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Saturday, December 12, 2015

What a High Bridge!

In the aftermath of the Civil War, a major north-south railroad route was deemed vitally important. The Cincinnati Southern Railroad picked up where the defunct Lexington and Danville railroad had left off. A new cantilever bridge was designed by Charles Shaler Smith to be built at the same location as the previously planned suspension bridge.

Shaler, as he was known, was an engineering officer in the Confederate army during the Civil War. He designed the Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia. Following the war, he became well known as the foremost American engineer of the day. His Baltimore Bridge Company, a partnership with Benjamin and Charles Latrobe, boasted of creating 13 miles of bridges in its advertising, including four bridges over the Mississippi, one over the Missouri, and one over the Saint Lawrence. Shaler was known for innovative solutions to engineering challenges.
His use of a cantilever design for the bridge helped solve the difficult construction challenge of the 275 feet deep gorge of the Kentucky River. The cantilever meant that minimal scaffolding was necessary; the arms of the bridge could be built out from the piers, balancing each other without the need for falsework.
When the bridge was completed in 1877, it was not only the first cantilever bridge in North America, but also the highest and longest cantilever in the world. The completed bridge stood 275 feet tall and spanned 1,125 feet. Until the early 20th century, the bridge held the record as the highest bridge over a navigable stream.
High Bridge, as it became known, ushered in the era of modern bridge building. The engineering marvel was dedicated by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879. The American Society of Civil Engineers designated High Bridge as an engineering landmark in 1986. A model of the bridge can be found in the American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institute.
With increasing and heavier railroad traffic, it became evident that the bridge would need to be reinforced or rebuilt. During 1910 and 1911, the bridge was rebuilt using a design by Gustav Lindenthal.
The rebuilt bridge used the same footings as the original bridge and was built around the original. By raising the track deck of the new bridge almost 30 feet above the existing deck, railroad traffic was able to continue uninterrupted during the rebuilding.
The higher deck of the new bridge required a new elevated approach. A temporary trestle was built and then filled to the required height.
As traffic increased, the railroad found it necessary to double the track on the bridge. By the end of the track doubling project in 1929, High Bridge had attained its current appearance.
The massive limestone towers that had been a trademark of the bridge and village had to be removed to provide clearance for the extra track. Legend has it that when the towers were built in 1851, a bottle of premium bourbon was sealed in each tower by the masons to commemorate the occasion. When the towers were torn down, no one admitted to finding the bottles.

The above information is from:

The post card was published by the Metrocraft Company of Everett, Mass. They were a major printer of linen and photochrome postcards, as is evidenced by this particular post card,
displaying a variety of subjects. They also printed postcards for many other publishers. A good number of Metrocraft’s early photochrome postcards retained the use of retouchers that had worked on their linens. These cards have a very distinct look before they went over to a completely uniform photographic means of natural color reproduction. From: the Metropolitan Post Card Club of New York website.

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