Bridges and their History

A bridge is a structure that provides passage over obstacles such as valleys, rough terrain or bodies of water by spanning those obstacles with natural or manmade materials. They were first used in ancient times when first modern civilizations started rising in the Mesopotamia.

From then, knowledge, engineering, and manufacture of new bridge building materials spread beyond their borders, enabling slow but steady adoption of bridges all across the world.

In the beginning bridges were very simple structures that were built from easily accessible natural resources- wooden logs, stone and dirt. Because of that, they had ability only to span very close distances, and their structural integrity was not high because mortar was not yet invented and rain slowly but constantly dissolved dirt fillings of the bridge. Revolution in the bridge construction came in Ancient Rome whose engineers found that ground volcanic rocks can serve as an excellent material for making mortar. This invention enabled them to build much sturdier, powerful and larger structures than any civilization before them.

Seeing the power of roads and connections to distant lands, Roman architects soon spread across the Europe, Africa and Asia, building bridges and roads of very high quality.

After the fall of the Roman empire, bridge building techniques in Europe and Asia stagnated until the 18th century when a new age of science and engineering swept across the world. Architects of that time started using a new construction material – cast iron. Iron enabled creation of new bridge designs such as truss systems. Sadly, wrought iron did not have tensile strength to support heavy structures, which was later made possible with the adoption of steel and the designs of famous French architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel, builder of the Eiffel tower in Paris.

Modern bridges are usually made with a combination of concrete, iron and cables, and can be built from very small to astonishing lengths that span entire mountains, rough landscapes, lakes and seas.

The Invention Of Tarmac

Tarmac is a wonderful word. It rolls off the tongue like honey off a stick. But what does it mean?

Tarmac is actually an abbreviation of tarmacadam and if believe your history books it was invented by Scotsman John McAdam. But not so fast.

While it’s true he invented the method of laying crushed stone road surfaces he failed to make the stones stick. This was fine in the days of horse drawn vehicles, but when cars started to become commonplace the surface just wasn’t useable.

For one thing, the jagged material meant tires often punctured. When it rained, many roads became impassable because of potholes and mud.

Edgar Hooley
Edgar Hooley

Move on to Mr Edgar Hooley and his strange story. In 1901 Edgar Hooley was working as a surveyor for Nottinghamshire County in northern England.

One day he was walking in Denby in Derbyshire when he noticed a smooth stretch of road close to an ironworks. He had never seen such a flat section of road before. Perplexed he asked locals what had happened and was told a barrel of tar had fallen from a dray and burst open. Someone had poured waste slag from the nearby furnaces to cover up the mess. Hooley noticed that this accidental resurfacing had smoothed out the road completely.

A year later Hooley had patented the process of heating tar, adding slag to the mix and then breaking stones within the mixture to form a smooth road surface.

Having perfected the operation, Hooley began transforming road surfaces and Nottingham’s Radcliffe Road became the first tarmac road in the world. A five mile stretch was given the tarmac treatment and proved itself by being long-lasting, dust and mud free.

In 1903 Edgar Hooley formed Tar Macadam Syndicate Ltd and registered Tarmac as a trade mark. But he was no businessman and couldn’t sell his product. Very soon the company was bought by an opportunist, Sir Alfred Hickman, who just happened to be the owner of a steelworks which produced large quantities of slag. He re-launched the Tarmac company in 1905 and it became an immediate success. To this day it remains a major force in road construction.

The History Of Roman Road Building

All Roads Lead To Rome is an ancient truism. For two thousand years ago all roads DID lead to Rome as the Roman Empire strove to ensure that all parts of the empire could reach the capital – no matter where in the world they were.

Roman Road Building
Roman Road Building

The lengthy straight roads built by the Romans wherever they conquered have, in many cases, become just as famous in history as their greatest emperors and generals. Building upon more ancient routes and creating a huge number of new ones. Roman engineers were daring and audacious in their plans to join one point to another in as straight a line as possible whatever the difficulties in geography and the costs in manpower. Consequently, roads used bridges, tunnels, viaducts, and many other architectural and engineering tricks to create a series of breathtaking but highly practical monuments which spread from Portugal to Constantinople. The network of public Roman roads covered over 120,000 km, and it greatly assisted the free movement of armies, people, and goods across the entire Roman Empire. Roads were also a very visible indicator of the power of Rome, and they indirectly helped unify what was a vast melting pot of cultures, races, and institutions.

Of course the Romans did not invent roads,but, as in so many other fields, they took an idea which went back as far as the Bronze Age and extend that concept, daring to squeeze from it the fullest possible potential. The first and most famous great Roman road was the Via Appia (or Appian Way). Constructed from 312 BC and covering 196 km (132 Roman miles), it linked Rome to Capua in as straight a line as possible and was known to the Romans as the Regina viarum or ‘Queen of Roads’. Much like a modern highway, it did not go through less important towns along the way, and it largely ignored geographical obstacles. For example, the impressive 90 km stretch from Rome to Terracina was built in a single straight line. The road would later be extended all the way to Brundisium and thus reach 569 km in length (385 Roman miles).

To achieve the objective of constructing the shortest routes possible between two points (often not visible one to the other), all manner of engineering difficulties had to be overcome. Once extensive surveying was carried out to ensure the proposed route was actually straight and determine what various engineering methods were required, marshes had to be drained, forests cut through, creeks diverted, bedrock channelled, mountainsides cut into, rivers crossed with bridges, valleys traversed with viaducts, and tunnels built through mountains. Once all that was done, roads had to be levelled, reinforced with support walls or terracing and then, of course, maintained, which they were for over 800 years.

About

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TRANS-IND – NEW INDUSTRIALISED CONSTRUCTION PROCESS FOR TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURES BASED ON POLYMER COMPOSITE COMPONENTS

The overall objective of the project is to develop a cost-effective integrated construction process that will enable the maximum capability of industrialization of components for transport infrastructures (road and pedestrian bridges, underpass, containing walls, acoustic and safety barriers) using polymer based materials (carbon fibre, glass fibre, etc): the Trans-IND System.

The main breakthrough of the Trans-IND approach is a flexible, cost-effective, performance and sustainable knowledge-based industrialization system of FRP components for transport infrastructures through the whole integration of the construction process fulfilling users and clients demands addressing their needs and requirements, social acceptance, standardization, on-site needs, nD industrial models, design, procurement, manufacturing process, logistics and assembly/disassemble