John Alexander Low Waddell

John Alexander Low Waddell.jpg
Waddell Signature (1905).pdf
John Alexander Low Waddell (1854 – March 3, 1938, often shortened to J.A.L. Waddell and sometimes known as John Alexander Waddell) was an American civil engineer and prolific bridge designer, with more than a thousand structures to his credit in the United States, Canada, as well as Mexico, Russia, China, Japan, and New Zealand. Waddell’s work set standards for elevated railroad systems and helped develop materials suitable for large span bridges. His most important contribution was the development of the steam-powered high-lift bridge. His design was first used in 1893 for Chicago's South Halsted Street Lift-Bridge over the Chicago River; he went on to design more than 100 other movable bridges, and the company he founded continues to make movable bridges of various types. Waddell was a widely respected writer on bridge design, and an advocate of quality training of engineers. Many of Waddell's surviving bridges are now considered historic landmarks.

One of his most notable works is the ASB Bridge in Kansas City Missouri. It is only one of two of this design ever built, and is in use as a railroad bridge for the BNSF.

John Alexander Low Waddell was born on January 15, 1854 in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada to Robert Waddell (b. 1815) and Angeline E. Jones.[1] His mother was the daughter of William Jones, late colonel of the 27th regiment and sheriff of the city of New York and a member of the State legislature in 1844.[2][3]

He obtained his first degree in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York in 1875, and soon traveled to Canada to work with that country's Marine Department of the Dominion before spending some time with the Canadian Pacific Railway.

He returned to the United States where he designed mines for a West Virginian coal company. In 1878, he returned to Rensselaer and taught mechanics courses until 1880. Waddell then traveled west, obtaining additional degrees from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and spending some time working at the Raymond & Campbell firm in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

In July 1882, he was hired as a foreign advisor by the Meiji government of the Empire of Japan and taught at the Tokyo Imperial University for a few years while he wrote two books.

Waddell returned to the United States in 1886, founding a new design company the next year in 1887 and establishing himself in Kansas City, Missouri. Waddell took on a number of challenging projects and soon demonstrated a strong ability.

Lifting and swinging bridges had been used for generations by this time, though not on the scale we know them today. Waddell was the first to come up with a modern design, originally intended to span a short channel across Minnesota Point into the harbor of Duluth, Minnesota. His design won a contest put on by the city in 1892, but the War Department objected to the design. The city built an aerial transporter bridge in that location in 1905. In 1929, it was remodeled into the Aerial Lift Bridge, similar to Waddell's design.[4]

This page was last edited on 17 June 2018, at 11:59 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

Related Topics

Recently Viewed