Advance Mills Bridge Parts

4 Aug

Just this year, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) donated a set of parts from the old Advance Mills Bridge to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.  As you may recall, VDOT recently replaced the steel truss bridge over the North Fork Rivanna River.   The parts VDOT gave us included a set of loop welded eye bars, and a pin, which joined the eye bars.

Loop welded eye bar

These were some big guys, too!  The eye bars and pin, are each well over a foot in length.  The pin, the densest object, weighs over thirty pounds!

So, you may be wondering (unless you are REALLY into bridges, like some of us), “What the heck is an eye bar?!”  Well, to answer that question I rely on the words of Ann Miller (VDOT):

“Eye bars, bars with eyes at each end, were the principal tension members on old connected trusses… These loop welded eye bars are fabricated from bar stock [who knew?!] by heating the end of the bar, bending it around a pin, and forging the tip into a notch on the straight shank of the bar.  Commonly used in the 19th century, such bars were generally abandoned after the turn of the 20th century because of a tendency for a crack to form at the forging [as seen above].”

Here’s a brief history of bridge (special thanks to Ann Miller again):

  • The date of the first bridge across the Rivanna at Advance Mills has not been documented, but Civil War-era maps show a crossing slightly upstream of the present highway crossing.
  • By the early 20th century, a wooden bridge had been constructed near the present highway crossing.
  • A one-lane metal truss bridge was erected at the site of the present high way crossing sometime between 1910 and the 1920s.
  • During widespread flooding in Virginia in October 1942, the main truss span of this bridge was washed out.  The span was replaced in 1943.
  • By the end of the 20th century, the housing development of northern Albemarle County put increasing strain on the old bridge.  It began showing signs of serious deterioration, despite great expenditures in repairs.
  • By the 21st century, the deterioration became so bad it was no longer feasible to repair.  The bridge was closed in 2007, a replacement bridge was planned, and demolition began.  The new bridge opened in April 2010.

Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation

According to Miller, “in its demise, the old Advance Mills bridge added considerably to our knowledge of the composition and behavior of loop-welded eye bars on older bridges.”  Perhaps this knowledge can inform and prolong the future of similar bridges…

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2 Responses to “Advance Mills Bridge Parts”

  1. blueridgehistory August 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Thanks, ACHS, for sharing some of the “stuff” of our past. Now reach back into some of those dark corners and deep shelves and show us what you’ve really got!

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