For the first half century or so of its existence, Vulcan was a diversified company with several markets related to public and civil works. One of those was bridges, both road and railroad. Today it is customary to build bridges fixed as high as the navigation (or lack thereof) requires. But the combination of expense and, in the case of railroads, avoiding excessive grades, bridges were frequently bascule (draw) or swinging bridges. These require durable mechanisms to raise, lower or swing the roadway out of the way of ships.
Most of the bridges Vulcan outfitted are gone, but it’s an interesting look at both an era in American history and Vulcan’s own capabilities.
A frequent bridge component, especially with swinging bridges, the liquid centre bearing. To swing a large bridge required a bearing with long life, low friction and high load bearing capacity, and the liquid centre bearings that Vulcan produced fit the bill for all of these requirements.
A general view of the Halsted Street North Branch bridge. This bridge, a Scherzer Rolling Lift bascule bridge, was built in 1897 and replaced with the current bridge in 1955. Note the supporting piles phantomed under the bridge; Vulcan had a solution to get those in the ground, too…
Turning Machine for the Riparia Bridge, near Riparia, Whitman County, Washington State. It was built in 1889 by the Oregon Railroad and Navigation (O.R. & N) Company, and removed in 1969. The use of the liquid centre bearing is clearly illustrated here.
Bolster for the Riparia Bridge, near Riparia, Whitman County, Washington State. It was built in 1889 by the Oregon Railroad and Navigation (O.R. & N) Company, and removed in 1969. The use of the liquid centre bearing is clearly illustrated here.
Centre wedges for the Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge, 6 November 1897. Built by the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, this bridge had a relatively short life. It was replaced in 1908 by the current bridge, which is no longer used and stays in the raised position.
Gearing up: guiding and swinging gears and racks for the Kinzie Street Bridge. Once out of the bridge component business, Vulcan seldom used gears in its product until the 1980’s, when they became very prominent in the vibratory hammers.
Engine House for the Chicago and Alton Railroad Bridge. The first drawing is dated 8 September 1888. A swing bridge, this is another bridge that was replaced fairly quickly, as the current bascule bridge was built in 1907.
Tower for Engine House for the Chicago and Alton Railroad Bridge. The first drawing is dated 8 September 1888. A swing bridge, this is another bridge that was replaced fairly quickly, as the current bascule bridge was built in 1907.
Operating levers for the Louisiana, MO bridge of the Chicago and Alton R.R., 18 October 1897. Since this bridge was built in 1873, this is probably a retrofit.
General gearing plan for the Alton Bridge, St. C.M. & St. L.B.R.R., dated 11 July 1893. A note shows that a gear for this bridge was on order in May 1930.
Plan of Machinery for the Willamette Bridge, probably the Morrison Street bridge, dated 20 October 1887.
Quincy Bridge, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, dated 3 November 1898. This is probably the bridge over the Mississippi River.
Boiler for the Quicy Bridge. This is an upright, fire tube boiler, as opposed to the water tube boiler or the horizontal, Scotch type boilers used with the offshore hammers. Note, at the centre of the drawing, is a riveted plate for the manhole; Vulcan’s personnel made a good joke about this during their negotiations with the Chinese.
Proposed arrangement of machinery for the 3rd Street Bridge in Bay City, MI, dated September 1889. The swing bridge built collapsed 18 June 1976, cutting the city in half.
Another proposal, this time for a turntable and operating machinery for a plate girder draw span for a bridge across Smith’s Creek in Norfolk, VA, dated 23 December 1898. The bridge was located in what is now part of the Ghent historical district.
Still another proposal for machinery for the Hastings Draw Bridge, Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, 2 October 1890. It’s not clear which bridge this was for, but the draw span over the Mississippi River is still there.
St. Louis Draw Span for the N.P.R.R., 14 May 1891.
Engine House Floor for the Alabama River Bridge of the Mobile & Ohio R.R. near Mobile, AL, dated 15 December 1898.
Bridge swinging engines dated 24 January 1887. To swing a bridge required motive power, and at the time the steam engine was the power source of choice.