James B. Eads and His St. Louis Bridge

by J. Wayman Williams, Jr., Construction Engineer; Basking Ridge, N.J.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1977, Vol. 47, Issue 13, Pg. 42-46

Document Type: Feature article


Eads Bridge at St. Louis, a century old engineering achievement, was designed, promoted, and built by an intensely dedicated and self-educated man, James B. Eads. This structure was an unprecedented feat in its time, when the engineering profession lacked prestige due to the collapse of one out of every four bridges erected. Caissons were used with compressed air chambers going 110 ft deep to bed rock, by far the largest and deepest that had ever been attempted. The ribbed arches, constructed of newly developed steel, provided spans of 502, 520, and 502 ft with double deck and a railroad capacity of Cooper E-45. Erection by temporary cantilever supporting towers kept the superstructure work well above the treacherous currents of the Mississippi. On opening day, 4th of July 1874, the strength of the bridge was shown by running 14 locomotives with tenders over the bridge.

Subject Headings: Bridge design | Bridges | Engineering profession | Bedrock | Steel decks | Rail transportation | Bridge failures | Structural failures | Mississippi

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