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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.

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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