Welcome to Brantacan

I hope you will find what you need in this website without too much searching.  If you cannot find it, you could try the search engines, a blog directory or the pages of links to many excellent sites and books.  If you have any criticisms or suggestions, or anything you want to say about the topics in the site, please send them to me at this address - dereklocke@Brantacan.co.uk - and I will try to respond to them.


I would like to apologize for the following -

      Long download times of some pages and pictures.

      Poor quality of some very old and faded pictures.

      Mistakes not yet found and corrected.

      Gross simplification: no room for everything that could be written, even if I understood it.

      Inability to write in languages other than English.   Please click here for a website which may

         enable you to translate pages into a language you prefer.

      Lack of information about bridge designers and builders, and about construction methods.

         Please see the pages of links and the list of books.

      Lack of statistics on bridge sizes and record breaking bridges.  

         The site is only concerned with sizes where they illuminate the understanding of structures.

Please note that I am not an engineer, so these pages are merely attempts by a layman to find out how things work.  That is why you will sometimes find several different ways of looking at the same thing.  In some places I have asked questions rather than given answers.  The intention is as much to get people to think about things as to provide clear-cut answers to everything, though every effort has been to be clear when statements are made.

Bridge  Building - Art  and Science

Pages giving basic explanations about bridges

You can also search the site to try for a quicker result.

More detailed pages about the main types of bridges

All bridge types are discussed with diagrams and photographs.

More about engineering, bridges and other structures

A wide variety of topics with many pictures.

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Who can look at a bridge across a deep gorge or a wide river without thinking - 

"How did they do that?".

More clearly than some other forms of engineering, bridges can be relatively easy to understand.  Not many bridges, especially the more recent ones, have pointless decoration.  Even where surface treatment has been intended, it has sometimes been left out, as in the cases of the Clifton bridge and the mighty George Washington bridge, and the Bayonne bridge. But although structure must be governed by function, one function may be to please people, by finding a good balance between form and function.  Better to be obscure because inoffensive, than notorious because ugly.


Understanding Bridges

These pages about bridges try to describe simply the structures of the most common types of bridge.  For the designers and builders of bridges, the techniques are varied and complex, even without considering the difficulties of the actual construction process, but the general principles are often reasonably simple to understand.

Some of the most ingenious solutions remain hidden inside the structure, under the ground, or in algorithms and programs of which only the results are visible.  This is increasingly true of many of the things with which we are surrounded, such as mobile telephones, television receivers and computers.  In a museum of machinery dating from before the 19th century, we can usually form some idea of the way things work, though important subjects like thermodynamics are not often mentioned, and certainly cannot be understood by looking at machines.  None of the exhibits in a museum of modern electronics would be comprehensible from their appearance.

Although some bridges, such as suspension bridges, are easy to understand by sight, others, such as pre-stressed ones, are not, because parts of the structure are hidden, and of course foundations are always hidden.

Another important topic is the appearance of bridges, both in themselves, and as a part of the town or landscape.  Every structure, however small, contributes to the appearance and feeling of a place.  Each object that is not well proportioned and well suited to the location represents an opportunity lost.  Even small footbridges, that are not famous, and may never be mentioned in books, can contribute significantly to the impression of a town or a highway.

Topics are illustrated wherever possible by diagrams or photographs, and a number of programs, some interactive, may be downloaded to provide further insight.

This website only touches lightly upon all the topics mentioned, so links are provided to numerous excellent sites that provide expert knowledge, statistics, and lists of large and important structures.  A short list of good books is provided, which provide far more detailed information than this website.  Some of the linked sites provide much longer lists of books and links than are given here.



For sources of information about bridges and other technologies, try these links -

"Top Ten" bridge sites        "Top Ten" Technology directory

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Behind every bridge design and construction there are people.  Important though they are, they are not much mentioned in these pages, but links are provided to some of the biographical websites and to some of the books which tell their stories.  The sheer quantity of human effort needed in older times to build structures is hard to imagine in the age of machines, and builders are now spared the agonies of caisson disease (the bends).  Death, injury and illness are also much more rare than they were in older times, but even so, the physical discomfort and dangers endured in building tunnels (high temperatures, fumes, falling rocks and floods) and bridges (cold, wind, falls, falling objects) must not in any way be underestimated.  When people travel, they do so as a result of the work of thousands of unknown people.

Also not mentioned much in this website are statistics about spans and weights, though links are provided to sources of such data.  The main purpose of the site is to look at the way things work, to see how they are related to other things, and to encourage people to go and look at things for themselves and work out what they do.  What you find out for yourself will be far more valuable to you than anything that you find in this website.

Here is a copy of a plaque from one of the bridges in this website.  Henry Workman was just one of thousands of people who have contributed to building structures.








which was erected in the fourth and fifth years of his Mayoralty

and opened to the Public on the 1st day of March.



The cost of the erection was defrayed partly by Voluntary

Subscriptions, partly by the Trustees of the adjacent Turnpike
Roads, and the remainder by Rates assessed upon the Property

within the Borough.


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