BMEWS
 
Sarah Palin will pry your Klondike bar from your cold dead fingers.

calendar   Wednesday - July 11, 2012

A Target Rich Environment

3 Phoenix, 10 Tiny Ponies, 2 “Horses”, 3 Deer, And The Ghost Of A Fink

No, it’s not a phone order for Barbarian Carry Out




The MIL’s health situation got too stressful for me, so I went hunting. With a camera. Bridge Hunting. Boy did I score.

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I am very fortunate to live in an area positively saturated with historic bridges. They’re everywhere, but you’ll never see one if you only stick to the major roads. You have to go a few blocks back, at which point almost all of the county becomes really rural and the calendar seems to rewind about a century or so. I figured out why these old chunks of metal have lived so long too: they are all in a pocket neighborhood, a north-south rectangle that has always had bypass routes on either side. You can get between Clinton and Interstate Route 78 (just north of this map) and Flemington and Route 202/206 by taking the back when down the west side of this zone on county roads and, or you can make the trip using local highway Route 31 to the east. So there is no real reason to go into that neighborhood unless you live there. And if you do live there, heavy trucks can get in and out using both those paths; they never have to pass over any of these antique ironworks.

I’ve written about a few of the bridges around here before, and with the “House” bridge post the other day you were reminded that it’s one of my interests. Well, the weather has been bearable the past two days, and I really, really needed to get away for a bit. So I did. And I really enjoyed the fresh air and the absolute silence you get in the country. I stood in the middle of the road on nearly a dozen bridges, taking loads of pictures, and only twice had to step aside to let any kind of vehicle come past. For a suburbanite, that’s some kind of ideal. Only thing better would be being 16 and spending the day lazily tubing down the river with friends, like I saw a few kids doing. What an excellent way to spend a day in July.

I like old truss bridges because they are science and architecture that I can understand. You can see how they work just by looking at them, and most of them are so light and minimalist that you can actually watch them working when a car drives by. Put a load here and this piece gets stretched, and that piece over there gets compressed. Which means that the load had to have been carried to it by that one over there. Just try doing that with a modern circuit board. I understand nuts and bolts the size of my hands, and rivets big enough to use as hammer heads. But when bridges get too big and too strong, then you can’t see them working, and that’s a shame. Today’s modern spans are so strong, so tight, and so generic that their magic is hidden. And I think that’s a shame. Granted, put me in a big heavy truck, or out in a hurricane on a bridge, and I’ll choose a modern over-built job any day of the week and be thankful. But I just don’t see the grace in them, which is why I appreciate all the flyweight “fairy bridges” we have on the back roads here in Hunterdon County.  Art you can drive on, physics you can see working. All is right with the world.

I took a ton of photos. Maybe I’ll make a bridges section in the Gallery and upload them. But every last one is already online, usually with better photographs than I could take. But I’ll share some anyway.

The entire northern half of New Jersey, except for the western escarpment just a few miles wide along the Delaware River border with Pennsylvania, drains into the Atlantic Ocean at Raritan Bay, just south of Staten Island. Geologists call the land the Newark Basin. And every little stream flows there eventually, joining up with other streams along the way, forming rivers of decent size. One of our rivers is the South Branch of the Raritan River, usually locally just called the South Branch. It’s everywhere it seems. Hunterdon has been populated since the Dutch held New Amsterdam, and most of the roads were laid down long before the revolution. So we had hundreds of little wooden bridges once upon a time, and as they wore out they got replaced with something made from iron or steel. But the population was stable for ages, so the bridges never really got worn out. So they’re still standing. And they get maintained; the county long ago figured out that these old iron works add to the local charm, and help bring in the tourist dollars. Yummy delicious tourist dollars. So very few have been left to rot or replaced with modern ones unless the old ones got destroyed.

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Lower Landsdowne Road, iron Pratt truss, 1885
My 2nd most favorite fairy bridge. It’s made from cast and wrought iron, not steel. Pinned sections of course. It uses cast quarter round sections riveted together into tubes for the uprights and top chords, called Phoenix columns. This single lane bridge is only about 3 car lengths long, and it’s so lightly built that you can hardly even see it from the wrong angle. And it’s been in constant use since 1885. Like the Main Street bridge in downtown Clinton, the other Phoenix column bridges here, and a couple other ones, the metal came from the Cowin iron works in Lambertville NJ, just a couple towns to the south. It’s 4 section Phoenix columns are REALLY small. The modern barrier protects the bridge as much as it protects the drivers, but it kind of hurts the aesthetics. And no, that’s not the hand of God. That’s the hand of Drew. This bridge is skewed, which means that one end is longer than the other. All bridges are built on the cheap and they always have been. A skewed bridge shows that, because nobody was willing to spend the extra money on an unnecessary extra end post. They don’t add much strength, so they often get cut from the budget.


Lots more on the overleaf, if you aren’t already yawning. All of these pictures are now linked, so click on any of them to see them in their original 4000x3000 12MP format.

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/11/2012 at 03:28 PM   
Filed Under: • Bridges •  
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