Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Braga Bridge, Fall River-Somerset, MA

Charles M. Braga Jr Bridge
My group at work changed floors; now we're located with the business folks (for whom we're the IT department), and I get to listen to the business folk talk about the business. And one mentioned the Braga Bridge.

My ears perked up, as they always do when bridges are the topic. But especially the Braga Bridge -- I knew that bridge. I had a picture of that bridge.

I got this picture on my way between two other bridges, neither of which I have written about. Because the pictures weren't great, the light was wrong... as they are with this bridge, the Braga Bridge, about which a haiku contest was run:
Six-lane thoroughfare; 
Minus two lanes of repair;
Four lanes of despair. 
Jay Martineau, Westport
I grew up not terribly far from here, and some school trip or other got us visiting the Battleship Massachusetts, which is permanently docked on the Fall River side of the bridge (you can see it there, though the battleship gray blends in so perfectly with the water and the background that it's almost like it was designed to...)

Bizarrely, I don't remember this bridge from when I was a kid. I have no explanation.

Replica of the Iwo Jima Memorial
I shot the bridge from a really beautiful park along the Taunton River just up from the bridge and just below a rather ordinary bridge that I couldn't get any sort of picture of. The park is dominated by a replica of the Iwo Jima Memorial. I had no idea it was there. I love most being surprised by the things I find when I'm bridge hunting.

Brayton Point Power Plant
Across the river from the park is the Brayton Point Power Plant, which I assumed to be nuclear, but is actually a coal powered generating station.

The Braga Bridge is much longer than I show in the picture, but it's hard to get the entire bridge in a shot, and stitching all the pictures together doesn't look cool. It's all a deck truss bridge up until this Warren truss bit on the Fall River side... so in your imagination, draw an endless line to the right. The whole bridge is over a mile long.

I was going to head down to the USS Massachusetts and try to get a more oblique shot of the bridge... but then I noticed something in the distance behind the Braga Bridge.

OMG... what bridge is THAT?
THAT... is the Mount Hope Bridge in Bristol, Rhode Island. And it instantly became the next stop on my hunt.

What was the first stop? The reason for the trip in the first place?

It was a viaduct about which Wikipedia had said was almost impossible to photograph without trespassing. I took that challenge. Someday I'll let you see how it turned out.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Railroad Bridge, Fredericksburg, VA

Railroad bridge across the Rappahannock River
I stopped in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia, on my way to visit my son this past weekend. Traffic along I-95 made it dark before I got to town, so I made sure to rise with the sun the next morning in search of the fanous Rappahannock River railroad bridge.

It's a concrete, eight (or so) span open spandrel arch bridge. The bridge is in active use by cargo and passenger trains; there is a beautiful Amtrak station just a block west of the bridge. It's a wonderful river crossing in its on right, but this is not the bridge that made Fredericksburg famous.

This bridge is very near the former site of an earlier bridge -- a bridge that was instrumental in one of the most one-sided battles in the Civil War.

Mural of the bridge on a Fredericksburg wall
In December of 1862, Union forces, desperate for a victory, were looking for a victory against Confederate forces entrenched in and around Fredericksburg. Blocked by the Rappahannock River, a tributary of the Potomac River, the two sides stared at each other until the Union Army could deliver sufficient pontoon bridge segments to build a bridge across the river -- which the army proceeded to do, under continual fire from the Confederates.

The pontoon bridges prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg (ca 1862)

The Union army, encamped on the east side of the river very near George Washington's boyhood home, crossed the pontoon bridges, taking heavy losses, and entered into close combat with the Confederates among the streets and homes of Fredericksburg, eventually making a concerted effort to break the fortified lines on Marye's Heights.

They failed and were forced to withdraw. Union losses were twice those of the Confederates, a bitter loss that shook the North's already fragile support for Lincoln's War.

A riverboat idles at Fredericksburg's City Dock as geese fly overhead
Fredericksburg today is an arts center for the area and home to the University of Mary Washington. It has a thriving night life and is extremely bicycle-friendly -- many of the city streets encourage bicyclists to use the entire right lane.

It also sports the second largest mall on the East Coast, the Central Park Mall, which makes travel on the outskirts of the city problematic during shopping hours.

Bridge from the pumping station
Beautiful bridge, beautiful city.