This bridge is a historic fixed span over the Erie canal. In order to provide the clearance for boats that was needed for the bridge to be fixed, there is a modest approach ramp to the bridge at each end. Many of the fixed historic bridges over the Erie Canal from this period are double-intersection Warren through truss bridges, so this Warren pony truss stands out as unusual. It is also a long pony truss span at about 119 feet, both in light of its age (most pony truss bridges of around 120 feet and longer date to after 1920) and also considering that it does not have a polygonal top chord, which is more typical of pony truss spans of this length.
This bridge was comprehensively rehabilitated, demonstrating a preservation commitment for this bridge. Ramsey Constructors undertook the rehabilitation work, with new pieces being made by S.D.I. in Indiana.
The railing on this bridge bears the name "Byers" with no city or date. It is presumed this refers to A. M. Byers Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This company manufactured pipe. Of interest is that the company continued to make its pipe from wrought iron into the 1920s, long after steel was being use for nearly all applications. Advertisements from the 1920s for the company state that each section of pipe rolled contained the name and year on it. This pipe on the Smith Street Bridge, ten years older than that advertisement, does contain the name rolled into the pipe, however the date is not present. Perhaps the company did not yet include the date at that time.
Be sure to look toward the end of the photo gallery for this bridge for a collection of photos showing the bridge prior to rehabilitation. These photos emphasize how much the condition and appearance of the bridge has improved following this rehabilitation.
The March 22, 2012 photos for this bridge were taken on the day the bridge was reopened to traffic after being closed for the winter. The closure was not to do work on the bridge, but may have been a way to keep corrosive winter deicing salts off the bridge. Crews were literally loading up the last of the bridge closed signage and barricades just before the photos were taken.
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 and the New York State Barge Canal system, 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.
Elsewhere, the New York State Barge Canal System boasts other types of historically significant bridges.
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