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Dead River Railroad Bridge

Dead River Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: October 1, 2012

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Lake Superior and Ishpeming) Over Dead River
Rural: Marquette County, Michigan: United States
Structure Type
Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1916 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
116 Feet (35.4 Meters)
Structure Length
565 Feet (172.2 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
9 Main Span(s) and 1 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This extremely unusual bridge can be difficult to understand because its substructure is far more extensive and complicated than the superstructure. The bridge's superstructure is merely a series of simple deck plate girder spans, perhaps somewhat unusual because they have a fishbelly style shape to them. The bridge is a high level style bridge, which carries the railroad over not only the Dead River, but the fairly steep and rocky valley cut by the river. The narrow, rocky valley may be why the bridge features an unusual substructure. The end spans of the bridge are supported relatively traditionally by trussed steel bents composed of built-up beams. The bents are wider at the base to provide a stable support. Some of them rest on foundations of different elevations to accommodate the steep valley. The bents that support the spans over the Dead River itself are what are most unusual. The bents appear to be arranged as a steel arch. They rest on skewback style bases, and the straight beams are arranged so that they form an arch-like shape over the river, and these two bents, one on each side of the river, meet in the center over the river, where a large hinge is located. The shape of this structure, the skewback like bases, as well as this hinge are what suggest the substructure is functioning like a steel deck arch bridge. As such, the substructure is like a bridge in itself, with the actual bridge's superstructure spanning on top of this "sub bridge." Needless to say, this bridge's design is highly unusual, and the only known one of its kind in Michigan.

The Historic American Engineering Record provided some additional details about the bridge as follows:

The increased weight of locomotives and cars made the timber trestle built in 1896 at this location increasingly unsafe and it was replaced In 1916 by this steel girder structure. It is 565 feet long, stands 104 feet above the base of the center pier, and consists of nine steel girder spans and one reinforced concrete girder span resting on eight steel piers, two concrete piers, and concrete abutments. The spans vary in length from 30 feet to 116 feet.

The timber trestle mentioned must have rested on stone foundations because stone foundations can be found in some areas under the bridge.


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