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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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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Lake Superior and Ishpeming) Over Dead River
Location
Rural: Marquette County, Michigan: United States
Structure Type
Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1916 By Builder/Contractor: Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
116.0 Feet (35.4 Meters)
Structure Length
565.0 Feet (172.2 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 8 Approach Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This extremely unusual bridge can be difficult to understand because it looks like a plate girder bridge superstructure sitting on a very complex steel bent substructure. The bridge's superstructure would appear to be a merely a series of simple deck plate girder spans, perhaps somewhat unusual because they have a fishbelly style shape to them. In learning the true history of this bridge, it turns out that some of the girders are relocated and reused girders from another unknown location. 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 design. 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. They were so unusual that they were reviewed in the Engineering News-Record which described them as a steel arch structure with two steel bents on top to support the deck (which rests on the girders). 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. This is confirmed by the historical article. 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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Maps and Links: Dead River Railroad Bridge

Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):

Search For Additional Bridge Listings:

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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