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Full text of "The history and construction of the Patuxent Bridge, north of Burtonsville on the Columbia Turnpike : a thesis / prepared by John T. Dressel."

THE HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION OE THE PATUXENT BRIDGE 
NORTH OF BURMSYILLE ON THE COLUMBIA TURNPIKE. 



Thesis prepared by 



John T. Dressel 



Eor initiation into 
the Beta Chapter of Liar yl and 
Tau Beta Pi 



/}pn 933 



THE HISTORY AHD CONSTRUCTION Oj 1 THE lATUXENT BRIDGE 
NORTH OF BURTONSVILLE OH THE COLUMBIA TURN r IKE 

Summary. 

There is no recorded history of the ratuxent Bridge, 
this account having been made from statements of the older in- 
habitants of the region. 

The first bridge was of wood, and was in service until 
it rotted and was no longer safe. For a period of two years the 
river was forded in the absence of a bridge. The counties then 
built a series of four wooden bridges, all of which were washed 
away. In 1683 the counties jointly erected a steel bridge. This 
structure withstood the Johnstown flood of 1989, and stands today. 

The present structure is a two truss steel bridge 
v 164 feet in length, supported by two abutments and a pier, all 
resting on bed rock. The construction of the bridge was not 
difficult, requiring but eighteen days for assembling the steel- 
work. The total construction period lasted about four months. 

The probable cost of the structure was C ; 5,654.31. 

The bridge is sound and in good condition after fifty 
years of service. With proper care its future period of service 
t is indefinite. 



EH3 HISTORY. AID COHSTRUCTIQH Off THE PAuJUXEIIT BRIDGE 
BORTH Off BURTOBS^ILLE OK THE COLUMBIA TURHPIKE. 

A. HISTORY Off THE PATUISIIT BRIDGE. 

The history of the Columbia Pike and the bridges that 
have been used to carry it across the Patuxent is very obscure. 
According to the older inhabitants this Pike originally connected 
Washington and Baltimore by way of Ellieott City, passing through 
Silver Spring. The age of this pike is not definitely known, but 
men in their seventies have heard their parents talk of this 
road, and they definitely state that it is older than the Coles- 
ville Pike, another road in this territory. 

The Columbia Pike apparently was not a popular route. 
According to one Mr. Cole, age seventy-three, the road was never 
surfaced with stone over the portion from Columbia to White Oak. 
Columbia was about four miles from Ellieott City, and White Oak 
was twelve miles from Washington, so that this unimproved section 
constituted a large portion of the road, and greatly lessened its 
importance. 

It seems that this pike was not of sufficient import- 
ance to warrant the recording of its history. Likewise there ap- 
pears to be no recorded history of the bridges used on this route 
at various times to cross the Patuxent. I have been unsuccessful 
in finding any information on record concerning the bridge, al- 
though I have been to the Maryland Historical Society and the Enoch 



-3- 



The first bridge was built at the same spot where the 
steel bridge now stands. 1'he builders intended to make it a 
covered bridge, but it was left open. This bridge remained until 
it rotted and was no longer safe. (This information was handed 
down to Mr. Murphy by his father, since the road in its old loca- 
tion and the first bridge at the present location existed before 
the period of his own recollection. He only remembered seeing 
some of the rotted sills of the old bridge at the site.) 

At present a brook runs into the river from the Mont- 
gomery side, and is upstream from the pike, its course lying along- 
side of the present road. The county built a small plank crossing 

4 

for this brook so that the river could De forded near the present 
bridge. This ford was known as Moxley's or Murphy's Ford. It was 
very inconvenient and unsatisfactory, and could only be crossed at 
times of low water. 

Js'or a period of perhaps two years there was no bridge at 
all, travellers having to cross the crook and ford the river, Pol- 
lowing this the counties built a series of four wooden bridges. 
The first of these was built in 1859 or 1860. This bridge was 
washed out by high waters at about 1868. Between the washing out 
of this bridge and the erection of the next , the ford and the 
brook bridge were used in crossing the river. This has continuously 
been the method of crossing the river between the washing out of 
one bridge and the building of the next. 



