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Lockport Railroad Bridge

Upside-Down Bridge

   
                  


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Bridge Documented: May 13, 2004
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Key Facts
Bridge Name Facility Carried / Feature Intersected Location Structure Type Construction Date and Builder/Engineer
Lockport Railroad Bridge
Upside-Down Bridge
Railroad (Falls Road Railroad) Over Erie Canal Lockport: Niagara County, New York Metal 10 Panel Rivet-Connected Baltimore Deck Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Rivet-Connected Pratt Deck Truss, Fixed 1902 By Builder/Contractor: King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio
Technical Facts
Main Spans Approach Spans
1 4

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

This bridge is a multi-span railroad bridge built in 1902 by the prolific and noteworthy King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The main span which crosses the river is a Baltimore deck truss. The bridge was referred to as the "Upside-Down Bridge" because as a deck truss, it looks like a through truss positioned upside-down. The bridge was rumored to have been built as such by the railroad to limit the size of boats that could use the Erie canal, and try to put the canal out of business. The validity of this legend is uncertain. Ships with tall masts might have be unable to fit under this bridge, but it turns out that this didn't matter for long, since by the 1910s all bridges built on the canal had far less clearance than this bridge. It is also worth noting that from an engineering standpoint there is nothing unusual about seeing a deck truss in a location like this. Railroad companies often selected a deck truss for valley crossings, which provided enough room to locate the trusses under the deck without putting the bridge at risk for flood damage. The deck truss design kept them safe from tall trains or derailing trains. In an engineering sense, the bridge is not an upside down through truss, it is a deck truss, as is evidenced by the extensive bracing between the trusses.

The entire bridge is multi-span. Running from east to west, here is the span rundown:

1. A very tiny through plate girder span.

2. A large through plate girder span passing over Market Street.

3. A square-shaped Pratt deck truss span passing over some of the valley and a private road.

4. The main trapezoidal Baltimore deck truss over Erie Canal.

5. A deck plate girder span.

The supports for the main span are stone capped with concrete on the top. The connections on the truss spans are riveted, and v-lacing and lattice is on several built-up members members. The bridge carries one set of tracks. The plate girder overpass is a classic through plate girder, with lots of rivets and curved ends. The approach deck truss is similar to the main span, save the perpendicular end posts and a standard Pratt configuration. The main span is fairly large, and is actually a Baltimore truss, which adds to the interest of the bridge. The deck plate girder span is an average deck girder span. All the spans appear to be original, and built at the same time.

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Historic Bridges of the Erie Canal

The Erie Canal is one of the most famous and historically significant canals in the United States. Aside from the widely recognized historical significance of the canal as a transportation facility itself, a lesser known fact is that the canal is historically significant for the bridges that have spanned the canal over the years. It was here on the Erie Canal where Squire Whipple found a place to successfully get his "Whipple Arch" bowstring truss bridges constructed in significant quantities in the mid-1800s. The success of his Whipple Arch bridges helped contribute to the nationwide transition from wooden bridges to metal bridges. The period of time from 1905-1918 where the Erie Canal was upgraded and widened to become part of the larger New York State Barge Canal was a time of change for the bridges of the canal. Between the process of widening and upgrading the canal, and the nationwide trend to build more substantial bridges in the early 20th Century, the previous generation of bridges (many undoubtedly those Whipple Arch bridges) were replaced by a series of new bridges. These bridges have proved to be very durable and thanks to a clear commitment to preservation on the part of New York State Department of Transportation and other agencies, the Erie Canal, particularly the western section from Lockport to Spencerport boasts one of the highest densities of historic bridges of any waterway in the country. The vast majority of bridges on this section are maintained in beautiful condition.

Although the new bridges from the early 20th Century took a variety of forms, two forms were by far the most common. In rural or spacious areas, a fixed double-intersection Warren through truss was used, with a dirt approach providing the modest elevation needed for a fixed bridge over the canal. Double-intersection Warren truss bridges are generally considered an uncommon truss type on a nationwide basis. In urban and less spacious areas, a vertical lift bridge was used. The vertical lift bridges are an unusual design. Instead of towers that rise above the bridge in a traditional vertical lift bridge and pull the truss span up using cables, these bridges have vertical endposts which extend below the deck and into the ground. When operated, these extended endposts (called the lifting frame) rise out of the ground. In an engineering sense, these unusual vertical lift bridges might be thought of as bedstead truss bridges. Another unique feature of these lift bridges are the stairways found at each end of the bridge on the sidewalks. These stairways allow pedestrians to continue to cross the bridge when the structure is in the raised position. These vertical lift bridges continue to operate for boats today, so observing these unique bridges remains possible.

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Overview of Erie Canal Locks at Lockport, NY

Erie Canal Museum

New York State Page On Erie Canal

Erie Canal History

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Photos and Videos: Lockport Railroad Bridge

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