North Station, Charles River Draw, & Tower A

Arlington

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[Before] the Charles river locks are in place here [how could] large boats...get in and out? Was there another route I'm not seeing?
^Timing moves to High Tide, similar to Chelsea Creek? (And/or a better dredged, less silted harbor)
 

JeffDowntown

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Potentially a dumb question, but my curiosity is piqued: it doesn't look like the Charles river locks are in place here yet, so what was the point of these drawbridges back then if large boats couldn't get in and out? Was there another route I'm not seeing?
I believe your question is actually a bit backwards. The Charles River Dam Locks actually restrict the size of boats that can enter the Charles River Basin.

Before the old Dam (at Leverett Circle) (1910) and then the newer dam (1978), the mouth of the Charles was very much part of the harbor. Large ships serviced the docks in East Cambridge and used the Broad and Lechmere canals to access manufacturing sites inland there.

Even with the size restrictions, first imposed by the two locks of the old Charles River Dam (one of the locks was under the Museum of Science Parking Garage), the lower Charles Basin remains navigable water, so the drawbridges are required to allow taller vessels, like sail craft, to enter. (Just like the Craigie Drawbridge on the old dam.)
 

bigpicture7

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I believe your question is actually a bit backwards. The Charles River Dam Locks actually restrict the size of boats that can enter the Charles River Basin.

Before the old Dam (at Leverett Circle) (1910) and then the newer dam (1978), the mouth of the Charles was very much part of the harbor. Large ships serviced the docks in East Cambridge and used the Broad and Lechmere canals to access manufacturing sites inland there.

Even with the size restrictions, first imposed by the two locks of the old Charles River Dam (one of the locks was under the Museum of Science Parking Garage), the lower Charles Basin remains navigable water, so the drawbridges are required to allow taller vessels, like sail craft, to enter. (Just like the Craigie Drawbridge on the old dam.)
Thanks! Your comments answered my questions about alternate routes (which I assumed there were)...I didn't know about the lock under the present-day MoS Garage.

When I said large boats, I just meant compared to any passageways visible in that photo. Indeed, the present locks are size-limiting (commensurate with decline of industrial use cases I suppose).
 

ceo

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The structure in the photo that's where the locks are now is, I believe, the old Charlestown Bridge (which was also a drawbridge).
 

Charlie_mta

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The structure in the photo that's where the locks are now is, I believe, the old Charlestown Bridge (which was also a drawbridge).
It was called the Beverly Street Bridge and it was still largely intact (though not in use) in the 1950's and 60's. I used to see it as I rode on the Charlestown Elevated over the Washington Street Bridge. The Beverly Street Bridge had a wooden deck with trolley car rails in it, still visible in the 1960's.
 

BeeLine

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It was called the Beverly Street Bridge and it was still largely intact (though not in use) in the 1950's and 60's. I used to see it as I rode on the Charlestown Elevated over the Washington Street Bridge. The Beverly Street Bridge had a wooden deck with trolley car rails in it, still visible in the 1960's.
Where was the Warren Bridge? Or is it just another name for the Beverly Street Bridge. I know the North Washington Street Bridge was often referred to as the Charlestown Bridge. Just like the Harvard Bridge often called the Massachusetts Ave Bridge.

Oops! Thanks Ege..
 

Charlie_mta

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Where was the Warren Bridge? Or is it just another name for the Beverly Street Bridge. I know the North Washington Street Bridge was often referred to as the Charlestown Bridge. Just like the Harvard Bridge often called the Massachusetts Ave Bridge.

Oops! Thanks Ege..
You're right, the Warren Bridge was the name. I don't know where I came up with Beverly Street Bridge. A looong time ago.
 

FK4

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It was called the Beverly Street Bridge and it was still largely intact (though not in use) in the 1950's and 60's. I used to see it as I rode on the Charlestown Elevated over the Washington Street Bridge. The Beverly Street Bridge had a wooden deck with trolley car rails in it, still visible in the 1960's.
Always love hearing your remembrances, Charlie... you recall a lot of deep history with great little details, brings it all to life.
 

whighlander

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I believe your question is actually a bit backwards. The Charles River Dam Locks actually restrict the size of boats that can enter the Charles River Basin.

