Stabilize Covered Bridge

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A few months ago I create a piece of “yard art” depicting the impending wreck of the Soggy Bottom Express.

I did this using a section of trestle and a covered bridge that came from my recently dismantled backyard layout (necessitated by some house painting).

The covered bridge used to be located right up against the side of my house in a sheltered corner of the back yard and as such was not subjected to much weather (well, as much weather as we can claim here in California).

It soon became apparent that in it’s new front yard location the afternoon breezes (which had required the train cars be wired to the trestle) were going to rock the covered bridge back and forth and would eventually destroy the bridge. I need to reinforce the bridge.

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The bridge is composed three pieces. Two side walls and the roof. The walls are pressed fitted to the trestle and the roof holds everything together. The wind was causing the side walls to rock from side to side and the constant flexing were playing havoc with the roof and loosening the walls where they fitted to the trestle. The roof would have to be rebuilt and the walls provided some lateral stabilization.


56-stablizer-piece-partsI decided that a wire rod about 1/16th of an inch could be bent and inserted across the track at the top of the wall and would hold the walls together and a wooden stabilizer insert piece would hold them apart. Taking some measurements and some time at the miter saw with 1/4 by 1/4 inch scrap I soon had the insert pieced out.


Next I needed a jig to glue up the pieces of the insert. When creating jigs you really need an air gun. Here is a picture of the unit I use for this type of work.





Using a 12×12 inch piece of shelving I nailed down some scrap and fashioned a jig allowing me to assemble the entire insert. For this type of work you simply cannot have too many clamps.



56-prep-parts-for-gluingWhen you are relying on glue almost exclusively to hold your work together it is a good idea to carefully prepare the surfaces that will be glued. Clean off any flash or saw dust and make sure the wood has been “roughed” up so the glue can grab better. A small toothed saw works well for this although a sharp nail can also be employed to do this.

56-stablizer-piece-finishedHere is the finished insert. I’ll use two of these on the bridge.




56-first-stablizer-in-placeOnce both inserts were glued up and stained I inserted the first into the bridge. I think this will address the lateral movement of the bridge walls. But the roof may be another matter.



56-shingle closeupA careful review of the roof showed the wind flexing had taken a toll on the integrity of the structure where it fitted to the walls. It looks like a complete rebuild will be required. This is all right as I was getting tired of the “old and abandoned” look I had originally crafted and this time I’ll go for a more “old but restored” look.


Please leave comments or suggestions and let me know about your projects!

(Originally posted 5/25/2014)

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