17. In metal bridges wrought iron has been replaced by mild steel - a stronger, tougher and better material. Ingot metal or mild steel was sometimes treacherous when first introduced, and accidents occurred, the causes of which were obscure. In fact, small differences of composition or variations in thermal treatment during manufacture involve relatively large differences of quality. Now it is understood that care must be taken in specifying the exact quality and in testing the material supplied. Structural wrought iron has a tenacity of 20 to 22½ tons per sq. in. in the direction of rolling, and an ultimate elongation of 8 or 10% in 8 in. Across the direction of rolling the tenacity is about 18 tons per sq. in., and the elongation 3% in 8 in. Steel has only a small difference of quality in different directions. There is still controversy as to what degree of hardness, or (which is nearly the same thing) what percentage of carbon, can be permitted with safety in steel for structures.

The qualities of steel used may be classified as follows: - (a) Soft steel, having a tenacity of 22½ to 26 tons per sq. in., and an elongation of 32 to 24% in 8 in. (b) Medium steel, having a tenacity of 26 to 34 tons per sq. in., and 28 to 25% elongation. (c) Moderately hard steel, having a tenacity of 34 to 37 tons per sq. in., and 17% elongation, (d) Hard steel, having a tenacity of 37 to 40 tons per sq. in., and 10% elongation. Soft steel is used for rivets always, and sometimes for the whole superstructure of a bridge, but medium steel more generally for the plates, angle bars, etc., the weight of the bridge being then reduced by about 7% for a given factor of safety. Moderately hard steel has been used for the larger members of long-span bridges. Hard steel, if used at all, is used only for compression members, in which there is less risk of flaws extending than in tension members. With medium or moderately hard steel all rivet holes should be drilled, or punched ⅛ in. less in diameter than the rivet and reamed out, so as to remove the ring of material strained by the punch.

In the specification for bridge material, drawn up by the British Engineering Standards Committee, it is provided that the steel shall be acid or basic open-hearth steel, containing not more than 0.06% of sulphur or phosphorus. Plates, angles and bars, other than rivet bars, must have a tensile strength of 28 to 32 tons per sq. in., with an elevation of 20% in 8 in. Rivet bars tested on a gauge length eight times the diameter must have a tensile strength of 26 to 30 tons per sq. in. and an elongation of 25%.

18. Straining Actions. - The external forces acting on a bridge may be classified as follows: -

(1) The live or temporary load, for road bridges the weight of a dense crowd uniformly distributed, or the weight of a heavy wagon or traction engine; for railway bridges the weight of the heaviest train likely to come on the bridge. (2) An allowance is sometimes made for impact, that is the dynamical action of the live load due to want of vertical balance in the moving parts of locomotives, to irregularities of the permanent way, or to yielding of the structure. (3) The dead load comprises the weight of the main girders, flooring and wind bracing, or the total weight of the superstructure exclusive of any part directly carried by the piers. This is usually treated as uniformly distributed over the span. (4) The horizontal pressure due to a wind blowing transversely to the span, which becomes of importance in long and high bridges. (5) The longitudinal drag due to the friction of a train when braked, about one-seventh of the weight of the train. (6) On a curved bridge the centrifugal load due to the radical acceleration of the train.

If w is the weight of a locomotive in tons, r the radius of curvature of the track, v the velocity in feet per sec.; then the horizontal force exerted on the bridge is wv2/gr tons. (7) In some cases, especially in arch and suspension bridges, changes of temperature set up stresses equivalent to those produced by an external load. In Europe a variation of temperature of 70° C. or 126° F. is commonly assumed. For this the expansion is about 1 in. in 100 ft. Generally a structure should be anchored at one point and free to move if possible in other directions. Roughly, if expansion is prevented, a stress of one ton per sq. in. is set up in steel structures for each 12° change of temperature.

i. Live Load on Road Bridges. - A dense crowd of people may be taken as a uniform load of 80 to 120 lb per sq. ft. But in recent times the weight of traction engines and wagons which pass over bridges has increased, and this kind of load generally produces greater straining action than a crowd of people. In manufacturing districts and near large towns loads of 30 tons may come on road bridges, and county and borough authorities insist on provision being made for such loads. In Switzerland roads are divided into three classes according to their importance, and the following loads are prescribed, the designer having to provide sufficient strength either for a uniformly distributed crowd, or for a heavy wagon anywhere on the roadway: -

Crowd, lb per sq. ft.

Wagon, tons per axle.

Main Roads


10 with 13 ft. wheel base

Secondary Roads


6 with 10 ft. wheel base

Other Roads


3 with 8 ft. wheel base

In England still larger loads are now provided for. J.C. Inglis (Proc. Inst. C.E. cxli. p. 35) has considered two cases - (a) a traction engine and boiler trolley, and (b) a traction engine and trucks loaded with granite. He has calculated the equivalent load per foot of span which would produce the same maximum bending moments. The following are some of the results: -

Span Ft.






Equivalent load in tons per ft. run, Case a






Do. Case b






Large as these loads are on short spans, they are not more than must often be provided for.