Before the old Dam (at Leverett Circle) (1910) and then the newer dam (1978), the mouth of the Charles was very much part of the harbor. Large ships serviced the docks in East Cambridge and used the Broad and Lechmere canals to access manufacturing sites inland there.

Even with the size restrictions, first imposed by the two locks of the old Charles River Dam (one of the locks was under the Museum of Science Parking Garage), the lower Charles Basin remains navigable water, so the drawbridges are required to allow taller vessels, like sail craft, to enter. (Just like the Craigie Drawbridge on the old dam.)
Jeff -- I don't believe that anything much larger than today's 4th of July Barges or the tourist boats were able to use the Charles -- its not the locks its the depth of the river that limits the vessels

Coal barges were the most common users of the Broad Canal servicing both the Cambridge Electric Light Company [now the Veolia Kendall Cogeneration Station steam for heating and electricity] and the Cambridge Gas Light Company [manufacture of gas from coal which is today replaced by Natural Gas]


 

JeffDowntown

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You are correct that coal was the primary cargo (the primary energy source in the 19th century). But the barges were not exactly small. And they serviced all along the Cambridge waterfront.

Both barges and bulk hauling sail craft went as far upstream as Harvard Square (Old Cambridge wharfs). Not sure if they played games with the tide, or dredged to allow this.

https://cambridgehistoricalcommissi...10/30/a-whaleback-barge-in-the-charles-river/
 

Charlie_mta

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Always love hearing your remembrances, Charlie... you recall a lot of deep history with great little details, brings it all to life.
Thank you, that's very nice. The Warren Bridge closed when the original elevated Central Artery opened in the early 1950's, but it was left standing until the Charles River Dam replaced it. It left quite an impression on me as a kid, seeing this wide, wooden, somewhat rotten looking abandoned bridge deck with trolley car rails.
 

whighlander

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Jeff -- had to be tide -- the Charles like all tidal estuaries at the point where they meet the ocean was constantly being re-manufactured by the actions of the wind, tides and storms

Average depths at low tide from the Craigie Bridge to the West Boston Bridge [Longfellow] were in the few feet range -- but in the few hours around high tide you had 10 feet to work with

That was a major motivation for building the dam where the MOS is located -- provide a relatively constant water level for small draft craft upstream of the dam

Note the non-opening bridges [West Boston -- Longfellow bridge 26 ft clearance under the arch at mean high water and the later Mass Ave bridge which was originally had a 48 foot wide opening span in the center of the bridge] clearly defined the size of craft that could ply the Charles


from the above Plan for the Charles River [circa 1880] the river was dredged below the Craigie Bridge to the depth sufficient for the largest ships at the time 28 ft
However while there is a channel of somewhat lesser depth up to near to the West Boston Bridge -- the channel which is indicated at the opening span is only about 10 ft depth and the opening span seems quite narrow

That all would be consistent with barges only beyond the West Boston Bridge [plan ends there]
 

bigpicture7

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Two-part post:

1) Mods, would it make sense to set up a "What's Happening with Project X? (Transit + Infrastructure)" sticky thread atop the Transit & Infrastructure forum, similar to the one at the Development Projects forum, so that curious community members can avoid bumping a thread to ask the community about its status/progress? I was looking for such a thing to inquire about the North Station drawbridge project (this thread)...

2) Now, for this particular topic: I was surprised to find this thread not updated since Oct 2019 - perhaps people had been posting about it elsewhere among other MBTA/CR stuff? In any case, I am curious about this project so I decided to see what's happened since 10/19...

