Sunday, May 15, 2011

Plymouth: Bridge City

Part 1 of a 2 part series on the Historic Bridges of Plymouth
Most people wouldn't think of Plymouth as a city of bridges, but indeed with the meandering nature of the Yellow River and the route of the former Pennsylvania Railroad through the city, bridges were a very important part of a transportation plan even when the city was a mere town of a few thousand souls. There are six historic bridges in the City of Plymouth, three are steel and date to an earlier period of time, the other three are concrete. The following are those fabricated in steel:

LaPorte Street Footbridge, 1898
Type: Steel suspension bridge, Rochester Bridge Company, builder
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only three historic footbridges in the State of Indiana. All three are suspension bridges, meaning that the deck, or walkway, is suspended by cabling to the end piers. The other two bridges are newer and were part of the New Deal projects in Turkey Run State Park and Winamac. The Rochester Bridge Company operated out of Rochester, Indiana and was a prolific bridge fabrication plant for the Midwest.

Pennsylvania Railroad Viaduct, c. 1900
Type: Pony plate girder truss with two spans on rusticated limestone abutments and center pier. About 1995 the railroad covered the center pier with concrete.
When the Pennsylvania Railroad first came through Northern Indiana in 1856 its route through Plymouth crossed the historic Michigan Road with little problem. But as Michigan Street became more traveled it is believed the railroad created an earlier viaduct which then was expanded in about 1900 to accommodate two sets of tracks. Close examination of the stone abutments show various symbols indicating to builders how to construct the abutments, as well as the difference between the earlier stone used for the original abutment and the 1900 construction.

Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge, 1902
Type: Eight panel full-hip Pratt pony truss style metal bridge on rusticated limestone abutments, American Bridge Company of New York, builder
In James Cooper’s Historic Metal Bridge Inventory, it states this bridge is among the earliest examples of the Pratt pony span built on Indiana’s rail system that still exists and references the heavy members designed for unusual load-bearing capabilities. As part of the city’s greenway plans a canoe portage will be located below the bridge on the sandy shore of the Yellow River. James Cooper is a professor at Ball State University and is considered the leading authority on Indiana bridges.

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