Railroad Bridges Planked for Crossing of Infantry/Rolling Stock

alan polk

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Jun 11, 2012
Messages
2,299
#1
Hey Guys,

I just wanted to canvass the opinions of the folks here regarding railroad bridges during ACW combat operations.

Here's my question: Was it typical for armies to plank a railroad bridge in a way whereas BOTH infantry/rolling stock AND trains could pass? I don't mean to assume that infantry/rolling stock AND trains could access the bridge at the same time. What I'm interested in knowing is did armies plank a railraod bridge so that it was permanent for both infantry/rolling stock and trains? In other words, once a train passed over the river railroad bridge, could the infantry and rolling stock then hop on the "railroad" bridge and cross over without alterations to the bridge?

Some people seem to say that railroad bridges were temporarily planked over by pioneers for the crossing of infantry/rolling stock. Once they crossed, the pioneers would remove the planking so that the passage of trains could occur. Others say that the railroad bridges were planked in a way where the planks did not have to be removed for either infantry, stock or trains. They could cross over whenever each wished.

Anyone know anything about this?

Any help would be appreciated!!
 

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#2
Alan, Im sure both methods were used, as I have read of it in different books. A bridge was a big resource back then so Im sure they made the best use of it possible.
 
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#3
This bridge looks to be set up for any kind of traffic.

02090v.jpg


Nashville, Tennessee. Fortified bridge over the Cumberland River.
Barnard, George N., 1819-1902, photographer.
CREATED/PUBLISHED
[1864]
NOTES
Caption from negative sleeve: Guarding Cumberland bridge at Nashville, Tenn.
Photographer's name attributed in Civil War caption books.
Two plates form left (LC-B811-2641B) and right (LC-B811-2641A) halves of a stereograph pair.
Forms part of Civil War glass negative collection (Library of Congress).
 

alan polk

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
Messages
2,299
#4
This bridge looks to be set up for any kind of traffic.

02090v.jpg


Nashville, Tennessee. Fortified bridge over the Cumberland River.
Barnard, George N., 1819-1902, photographer.
CREATED/PUBLISHED
[1864]
NOTES
Caption from negative sleeve: Guarding Cumberland bridge at Nashville, Tenn.
Photographer's name attributed in Civil War caption books.
Two plates form left (LC-B811-2641B) and right (LC-B811-2641A) halves of a stereograph pair.
Forms part of Civil War glass negative collection (Library of Congress).
Thanks TMH10, that's exactly what I was looking for!!! But you are right, it probably depended on the circumstances. I just wish there was more regarding the matter. Thanks!!!
 
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Messages
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#5
Thanks TMH10, that's exactly what I was looking for!!! But you are right, it probably depended on the circumstances. I just wish there was more regarding the matter. Thanks!!!
You just started the thread, Alan. Im sure when some others see it, they will have more information to share. Your question is an interesting one and I also would like to learn more. Ted
 
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Messages
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Location
Oklahoma City
#7
351.jpg
This bridge looks to be set up for any kind of traffic.

02090v.jpg


Nashville, Tennessee. Fortified bridge over the Cumberland River.
Barnard, George N., 1819-1902, photographer.
CREATED/PUBLISHED
[1864]
NOTES
Caption from negative sleeve: Guarding Cumberland bridge at Nashville, Tenn.
Photographer's name attributed in Civil War caption books.
Two plates form left (LC-B811-2641B) and right (LC-B811-2641A) halves of a stereograph pair.
Forms part of Civil War glass negative collection (Library of Congress).
Another picture of the same Bridge.
 

DaveBrt

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Messages
2,211
Location
Charlotte, NC
#9
Hey Guys,

I just wanted to canvass the opinions of the folks here regarding railroad bridges during ACW combat operations.

Here's my question: Was it typical for armies to plank a railroad bridge in a way whereas BOTH infantry/rolling stock AND trains could pass? I don't mean to assume that infantry/rolling stock AND trains could access the bridge at the same time. What I'm interested in knowing is did armies plank a railraod bridge so that it was permanent for both infantry/rolling stock and trains? In other words, once a train passed over the river railroad bridge, could the infantry and rolling stock then hop on the "railroad" bridge and cross over without alterations to the bridge?

Some people seem to say that railroad bridges were temporarily planked over by pioneers for the crossing of infantry/rolling stock. Once they crossed, the pioneers would remove the planking so that the passage of trains could occur. Others say that the railroad bridges were planked in a way where the planks did not have to be removed for either infantry, stock or trains. They could cross over whenever each wished.

Anyone know anything about this?

Any help would be appreciated!!
Alan,

This has been an active question for the last 4 years. Unfortunately, no one knows.

The photo above is of a purpose-built military bridge. It was designed to move men alongside the tracks. As a special case, the photo does not answer the question.

Southern RR bridges (and that is what we are talking about) were one of three kinds: the first type was narrow and had nothing outside the width of the sills; the second had beams going from the track level up to the load-bearing superstructure; the third was the old covered bridge, with a wall just outside of the sills. In none of these types was there room outside of the track for planking.

The bridges were not built with space for civilian traffic alongside the tracks. It appears that, with only one exception, civilian traffic was not "allowed" over the RR bridges. The only exception was the Richmond & Danville RR over the James River in Richmond, a bridge that allowed civilian traffic until late in the war, when it had to be stopped because of the heavy RR traffic.

After reading several hundred annual reports of Confederate RRs, I have found no case of a RR laying or maintaining a foot path on a bridge (except the R&D, above). No one mentions tolls collected from such and no one mentions accidents from such use -- so it must have been rare for civilian use.

For military use, we must understand that the bridges were not built with the room for such traffic without using the RR part of the bridge. So how to get animals, wagons and men across a bridge that was meant to carry RR ties and rolling stock? There seem to me to be two ways -- planks running parallel the track or something laid across the track.

My belief is that the cross track material was ties. Each RR used tens of thousands each year and they were delivered along the line of the road, not at the main depot. The ties had flat sides for laying on the track and for the traffic to cross on. Spiking both ends of a tie every so often would keep the ones in between from shifting. Removal would be easy and quick.

If planks were used, they would have to be found -- torn down barns or houses or from an operating saw mill. They would have to each be nailed and removal would be more time consuming.

I believe the answer will only be found in a newspaper article by a correspondent watching the process. And even then, the description may be because what he is seeing is not the normal method!!

In short, we don't know. If anyone can find a reference that explains the method used, even once, I'd love to see it.
 

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