To my insufficiently trained eye, the FY2021 Capital Plans (see here) seem to reference funded signal work that is related to replacing the draw bridges? Someone please correct me if this is related to something else. This seems precursory to replacing the bridges and therefore things seem to be progressing...​
Also since this thread was last updated, there's a 5/2020 post from an engineering firm indicating:​
Boston’s North Station Draw 1 Bridge is deemed essential, so work continues amid new safety guidelines. Bryant is working as a sub-consultant to STV, Inc. on this project that involves the design, engineering and construction phase services for the replacement of the North Station Draw 1 Bridge No. B-16-479. The project includes design of a new six-track crossing of the Charles River...
Finally, this ENR article provides some scheduling details (as well as a great overall description of the project):​
Following a four-month bidding phase, the agency in November initiated the $100 million design-build project now in phase one pre-design with overall design expected to take 32 months and construction completion by 2026. Due to the aggressive schedule, phase two preliminary design (0-30%) is scheduled to start by mid-December, Cadman says.
I was surprised to find that the engineering design firm (at least as of 12/19) is still weighing the possibility of three smaller drawbridges instead of two 3-track bridges (I'd thought the latter was a done deal):​
The agency is considering building three smaller bridges in stages, each holding two tracks, an MBTA spokesperson says. To avoid disruption to current schedules, the first bridge would be built alongside the existing spans before the older bridges would be removed one at a time to keep four tracks in service.
Maybe all of this is old news to our rail buff contingent on here, in which case, my apologies. If this project should be tracked elsewhere on aB, please say so.
 

Arlington

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It had fallen from my 2020 radar. Thanks for this. I like the "what is happening with project X" idea (though we also have some good General Mass DOT threads too).
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I was surprised to find that the engineering design firm (at least as of 12/19) is still weighing the possibility of three smaller drawbridges instead of two 3-track bridges (I'd thought the latter was a done deal):
I think those were temp spans, akin to recent MassHighway erector-set replacements like the temp Fore River Bridge, to minimize disruption. 1-track each, flanking the main span while it's out of commission and then moved around. The final design was always set for 2 three-track spans on the current footings, and the article namechecks that still being the final result. While they were confusing in omission for not explicitly calling these out as temp spans, that's the only thing they could possibly be because there just isn't room to side-by-side all of that machinery on any permanent basis. The erector sets could shiv in alongside where permanent spans could not because of way flimsier construction and smaller machinery that doesn't need to be overbuilt for a regulation weight-rated span lasting for more than an absolute max rated 5-year service life.
 

whighlander

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I think those were temp spans, akin to recent MassHighway erector-set replacements like the temp Fore River Bridge, to minimize disruption. 1-track each, flanking the main span while it's out of commission and then moved around. The final design was always set for 2 three-track spans on the current footings, and the article namechecks that still being the final result. While they were confusing in omission for not explicitly calling these out as temp spans, that's the only thing they could possibly be because there just isn't room to side-by-side all of that machinery on any permanent basis. The erector sets could shiv in alongside where permanent spans could not because of way flimsier construction and smaller machinery that doesn't need to be overbuilt for a regulation weight-rated span lasting for more than an absolute max rated 5-year service life.
F-Line

you might be right -- on the other hand reading the above referenced document:

Following a four-month bidding phase, the agency in November initiated the $100 million design-build project now in phase one pre-design with overall design expected to take 32 months and construction completion by 2026.
Due to the aggressive schedule, phase two preliminary design (0-30%) is scheduled to start by mid-December, Cadman says....

“The team will work together closely to coordinate both the bridge design and construction staging with the track design” while maintaining access to North Station platforms and keeping passenger trains moving without delays, Cadman says.

The agency is considering building three smaller bridges in stages, each holding two tracks, an MBTA spokesperson says. To avoid disruption to current schedules, the first bridge would be built alongside the existing spans before the older bridges would be removed one at a time to keep four tracks in service...

Among the multiple complexities of this project, Cadman says adding a proposed bridge outboard of two existing bridges that cross the Charles River “will complicate the demolition and construction of the middle bridge while maintaining train movements over the Charles River to North Station.”

In addition, he says the movable bridges “require close coordination between the structural, machinery, and electrical engineers to fit all of the required equipment in the confined access between the in-service tracks.”
.

The above doesn't sound like temporary -- its sounds as though there is a process involving gradual improvement:
  1. you build one permanent narrow bridge on "virgin" territory [giving you temporarily 6 tracks]
  2. take down one of the existing spans [keeping 4 tracks]
  3. build 2nd new two track bridge on the footprint of one of the existing bridges [gives you again temporarily 6 tracks]
  4. take down the remaining existing bridge [back to 4 tracks all new]
  5. build the final new bridge on the footprint of the old bridge [permanent 6 tracks on 3 2-track bridges]

benefit is new bridges with increased operational flexibility -- you can keep 2 of the spans open during periods of light use of North Station
 

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