DOI: 10.32703/2415-7422-2023-13-2-419-455 ISSN: 2415-7430

On the history of the construction of metal bridges in the 20th century using welding technology

Oleh Strelko
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Museology
  • Archeology
  • History
  • Archeology

The history of bridge construction is an important part of historical knowledge. Developments in bridge construction technology reflect not only engineering advances, but also social, economic and cultural aspects of society. Engineers and scientists faced unique challenges when designing and building bridges depending on the technological level of the era, available materials and the needs of society. This process may reflect technological progress, changes in transportation needs, and cultural and social changes. The purpose of this article is to briefly review key moments and stages in the history of metal bridge construction using welding technology in the 20th century. The history of the development of the construction of metal bridges using welding goes back a little over 100 years. The short period from the construction of the first welded bridges to their first disasters led to the need to analyze the possible causes of these destructions. As the analysis performed showed, catastrophic destruction most often occurred under the influence of several factors, as well as a combination of external adverse influences and the internal “unpreparedness” of the structure for them. The above examples indicate that an irrational choice of steel could be both an independent cause causing brittle failure of structures, and an aggravating factor in the presence of structural violations, thermal stresses and welding defects. Over the years, bridge manufacturing technologies have been improved in different countries, and new steels and materials for their welding have been developed. Thanks to the use of carbon, low-alloy and alloy steel, designers abandoned the brutal “railroad-type” beam trusses and today metal bridges with graceful and beautiful silhouettes powerfully stride across the water surface, mountains and valleys. They became real attractions of megacities and country landscapes, and builders were able to successfully solve numerous technical and economic problems. An important contribution to the development of global bridge construction using welding technologies was made by the team of the Institute of Electric Welding of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR under the leadership of Academician Evgeny Oskarovych Paton. The team of the Institute of Electric Welding of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, introducing welding into bridge construction, carefully checked the results and monitored the behavior of structures. A new grade of steel was created that was resistant to the formation of brittle and fatigue cracks, its welding technology was developed, a technology for installation welding of vertical sheets with forced formation of a seam was developed, and suitable welding materials were selected. At the time of construction in 1953, the Kyiv Evgeny Paton Bridge across the Dnipro River was the largest all-welded bridge in Europe, all seams of which, including assembly ones, were made for the first time using automatic and semi-automatic welding. In addition, the presence of large similar blocks in the design of the Evgeny Paton Bridge made it possible to mechanize assembly and welding operations and organize an in-line method for their production at the factory and installation, which improved the quality of welding work and reduced its labor intensity.