This series begins an exclusive exploration of railroad bridges. In contrast to transportation bridges – where civic pride usually requires elements of conventional architectural beauty – the railroad bridge is all about function. It has to be strong enough to carry the heavy weight of loaded trains. Movable railroad bridges add another layer of complexity. This focus on solving a problem with maximum efficiency results in some amazing forms. They do not need to look pretty, they just need to get the job done.
Engineering is an international language. As applied to railroad bridges, it provides both figurative and literal connections that unite many places. This series has examples from across the country. The iconic St. Charles Air Line Bridge across the south branch of the Chicago River was completed in 1919. Further south on the Cal-Sag Channel are five bridges from 1935. A little downstream is a solo bridge at Blue Island. The MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis opened in 1917 and once carried Route 66. The bridge across the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Williamsport, Maryland (1923) may be the only asymmetric lift bridge still in existence.
As I gathered images for this show, I realized that this type of bridge represents a huge area for exploration. I’m sure more series will follow!
Image: MacArthur I, Acrylic on Canvas, 40" x30", 2013