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Wilbur Road Bridge

Wilbur Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: Summer 2005 and November 26, 2005

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Wilbur Road Over River Raisin
Location
Rural: Washtenaw County, Michigan: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1953 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
100 Feet (30.4 Meters)
Structure Length
103 Feet (31.4 Meters)
Roadway Width
9.8 Feet (2.99 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
81317H00012B010

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge is in storage!

Bridge Status: This bridge was replaced in 2006 and reportedly moved to private property in an unknown location!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

Click here to read a news article about replacing this bridge from WCRC.

Click here to read the bridge marketing pamphlet for this historic bridge.

This bridge is the last of its kind in Michigan, and although it may not be war surplus, it does utilize a design of bridge created as a part of WWII.

Despite its late 1953 construction date, this is one of the rarest bridges in Michigan: it is the only historic Bailey truss in Michigan. The Bailey truss was developed in 1941 during World War II by the British military as a bridge kit that could be erected with amazing speed and could be easily adjusted to accommodate different span lengths and vehicle loads.

This bridge does not exactly replicate the original Bailey truss design used in World War II. In particular, there is an absence of transom clamps (they look like c-clamps) is perhaps the best example. These clamps attached the truss to the tramsoms. Something that doesn't look like a transom clamp does the job of a transom clamp on this bridge. These differences suggest that this bridge was not a war surplus bridge. It is however an older Bailey truss, as is evidenced by the Carnegie and Illinois mill marks on the steel so the 1953 date seems plausible.

This is a bridge that should appeal to people interested in war history as much as transportation. Although it is doubtful that this bridge was purchased as military surplus or not, it is a good example of the technology that was used by the military to quickly create a bridge. The technology was adaptive; a bridge could vary in size in a number of ways, depending on what the need was. All of this is very clear with the Wilbur Road Bridge. You can see the unused holes and slots on the bridge, and you can see how they fit together like a puzzle. Each truss on the side of the bridge is two trusses wide and one truss high. The technical description of this is "double-truss, single-story." Bailey trusses could vary greatly, this bridge could have been two trusses high for instance, or have only one trusses in width instead of two. The Wilbur Road Bridge sits on concrete abutments and has a wooden deck. The bridge is one lane wide. While on the topic of war history, this bridge crosses the River Raisin, a river that was the site of one of the major battles of the War of 1812.

Although this bridge is a truss bridge by definition, it does not fit well into the realm of most truss bridges. Its late development and use in terms of date, as well as the appearance of the steel, and the overall shape of the bridge are very different from what a truss bridge usually is. Similarly specific terminology was developed by the Army to describe the parts of the bridge and some of these terms conflict with traditional truss terminology. For example, what would be called a floor beam on a traditional truss bridge is called the transom on a Bailey truss.

In 2006, this bridge was replaced. Although HistoricBridges.org has not confirmed this, it was reported that the trusses were successfully marketed for reuse to a private Michigan landowner near the Ohio border who was going to put the bridge on his property. It would be interesting to find out if that really happened.

Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory

Narrative Description

Located in a wooded area southwest of Manchester, this bridge carries a one-lane unpaved road over the Raisin River. Concrete footings from a previous span appear on either side of the bridges south abutment.

The "Bailey"-type pony truss bridge was developed in 1941 by Donald Coleman Bailey, chief engineer of the British Experimental Bridging Establishment, and was adopted by the United States' military in the same year. Based upon a system of steel panel trusses edging a roadway carried by steel I-beam stringers, the design proved remarkably versatile and was employed during World War II in both the European and Pacific theaters.

The Bailey proved particularly appealing because it could easily be altered in place to handle a variety of vehicle weights and sizes. The strength of the structure was varied by vertically stacking the panel trusses and/or combining them side-by-side. Usually the bridge was at least partially assembled on shore and then "launched" across the gap. The U.S. military, which used the Bailey for spans up to 180 feet, boasted that one platoon of engineers could erect a 100-foot, double truss, single-story bridge in about five hours.

After the war, the military offered Bailey bridges for sale through the War Assets Administration. Ingham County Purchased at least three for use a temporary crossing during its bridge projects. The present Washtenaw County bridge is a double-truss, single-story Bailey structure reportedly constructed in 1953. No archival information could be located indicating whether any war-surplus materials were used. The bridge received a new timber deck and steel stringers in 1984. Because the repair project apparently did not alter the trusses, this bridge remains a good example of a relatively rare span type.

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Wilbur Road Bridge

 
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Maps and Links: Wilbur Road Bridge

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