad bridge in North America and third highest in the world. Judge Roy Bean of nearby Langtry served as coroner for workers killed during its construction. The Pecos High Bridge towered as a landmark for many years until a new bridge, located 440 feet downstream, opened in 1944.
Article from the TSHA
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Bob Eisthen
Interesting. I shared a scanned postcard with the same view with the group a few months ago. It was undated.
John Karges
This is another excellent website about the railroads crossing the Pecos River

David Thompson shared

"The second Pecos River High Bridge's structural form allowed it to support greater loads
than its predecessor while using a comparable amount of metal." But it used steel instead of iron. "While a pier ideally would taper uniformly from top to bottom, it would require a great
deal of form work, especially over the 275'-4 1/2" of the Pecos River bridge's tallest pier (pier
C). Modjeski and Masters instead chose slip-forming, a method whereby a short form is moved
upward for another concrete pour when the previous pour reaches sufficient strength. Slipforming required the Pecos River bridge's piers to have "vertical sides, narrowed in occasional
20 The piers are hollow octagonal shells, to reduce the amount of concrete and speed
curing. In the sloped transition piece at the junction between each shell and the narrower one
above, steel reinforcement is like that found in a reinforced concrete dome.
" [HAER data, pp5-6]

Photo from HAER TX,233-LANG.V,1--9 (CT) from tx0894
Bill Neill posted a similar photo
Bill Neill The "old" Pecos River High Bridge that was replaced in 1944 by the current structure now in service:

Bob Eisthen posted
A postcard of the original Pecos High Bridge. No date.
Joe Dockrill shared

Michael Bussee commented on Bob's post
"The first Pecos River Bridge, designed by SP chief engineer Julius Kruttschnitt, was built by the Phoenix Bridge Company and completed in 1892. After strengthening and reinforcement in 1910 and again in 1929 which almost doubled its weight, it remained in place until 1949, five years after its replacement. The second Pecos River High Bridge, was completed by the Southern Pacific Railroad on December 8, 1944.
The current Pecos River High Bridge is a steel deck truss bridge on slip-formed concrete piers, ranging in height up to 275 feet (84 m). It was designed by Modjeski and Masters of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with foundations constructed by Brown and Root of Houston and trusses fabricated by Bethlehem Steel Company of Chicago. Because of material rationing during World War II, War Production Board approval was required before proceeding with fabrication." ~ Wikipedia
(Photo of 1892.)
John D Poulsen
John Karges
Michael Bussee this bridge is actually the second Pecos Bridge, the current one in use is actually the third. The first was just above river level at the Pecos-Rio Grande confluence and was ravaged by floods too often and rendered obsolete with the major rerouting of the railroad to cross the gorge several miles upriver as seen in this photo. The re-routing eliminated the descent and ascent of the canyon by taking a route across the plateau tops on either side of the gorge.

Traces of Texas posted
Holy moly! TOT reader Francis Reaves kindly shared this astonishing circa 1895 photo of a train crossing the high bridge over the Pecos River near Langtry. If you have a large computer monitor, check out the architectural details ... the underpinnings, the foundation/footings and how they are built etc.. Wow. What an engineering feat and what a leap of faith to cross it in a train! I am reminded of this quote:
"The high, spindle-legged railroad bridge across the deep canyon formed by the Pecos River between Langtry and Comstock was breathtaking. It was more breathtaking to stand on it and look down than to stand beneath it and look up. It had no guardrails, and a broad footpath ran its length. To walk across made one giddy enough, and legend gives credit to a young ranchwoman who first dared to ride across it on horseback. She was celebrated in an anonymous poem, "The Pecos River Queen." James Cooper of Snyder said that when he lived near the bridge in the 1930s, sheet metal was laid in places where the wooden walk was unsafe. Many times, however, he and others rode their horses across that clattering path with the danger of plummeting to death at both elbows. He said you needed a steady, unspookable horse. Others told stories of their encounters with the Old Pecos High Bridge. When she was a child, Katherine Anne Porter crossed it more than once on trips from Kyle, Texas, to El Paso. She remembered the bridge, which was two years younger than she, having been built in 1892, as being unsafe. She wrote, "Here was the famous and beautiful Pecos Bridge, then supposed to be the highest and one of the longest in the world." Three hundred twenty-one feet above the river, it stretched 2,180 feet long, almost half a mile. It was the highest bridge in the United States and third highest in the world, merely 27 feet short of the record. "
------ Elton Miles, More Tales from the Big Bend, 1988
Thank you, Francis. I have never seen this photo before.

