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Beaucoup Bridges: 1938

Beaucoup Bridges: 1938

July 1938. "Looking north. Monongahela River, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." Medium format acetate negative by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Scads of spans

Any Yinzer will tell you that Pittsburgh has the second-greatest number of bridges in the world. As you might guess, Venice, Italy, holds first place. A Yinzer, by the way, is the popular name for a Pittsburgher. It is derived from "yinz," the local word for the plural form of "you." When referring to a large number of people, "yinzes" is used. I'm not a native of the city, but I am familiar with the dialect.

Streetcar & Smithfield Street Bridge

Upon close examination I found a streetcar approaching the Smithfield Street Bridge. The last streetcar trundled over the bridge in 1985, and the bridge has a fascinating history.

The Pittsburgher

The once glamourus Pittsburgher hotel to the far left.

Trains gave way to cars and trucks

I tried every road on Google maps I thought would give me the same angle as Mr. Rothstein's photograph; but trees, foliage, and high guard rails block the view he had. This is as close as I could get, using the parking garage at right for reference.

82 years later --

In an era where highway bridges are deemed obsolete and unsafe after 40-50 years, some credit should be given to the engineers who designed these structures. From foreground back:

1. Wabash Bridge -- Torn down in the 1970s and never replaced.
2. Smithfield Street Bridge -- In use from 1883 to present (more years than the Brooklyn Bridge).
3. Panhandle Bridge -- Carrying rail traffic (now the "T" light transit) since 1903.
4. Liberty Bridge -- Vehicle traffic from the south hills of Pittsburgh from 1928 to present.
5. South 10th Street (Philip Murray) Bridge -- Vehicular traffic from 1931 to present. The only true cable suspension bridge that still exists in the city where the Roeblings got their start.
6. Brady Street Bridge -- demolished in the 1970s and replaced by the Birmingham Bridge.

Looking East

The building at center right and its P&LE RR sign on top are both still there.

I had to think

... about Beaucoup Bridges for a moment before I appreciated the title.

Lots of RR history here

The Wabash bridge was from a pretty-much stillborn attempt to produce a national rival to the PRR and NYC.

To the right, on the near side of the river, there's the P&LE station, the current "Station Square". There are train sheds over the tracks from the station. Lower on the photo is a turntable and some engine terminal facilities. It looks like there are some gondolas collecting ash from locomotive servicing. Just above the turntable, I see a gondola with a bunch of containers, probably for "Less than carload" service. PRR had similar cars. The tall building that dominates is a warehouse for the P&LE. There are a number of passenger cars (coaches and baggage cars) in the yard.

The only locomotive is mostly hidden by the Wabash Bridge, probably a switcher for the coach yard.

On the other side of the river, next to the far end of the Smithfield Street (lenticular truss) bridge is the B&O station and its train sheds.

There are some steel mills in the far distance on both sides of the river. The one on the near side has been covered in a bunch of previous Shorpy photos.

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