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HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Architecture: Bridges

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Although there are examples of hauling loads on rails long before it was in 1825 that the first railway opened - Stockton and Darlington Railway - in England between Darlington with the port of Stockton-on-Tees with a steam powered engine, Locomotion. Railways became the preferred mode of transport over canals and roads and track was laid with remarkable speed through the 19th century - in the USA for example it was staggering with the mileage of laid track increasing from 23 miles in 1830 to over 2,818 miles in 1840 and 129,774 miles by 1890. The railways necessitated bridges to go over natural obstacles and roads and bridges for roads to go over the railways. As the surveyors planned to routes, photographers accompanied them to record the landscapes and take photographs for investors of the bridges constructed.
The growth of railways and roads in the 19th century was a physical manifestation of industrial growth and the need for the transport of goods and people. These developments ran in parallel with those in photography and so each key architectural monument was recorded as a Daguerreotype, salt or albumen print.
The various suspension bridges at Niagara Falls evolved from a footbridge in 1848 to a double-decker bridge with a railway on top that opened to trains on March 18, 1855 and photographs are included in this online exhibition that show this. Photographers such as Édouard Baldus recorded the construction of a railway in France for his series Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée and George Washington Wilson recorded the The Forth Bridge (Scotland) during its construction in 1888 and the bridge opened two years later in 1890. Not surprisingly the bridges that are still regarded as architectural wonders such as the Brooklyn Bridge (New York), that opened on 24 May, 1883, and the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco), whose opening celebrations began on 27 May 1937 and lasted a week, were recorded in detail.
This online exhibition shows not only the well known bridges but also the construction of many lesser known examples. 



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