Bridges on the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum

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Duration: 5:20

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It’s hard to model Pittsburgh without the bridges. There are a number of bridges on the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum layout. Jake Thompson is the major bridge builder for the museum layout. Bridges have been his specialty on the layout, having built nearly 17 of them. Many of those bridges have more than one span, so actually he has built close to 30 bridge spans in total.

The most obvious bridge when entering the layout is the Wabash Bridge. To create this model bridge, since there were no kits available, Jake had to start by looking at photographs. Since the bridge had been torn down in 1948, he had to use an old photograph from a Gazette. From this photograph he was able to make working drawings, one of which was a large truss side view drawing. He had to make four of these since there were two spans.

The real Wabash Railroad for which the bridge is modeled for, entered the city of Pittsburgh through a tunnel under Mount Washington, then crossed the truss bridge to the terminal which was in downtown Pittsburgh. On the upstairs model, they have Mount Washington. Jake holds the sketch of the tunnel entrance between that tunnel and the approach to the bridge.

The Smithfield Street Bridge, also in Pittsburgh, is modeled on the layout. The model of the bridge that Jake has constructed is again based on a photograph. The photo shows a Pittsburgh Railways Trolley leaving the bridge. The original Smithfield Street Bridge had seven spans, Jake only had space for five on the layout. He displays the first span on the south side of the bridge which contains two railways and two automobile lines. For more information on building sturdy bridges and building a bridge into an existing scene, go to the Model Railroad Academy archives.