Thu, November 13, 2014

Mears Memorial Bridge

The Mears Memorial Bridge: Crowning Link in the Alaska Railroad,” a lecture by Matthew Reckard.


Alaska’s longest bridge span is the Tanana River railroad crossing at Nenana. Built in 1922-23 and now known as the Mears Memorial Bridge, it is surely one of Alaska’s most underappreciated historic resources. Like Rodney Dangerfield, it gets no respect. Despite the credentials of a National Landmark, it isn’t even listed in Alaska’s Heritage Resources Survey. Happily, it still serves its original purpose well and should be with us for years to come.

The Mears Bridge was the final and crowning link in the railroad. The first train crossed in February 1923, a year after the rest of the 470-mile line was finished. The 700-foot long Pennsylvania through truss is said to have been the longest truss span in the United States when completed. It is still the third longest simple truss in North America and the longest span of any kind in Alaska (the Gastineau Channel main span at Juneau is second, at 620 feet).