Page 18 - Wire Rope News & Sling Technology - August 2018
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continued from page 16             ing the bridge to fruition,  languished
         located  in  Virginia  –    to  Cincinnati,   for nearly two decades. In 1836 it man-
         Ohio and eventually the Mississippi   aged to raise sufficient private funds to
         River at St. Louis, Missouri. Goods and   build a wooden bridge between Zane’s
         produce could thus ship quite cheaply   Island and the Ohio shore.  Nonethe-
         and quickly down the Ohio River and   less,  a  navigation channel  remained
         reach the ocean port of New Orleans,   between  Wheeling  and that island.
         Louisiana.                         Pennsylvania  legislators for decades
           Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky had   blocked federal legislation from sub-
         become  a  great  proponent  of  internal   sidizing  or  even  authorizing  the  pro-
         improvements, in part because the   posed Wheeling bridge.
         Ohio River drained the northern part of   That same year, Federal engineers
         his state and contributed to the growth   proposed a suspension bridge with a
         of Louisville. Both road and navigation   removable section to enable steamboat
         improvements helped bring manufac-  smokestacks to clear, but Congress
         tured goods and people to Kentucky,   tabled it. In 1838, the U.S. postmas-
         western  Virginia, Ohio,  and Indiana,   ter reported 53 irregularities in mail
         and allowed produce and natural  re-  service around Wheeling between   Vintage  c1855 engraving  illustration  of
         sources to reach eastern, southern and   January and April. An 1840 postmas-  Charles  Ellet Jr. (1810-1862),  the American
         even international markets.        ter’s  report  urged  that  a  bridge  be   engineer who introduced cable suspension
           The Wheeling and Belmont Bridge   constructed, but the report was lost.   bridges  to the  United  States  at  Fairmont,
         Company, set up with the task of bring-  Another proposal requiring hinges   Pennsylvania  in 1842,  and again below
                                                                               Niagara Falls in 1847.
                                                                               on high steamboat smokestacks also
                                                                               initially failed. In 1844, a steamboat
                                                                               packet  line  began  connecting  Pitts-
                                                                               burgh  and  Cincinnati  –  nearly  by-
                                                                               passing Wheeling altogether. (The
                                                                               Baltimore and Ohio Railroad track to
                                                                               Wheeling  would  be  finally  completed
                                                                               in 1853, the same year a packet line
                                                                               connected Wheeling and Louisville.)
                                                                                 As traffic on the National Road also
                                                                               languished,  Virginia’s  congressmen
                                                                               finally  abandoned  their  efforts  to  win
                                                                               federal funding for the Wheeling bridge
                                                                               in early 1847.  That year civic boost-
                                                                               ers instead formed a new company to
                                                                               build the bridge, and the new officers
                                                                               requested proposals in May 1847.
                                                                                 The legislatures of Virginia and Ohio
                                                                               jointly issued a new Wheeling bridge
                                                                               charter, inviting Charles Ellet and John
                                                                               A. Roebling to submit designs and esti-
                                                                               mates for a bridge over the east channel
                                                                               of the river to Wheeling Island.
                                                                                 The new Wheeling bridge would be
                                                                               of a suspension design, since Ellet and
                                                                               Roebling  were  the  foremost  authori-
                                                                               ties. It would also be ninety feet above
                                                                               low water. Their initial calculations re-
                                                                               lied on the highest smokestacks being
                                                                               about 60 feet (although stack heights
                                                                               kept increasing, so the planned bridge
                                                                               eventually impeded the largest steam-
                                                                               boats with high stacks.)
                                                                                 Ellet received the contract award in
                                                                               1847 with a bid of $120,000 (Roebling’s
                                                                               for a shorter double-span bridge was
                                                                               $130,000), and construction began the
                                                                               same year. The bridge was completed
                                                                               in  1849 for  about  $250,000. Despite
                                                                               being  over-budget, history  proved it
                                                                               a wise  investment for  a bridge still
         Viewing one of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge towers through its intricate web of wire rope   standing 170 years later.
         and cable. Photo ©KennethKeifer | depositphotos                                        continued on page 20

         18     Wire Rope News & Sling Technology   August 2018
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