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Grand Rapids Swing Bridge

Pere Marquette Railroad Bridge

   
                  


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Bridge Documented: 2006 and November 5, 2011
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Key Facts
Bridge Name Facility Carried / Feature Intersected Location Structure Type Construction Date and Builder/Engineer
Grand Rapids Swing Bridge
Pere Marquette Railroad Bridge
Railroad (Norfolk Southern) Over Grand River Grand Rapids: Kent County, Michigan Metal Pin-Connected Pratt Through Truss, Movable: Swing (Rim Bearing Center Pier) and Approach Spans: Metal 6 Panel Pin-Connected Pratt Through Truss, Fixed 1903 By Builder/Contractor: American Bridge Company of New York, New York
Technical Facts
Rehabilitation Date Main Span Length Structure Length Roadway Width Main Spans Approach Spans
1922 231 Feet (70.4 Meters) 654 Feet (199.3 Meters) 30 Feet (9.1 Meters) 1 3

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

This bridge is a very significant example of a swing bridge in Michigan. Along with the few other truss bridges in the Grand Rapids area, the bridge is among the longest truss bridges in Michigan. Very few rivers in Michigan reach the size of the Grand River in this area.

This bridge is composed of four spans including two pin-connected Pratt through truss fixed spans, a rivet-connected Warren through truss, and a pin-connected Pratt swing through truss. The original spans of the bridge were built from 1901-1903 by the American Bridge Company and the Detroit Bridge and Iron Works. However, two of the spans were built after initial construction. The reasons for these reconstructions are unknown, but could range from structural damage due to train derailments, floods, or it could be due to possible adjustments that may have been made to the Grand River channel. The westernmost span is a rivet-connected Warren through truss that was built in 1922 by the American Bridge Company at the Gary, Indiana plant. Working southward, the next span is a fixed pin-connected Pratt through truss, and was built in 1901 by the Detroit Bridge and Iron Works. The next span, the swing span, was built in 1902-1903 by the American Bridge Company at the Detroit plant. Finally, the southernmost span, a fixed pin-connected Pratt through truss, was built in 1908 by the American Bridge Company at the Toledo, Ohio plant. The 1901 fixed span construction details are stylistically identical to the swing span, both spans being built at the same time. Variations in construction details are only because one span is fixed and the other is a swing, necessitating different construction. Both spans are noted for the highly unusual omission of overhead lateral bracing. Only portal bracing and struts (sway bracing) are present. At first glance, the 1908 fixed span also appears identical to the 1901 fixed span. However a few minor detail differences are present. The 1901 span features vertical members with v-lacing that is a heavy-duty style common on railroad bridges where each lacing bar has no rounded ends, each end of the bar is fastened with two rivets, and lacing bars do not overlap. The 1908 span in contrast has v-lacing style that was used frequently on both highway and railroad bridges. These lacing bars feature rounded ends with a single rivet at each end, and the ends of the lacing bars overlap with their neighbor, sharing each rivet. Also, the 1908 span has overhead lateral bracing, giving it a more traditional appearance. There are a couple other minor differences, but otherwise the 1908 span and the 1901 span are very similar. The 1922 design in contrast is strikingly different from the older spans, since it is embracing the style common on railroad lines at the time. As a 1922 bridge it is of traditional truss bridge construction with no distinctive details. It provides a visual comparison to how railroad bridge technology developed over the years.

The bridge once carried two sets of tracks, but now carries only one. The remaining tack is still used by trains. The railroad company who paid for the construction of this bridge may have been fairly irritated in 1907, just four years after this bridge was built, when the Grand River ceased to be considered a navigable river and did not require movable spans at this location.

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Photos and Videos: Grand Rapids Swing Bridge

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A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
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Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
View Photo Gallery Structure Overview
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
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View Photo Gallery Structure Details
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
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