-4- 



The following two bridges and their period of duration 
was not recalled. One of these was in use as little as three or 
four years before being washed away. These bridges were similar 
to the first. All three were single -span structures about forty- 
five feet in length and high above the river. The abutments were 
of loose stone, and very little mortar was used in their construc- 
tion. When the third bridge was washed av/ay the counties erected 
another wooden bridge, but one of different nature than its pre- 
decessors. 

It was the aim of the builders to construct a bridge that 
would withstand the flood waters. The bridge was built much lower 
than the others (being but eight feet above the water, according to 
Mr, Cole's statement.) The builders believed that if the structure 
were firmly anchored and built low the flood waters would flow over 
it, carrying away the railings and leaving the bridge itself to of- 
fer but little resistance. With this end in view the bridge was 
anchored to heavy logs by means of iron rods, the logs were embedded 
in the river banks, and large rocks were placed on the logs. This 
bridge was shorter than the others, being about thirty-five or forty 
feet long. This bridge was also washed away, the log abutments be- 
ing carried away with it. It did, however, stand for a longer 
period than any of its predecessors of tnis series. 

This was the last wooden bridge built at this point. The 
counties, evidently discouraged with the successive destruction of 
four wooden oridges, erected the steel structure which stands today. 






-5- 



It occupies the same site as did the very first wooden bridge. 
(It was built in 1683, according to the name plate on the bridge.) 
It has never been damaged by flood waters, and was the only bridge 
from its location to the head waters of the x'atuxent Hiver that 
withstood the Johnstown JTlood of 1889. The only expense connected 
with this bridge since its construction has been periodic painting 
and repairing of the wooden floor, complete replacement of the 
floor having been made about three times. 

This concludes the supplemented text of Mr. Murphy's 
statement. 

Mr. Cole, age seventy-three, was born and raised in this 
region. Many of the facts given by him concerning the bridge's his- 
tory substantiate the account of Mr. Murphy. In addition Mr. Cole 
stated that the wooden bridges were as much as one hundred yards 
above the present bridge, (Mr. nurphy fixed the location of the last 
wooden oridge at thirty yards above the present site) and that the 
road from these bridges joined the present road at a point lesB 
than one-quarter of a mile up the hill from the river on the Howard 
County site. He recalled but three wooden bridges, whereas Mr. 
Murphy recalled four. He stated that all of the old bridges had 
log abutments, instead of some having loose stone abutments as re- 
lated by Mr. Murphy. 

Mr. Miles, age seventy-one, recalled but one wooden 
bridge, which was either washed out or rotted away, after which 
the piers were raised and the steel bridge erected. This is not 



-6- 



verified by Mr. Murphy, nor by Mr. Cole. 

Mr. Murphy, the last- questioned of the three men, de- 
finitely denied the raising of the abutments related by Mr. Miles, 
and also insisted the abutments of the wooden oridges were as he 
had described them. 

In spite of these contradictions between the collected 
facts, and in view of the far greater number of substantiations, 
I consider Mr. Murphy's account, together with the relevant facts 
added to it, a fairly accurate and complete history of the Pa tux- 
en t bridge. 

B. THE COBSSHUGElOI OJ 1 TEE PA2I32EHI BRIDGE, 

The Patuxent Bridge was built in 1683 by the Pittsburgh 
Bridge Company. It is a steel highway bridge of two trusses of 
the modified Pratt type, having a total length of 164 feet and a 
clearance above water of 24 feet. 
DESCRIPTION 03? SITE, ABUTMEHTS ABD PIES. 

At the site of the bridge the hills flanking the river 
slope steeply to the river's bed. On the Howard County site enor- 
mous masses of root crop out of the hillside, racking it necessary 
to sharply turn the approach at this point in order to ascend the 
hill. The Montgomery County site at this point does not have so 
much exposed rock. However, the rock is very near the surface, 
as is indicated by the brook which flows beside the bridge approach, 



-7- 



since at points the water is flawing on bed rock. This formation 
made it unnecessary to build an abutment on this side, as the 
bridge rests practically on bed rock. It was only necessary to 
leTel off the rock and build it up slightly at the corners, as shown 
in the accompanying photograph. 

