When were suspension bridges invented?

Suspension bridge

In the case of a suspension bridge, the bridge panel is suspended from suspension cables or chains that run over pylons or towers.

Since the load is transferred via the suspension cable, the cable must be anchored horizontally at the ends. If this is done in natural rock or in anchor blocks, one speaks of "real" or earth-anchored suspension bridges. If this is done via the lane board of the side fields, one speaks of a "fake" suspension bridge or rein belt bridge.

Suspension bridges made of lianas, tendrils and similar natural materials were built before the turn of the century. However, these bridges did not have a suspended bridge panel; they consisted of crossbars that were directly connected to the ropes.

Suspension bridges with chains instead of ropes were probably built in China as early as before the birth of Christ. The Luding Bridge, built in 1706, has a span of 100 m.

The first chain bridge in Europe is generally attributed to James Finlay, who in 1796 built a suspension bridge over Jacobs Creek with a span of 21 m. Based on a provisional arrangement, Johann Ludwig Leidner erected a 39 m wide chain suspension bridge in Weilburg an der Lahn one year earlier in 1795, which served to supply the city with water. The eight parallel tensioned chains consisted of 30 forged iron links each approx. 3.5 cm thick and approx. 1.60 m long.
In 1820 the English captain Samuel Brown built the Union Bridge over the Tweed with a span of 110 m. This was followed by the bridges in Friborg and the Menai Straits Bridge, built by Telford in 1826, with a span of 177 m.

In 1849 the Chain Bridge in Budapest was built with a span of 202 m.

In 1864 the Clifton suspension bridge reached a span of 214 m.

In America, the first wire rope bridge was built in Pittsburg in 1815. This was followed in 1859 by the 308 m wide Wheeling Suspension Bridge and in 1867 the 322 m wide Cincinnati-Covington Bridge. The road bridge over the Niagara, built in 1869, had a span of 386 m. A milestone was achieved in 1883 with the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was to hold the world record with a span of 486 m for 20 years. It was not until 1903 that the Williamsburg Bridge exceeded this span by 2 m. It was also the first suspension bridge whose towers were made of steel. The George Washington Bridge, built in 1931, exceeded the 1000 m limit for the first time with its span of 1006 m.

Another milestone was the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. Its span of 1280 m remained unsurpassed until 1964. It was the first large suspension bridge with only 2 suspension cables.

In 1964 the Verrazano Bridge set the world record with a span of 1298 m.

In Europe, the Tancarville Bridge, with a span of 608 m, exceeded the record of 521 m held by the Firth of Forth Bridge in 70 years for the first time. It was one of the first bridges with reinforced concrete towers.The Ponte 25 de Abril in Lisbon, completed in 1966, was the first bridge in Europe to exceed the 1000 m limit with a span of 1013 m. Since the renovation in 1998, it has been the only double-deck suspension bridge in Europe with combined rail and road traffic.
The Severn Bridge, also completed in 1966, was the first suspension bridge in the world with a bridge panel made of a closed steel box and sloping hangers.

The Humber Bridge, opened in 1984, brought the world record back to Europe with a span of 1410 m.

Since 1997 the east bridge over the Great Belt has had the largest span of all European bridges with 1624 m. The largest suspension bridge in the world is the Akashi-Kayko Bridge, which opened in 1998 and has a span of 1991 m. Its 297 m high bridge towers are also the tallest bridge towers in the world.

The swing bridge over the Ilm in Weimar, built in 1833, is considered to be the oldest preserved suspension bridge in Germany. It has hanging trusses made of 1.8 m long tension rods, the eyes of which are connected with straps and bolts.

The oldest cable suspension bridge in Germany is the suspension bridge over the Argen, built in 1898.

The largest suspension bridge in Germany spans 500 m across the Rhine near Emmerich.

Standard shape

In contrast to the other types of bridges, the vast majority of suspension bridges are built in a standard design. This has 2 towers and thus a main opening and two side openings. The bridge panel is braced vertically over all three openings by the 2 suspension cables.

Special forms

There are the following deviations from the standard design:

Tain l'Hermitage Rhone Bridge
  • Individual suspension bridge constructions have a central pylon and thus 2 main openings of the same size as a rule.
    (Lyon, Pertuis, Tain l'Hermitage)
  • Some older suspension bridges, especially in France, have up to 8 towers.
    (Bonny-sur-Loire, Chateauneuf-sur-Loire, Chatillon-sur-Loire, Donzère, Elche, Ingrandes, Meung-sur-Loire, Langeais, Manosque, Monjean)

  • With the Maanshan Yangtze River Bridge and the Taizhou Yangtze River Bridge, the first large bridges with three towers and two openings, each with a span of more than 1000 m, were built in China in 2012 and 2013.

  • The western Bay Bridge consists of 2 bridges connected to a common anchor block, the Kita Bisan-Seto Bridges and the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridges consist of 3 bridges in a row.

  • On steep banks, the side openings can be kept so short that they do not have to be guyed. In some bridges, the side openings are supported by several supports.
    (Jiangyin Bridge, Tsing Ma Bridge, Hakata-Oshima Bridge, Humen Bridge, Bosphorus Bridges)

  • The Highway Bridge over the Columbia in Revelstoke has only one suspended side panel.

  • The lane board is braced at an angle.
    (Bosporus Bridge I and Humber Bridge).

  • The roadway board of the Viaduc de Chavanon is only guyed in one hanging level above the bridge axis.

  • The Luitpldbrücke in Passau has only one pylon on the city side. The suspension cable is anchored in the rock on the opposite side.