The Beauty of Railroad Bridges

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The Beauty of Railroad Bridges by Richard J. Cook

The Beauty of Railroad Bridges by Richard J. Cook

The story of the railroad bridge in North America is also a part of the history of the development of the railroad in the United States and Canada. The expansion of railroads across the continent was reflected in the necessity for improvements in bridge design. This volume is a pictorial salute to the designers and builders of these beautiful, utilitarian and often monumental railroad engineering structures.

Technically, a bridge is a structure over a river, ravine or other opening in the earth’s crust, for the purpose of sustaining a moving load. This,in the case of the railroad bridge, consists of a heavy locomotive and train coming on at one end, rushing rapidly over the bridge, and off at the other end.

Railroad bridges are divided into classes:

  1. The beam or girder
  2. The framed truss
  3. The arch
  4. The suspension bridge
  5. Or any combination of any of these classes

The form used the most for the purpose of of railway bridges in North America is the framed truss which can be built either stationary, swing, lift or raised. Bridges are built of stone, wood, iron, steel, brick and concrete. All of these classes and types are fully described and illustrated in this volume.

The Beauty of Railroad Bridges by Richard J. Cook was designed for those who, like the author, find bridges a fascinating subject, especially those designed for railroads. This is a book for the layman, written by a non-professional who loves trains and all things connected with railroads, such as bridges, and who does not profess to have technical knowledge of bridge engineering or design.

Come celebrate the beauty of railroad bridges and their ability to combine that symmetry with a necessary practicability: the movement of restless trains.



Richard J. Cook
8½x11, Hardbound, 208 pages
300 Illustrations and Drawnings
Bibliography and Index


Images from The Beauty of Railroad Bridges




MEET RICHARD J. COOK

The fascination with bridges came naturally for Richard J. Cook. As a boy living near the New YOrk Central main line at Cleveland, Ohio, he watched the trains roll through town and inspected the many bridges along the line. After working nine years as a commercial photographer, he left the studio to follow his first love: railroading. As an operator-leverman for the New York Central in the post-World War II days, the author/photographer spent a year signalling the Central’s “Great Steel Fleet” across the Cuyahoga River drawbridge on Cleveland’s lakefront. Eight hours a night on a swing bridge game him first-hand knowledge and piqued his interest in other types of railroad bridges.

A graduate of Ohio’s Hiram College, with a degree in English, he continued with his writing and photography — the last 16 year of which were with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, from which he retired in 1985, as director of publications and chief photographer. He has been a life-long rail enthusiast and photographer, contributing illustrated articles to the many railroad publications.

Cook learned that bridge photography was not as easy at one might think, especially in the Midwest and East where obstacles such as mud, tangled weeds with thorns and burrs, poison ivy, rhododendron thickets, trees to the water’s edge, high water, swampy ground, and an occasional snake or aggressive mosquitoes were discouraging, to say the least. In the West, however, bridges were out in the open and accessible.

His other books are Rails across the Midlands and Super Power Steam Locomotives from Golden West Books, and Famous Steam Locomotives which he published on his own.