BEVERIDGE BRIDGE HAER No. TX-46
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Posted by Jesse Sharkoman Berube
On June 24,1896, five people, including a journalist from the San Saba County News, made the inaugural trip from the town of San Saba, Texas, to the new suspension bridge past China Creek Road over the San Saba River. The bridge apparently made a significant enough impression that the writer declared the structure "a model of beauty from the standpoint of mechanical construction" and as "serviceable as it is attractive" in the next publication of the newspaper. One hundred years later, what is called the "Beveridge Bridge" remains an efficient thoroughfare for traffic traveling to and from the city of San Saba along what is now County Route 112. More importantly, the 140'-0*'-long structure is one of only seven remaining suspension bridges in the state of Texas (two of which are in San Saba County), and one of two still in vehicular service.
The individual responsible for an initial crossing over the river along China Creek Road was John H. Beveridge, an Irish immigrant who settled in San Saba in 1849. To facilitate the transport of his cotton into town, Beveridge spanned the San Saba River with a dam that became known locally as the "Beveridge Crossing". But frequent flooding of the San Saba River and the increased horse and wagon traffic rendered Beveridge's dam ineffective and unstable over the years.
On February 14, 1896, the court commissioners of San Saba County approved four bonds of $500.00 each for a bridge at the Beveridge Crossing, to be paid back by the year 1916. On March 15,1896, county records show that the bridge's designers, the Flinn-Moyer Company of Weatherford, Texas, agreed to extend the structure to 130'-0" with "some modifications" for the sum of $2,275.00. On March 7,1896, the commissioners appointed John H. Beveridge to supervise its construction. A suspension bridge, rather than the common metal truss, was chosen to span the river at this location. This may have been because of the lower cost of a suspension bridge (generally requiring less material than for a metal truss bridge), the opportunity for builders to avoid building piers in shifting sands, and the type's ability to withstand flooding.
The county commissioners chose the Flinn-Moyer Company to design and build the bridge. That there was a bridge building company in Texas at all prior to the twentieth century is unusual, for nearly all of the major companies erecting bridges in Texas and elsewhere were headquartered in other states. In 1891, Flinn, at the time in partnership with E. E. Runyon of the Runyon Bridge Company, erected a 140'-0" clear-span cable-stayed suspension bridge over the Paluxy River in the small Texas town of Bluff Dale. In May of 1896, and just before construction commenced on the Beveridge Bridge, Shackelford County records show that the Flinn-Moyer company erected a suspension bridge of the more common catenary type over the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in that Texas county. (Woodson Bridge) This bridge, with its tripod pipe towers (now encased in concrete), wire cables, and 140'-0" clear span, was nearly identical to the Beveridge Bridge.
Although no plans or contract specifications have been found regarding the original construction of the bridge, a newspaper article in the San Saba County News shortly after the span opened to traffic explained that the bridge combined "suspension and truss" features, and was built "entirely of iron and steel." The 140'-0" clear-span bridge measured 190'-0" from abutment to abutment, and extended approximately 300'-0" between anchorages. Because the Beveridge Bridge has been reconstructed at least three times, an analysis of its original design is somewhat difficult. Nevertheless, existing specifications from a reconstruction completed by the Austin Bridge Company in 1938 reveal that the original towers and suspender rods were to remain as initially built. The tripodal metal pipe towers extend 18'-0" above the deck and are connected with smaller metal pipes at regular intervals. These smaller pipes spiral around the larger ones, forming triangular bracing with an intriguing visual effect. According to the article in the San Saba County News, the towers were placed eighteen feet into the ground, there resting upon a 7'-thick slab of masonry which had partially filled the original 25'-deep excavation. A rock abutment was apparently built to support the bridge when it met grade level on the northern side, and a pile was driven where the bridge meets grade level on the southern edge. Today, diagonal braces provide additional tower support beneath the deck. Atop the 5 "-diameter tower pipes are cast-iron saddles holding the cables.
Originally, these cables were fastened in buried rock anchorages (the present anchorages are concrete). The 2"-diameter cables consisted of 500 galvanized steel wires with a tensile strength of sixty-six tons per square inch of solid metal. As they did originally, metal collars attached to the cables hold the wires in place and form the top portion of the metal suspender rods. These two-part rods are suspended from the cables, connected by metal turnbuckles, and hold up the deck at 1O'-O" intervals. Today the 16'-0"-wide roadway is supported on seven longitudinal steel stringers, in turn upon thirteen lateral riveted steel I-beams. Two of the I-beams are of shorter length than the rest, and contain welded plates where the suspender rods are connected to the beams. The I-beams extend beyond the deck, where 3" x 3" angles are attached to support outriggers extending from the railing. While the steel deck framing is probably ofpost-1896 vintage, an understanding of the bridge deck's original appearance comes from an examination of the Clear Fork of the Brazos Suspension Bridge, built that same year by Flinn-Moyer. At the Clear Fork bridge, wooden stringers, held by beams made from metal pipes connected to the outriggers, support the deck. Shortly after the completion of the Clear Fork of the Brazos Suspension Bridge, a team of workers finished the Beveridge Bridge in only fifteen days. After a disastrous flood of the San Saba River in 1899 damaged bridges all over the county, the Beveridge Bridge had become important enough that the county commissioners recommended its quick reparation despite the strain on the depleting county coffers. It may have been at this time that the steel I-beams were placed underneath the deck
After the Flood of 1938 the bridge stayed in place, but the county commissioners deemed it unstable. The county hired the Austin Bridge Company of Dallas to reconstruct the bridge later that year, and the company, according to the specifications, re-floored the roadway except for a joist on the existing 30'-0" approach, built new handrails from the existing pipe truss, added new No. 9 gauge galvanized steel wire cables, and applied two coats ofpaint.33 The towers, however, remained in place, and the suspender rods were removed only briefly so new wires could be strung through the cables. Today, the bridge remains largely as the Austin Bridge Company left it in 1938. Wear and tear from increased automobile usage has forced a 10,000-pound weight limit on the bridge. In 1995, the county paid for a minor rehabilitation, adding some new I-beams under the deck and new wood planks and asphalt to the roadway. By the summer of 1996, what asphalt remained was only in patches, having cracked apart and peeled from the constant deflections caused by vehicular crossings.
BEVERIDGE BRIDGE HAER No. TX-46