Fig. 66 shows a frame supported at the two end joints, and loaded at each top joint. The loads and the supporting forces are indicated by arrows. Fig. 67a shows the reciprocal figure or polygon for the external forces on the assumption that the reactions are slightly inclined. The lines in fig. 67 a, lettered in the usual manner, correspond to the forces indicated by arrows in fig. 66, and lettered according to Bow's method. When all the forces are vertical, as will be the case in girders, the polygon of external forces will be reduced to two straight lines, fig. 67 b, superimposed and divided so that the length AX represents the load AX, the length AB the load AB, the length YX the reaction YX, and so forth. The line XZ consists of a series of lengths, as XA, AB ... DZ, representing the loads taken in their order. In subsequent diagrams the two reaction lines will, for the sake of clearness, be drawn as if slightly inclined to the vertical.

Fig. 67.  Reciprocal figure or polygon. Fig. 67.

If there are no redundant members in the frame there will be only two members abutting at the point of support, for these two members will be sufficient to balance the reaction, whatever its direction may be; we can therefore draw two triangles, each having as one side the reaction YX, and having the two other sides parallel to these two members; each of these triangles will represent a polygon of forces in equilibrium at the point of support. Of these two triangles, shown in fig. 67 c, select that in which the letters X and Y are so placed that (naming the apex of the triangle E) the lines XE and YE are the lines parallel to the two members of the same name in the frame (fig. 66). Then the triangle YXE is the reciprocal figure of the three lines YX, XE, EY in the frame, and represents the three forces in equilibrium at the point YXE of the frame. The direction of YX, being a thrust upwards, shows the direction in which we must go round the triangle YXE to find the direction of the two other forces; doing this we find that the force XE must act down towards the point YXE, and the force EY away from the same point.

Putting arrows on the frame diagram to indicate the direction of the forces, we see that the member EY must pull and therefore act as a tie, and that the member XE must push and act as a strut. Passing to the point XEFA we find two known forces, the load XA acting downwards, and a push from the strut XE, which, being in compression, must push at both ends, as indicated by the arrow, fig. 66. The directions and magnitudes of these two forces are already drawn (fig. 67 a) in a fitting position to represent part of the polygon of forces at XEFA; beginning with the upward thrust EX, continuing down XA, and drawing AF parallel to AF in the frame we complete the polygon by drawing EF parallel to EF in the frame. The point F is determined by the intersection of the two lines, one beginning at A, and the other at E. We then have the polygon of forces EXAF, the reciprocal figure of the lines meeting at that point in the frame, and representing the forces at the point EXAF; the direction of the forces on EH and XA being known determines the direction of the forces due to the elastic reaction of the members AF and EF, showing AF to push as a strut, while EF is a tie.

We have been guided in the selection of the particular quadrilateral adopted by the rule of arranging the order of the sides so that the same letters indicate corresponding sides in the diagram of the frame and its reciprocal. Continuing the construction of the diagram in the same way, we arrive at fig. 67 d as the complete reciprocal figure of the frame and forces upon it, and we see that each line in the reciprocal figure measures the stress on the corresponding member in the frame, and that the polygon of forces acting at any point, as IJKY, in the frame is represented by a polygon of the same name in the reciprocal figure. The direction of the force in each member is easily ascertained by proceeding in the manner above described. A single known force in a polygon determines the direction of all the others, as these must all correspond with arrows pointing the same way round the polygon. Let the arrows be placed on the frame round each joint, and so as to indicate the direction of each force on that joint; then when two arrows point to one another on the same piece, that piece is a tie; when they point from one another the piece is a strut. It is hardly necessary to say that the forces exerted by the two ends of any one member must be equal and opposite.

This method is universally applicable where there are no redundant members. The reciprocal figure for any loaded frame is a complete formula for the stress on every member of a frame of that particular class with loads on given joints.

Fig. 68.  Warren girder. Fig. 68 Fig. 69.  Reciprocal figures for Warren girder. Fig. 69

Consider a Warren girder (fig. 68), loaded at the top and bottom joints. Fig. 69 b is the polygon of external forces, and 69 c is half the reciprocal figure. The complete reciprocal figure is shown in fig. 69 a.

The method of sections already described is often more convenient than the method of reciprocal figures, and the method of influence lines is also often the readiest way of dealing with braced girders.

35. Chain Loaded uniformly along a Horizontal Line. - If the lengths of the links be assumed indefinitely short, the chain under given simple distributions of load will take the form of comparatively simple mathematical curves known as catenaries. The true catenary is that assumed by a chain of uniform weight per unit of length, but the form generally adopted for suspension bridges is that assumed by a chain under a weight uniformly distributed relatively to a horizontal line. This curve is a parabola.