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Hays Street Bridge, 2001 HCEL
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The Hays Street Bridge is a railroad truss bridge, originally constructed by the Pheonix Bridge Co. of Pennsylvania, connecting Eastside and Downtown San Antonio. Truss bridges were widely used from the 1870s to the 1930s. The Hays Street Bridge utilizes truss spans of two designs, including the Pratt design and the Murphy-Whipple. The Murphy-Whipple is a modification of the Whipple Truss by John Murphy of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The Pratt design was pioneered in 1844 by Caleb Pratt and his son Thomas, and is considered simple yet efficient (You may have noticed it as part of the wing design for the first successful Wright Brothers airplane). The Pratt truss of the bridge spans 130 feet, and the Murphy-Whipple - 225 feet.

The trusses that support the Hays Street Bridge, which had originally spanned the Nueces River, were moved by the GH&SA railroad to the bridge’s current location in 1910. This was an unusual action to take considering the type of bridge (length of the Whipple truss), but in so doing, the railroad provided a necessary viaduct for the City of San Antonio. The bridge accommodated many a carriage, and later car, as it clacked across the wooden floorboards (later covered with asphalt). Over time though, officials realized the bridge had seen finer days, and in 1982 it was closed without any plans for maintenance. Luckily, the bridge caught the attention of Douglas Steadman, PE who championed the campaign for its restoration. Concluding its Cinderella story, the necessary funding was acquired and the Hays Street Bridge was restored to its former glory in 2010.

Photo: Juan A Garcia East Light Photography
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