from January 2003 issue of Model Railroad News ē Volume 9, Issue 1 ē
The NewsMonthly for Model Railroaders
Metal Models builds Large Scale bridge
and photos by John Sipple
24 inch Deck Girder Bridge, MSRP: $89.95
Combination Catwalk/Bridge Ties, MSRP: $34.95
Both products together, MSRP: $124.90
Try 3 issues
Metal Modelís Large Scale 24 inch deck girder bridge comes as an
assembled steel structure below, plus a track ties and catwalk kit which
is sold separately. Buyers install their own track rail; the reviewís
author used a three-foot section of Aristo-Craft track, sliding it through
the deck ties and using a 6 inch piece of original Aristo ties at either
end. Big old Bachmann Shay rests easy on this steel structure which
doesnít flex in any direction under the Shayís weight.
has helped design many of the products you enjoy in model railroading
today, and heís done it in many scales. His list of clients include
Aristo-Craft and Life-Like, but now heís jumped into his own business,
making bridges. His first effort is a 24 inch deck girder bridge which
comes fully assembled. It is made of steel, complete with embossed rivets,
and can have a deck with catwalk and railing plus special ties added to
I recall reading a letter to the editor of a large scale magazine
chastising layout owners for using bridge structures which didnít look
the part. No problem here. This is a four pound steel bridge which arrives
completely assembled. While I didnít actually try it, I believe this
bridge could support ME! In keeping with bridges of railroading, it is
massively engineered. It isnít what a bridge can handle once that
interests civil engineers; they think of 14 trains a day, weighing
thousands of tons each, pounding over their creations for the next twenty
The main structural, load-bearing element consists of a pair of plate
girders. A sheet of steel, stood on edge, has immense weight-bearing
potential, so long as we prevent it from suffering both shock and lateral
forces. By using two girders and tying them together with diagonal cross
members, the lateral forces have been taken care of. To prevent shock
crumpling, the girder is divided into panels surrounded by vertical and
Two versions of this bridge account for many of the railroad bridges
across the continent. The first is the common plate girder bridge, and the
second is the deck girder. This latter structure places the load on top of
the girders to provide the greatest weight-bearing ability for its length.
Most girder bridges are fairly short, designed to cross highways, small
creeks, gullies and other nominal obstructions to rail traffic. The only
drawback to the deck girder bridge is that it consumes more of the
clearance beneath the track.
The advent of the Bessemer steel process in the later years of the
nineteenth century opened the door for structural steel construction.
Railroad bridge girders have ranged from five foot tall to around ten with
the average girder being 7 to 8 feet tall. The height of the girder would
be related to the projected load and overall length.
Powder-coated in a durable black finish, this Garden Metal Models bridge
enjoys a high degree of detail, right down to the rivets. How much weight
you can place on this bridge may have more to do with the pedestals on
which it sits than its structure. It sports pedestal shoes which have been
constructed to be like those on real bridges. The product does not come
with the pedestals; youíll have to make your own. This is wise because
of the incredible diversity of bridge support structures used in
Sold separately, but almost a must, is the catwalk and bridge ties kit.
Four tie panels and bridge railing stanchions are molded from UV-resistant
plastic. Also included are the steel railings. Each tie/catwalk panel
consists of closely-spaced ties with the catwalk molded right in. Three
stanchions snap onto each side, a very secure and clever bit of design.
The tie plates accept standard Code 332, #1 track. I used a 3 foot section
of Aristo-Craft USA-style track because I wanted the extra six inches on
each end. The decision to leave the rail to the builder is a good idea.
There are many kinds of rail, all in various lengths, and made of brass,
stainless steel, nickel-silver and aluminum. This product is prepared for
the most common brands on the market.
The bottom side of the tie plate sections have a pair of grooves which fit
into the top of the girders. There is no specific physical connection
beyond that supplied by gravity. Regular Aristo-Craft USA-style track
features 14 ties per foot while the bridge tie plates come with 22 ties
per foot. This provides a look common to many prototypes.
