15. The substructure of a bridge comprises the piers, abutments and foundations. These portions usually consist of masonry in some form, including under that general head stone masonry, brickwork and concrete. Occasionally metal work or woodwork is used for intermediate piers.

When girders form the superstructure, the resultant pressure on the piers or abutments is vertical, and the dimensions of these are simply regulated by the sufficiency to bear this vertical load.

When arches form the superstructure, the abutment must be so designed as to transmit the resultant thrust to the foundation in a safe direction, and so distributed that no part may be unduly compressed. The intermediate piers should also have considerable stability, so as to counterbalance the thrust arising when one arch is loaded while the other is free from load.

For suspension bridges the abutment forming the anchorage must be so designed as to be thoroughly stable under the greatest pull which the chains can exert. The piers require to be carried above the platform, and their design must be modified according to the type of suspension bridge adopted. When the resultant pressure is not vertical on the piers these must be constructed to meet the inclined pressure. In any stiffened suspension bridge the action of the pier will be analogous to that of a pier between two arches.

Concrete in a shell is a name which might be applied to all the methods of founding a pier which depend on the very valuable property which strong hydraulic concrete possesses of setting into a solid mass under water. The required space is enclosed by a wooden or iron shell; the soil inside the shell is removed by dredging, or some form of mechanical excavator, until the formation is reached which is to support the pier; the concrete is then shot into the enclosed space from a height of about 10 ft., and rammed down in layers about 1 ft. thick; it soon consolidates into a permanent artificial stone.

Piles are used as foundations in compressible or loose soil. The heads of the piles are sawn off, and a platform of timber or concrete rests on them. Cast iron and concrete reinforced piles are now used. Screw piles are cast iron piles which are screwed into the soil instead of being driven in. At their end is fixed a blade of cast iron from two to eight times the diameter of the shaft of the pile; the pitch of the screw varies from one-half to one-fourth of the external diameter of the blade.

Disk piles have been used in sand. These piles have a flat flange at the bottom, and water is pumped in at the top of the pile, which is weighted to prevent it from rising. Sand is thus blown or pumped from below the piles, which are thus easily lowered in ground which baffles all attempts to drive in piles by blows. In ground which is of the nature of quicksand, piles will often slowly rise to their original position after each blow.


In some soils foundations may be obtained by the device of building a masonry casing like that of a well and excavating the soil inside; the casing gradually sinks and the masonry is continued at the surface. This method is applicable in running sands. The interior of the well is generally filled up with concrete or brick when the required depth has been reached.

Piers And Abutments

Piers and abutments are of masonry, brickwork, or cast or wrought iron. In the last case they consist of any number of hollow cylindrical pillars, vertical or raking, turned and planed at the ends and united by a projection or socket and by flanges and bolts. The pillars are strengthened against lateral yielding by horizontal and diagonal bracing. In some cases the piers are cast iron cylinders 10 ft. or more in diameter filled with concrete.

Fig. 35.  Cylinder, Charing Cross Bridge. Fig. 35. - Cylinder, Charing Cross Bridge.