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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY

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WHERE THE COPPER RIVER RAILROAD STARTS.
The town of Cordova, on an inlet of the Gulf of Alaska, The harbor is an excellent one,

THE TECHNICAL WORLD MAGAZINE VOL. XVII MARCH. 1912

NO.1

“IT HAD TO BE DONE”

Ву

CARLYLE ELLIS

underentre

in

sean of the briller

ROM the pocket diary of E. C. whole span that way. The emergency

was met, as scores of others had been built the Copper River and before. Northwestern Railway in The steam from every available engine

Alaska, under date of May 14, was driven into small feed pipes and 1910, we read the following entry:

every man in camp was put to work to “The falsework under the third steam-melt or chop the seven feet of ice span of the bridge was moved out fif- clear of the piles. And it was done. teen inches by the ice and had to be The holes were kept open through day put back.

and night of bitter cold and the hundreds That was all. Even the italics were of cross-pieces unbolted and shifted while not in the original entry.

the river rose twenty-one feet. Now that third span of the Miles Then began the movement downGlacier bridge was fifty feet long. The stream. At first it was but an inch a day; falsework consisted of a thousand or two then three or four inches. The melting piles, driven deep into the bottom of the and chopping went on almost unceasCopper River, forty feet below the sur- ingly. Then the ice made its heaviest face. The ice was a solid sheet seven feet charge. A line was taken. The falsethick and it was borne on a twelve-knot work was fifteen inches out and it had to current. Into it the forest of piles was be put back. solidly frozen.

Anchorages were hastily built into the The spring breakup had begun on the ice above the bridge and they were heavy river, the ice-cap, lifted twenty feet above anchorages. Block and tackle was its winter bed by the flood, was moving. rigged to them and while a gang thawed The falsework, carrying a mass of un- and chopped at the ice around the piles in finished steel, was fifteen inches out of the maddest of races the whole 450 feet line and had to be put back.

of towering bridge was dragged inch by When the rising water began suddenly inch back into place. to lift the ice and with it the 450 feet of You see, it had to be put back. falsework on which the third span was The rest was a still more furious race being put together, there was a prelim- with the ice, for it was moving each day inary emergency of some consequence. more freely. The last bolt of the span It might easily be but an hour or two's was sent home at midnight after an work for the resistless river to wreck the eighteen-hour day of one shift. The

Copyright, 1912. by Technical World Company

great steam traveller was slem a tem- the men who were under him, in this porary resting place on the thina pier, fashion: blocks were knocked out and the third “They were on the job at seven in the span settled home on its concrete bed. morning, no matter what the weather.

At one o'clock the whole 450 feet of They worked without ceasing till the falsework was a chaotić wreck. The noon whistle blew, then raced each other river had won its fight—too late, by less to the mess tent. A few minutes later than a single hour.

they were flying back like an army of That hour meant a year saved and that squirrels. And there they stayed until year a fortune.

eleven or twelve at night, or until flesh This was but one of Mr. Hawkins' and blood could stand no more. It was shattering victories in his con

the most amazing exhibition quering of the Copper

of loyalty, efficiency and and he character

endurance I have istically trans

ever known.” ferred the

This 1,500entire

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foot bridge credit to

had to

THIS IS THE MILES GLACIER BRIDGE ACROSS THE COPPER RIVER, IN THE BUILDING OF WHICH THERE WAS A TERRIFIC RACE AGAINST THE SPRING BREAKUP OF THE ICE. The upper photo shows the men who won the big race with ice, and established a record in bridge building

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BAIRD CANYON OF THE COPPER RIVER THROUGH WHICH THE COPPER RIVER RAILROAD

CROSSED A GLACIAL MORAINE STILL UNDERLAIN WITH ICE.

be built across the river where it makes a The great concrete piers, begun double turn between the great living through the winter's ice, were driven glaciers, Miles and Childs. Both present forty to fifty feet through the river botthree-hundred-foot cliff-like faces to the tom to bedrock and there anchored. They water for three miles and if it were not - were built of solid concrete heavily reinfor the turn between them the Copper forced with steel. A row of eightyValley would be, as was once supposed, pound rails was set a foot apart all utterly impassable. Where the bridge around and the whole structure bound must stand the current brings down an together within the concrete in an amazendless flotilla of giant bergs, many as ingly massive manner. Then, above the big as a mansion, and would hurl them piers, ice-breakers of the same construcat twelve miles an hour against the tion were raised. bridge piers. In addition these piers must before the pieces were half finished a withstand the breakup of the seven-foot lake burst out from the upper glacier and ice sheet under enormous pressure each the river rose twenty feet in an hour. spring. No such problem in bridge-build- Here was a ticklish test—and the bridge ing had ever been met before. It was stood. one of the many "impossibilities” that On account of the floating ice no temfaced Hawkins. A million dollars must porary bridge was possible here and work be risked on the chance that he and his beyond could not wait two years for the cohorts could build piers that the ice big bridge. So a ferry was established couldn't smash. And if they failed in in the stiller water above the bridge and this the whole $15,000,000 enterprise almost under the shadow of the dischargfailed, for the Glacier Bridge was the key ing glacier. Back and forth, all summer to the road and it was built under a bat- long, the ferry, built on the ground, of tery of gloomy predictions as well as wood brought from “outside," dodged in under a battery of bergs.

and out among the bergs. Time after

time the heavy piling of her temporary O'Neal, would have thrown up his hands
docks was snapped out by floating ice. in hopeless despair.
Almost infinite were the difficulties Within an hour of the time the last
encountered but somehow, pile-drivers piece was checked the first big girder was

in place. Ten and one-half days
later the first span, 400 feet long,
was completed. Nearly forty feet of
towering steel structures a day with
a single shift of men, day after day,
through the storms and the darkness!

But the second and third spans went faster still. The second of 300 feet, was built in six days and the giant third, of 450 feet, in spite of extraordinary difficulties, in an even ten days.

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MAP OF ALASKA SHOWING THE REGION TAPPED BY

THE COPPER RIVER RAILROAD.
The Copper River country is rich in copper and coal.

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and engines, horses and supplies, were got across and the line started on northward through the ensuing canyons.

Meanwhile the great piers were finished and in the autumn of 1909 the steel began to move forward from the East. It was not until late in the spring of 1910 that the last numbered piece was on the ground, the whole thing checked and rechecked in fear of a single miss, which might delay the whole great work a twelvemonth. This steelwork must be done in winter since no falsework would stand against the moving ice.

The checking of the steel was completed on April 5, which left less than six weeks to put together more than 1,100 feet of extra heavy bridge with a single crew of steel workers. Facing such a task and with the prospect of raging storms of rain, sleet and snow about half the time, almost anyone but

An ENLARGEMENT OF THE SECTION BLOCKED ON THE

MAP ABOVE.
This map is based on that of the chief engineer of the

Copper River Railway Co., E. C. Hawkins.

The bridge was completed on May 16, except a fourth span which was over shallow water above the danger of ice.

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