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calendar   Sunday - July 08, 2012

Bridge Spotting Help Request

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Bridgespotting: it’s like trainspotting, only much slower. Go somewhere, find a construction that crosses over a gully, river, stream, or chasm. Yup, that’s a bridge. Spotted. You win. But that’s the easy part. Identifying the form of the bridge is harder because they are made in so many different varieties, and once built, remain standing for a very long time. Styles come and go, and as technology progresses and the weight bearing demands increase, the old styles fade away. For trainspotters it would be as if George Stephenson’s original 1804 locomotive was still on the tracks, along with every make and model of steam engine since then, along with all the electric ones and the diesel ones over the years, right up to today’s multi-turbo monsters. In other words, it can be a bit of a challenge.

To make the challenge harder, reverse the whole process. Choose a particular kind of bridge and then go find an example. Good luck. Finding a particular bridge from a photograph might be harder still, because there are tens of thousands of bridges all over the world. Remember when the Skipper here used to do those Lost posts, where he’d put up an aerial view of some runway and ask where was he? This is probably a thousand times harder, since Google Maps and even Google Earth don’t always give you the kind of ground level viewing angles that make identifying most smaller bridge examples possible.

Ok, so here’s my challenge. I’m going to try to post this on the bridge hunting forums that I’ve been able to find (because bridge spotting is an actual hobby of many folks!) but I don’t know if I can post pictures there. So I’ll link back to this page if I can’t.

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The television show House, starring Hugh Laurie, ran for a good number of years and was a popular medical drama. Every week we’d see acid tongued Dr. House and his team of junior super-doctors take on a patient with some really obscure illness. They’d think it was one thing, then something else, then something else, as the patient got worse and worse. And the illness was NEVER Lupus, a terrible affliction known for it’s random and mysterious presentation. And because the show was a hospital drama, there was always this character fighting with that one, or sleeping with the other, or sometimes both at the same time. And House was just flat out vicious to everyone, all the time, which made for some dark comedy. Anyway, every week as the patient was just about to loose the ultimate fight, Dr. House would have some epiphany, realize what the disease was and why it happened, and effect some cure at the very last second. Ooh, drama. To “keep it real” sometimes the patient didn’t make it. And the diseases were always real ones, not made up magical TV ailments.

The show was set in Princeton New Jersey, at the pretend Princeton/Planesboro hospital. They’d always show the hospital in the opening credits, though the building they showed us was actually one of the halls at Princeton University. And in an odd case of life imitating art, a real Princeton/Planesboro medical center has just opened. But while the show was set in New Jersey, it was actually shot in and around Los Angeles California. Ah, the magic of Hollywood. They did manage to hide most of the palm trees most of the time. Those are really reeeally rare here in NJ.

So that was House. The final episode, named “Everybody Dies” aired in May. Dr. House leaves the medical profession, fakes his own death, and goes off on a motorcycle road trip with his only true friend Dr. Wilson, who is slowly dying of cancer. And they pretty much literally ride off into the sunset, the end.

If you don’t have House episodes on your cable’s On Demand feature, they can be watched online at Hulu.com.

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The where that the two doctors ride off from is what this post is about. They rode of from the middle of a bridge. A very old and rather rare one that immediately piqued my interest. Here in the western central NJ / eastern central PA area we have lots of old bridges. And rolling wooded hills. And so many of the bridges are painted “NJ bridge green” ... yet I can not spot this bridge.

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Both of these screen capture images will open up 4 times larger if you save them or do a View Image on them. The bridge scene in the final House episode is at the end of the show, past the 41 minute mark.

So it’s a bridge. Big deal. Ah ha, yes it is, because this isn’t just any bridge. What you are looking at is a lightweight pin connected Parker through truss, with unsupported eyebar diagonals, sawtooth laced verticals and top laterals, boxed chords, and the original lattice railings. LACED TOP LATERALS ARE VERY RARE: this is a BIG CLUE. I can’t really see the portal bracing, so I’m going to guess it’s curved. A Frame bracing would be lower on the sides and thus visible, right? The verticals are laced on the sides, not the front and back; this is also rare. It appears to be a one lane bridge, and it appears to be a single span. It also appears to be a 7 - 10 section Parker, not skewed on at least one end, and although we never see the whole bridge in the scene you do see the small river it crosses and the much newer Pi section concrete deck bridge close to it. A few marks of red primer on the old Parker bridge show that it is still being maintained. So somebody cares about this thing. It’s a local landmark. I am no expert, but the mass of the bridge and it’s construction lead me to believe it was built in the 1890-1910 time period. And there simply aren’t that many pin connected Parkers out there anymore. Anywhere. It ought to be easy to find, yet I have been looking for two months now and keep drawing a blank.

[ minor update: a private contact alerted me to notice that the end posts appear to be laced on the underside, which means the are not boxed. It also implies that the rest of top chords may not be fully boxed either, and may be U channel laced on the underside. A response on one of the bridge forums points out that the hip verticals are eyebars (hip verticals are the last vertical connection, the one under the peak of the end posts). All of this shows that this is an OLD bridge, possibly from the 1880s or 90s. Steel was expensive in those days, and labor was cheap. ]

Sure, there are and were many other bridges quite like it. The Berne Bridge in PA. Close, but this one has supported diagonal eyebars. The Prospect Bridge in Ohio, which is too wide, too heavy, and ... oops ... was torn down years ago. The Curlew Bridge in Curlew WA is just about right. It’s the right size, and even the right color. But it has no lattice railings, and the bottom chord looks like it was made from round tubing.  The Lake Street Bridge is about the right mass, about the right size, and about the right height above the river. But the pilings (abutments) at the end of the bridge are wrong, and this one also has supported diagonals. Cache Creek: close but no cigar.

My closest match so far is the Lambert Bridge Road bridge in Sonoma California. It’s a Parker through truss. It has laced verticals. It’s about the right weight and width. It has lattice railings. But the terrain is too flat, too farmish, and Google Maps isn’t showing me a Y intersection just off the end of the bridge like what I saw on the TV show as the camera follows the two doctors on their ride. And from the one picture I can find, it doesn’t look like the top bracing and sway bracing is laced. So this one is out as well.

So I give up. This bridge could be anywhere in the USA or Canada, though it’s more than likely it’s not all that far from LA.  But I’m here in NJ, so I’m asking for help. A spotting spot. If you see it let me know. Bridge name, location, or photographs would be greatly appreciated. Comment here or send me an email; my address is on the right sidebar right up at the top.

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truss detail graphic borrowed from http://okbridges.wkinsler.com/technology/index.html

“Main Tie” and “Counters” are all “Diagonals”

PS - There seems to be some nomenclature difference on what is a bridge section. Some only count the sections between verticals, some count those sections and the end post-hip vertical area as well. Thus the graphic at the top of this post could be a 6 section truss instead of a 4 section truss.

Another bit of knowledge: In the second screen capture picture, on the right you can see that the diagonals in that section are in an X. This is the middle of the bridge. Parkers had either 1 or 2 sections like this, but never more than 2. Thus if your way of counting includes the end sections, and this bridge has 2 center sections, then it may indeed be a 10 section Parker, which is also rather uncommon. Hey, I’m learning as I’m going along here. And to think that a year or two ago I thought that a truss was something you wore when you had a hernia.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/08/2012 at 10:33 AM   
Filed Under: • Bridges •  
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