It was necessary to build an abutment on the 'loward County 
site, which is also shown by a photograph. Mr. Murphy stated that 
this abutment was built of large rocks on the outside and was 
grouted on the inside down to bed rock. The abutment was pointed 
up with mortar, and through this construction it was made prac- 
tically as strong as the bed rock itself. 

The pier is of similar construction and is set upon bed 
rock. Mr. Murphy and Mr. Cole agree that the pier was built by 
Mir. Basgate. Mr. Cole stated that the stone masons received $1,50 
per day and that the middle pier cost $900.00. The material was 
obtained by blasting rock on the Howard County side and was locally 
known as river rock. The dimensions of the pier are given in one 
of the accompanying sketches. The downstream end of the pier is 
square, but the upstream end is extended to allow it to be rounded 
off in a parabolic shape in order to offer less resistance to the 
water. The result is to make the pier seem eccentrically loaded to 
a marked degree. 

It is of interest here to point out the reason for giving 
such clearance and length of span to the bridge in crossing a stream 
of this size. 



-8- 



i'HS HATDRE OP TIB PATUX3IIT RIVER. 

The United States Geological Survey maintains a stream 
gaging station at this point r and accurate records of the river 1 s 
flow are available. The following information was taken from the 
Water Supply Paper iio. 561, U.S. Geological Survey. The river at 
this point drains an area of 127 square miles. From 1920 to 1923 
was the period of lowest discharge, the mean flow being 100 cubic 
feet per second. At the time of the Johnstown Flood, on June 1, 
1889, the discharge was estimated at 19200 cubic feet per second 
and. the water rose to 18.9 feet above the low water level. From 
the information obtainable, this was the largest flood in 60 years. 
Ho recent discharges have been unusually large, the largest being 
5100 cubic feet per second on January 13, 1915 with a rise of 14.6 
feet above low water level. The flood of 1889 proved the wisdom 
of giving the bridge this clearance above low water. 
BRIDGE AHD ROADWAY. 

I have been able to obtain no data on the bridge other 
than measurements which I have taken myself. A letter written to 
the American Institute of Steel Construction received the reply 
adjacent to this sheet. The reply to a subsequent inquiry sent to 
the American Bridge Company is also given. 

The trusses are the modified Pratt type and are identically 
alike. The single spans (measured with a cloth tape) are 82.2 feet 
long and are 2.2 feet apart at the middle pier, making a total 
length of 166.6 feet. The width of the bridge , center to center 



-9- 



of trusses, is 14.8 feet, and the clear width for vehicles is 13 
feet. The height of the bridge between rivet lines is 16.15 feet, 
and the clearance height for vehicles is 13.6 feet. The important 
dimensions are given in the accompanying sketch. 

The panel lengths of the truss are approximately equal. 
The three vertical columns are built up of 2 channels spaced back 
to back, and lattice bars on both sides of the channels. (Details 
of all members are given in the sketches.) The inclined compres- 
sion members of the truss are composed of 2 channels spaced back 
to back with a plate on the top and lattice bars on the bottom of 
the member. The noriaontal compression member at the top of the 
truss is built up in the same manner. The remaining members are 
in tension, and are composed of round or square rods or rectangular 
bar 8* 

The trusses are tied together at the top by angles placed 
back to back and running between the vertical columns, while the 
ends are tied together with built up members similar to I beams, 
using lattice bars for the web and angles for the flanges. The 
whole is made rigid by rods as shown in the sketch. The trusses 
are kept at right angles with the top by means of braces formed 
from angles placed back to back. 

The floor is supported by transverse beams at the panel 
points. A plate is used for the web and angles back to back form 
the flanges. 

