Sunday, August 26, 2012

Providence River Bridge -- at night!

Providence River Bridge
I'm back!

My car tires were about to dissolve into the road unless I got them replaced, so until I could save up enough money for a new set, I haven't been going much of anywhere for the last month or so. But a dear friend was flying from Texas to Rhode Island for a conference, and I wasn't going to get to Providence on a bicycle.

After dinner, I was able to coerce him to come with me bridge hunting. I've taken pictures of the Providence River Bridge before, but... never at night.

Lit up, the bridge sparkles like a jewel on Providence's waterfront. It's so bright that local astronomers insisted it be turned off at 11PM so that the stars could be seen.

The Providence River Bridge, the widest network lattice arch bridge in the world, was built at a warehouse about fifteen miles down Narragansett Bay and transported up-river to its current spot. This move was the subject of the History Channel documentary, "Mega Movers: Really Big Bridges". Since I last wrote of this bridge in July, I've had a chance to watch this documentary. It's pretty incredible.

To move the bridge, they first had to construct four giant winches to lift the bridge onto specially constructed trucks with over a hundred wheels between them, that, incredibly slowly, inched the bridge onto two barges that were connected by steel bracing. These barges were then pushed by tugboats up the bay to Providence. Any misalignment would send the bridge into the bay.

Total professionals they were; the bridge made it without incident.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thompson Covered Bridge, West Swanzey, NH

West Swanzey / Thompson Covered Bridge
Sorry about the reflections. I wasn't using a lens hood and this is what happens.

The West Swanzey Covered Bridge, AKA the Thompson Bridge, was built in 1832 by Zadoc Taft for the princely sum of $523.27. Zadoc isn't a name you see every day. He's not even the most famous Zadoc Taft -- that honor goes to renowned sculptor Lorado Zadoc Taft.

Our Zadoc Taft, though, was a local boy, born, raised and died in the area. The Register of Historical Places entry for this bridge lists Taft as a master workman, but by the 1850 census, he called himself a blacksmith. Further information about Z. Taft isn't easily found; there was a Revolutionary War soldier by that name who lived in southern Massachusetts near where I grew up, apparently unrelated, and another around the same time who ran a mill in Bennington, Vermont, where my sister went to college. That could conceivably be the same person, as Richmond and Bennington were probably within a few hours travel by train, but it seems unlikely.

The Thompson Covered Bridge crosses the Ashuelot River, connecting the town of Swanzey with the village of West Swanzey. It's a two span, 155 foot long, single web Town lattice bridge. The sides are open and use the beautiful Town lattice as a decorative element. There is a sidewalk on the south side of the bridge; there apparently was another on the north side when the bridge was built. It's not known to me what happened to it.

By the early 1970s, increasing traffic was taking a toll on the wooden bridge. Although there is now another bridge nearby to carry trucks, buses and other heavy traffic, in the 70s the weight limit was six tons. School buses would drop their kids off on one side of the bridge, drive to the other, and weight for the kids to cross the bridge, board the bus, and continue on its way. Currently, the bridge is signed for only three tons of traffic -- one car at a time on the bridge's single lane.

The Thompson Covered Bridge is #5 in the southern New Hampshire covered bridge registry. Of all the covered bridges I've seen here in New England, this is the most beautiful and best preserved. It looked substantially similar to this in 1832, 180 years ago. Zadoc Taft should be proud.