Manayunk Bridge Truss, 1845

Manayunk Bridge Truss, 1845

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This span that once crossed Manayunk Creek in Pennsylvania is from the first iron truss bridge built in the United States. Richard Osbourne, the British-born chief engineer for the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, designed this bridge in the 1840s, based on a cross-hatch wood truss pattern developed by the American engineer William Howe.
P&R shops crafted this span from cast and wrought iron, assembling it without bolts or screws, much like the timber joinery found in all-wood bridges of the era.
The railroad used the new, stronger iron bridges to speed coal trains from Schuykill Valley to Philadelphia coal yards, bypassing the less efficient canal system.
The Smithsonian collected this span in 1942, days before it was scheduled to be melted down as wartime scrap iron.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Bridge Truss
Date made
Reading Company
overall: 3 1/2 ft x 42 ft x 12 ft; 1.0668 m x 12.8016 m x 3.6576 m
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Reading Company through Mr. I.L. Gordon
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Industry & Manufacturing
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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