The spans rest on 24 inch square uy 9 inch deep granite 



-10- 



blocks carrying iron bearing plates. The weight of the span is 
transmitted from the truss through 3 inch diameter pins to pairs of 
angles set back to back on the bearing plates* 

The roadway of the bridge is a wooden floor of planks 
3 inches in thickness and from 9 to 12 inches in width. The floor 
is supported by 3 inch by 10 inch joists, spaced 25 inches center to 
center. Guard rails and curb rails are 3 inches by 8 inches * 
ERECT IOH. 

The following is from a statement by Mr, Murphy: 

The steel and cement were shipped to Laurel by the B. & 0, 
Railroad, and were then carried by Mr. Murphy to the bridge with 
teams of horses. 

Ho difficulties were encountered in constructing the bridge. 
Wooden trestles were built across the stream and the members of the 
bridge were placed in position on the trestles and then bolted and 
riveted in place. 

The assembling of the bridge took from 15 to 18 days. The 
work on the abutments and pier required from 4 to 6 weeks. The total 
period required for complete construction, including the time spent 
in waiting for the steel, was about 4 months. There is no other 
statement to substantiate nor to contradict this account. 
COST. 

The bridge was built jointly by the two counties. Ho record 
of its cost could be obtained at Rockville, the county seat of ilont- 
gomery County, nor at the office of the county engineer, Mr. Harry 

Shaw. 



-11- 



An account of the cost of the bridge was found after an 
extensive search through the Howard County records at Ellieott 
City, Ho description is given of the account other than in the 
title "Bridge Account of 1883. M This record extends from June 5", 
1883 to Llay 7, 1884. Payment to the Pittsburgh Bridge Company was 
made in two installments; vl798.50 on February 19, 1884; and 
£l 46 0.00 on Llarch 4, 1884; total £3258.50. Mr. Bathgate (probably 
the Mr. Basgate spoken of by the older inhabitants) received 
£646.00. 'j.' he sum of the itemized payment amounted to £5654.31, 
although no total appears in the record. This is the probable 
cost of the structure, although it cannot be definitely stated as 
such. 

The bridge today appears to be as sound as when first 
built. The steel work has been kept painted and the abutments are 
in good condition, having already served for half of a century, 
the future period of service may be said to be indefinite. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



The Uature of the Patuxent. .. United States Geological Survey 

Water Supply Paper Uo. 561 

Cost of Bridge Howard. County Commissioners Records 

Mr. Murphy 

Accounts uy inhabitants Mr, Cole 

Mr. Miles 

Sources of information investigated, lacking 
desired data: 

Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore 
Ell loot t City Times newspaper 
Snoch Pratt Library, Baltimore 
Andrew Carnegie Library, Washington, L.C. 
Congressional Library, Washington, L.C. 
Montgomery County Commissioners at Rockville 
Montgomery County Engineer's Office 
American Automobile Association 

llote. vhe Geological Survey Paper was found in the 
Carnegie and Pratt Libraries 



American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc. 



EnsjineeriniJ Department 

1050 Leader Build inf* 

Cleveland, Ohio 




Telephone: CALEDONIA 5 7356 
Cable Addrea: Aminsteel 



OFFICERS 

President 

C. G. CONLEY, The Ml. Vernon 
Bridge Co., Mr. Vernon, Ohio. 

first Vice-President 

CLYDE MACCORNACK, The Phoenix 
Bridge Company, Phoenixviile, Pa. 

Second Vice-President 

H. A. FITCH. Kansas City Structural 
Steel Co.. Kansas City, Kans, 

Treasurer 

ROBT. T. BROOKS, The George A. 
Just Company, New York, N. Y. 

Assistant Treasurer 

A. J. POST, Post B McCoid. Inc.. 
New York, N. Y, 

Exeeutiuv Director 

CHARLES F. ABBOTT 

Chief Engineer 

LEE H, MILLER, M. Am. Soc. C. E. 
Engineering Service 

F. H. FRAN KL AND, 

M. Am. Soc. C, E, 

Public Relations 
V. G. IDEN 



BOARD OF DIRECTORS 

H. B. H1RSH, Belmont Iron Works, 
Philadelphia, Pa. 

WALLER TAYLOR, Consolidated Sttel 
Corp,, Ltd.. Los Angeles, Cal. 

