This is one of two similar bascule bridges in Alameda, and the Park Street Bridge is the wider of the two. Both bridges are noted for their substantial span length. The design of this fixed trunnion bascule bridge is strikingly similar to the earliest fixed trunnion bascule bridges built in Chicago in the first decade of the 20th Century including external rack (visible at the ends of the trusses) and through truss design (with no overhead bracing at the center of the bridge), however this California example dates to 1935. Chicago engineers might have laughed at this bridge which they might have perceived as a ridiculously obsolete design. As early as 1914, Chicago's bascule bridge designs had evolved to eliminate the obstructive overhead bracing by use of pony and deck truss superstructures and the unsightly external rack was replaced with an internal rack design (concealed within the truss web, not visible at the ends). It would be interesting to know why this older design was used here in Alameda. The through truss design might be explained by the noteworthy length of the bascule span, which would require trusses with somewhat more depth than those in Chicago. Along with the High Street Bridge in Alameda, this is the longest bascule span in California. The somewhat unexpected bridge design does not diminish the historic and aesthetic significance of this bridge today, however. In a world of plain, ugly modern bridges, the through truss design provides a beautiful geometric art that is impossible to not notice when driving or walking over the bridge. The bridge is also noted for the length of its bascule span. Finally, the bridge is significant because it was built using federal Depression era relief funds. The bridge also has handsomely designed bridge tender houses. Overall, the bridge appears to retain good historic integrity with no major alterations.
The bridge also features a very interesting guardrail on the inside of the truss lines to protect the trusses from vehicular impact. These guardrails are interesting because they are actually a patented design (as indicated by plaques on the guardrail) and are composed of an unusual design of sections of sheet metal linked together. The guardrail design was called Resiliflex Road Guard and the design was patented by Eugene V. Camp of Atlanta, Georgia. These guardrails were an early attempt to provide a railing that provided a guiding function to direct errant vehicles back onto the roadway, while minimizing damage to both bridge and vehicle. Additionally, this bridge is an early example of a bridge whose trusses were originally designed with a guardrail to protect the trusses from collision damage. In this period and in earlier years, truss bridges often did not have railings to protect the trusses. Instead the only place railings were mounted would be at the extremities of the bridge deck, so any bridge with cantilevered sidewalks would not have railings on the inside of the truss lines.
Alameda County Public Works Agency provided some additional details about the bridge. This first bridge here dated to 1893 and was a wrought iron through truss swing bridge with wooden approach spans. The current bridge apparently replaced this swing bridge. The opening of the bascule bridge included a marriage ceremony of a man from Oakland and a woman from Alameda as a symbol of the unity between the two cities brought by the bridge.
The bridge is powered by 75hp 3 phase 480 volt electric motors which are the main drive system. An auxiliary drive system has multiple gear reductions and can be operated with an emergency 5hp motor. The bridge has two service brakes used under normal operations and two hydraulic brakes for emergency stopping power The bridge when fully opened is at 78 degrees, but for most openings the bridge is raised to 70 degrees. In the 1960s, electrical equipment was upgraded. In 1998 the bridge was repainted with all old lead paint removed. Center and tail locks for the bascule leaves were replaced. The new locks are hydraulic, while the original locks were an electromechanical system.
The bridge opens about 1,755 times per year.
Information About Eugene Vernon Camp From Transaction of the American Society of Civil Engineers
Eugene Vernon Camp, the son of John Franklin Camp and Lillie Jackson Camp was born near Dalton, GA, on November 26, 1886. He received the Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn University, then Alabama Polytechnic Institute, in 1908 and the Master of Science Degree from the University of Illinois in 1909.
Mr. Camp joined the Jaudon Engineering Company of Savannah and Atlanta, GA, shortly after receiving his masters degree and became chief engineer of the company on January 1, 1912. Soon thereafter he was appointed vice-president. He was responsible for the extensive municipal and highway work throughout the Southeast which included placing of the first sheet asphalt paving on the peninsula of Florida -- at Bradenton in 1912.
In 1917 Mr. Camp resigned from the Jaudon Company to enter business of a similar nature for himself. About 1920 he completed what was said to be the longest concrete highway bridge in the Southeast at that time -- the span on the Tamiami Trail across Charlotte Harbor. Soon after World War I he designed a series of roads in DeKalb County, GA, some of asphalt construction and some of a lower classification. It is worthy of note that one, from Decatur, GA, to Stone Mountain, GA, is still in use though it has been widened and resurfaced in recent years.
In 1921 he added the word "associates" to his firm name and in 1925 chartered the firm as "E. V. Camp and Associates, Incorporated." By this action Mr. Camp may have originated the practice of designating co-workers as associates which is in common use by professional firms today.
In the 1920's very few guard rails were used on highways, and those that were used were inadequate to serve the purpose that guard rails do today. Cognizant of this fact the E. V. Camp organization decided to design a better guard rail. The result was the Resiliflex Road Guard, a flexible type, smooth surface, resilient plate guard rail. Patents were applied for in 1927. Though production started in a small way, the demand for the guard rail necessitated the expansion of the production facilities which eventually resulted establishment of his plant at the location that is now that of the E. V. Camp steel Works. The guard rail was used in many places throughout the world as well as in the United States, including Canada and on the Pan-American Highway in Mexico. Though it is no longer produced, having been displaced by less costly designs, it must still rank as one of the best guard rails for protection of the motorist and, doubtless, should be accorded the distinction of being the first guard rail to be placed at the hub-high level.
When the guard rail production facilities were constructed at the present location of the plant, a steel mill with electric furnace and steel rolling equipment was installed. Later the steel producing capability was increased. Thus, the plant that was started for the purpose of manufacturing guard rails became a general steel plant designated the E. V. Camp Steel Works, making special alloy steels, and producing an extensive line of steel fabricated items, large as well as small. As Mr. Camp owned the plant, it was one of the largest unincorporated businesses in the country.
Mr. Camp was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (Fellow, 1959), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Ordinance Association, the American Foundary, and the American Society for Metals. He retained his interest in his universities and was active in their alumni groups.
Mr. Camp died December 5, 1970. He is survived by his widow, Marjorie Jean Ross Camp; 4 sisters; one son, John H. Camp; and one grandson, Eugene Vernon Camp, II.
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