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Paulsboro Railroad Bridge

West Jersey and Seashore Railroad Mantua Creek Bridge

Paulsboro Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Patrick Harshbarger

Bridge Documented: July 11, 2010

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Conrail) Over Mantua Creek
Location
Paulsboro: Gloucester County, New Jersey: United States
Structure Type
Metal Deck Girder, Movable: Swing and Approach Spans: Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1893 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
Not Available
Spans
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

This was one of the most unusual movable bridges in the country, with its unusual a-frame tower plus long rods for bracing. The type was known as a Shear Pole type of swing bridge. A 1915 book, Design of Steel Bridges by F. C. Kunz described the type as follows:

The design featured a single leaf turning around a pivot at one end, the other end, while swinging, is suspended from the top of a two-legged shear pole by rods which are attached to a pivot which is vertically in the same line as the pivot below. The shear pole is stayed by guy rods from the shore end. When the bridge is closed, it forms a simple span supported at both ends. Note that this book also called it a "less important" type of swing bridge that should only be used for temporary structures, a reference to the fact that this bridge type had become archaic by 1915.

A video of this bridge in operation is available on YouTube.

Some of the operating equipment was unusual too, such as a wheel that looked like it came off a pirate ship. It was destroyed by a train derailment in on November 30th, 2012. This bridge was once not unique, with several other examples of this type once found. However at the time it was destroyed it was the last of its kind in existence in the United States, a devastating loss of heritage for this reason.

The bridge was further significant as an example of one of the "primitive" movable bridge types that were common in the 19th century. Movable bridges of often overly complicated or very unusual design were common in the 19th century (cities like Chicago had an amazing variety of movable bridges types). Shear pole swing bridges are one example, other examples were "jack-knife" or folding bridges, pontoon bridges, and others. With the introduction of the modern trunnion and rolling lift bascule bridge forms, the first modern Waddell-designed lift bridge, and general evolution and improvements of traditional rim and center bearing swing bridges all occurring in the 1890s, these new movable bridge forms were so much more reliable in design that these "primitive" bridges were replaced at a very rapid rate starting in the early 20th century. As such, that a bridge of this design survived into the 21st century was quite remarkable, especially on an active railroad line.

The tragedy of the loss of this bridge cannot be understated. It would have been nice to see the bridge salvaged, repaired, and placed on the ground as a sort of museum exhibit. The bridge was certainly worthy of such an effort.


This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Paulsboro Railroad Bridge

 

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Unorganized Photos

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Unorganized Photos

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A collection of overview and detail photos, presented as an unorganized and unlabeled collage and gallery. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer.
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Maps and Links: Paulsboro Railroad Bridge

This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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

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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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