Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering, & Technology
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The St. Louis Bridge
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Centuries of Civil Engineering

"Method of sinking foundations for the piers of the St. Louis Bridge,"
Engineering, Feb. 3, 1871.
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The piers for the St. Louis bridge had to be built upon bedrock, which lay over 100 feet below the river surface. To reach bedrock, Eads sank a caisson for each pier. Each caisson was made of heavy steel, sixty feet in diameter and nine feet high, and open at the bottom for digging up the sand. As the sand was removed, the caisson sank, and the masonry pier was built up upon it as it went down. As the caisson went lower, air pressure had to be increased to keep out the water, and serious problems with "the bends" were encountered below sixty feet.

The view on the left, from the British journal Engineering, shows the caisson for the East Pier in cross section, with the pier rising upon it.

 

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