Steel Bridge

The success of the Bailey bridge was due to the simplicity of the fabrication and assembly of its modular components, combined with the ability to erect and deploy sections with a minimum of assistance from heavy equipment. Most, if not all, previous designs for military bridges required cranes...

Detailed description

The success of the Bailey bridge was due to the simplicity of the fabrication and assembly of its modular components, combined with the ability to erect and deploy sections with a minimum of assistance from heavy equipment. Most, if not all, previous designs for military bridges required cranes to lift the pre-assembled bridge and lower it into place. The Bailey parts were made of standard steel alloys, and were simple enough that parts made at a number of different factories could be completely interchangeable. Each individual part could be carried by a small number of men, enabling army engineers to move more easily and more quickly than before, in preparing the way for troops and matériel advancing behind them. Finally, the modular design allowed engineers to build each bridge to be as long and as strong as needed, doubling or tripling up on the supportive side panels, or on the roadbed sections.

The basic bridge consists of three main parts. The bridge's strength is provided by the panels on the sides. The panels are 10-foot-long (3.0 m), 5-foot-high (1.5 m), cross-braced rectangles that each weigh 570 pounds (260 kg), and can be lifted by six men. The panel was constructed of welded steel. The top and bottom chord of each panel had interlocking male and female lugs that engineers could inset panel connecting pins.

The floor of the bridge consists of a number of 19-foot-wide (5.8 m) transoms that run across the bridge, with 10-foot-long (3.0 m) stringers running between them on the bottom, forming a square. Transoms rest on the lower chord of the panels, and clamps hold them together. Stringers are placed on top of the completed structural frame, and wood planking is placed on top of the stringers to provide a roadbed. Ribands bolt the planking to the stringers. Later in the war, the wooden planking was covered by steel plates, which were more resistant to the damage caused by tank tracks.

Each unit constructed in this fashion creates a single 10-foot-long (3.0 m) section of bridge, with a 12-foot-wide (3.7 m) roadbed. After one section is complete it is typically pushed forward over rollers on the bridgehead, and another section built behind it. The two are then connected together with pins pounded into holes in the corners of the panels.

For added strength several panels (and transoms) can be bolted on either side of the bridge, up to three. Another solution is to stack the panels vertically. With three panels across and two high, the Bailey Bridge can support tanks over a 200-foot span (61 m). Footways can be installed on the outside of the side-panels, the side-panels form an effective barrier between foot and vehicle traffic and allow pedestrians to safely use the bridge.

A useful feature of the Bailey bridge is its ability to be launched from one side of a gap. In this system the front-most portion of the bridge is angled up with wedges into a "launching nose" and most of the bridge is left without the roadbed and ribands. The bridge is placed on rollers and simply pushed across the gap, using manpower or a truck or tracked vehicle, at which point the roller is removed (with the help of jacks) and the ribands and roadbed installed, along with any additional panels and transoms that might be needed.

During World War II, Bailey bridge parts were made by companies with little previous experience of this kind of engineering. Although the parts were simple, they had to be precisely manufactured if they were fit each other correctly, so they were assembled into a test bridge at the factory to make sure of this. To do this efficiently, newly manufactured parts would be continuously added to the test bridge, while at the same time the far end of the test bridge was continuously dismantled and the parts dispatched to the end-users.

Bailey bridge

Bailey bridge over the Meurthe River, France


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Callender-Hamilton bridge


Mabey Logistic Support Bridge, Medium Girder Bridge


Pedestrians, Road vehicles, Rail Vehicles

Span range



Timber, steel



Design effort




Bailey bridge inOntario, Canada

Bailey bridge over the White Nile, Juba, South Sudan

Bailey bridge over the Wadi el Kuf,Libya,
with bridge sections used to construct the supports

Callender-Hamilton bridge, 4th Walton bridge

Modern Bailey bridges  

Bailey bridges are in regular use throughout the world in the 21st century. Some exceptional examples include:

1.The longest Bailey bridge was put into service in October 1975. This 788 metres (2,585 ft), two-lane bridge crossed the Derwent River at Hobart, Australia. It was opened around a year after the Tasman Bridge disaster destroyed the only river crossing and effectively divided the city in two. The Bailey bridge was in use until the reconstruction of the Tasman Bridge was completed on 8 October 1977.

2.A Bailey bridge between the Suru River and Dras River in Ladakh, India is the highest bridge in the world at an altitude of 5,602 metres (18,379 ft) above sea level. It was built in 1982 by the Indian Army.[15]

3.In the mid-1950s auto racing circuit Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut purchased a war-surplus Bailey Bridge so vehicles could enter/exit the infield and paddock sections of the track while races were taking place. The bridge has been in continuous service since, and was relocated to new, raised pilings in the spring of 2008. The track believes this may be the sole-remaining WWII-era Bailey Bridge in regular daily public service in the U.S.

4.An under-construction footbridge at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Delhi), one of the main venues for 2010 Commonwealth Games, collapsed a few weeks before the opening ceremony, injuring 27 people. The Delhi Government requested the Indian Army to construct a Bailey bridge to replace it. The 3 Engineer Regiment of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers finished the job in four days flat and at a fraction of the original cost.

5.Medley Bridge (Oxford, England) is a Bailey bridge which was erected in 1946 and spans the River Thames backwater in Port Meadow and is still in use today (2014)

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