Dwight Thompson shared
Scott Moore And no diagonal cross bracing.
Paul Coale There is if you look closely. Still looks flimsy though.
Scott Moore Paul Coale you are correct. Looks like tension cable bracing.
Christopher Edward That a 2 axle tender..?
Brandon Steinbach In American railroads, bobber cabooses and and these tenders are the only two rail car types that I can think of that use a single axle. And these were rare at best.
Ronald Hanneman does that bridge still exsist ?
Andy Foster Not that bridge. It was replaced with a new one in 1944. The first time I crossed that bridge I came up off of the locomotive seat. It's a long ways down to the water!
Robert Miller And then there was a very windy day with high profile cars! Whole new meaning to the caboose nickname of bobber!
[Several comments about blowing an air hose and having to walk the train to find and fix the problem.]

Deron Keith Edwards shared

Eric Scott Willimas posted
The original Pecos River High Bridge, completed in 1892 for the Southern Pacific.
321’ high, 2280’ long.   It was strengthened and reinforced in 1910 and again in 1929 (which almost doubled its weight).  This structure remained until 1949.
It’s replacement was completed in late 1944.
I can’t imagine what a fright it must have been to travel over this original structure, which must have swayed considerably under weather and load.
Kevin Roach: It’s replacement built in 1944 was via a different route?
And the existing structure abandoned by 1949?
Jorge E Quatro: Kevin Roach The replacement built in 1944 was almost side by side to the old one. Very little track relocation was needed. Troop movements and materiel needed for WWII made the replacement critically important. There were even guards stationed at the bridge at times!

safe_image for National Park Service Description

1892 Phoenix Bridge 37 photographs showing the construction sequence

The photos confirm that the travelling derrick built half the center span, and then they moved the derrick and built from the other direction.

Photo 30
Photo 37
Electrical West, Vol. 14, p56
[This article claims the 1892 structure contained steel.]
Railway Times, Vol. 87, p403
[This article confirms the concrete piers are high because during a flood the river can rise 20' to 30' in just 24 hours.]
Mark Fuller posted, cropped
I found a “newer” photo in my collection of the Pecos River Bridge. I never noticed the extra support bents in this photo. Does anyone know when they were added?

Chino Chapa posted
Cotton Belt 7634 leads a westbound SP train over the Pecos High Bridge outside of Del Rio in July, 1986.
Photo by J. Parker Lamb from the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Mel Herweck posted
Today in History Feb 20,1892
The construction of the second bridge over the Pecos, the first High Bridge in Feb 20, 1892.
This link was found and first posted by Andy Nold yesterday without a photo so it was missed by most. This is the photo album by the Phoenix Bridge Company that built it.
Please like and share
SEE Comments............
• • • • • •
"Enjoying Texas and American History " is compiled by retired school teacher and full time rancher , Mel Herweck ( mwh9464 A primary source of information is Handbook of Texas Online and Google. Your comments or additions are welcome.
Ed Bradford Is the Phoenix Bridge Company photo album available online?

Traces of Texas posted (source)
The Prosperity Special crosses the Pecos high bridge near Comstock, Texas, 1922. Such an awesome sight!

Bob Chaparro posted
Photo: Southern Pacific Prosperity Special
Photo courtesy of Steve Hertler.
Crossing the Pecos River. Certainly a lot of weight on that bridge.

The Prosperity Special:
The shipment of twenty locomotives made by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Southern Pacific Railway, was part of an order for fifty. This was the most remarkable single train of locomotives ever hauled across the country until then. The train itself was nearly half a mile long without the pulling and pushing engines.< It departed on 22 May 1922 from Eddystone, bound for St. Louis on the Pennsylvania Railroad. It went then via the St. Louis Southwestern Railway [Cotton Belt] to Corsicana. The train moved then via Southern Pacific to Los Angeles, where it arrived in June 1922. [Wikipedia]
Or it was 24 locomotives from an order of 48. [LoopNewspaper]

Philip Slow posted
No information. Mans best friend near at hand.

Dennis DeBruler commented on Philip's post
 My first thought was that it was the Southern Pacific Pecos River Bridge. But I see that bridge doesn't have as many tall piers as this photo has.
HAER TX,233-LANG.V,1--6

Union Pacific Railroad posted
Rail Gang 9101 lays rail across the Pecos River High Bridge in Val Verde County, Texas. Thanks to Jordan Morgan, manager-Track Programs in Spring, Texas for this awesome photo!
Stan Adams: There is a lot of interesting history on that line. I'm always amazed you can still clearly see the old route before the high bridge on Google Earth.

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