Monday, July 14, 2014

2014 Northeast Tour (Part 1)

In 2012 my wife and I took a summer trip up to Quebec and returned in a loop coming down through Maine.

2014 finds my wife changing jobs, and to celebrate/take a little break, we decided to spend a couple of days up in Vermont at a bed and breakfast. Along the way, we came across several interesting structures, and I snapped a few pics which I thought would be fun to share here.

One of my favorite forms of domestic architecture are rural American train stations, as they are one of the few building forms you will see with significant eaves. The Japanese like deep eaves because the area underneath the eave, typically furnished with a wooden veranda, or engawa, is considered part of the living space and they like to spend time there. Thus is it an elaborated space in architectural terms. The train station has deep eaves also because people are spending time in such a space. Though the level of elaboration falls a bit short of what is seen in Japan, I nonetheless quite like the overall forms of these structures and am always interested to see how they chose to frame the eave, as it presents somewhat of a challenge to the carpenter.

This station in Vermont is a stop on the Green Mountain Railroad, at Chester Depot:

The curved lower roof is pleasing, to say the least.

This picture shows the zone of shade provided by the eave:

Why don't more houses have decent eaves, hmm?

I think it would look a little better with a hip bracket framed in, though the mitered line of the fascia is cleanly executed:

The backside of the station:

I looked up a few other stations on that line, and they have similar styling when it comes to the eaves-  like this station in North Bennington:

Next door to the Chester Depot station is another structure with a really deep eave on one side, presumably they park a vehicle under there in winter months(?):

We stayed the night at a b&b in Killington Vermont. The next day we traveled to Woodstock Vermont, which is a very picturesque little town. There we visited the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park and did some hiking around. We had hoped to do a tour of the mansion there, however despite being assured on the phone that we could just show up for a tour, the tour we wanted to take was full and reservations would have been helpful. Oh well.

Here's a look at what we missed:

Near the mansion is a white structure called 'the belvedere' with a conservatory and outdoor swimming pool. The exterior is quite detailed:

Curious though was the valley rafter under the eave, which is truncated for some reason, and presents a hodge-podge of framing:

It's common on run-of-the-mill framing of exposed eaves that the carpenter doesn't plan such detailing out very well, but on a building with such an elaborated facade it seems odd that the rafter spacing was not well considered. A case of sticking with standard common rafter spacing without considering what happens when things get together at a valley (or hip) - very common indeed.

In and around Woodstock VT there are a few notable bridges. The first one we came across is called the Lincoln Bridge and was constructed in 1877:

By far the most common covered bridge framing system around the northeast is the Town Lattice Truss, so I was surprised to see a Pratt truss with arch:

Another view:

The crossed tie rods are most unusual - this is the only one I've ever seen and apparently this is the only surviving example of this type. In a Pratt truss the vertical members, here supporting the arch, are under compression, while the diagonal rods act to resist tension loads. Patented in 1844 by Thomas Pratt and his father Caleb, the Pratt truss proved to be a very good design and saw adoption also with all-metal bridges.

Here's a closer look at the junction of the upper wall and tie beam - note the use of tension rods immediately underneath the knee braces:

The rods terminate outside the exterior cladding, which I thought was unusual:

Bit of a framing mish-mash here:

A view under the bridge deck - only metal rods used to stiffen the deck against lateral loads:

These metal brackets also capture the ends of a pair of double tie rods which run along each of the principal deck carrier beams, serving to keep the arches inside the bridge from flattening:

Another look before we move on - here focusing in on the roof and tie beam framing, which seems rather simple compared to the rest of the structure:

In downtown Woodstock there is a metal bridge which imitates the Lincoln bridge framing system quite closely, built in 1900:

Note the same arched truss with crossed tension rod system:

I grabbed one of the tension rods and found it rather loose. Looking down, I could see that its lower attachment to the truss had rotted off at some point:

Then I found another one with no lower attachment, just blowing in the wind, a bit hard to see in this photo though:

Not sure if anyone in the highway department is aware of this situation, but it needs some attention sooner rather than later. I'll give them a call about it.

Another notable covered bridge near Woodstock Vermont is the Taftsville Bridge, constructed of two spans in 1836. The bridge was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011- this video shows the torrent of water which was striking the bridge at that time:

Irene caused some severe damage in this area.

In the aftermath, the bridge was in a sorry state, though the picture does give a clear view of the core framing elements:

In this bridge, the arches are carried directly by the stone abutments, while other arched bridges use a system where the arches terminate on the deck carrier beams.

The bridge has since been restored, and is in use carrying traffic today:

A view of the inside, showing the arches popping up above the deck:

This is a multiple king post trussed bridge with added arches-  you can see that the arches are using vertical rods to suspend the deck and do not act in the triangulated manner of the ones in the Lincoln bridge.

Here's one of the arches - notice the straining beam to the right, and the beams which connect to it, mimicking the arch to a certain extent:

 Here you can see the parallel use of an arch and truss frame system:

 In one location there were three straining beams for some reason:

A view of the underside of the deck, with scissor braced reinforcement and crosswise metal tie rods:

You can see in the above picture the kingpost truss posts sticking out through the main carrier beams, wedged in place.

A closer look at one of those connections:

Interesting piece of work - I enjoyed taking a look around:

One more bridge to be found in Woodstock and that is the Middle bridge, right in town

 One end of the bridge is unpainted, weathering naturally:

This bridge is a Town Lattice truss, a very common form, and a very strong design.

The other end of the bridge is painted:

Close up of the sign:

1969 is the year of construction - originally there was a metal bridge in this location. Middle bridge was damaged by fire in 1974 and rebuilt again by the same company, Milton Graton, from New Hampshire. His son Arnold continues the business today.

A closer look at the 2" oak pegging - treenails - on the lattice:

The design is quite stout, with a pair of tripled upper chords at the top, and a double run of doubled-up chords below that:

Part 2 will continue a look at some of the covered bridges I came across in Vermont last weekend. I hope this sort of material is of interest to readers out there.


  1. The photo of the "truss extension" on the hardware store flashed me back to my childhood in northern Wisconsin. (In a good way! Thanks!) Lumber yards and feed mills all seemed to have those over their docks, then, I assumed to give shelter from sun (and especially rain) to the guys unloading and loading the trucks. Those were very special places to hang out, and now I think it explains my attraction to deep eaves.

    1. Jim,

      I appreciate your comment. I find Vermont to be quite pleasant to visit. No billboards, not much in the way of strip malls, and some very quaint little towns dot the forested landscape. I was interested to hear that there are other buildings out there with a similar extended eave to the one shown in the post above. I'll keep an eye out for more.


  2. I really like the building and bridge tour. Thanks for sharing. Do you follow the Bridgewright blog by Will Truax? Milton Graton rebuilt the Upper Sheffield (MA) bridge after it was burned in '93. This bridge was in my grandmother's backyard, and she had spearheaded the restoration of the original bridge.

    David Shepard

    1. David,

      thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the post - more to come in terms of covered bridges.

      I haven't heard of that blog, but I'll give it a look-see. Thanks for the heads up.


  3. nice job on the vermont bridge and train station post chris .. if you went from killington to north bennington, you could have easily stopped by to say hi .. we're about 10 minutes from route 7, west of east dorset, and north of manchester center ... next time .. dan mosheim.. dorset custom furniture

    1. Dorset,

      thanks for the comment and I'll keep that in mind next time I'm in the area. Thanks for the invite!



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