As a Large Scale model, this bridge would be at home on any garden
railroad from 1:32 up to 1:20.3. The 24 inch length scales out to 58 feet
in 1:29 and a little over 40 feet 7 inches in 1:20.3. As my attached
photos should show, it looks great with either of these scales and
everything in between. It could also be used as the main span of a
shortline turntable. What a thought!
If you donít stop to take pictures as I did, you could probably assemble
the entire tie strip, catwalk with railings, complete with rail in less
than an hour. The stanchions snap on and appear to need no glue. The hand
rails slide through the stanchion loops. If you wished to model one of the
many versions with a catwalk on just one side, you are just some nipper or
saw work away from that ideal. You could also model a version without
catwalks at all.
I used a three-foot length of Aristo-Craft USA-style track and inverted
it, removing the tie-rail holder screws. Since my rails are a foot longer
than the bridge, I chose to divide the space equally, though you can suit
your own layoutís needs. I have seven ties on each side by splitting one
of the Aristo tie sections. There are holes in the bridge tie plates which
will align with screw holes in the track, but they didnít line up in the
middle when I used the short Aristo strips. However, the Aristo short
strips on the end would line up, and so the track was held in place with
Since this was an installation which needed to move right along so that
you could read this review in a timely manner, I used a temporary mounting
solution, though I intend to pour my own concrete pedestals, complete with
mounting bolts molded in.
Get out the digging tools, because this bridge does require some leveling
and fairly precise placement. Connor Covered Bridge on the Pine Belt
failed the last inspection, it being an older wooden structure which was
never treated and has spent four hard years out in the weather. It spanned
a two-foot draw which drains Dogwood Basin. Since I donít need a lot of
clearance beneath the bridge, a deck girder is just right.
Removing the old bridge (it will be given historical preservation) and
replacing it with a temporary mounting required about an hour and a half.
This allowed me to get photos on the layout and start the process of
getting used to the new bridge. When I get time, I plan to make L-shaped
pedestals using actual cement. I would like to bolt the main bridge to the
pedestals using bolts installed in the mold when it is poured. That way,
the bridge and the pedestals will be installed as a single assembly. When
I do that, I shall make it the topic of a future ďLarger View.Ē
I canít believe you can buy an actual, heavy-gauge steel bridge like
this for under a hundred bucks! Even with the tie strips/catwalk kit
thrown in, Iíd expect to pay much more than $124.90. In case youíre
thinking this is too good to be true, I have the real thing in my garden,
holding up track. Meanwhile, Iím hoping Stevenís next project will be
a plate girder bridge. I need to replace Victoria Bridge in the next year
or so and a plate girder would be just right. Meanwhile, if youíve got
specific questions about measurements and design, please consult Garden
Metal Modelsí web site; they have mechanical drawings and other useful
information to help you.
This is the
basic bridge. Notice the cross-bracing inside the girders. Those braces
make this bridge one tough, authentic gully-spanner.
Here are the
components of the bridge ties and catwalk railing kit. Each of the four
tie panels is 6 inches long and there are six stanchions for each panel.
Steel hand rails are below.
both the detail and the pedestal shoes. As with the prototype, the
vertical ribs are additional steel angles, adding strength.
A single tie
panel with stanchions snapped in place tells much of the story.
A pair of
14-pound Aristo SD45s leads a train across the new Connor Bridge (named
for my grandson, Connor Maxwell Sipple). Condensation on the girders from
the morning dew lend some authenticity. Weathering, signs, and fire barrel
platforms would further dress up the scene.
material in this review is copyright ©2003 by LampLight Publishing and
has been used by permission from the publisher. Trademarks, servicemarks,
etc., where used, are the property of their respective owners. LampLight
Publishing, P.O. Box 1080, Merlin, OR 97532; (541) 955-1096; www.modelrailroadnews.com