N. W. WARREN, Dominion Bridge Co., 
Ltd., Montreal, Canada, 

JNO. J. DUFFIN, Duffin Iron Company, 
Chicago. 111. 

J. L. KIMBROUGH. Indiana Bridge Co.. 

Muncie, lnd. 

R. I. INGALLS. The Ingalls Iron Works 
Company, Birmingham, Ala. 

ROBT. T. Brooks, The Geotge A. 
Just Company. Neiv York. N. Y. 

H. A. FITCH, Kansas City Structural 
Steel Co.. Kansas City, Kans. 

W. M. WOOD, Mississippi Valley 
Structural Steel Co., Decatur, 111. 

C. G. CONLEY, The Mt. Vernon Bridge 
Co., Mt. Vernon, Ohio, 

ART. J. DYER, Nashville Bridge Co.. 
Nashville, Tenn. 

T. J. Foster, National Bridge Works. 
Long Island City, N. Y, 

CHARLES N. FITTS. New England 
Structural Co., Boston, Mass. 

KARL E. VOGEL, Omaha Steel Works. 

Omaha, Neb. 

J. M. HUGHEN. The Petroleum Iron 
Works Company, Beaumont, Texas 

GLIDE MACCORNACK, The Phoenix 

Bridge Company, Phoenixville, Pa. 

EDW. K. KL1NGELHOFEK. Pittsburgh 

Bridge ^ Iron Works, Rochester, Pa. 

A. J. POST, Post a McCoid. inc.. New 
York, N. Y. 



Executive Offices: 200 Madison Avenue 
New York, N. Y. 

April 18, 1933 



Mr. John T. Dressel 
5228 Ash Street 
Mt. Ranier, Md. 

Dear Sin 

In reply to your letter of April 
13, regarding the history of the Fatuxent 
River Bridge, on which you are working, I 
advise that the Pittsburgh Bridge Company 
that constructed this bridge in 1883 was 
merged with the American Bridge Company in 
1900. 

In accordance with the usual prac- 
tice in bridge shops it may be taken for 
granted that all drawings, calculations, etc. 
of the Patuxent Bridge that were in the pos- 
session of the old Pittsburgh Bridge Company 
have long ago been destroyed. 

It might, however, be worth your 
while to write Mr. Richard Khuen, Jr., Chief 
Engineer of the American Bridge Company, at 
Frick Building, Pittsburgh, who might be able 
to give you further information regarding the 
bridge in which you are interested. 



Very truly yours, 




{/MaaAaiSL*-/ 



Frankland 
Director of Engineering Service 



FHF:S 



STEEL insures strength and security 




Looking Upstream from the Montgomery County Side 




Looking Upstream from the Howard County Side 




Looking Upstream from the Montgomery County Side 




Looking Upstream from the xioward County Side 




Abutment on the Montgomery County Side 
LoGlcLng Up-stream 




Abutment on the Howard County Side 
Looking Up-stream 



I 




mortal of Bridge, Looting from the 
Howard County Side 



I 




B ottom of Koad #1 



oor 




Center rier of Bridge, Looking Upstream from the 
Montgomery County Side 



PA TUX EN T BRIDGE on thb COL (J MB/A P/KE, MD. 






35 




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LOCAriOti OF PATUX£A/T 
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SUBSIDIARY OF UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION 



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Richard Khubk,Jr., 

On mi' Mxcsi n k ■: i; 




Mr, John T. Dressel 

28 Ash St. 
I't. Rainer, Maryland 

r Sir: 

Receipt is ackno-wl edged of your letter of April 19 

with reference to your thesis on "The History and Construction 

of the Patuxent Bridge North of Burtonsville on the Old Columbia 

Turnpike." 

As this bridge was built a long time before the American 

Bridge Company was formed- we regret very much that we have no 

r >cord or any information on this bridge in our files. 

Yours very trul^ , 





Chief Engineer 







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