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Bailey bridges as successful and unique

2014.02.12

A large part of what made Bailey bridges as successful and unique as they were is the modular design, and the fact that they could be assembled with minimal aid from heavy equipment. Most, if not all, previous designs for military bridges required cranes to lift the pre–assembled bridge and lower it into place. The double lane bailey bridge, and were simple enough that parts made at a number of different factories could be completely interchangeable. Each individual part could be carried by a small number of men, enabling army engineers to move more easily and more quickly than before, in preparing the way for troops and matériel advancing behind them. Finally, the modular design allowed engineers to build each bridge to be as long and as strong as needed, doubling or tripling up on the supportive side panels, or on the roadbed sections.


The basic galvanized bridge consists of three main parts. The "floor" of the bridge consists of a number of 19-foot-wide transoms (5.8 m) that run across the bridge, with 10-foot-long stringers (3.0 m) running between them on the bottom, forming a square. The bridge's strength is provided by the panels on the sides. The panels are 10-foot-long (3.0 m), 5-foot-high (1.5 m), cross-braced rectangles that each weigh 570 pounds (260 kg), and can be lifted by six men.


Transoms rest on the lower chord of the panels, and clamps hold them together. Stringers are placed on top of the completed structural frame, and wood planking is placed on top of the stringers to provide a roadbed. Ribands bolt the planking to the stringers. Later in the war, the wooden planking was covered by steel plates, which were more resistant to the damage caused by tank tracks.


Each unit constructed in this fashion creates a single 10-foot-long (3.0 m) section of bridge, with a 12-foot-wide (3.7 m) roadbed. After one section is complete it is typically pushed forward over rollers on the bridgehead, and another section built behind it. The two are then connected together with pins pounded into holes in the corners of the panels.


For added strength several panels (and transoms) can be bolted on either side of the bridge, up to three. Another solution is to stack the panels vertically. With three panels across and two high, the Bailey Bridge can support tanks over a 200-foot span (61 m). Footways can be installed on the outside of the side–panels, the side–panels form an effective barrier between foot and vehicle traffic and allow pedestrians to safely use the bridge.


A useful feature of the Bailey bridge is its ability to be "launched" from one side of a gap.In this system the frontmost portion of the bridge is angled up with wedges into a launching nose and most of the bridge is left without the roadbed and ribands. The bridge is placed on rollers and simply pushed across the gap, using manpower or a truck or tracked vehicle, at which point the roller is removed (with the help of jacks) and the ribands and roadbed installed, along with any additional panels and transoms that might be needed.


During World War II, bailey bridge supplier with little previous experience of this kind of engineering. Although the parts were simple, they had to be precisely manufactured if they were fit each other correctly, so they were assembled into a test–bridge at the factory to make sure of this. To do this efficiently, newly manufactured parts would be continuously added to the test–bridge, while at the same time the far end of the test–bridge was continuously dismantled and the parts dispatched to the end–users.

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