The crucial test was made at the Main street stone bridge yesterday, when the stone arch was let down so that it received no support from the wooden centre or false work which held it in place while it was built. The arch became self-supporting. At that moment more anxiety was naturally felt than at any stage of the work. The bridge sank. It was expected that it would, for all stone arches of any size do sink. The question was, how much of a depression would there be?
The sand-boxes which supported the false work were first tapped on Monday. At that time a pint of sand was taken from each. The openings in the sides of the boxes were uncovered, and the sand ran out nicely into the pint measure held to receive it. When the measure was full the holes were covered again and the flow of sand stopped. On Tuesday another pint of sand was taken out, and yesterday the third pint, which left the arch without any prop from below.
The engineers, Superintendent Bradley and the people most interested in the success of the structure were all on hand, carefully watching the result. The bridge had sunk, up to last night, two inches. This was a little more than it was thought it might go, but not too much for safety. Several inches is allowed for sinking, and the engineering was so carefully done that there was scarcely any reason to be uneasy as to the result. The greatest sinking on record of any stone arch to date was in an English bridge, which went down two and one-half inches. Proportionately to length of span and rise, the sinking of this bridge is about within the average.
The taking out of the sand will go on gently for a day or two, and then the centres will all be taken out, as they will have served their purpose and not be longer needed.
The crowds of spectators who have daily watched the progress of the work on the bridge have expressed some curiosity to know if the open spaces between the spandrel walls at each end of were to be filled in with concrete. This curiosity was yesterday set at rest, when the work of arching these openings over laterally with fire brick was begun. Then a new source of curiosity arose: "How do they get the little wooden centres or false arches out from under the brick arches?" This was asked half a score of times yesterday. An Intelligencer reporter shared the curiosity, and asked the same question. He was told that the wooden arches could be removed by being shoved over toward the open end. Of course the last section of wood support put in will have to stay. In fact probably all of them will be allowed to stay, for removing them would not add anything to the bridge nor letting them stay do any harm.
A good deal of work remains to be done before the bridge is complete in all its details.
Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, March 10, 1892, p. 5.
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