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Thread: 1915 - Dungeness River

  1. #1
    Mike Guest

    Default 1915 - Dungeness River

    I wasn’t born when the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific bridged the Dungeness River in Sequim, (pronounced Squim) Washington, at the north end of the Olympic Penninsula. Indeed, neither my parents nor grandparents had been born. Chances are you were not around when this bridge was built, either.

    We have only history books to help us imagine what the Northwest was like when this bridge was being built. Workers without hard hats or reflective vests would have hung precariously over the fast-moving water tightening the bolts that continue holding the thick wooden beams together. Horse teams probably delivered the beams from local sawmills, and a steam powered crane would have been used to lift the beams into place. The internal combustion engine was a new invention, not yet in use on railroads.


    The entire world was a different place when the first train rolled over this bridge. WWI would have just begun. The United States was not yet a world power, but would become one by the end of the War. Alcohol was still legal, but the prohibition lobby was quickly gaining momentum. The stock market had not yet crashed, and no one could have imagined the poverty that the Great Depression would bring to the nation.

    We can only speculate why this bridge was built out of wood, when many other bridges built before it had used steel beams. Certainly, the cost of lumber compared to steel would have been a factor. But did the management believe that the lower cost of wood would justify building a bridge that would wear out sooner? Or was steel simply too expensive to ship to the remote peninsula? Either way, it’s unlikely that the original engineers expected the bridge to last into the 21st Century.


    The Milwaukee Road ceased to exist in 1980. The Olympic Branch, which was only connected to the transcon with a car ferry operating out of Seattle, operated for five more years as a shortline. But the decline of the timber industry in the 1980s brought a decline of the entire economy on the Olympic Peninsula. The rails were removed, and today most of the Olympic Branch is preserved as a hiking trail.

    Despite the end of railroad service over 20 years ago, the wooden Dungeness River bridge continues to stand as a reminder of the Peninsula’s railroad history. And with the exception of an occasional hiker or bicyclist, it looks nearly the same today as it did in 1915.

    Last edited by Mike; 01-21-2006 at 03:46 PM.

  2. #2
    ahockley Guest

    Thumbs up

    I like it. Lately I've started taking more interest in bridges as a photographic subject, so this essay played right to that interest. The photos look good to me. I enjoyed seeing a "roster" shot of the bridge first, showing the entire structure, followed by the more artistic treatments in the second and third photos. I enjoyed the text as it provided a bit of factual history, a bit of supposition, and a bit of thought. A hardcore foamer might have desired a bit more information about the railroad operations over the bridge, but I think that in leaving that out the focus is more on the structure and construction.

    I recommend approval as submitted.

  3. #3
    paul@mwr Guest

    Thumbs up

    Aaron stole my thoughts! I too like how we go from the big picture to the more detailed or artistic views of the bridge. I also like that you gave us the general history of the bridge. Unlike Aaron, I wouldn't mind a few more details about the operations over the years, but maybe your essay is enough to get me, or anyone else, to go do the research for ourselves. Nicely done and I vote approval.

  4. #4

    Default

    Yep, this a good one. Nice feel to the photos...nice text to compliment. I'd say it's a go. Let's get it up on top. Been awhile since an essay made it all the way.

    Martin Burwash

  5. #5
    Mike Guest

    Default

    Thanks for the comments, guys. I just added the work "a" in front of "new invention," to correct the typo. I figure it really doesn't change the essay enough to affect anyone's reviews.

    I honestly don't know anything about the operations of this bridge. Until I saw the sign on the highway for "Railroad Bridge Park" I had no idea any such bridge existed. If I had known more about the operations, I probably would have added it. But I was in a hurry to submit my first essay, so I decided to just elaborate on what little I know about the bridge, and see how it goes. I'm glad you guys like it.

    Did anybody catch on to what I was doing with the coloring of the photos? I arranged them in order to suggest that the pictures were taken at different points in history (of course they were actually taken just a few days ago). The first is B&W, so it might have been taken when the bridge was new. The second is partially desaturated, like an old faded print from 15 or 20 years ago. And the last has some extra saturation to make the sky stand out, like a brand new print.

  6. #6

    Default

    I was wondering about the first photo. In reading the text I was waiting for a reference to that photo coming from an old family album or something. Nicely done.

    Martin Burwash

  7. Default

    Mike - this is a very nice piece. The photos do a nice job of depicting this very rare Howe truss bridge as it exists today and the text puts everything is perspective. I like this a lot. Well done! I vote to post it.

    Also - very glad that you've returned from war in one piece ( I assume ) = welcome home.

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