This bridge is a fascinating and unusual implementation of the Strauss heel-trunnion type of bascule bridge. The bridge was reported as the first four track railroad bascule bridge ever constructed, although another two four track bascule spans were constructed side by side (producing an eight track crossing) in the same year over Bronx Kills, New York City. This is a bridge that appears to no longer exist today. On the Port Clinton Railroad Bridge, the four tracks are arranged in an unusual manner. Two tracks are within the two truss lines, which is a traditional arrangement. The unusual aspect is that in addition, one track is on either side of the truss. In this sense, the outer tracks may be thought of as cantilevered out from the truss. However, the trusses alone do not carry the load of the outer tracks. The extreme edges of the bridge each carry a through plate girder, which also assist in supporting these outer tracks. The girders have their own main trunnions, separate of the main trunnions for the truss. However, it should be noted that the counterweight system for the bascule, including the counterweight trunnion, are not directly attached to the girders. Instead, they are attached only to the truss, like a traditional Strauss heel-trunnion without the outer tracks and girders would be. However, there are what could be described as stay rods, that run from each plate girder trunnion bearing out to the base of the support for the counterweight and counterweight trunnion. Another unusual detail is what appears to be best described as outriggers or buttresses that aid in supporting the counterweight and counterweight trunnion. These are clearly visible in the historical construction photo to the right.
An article in Volume 52 of the Railway Age Gazette (March 21, 1912) briefly mentioned the unusual design of this bridge as it discussed noteworthy bascule bridges of the time. It described it as follows:
"The second is a four-track structure for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern over the Portage river at Port Clinton, Ohio, which follows the ordinary design of the heel trunnion type for the center pair of tracks, while the outer tracks are carried on floor beams extending from the bascule trusses to outer plate girders. These plate girders are supported by a heavy cross girder at each end of the span when the bridge opens, but come to rest on the piers when the bridge is closed."
This bridge has a high degree of historical and technological significance as an intact surviving example of a Strauss heel-trunnion bascule bridge. The fact that it has the unusual four-track design along with the equally unusual hybrid girder and truss design only add to the significance of the bridge. It appears to be an excellent demonstration of the impressive skill and creativity of the bridge's designer, Joseph Baermann Strauss.
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