Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Emily's Well Engineered Bridge Benches

A bridge bench is a beautiful thing.

From Beijing to Brooklyn, there are wondrous bridge benches just waiting to be discovered.

There is nothing nicer than sitting on a bridge bench being fully appreciative of both the bridge and the bench.

The Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol is particularly nice when the Balloon Festival is going on in August.

At other times the view is rather less colourful and the bench is less accommodating.
But further up the Severn, stretching between England and Wales, there is yet another bridge bench.

A bridge bench can be spectacular at night. It can reach into infinity.

Emily Hardhat is our Engineer-in-Residence here in Fribble-under-Par. She has a workshop where she helps us build benches for the community.  

She is a fully qualified civil engineer and last year she won the Spanner of the Year award. 

Not all engineers are civil though. Some are very unpleasant.

I think Emily is trying to say something.

Yes. I thought this was supposed to be a blog about engineering. It's Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on February 21st and I was hoping to highlight some of the joys of engineering. 

I know, Emily, but this is a blog about building bridges. Engineers build bridges in the community, don't they?

Yes, they do. But so far you haven't mentioned engineering at all.You're just going on and on showing pictures of bridge benches as if they appeared out of nowhere. A bridge is a beautifully engineered thing.

Pittsburg bridge bench, seen on ebay in 2013

Sorry, I got carried away. I think the bridge benches are very exciting.

They are. But I'd like to say something about the different branches of engineering, for example, mechanical, structural, civil, electrical . . .

Electrical; aren't those the ones who deal with current events?

Not funny. 

I was going to ask you about chemical engineers but I'm afraid I'll get a bad reaction.

I have heard all these engineering jokes before. 

So what's the difference between a civil engineer and a mechanical one?

Mechanical engineers build weapons. Civil engineers build targets.

Alright, I'm going to suspend my jokes and build a bridge between us, Emily.

Mark Carroll Photography @

Over to you. I won't interrupt.

Thank you.

I'd like to introduce Isambard Kingdom Brunel here. He was the greatest of Britain's great engineers.

Did Brunel know how to do origami?

I don't know. Why do you ask?

No reason.  

He was the chief engineer of the Great Western Railway and he built lots of bridges, railroads, and piers in Britain in the middle of the 19th century.

I wonder if it's possible to make an origami suspension bridge? Although origami involves a lot of paperwork.

Brunel is particularly well known for his railway bridges.

Annie Mole@

You'll need to make tracks if you're going to show all these train benches.

Yes, there are lots of bridge benches for trains, including these at the Brunel museum in Rotherhithe.

And here's a very cultural train bench in Gdansk in Poland.

And an attractive bench in Elbe, Washington, where the Mount Rainier Scenic Railway begins.

In origami it's possible to construct a bridge and a bench, just by folding paper. The advantages of an origami bench is fourfold . . .

Maybe I could carry on without being constantly interrupted by silly puns?

Sorry, Emily. I guess I am putting up walls rather than building bridges.

The trains and the bridges they crossed fuelled Britain's Industrial Revolution.

And they enabled the settlement of North America. Here's a brilliant train bench in Canada with an awesome structure behind it.

Never mind the history, Emily. I'm wondering if a bridge bench with a train crossing is a good place to sit.

It's all about structure. A railway bridge needs to be solidly built. 

And the same goes for benches.

Golly, this bench holds a locomotive. This would suit my friend Miggy who is, shall we say, industrial scale. 

I think you mean weight, Seashell. Scale and weight are two different things.

Engineering is quite a weighty subject, isn't it?

It is. But as we so often say, we can do it.

Shall we look at some more bridge benches then? 

I don't know much about engineering, Emily. I'm not sure about my attention span. 

Span is very important in bridge building. Look at the elegance of this snowboard bridge bench!

Wow! I see what you mean.

Here's a fabulous view of the Bay Bridge in northern California.,_Bay_Bridge.jpg

And this is the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg.

Evan Bench @

Nice. But I don't see a bench here. How is this a bridge bench?

It's not. The photographer is named Evan Bench.

I think you need some logical thinking here so that you construct this blog in some sensible order. 

You could do with some of the discipline of engineering.

Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library

I can't be bothered with all that. The benchmark for me is just to show a lot of great benches.

Do you have a plan for this blog?

Good heavens no. I just show benches that I like.

I think this Brückengeländer is very pretty.

And this is a stunning photo of the Barak bridge benches in Melbourne.

In engineering we work from carefully constructed plans. Even the simplest work would have a plan. 

Everything is measured and checked.

I think you have a totally different outlook from me, Emily. 

You're more Brunel. I'm more bench.

The view above shows Brunel's famous Royal Albert bridge, which is a bowstring girder tied arch construction. It was completed in 1859, the year of Brunel's death. 

Are you sure you aren't a history teacher, Emily? 

I'm proud to be an engineer.

Why don't we look at some road bridges now? 

OK, I'm happy to go down that route.

Many bridges have to serve more than one purpose. Typically, road users share the bridge with pedestrians and cyclists.

And some very small bridges open up to allow some very large boats to pass through.

I guess they haven't realised that small is beautiful.

Also, I notice that most bridges aren't very colourful. 

Well then, here's one for you. It's on the Passeig de Colom in Barcelona.  

Some people like to have picnics on bridge benches. I guess you have to plan for that too.

And here are some benches under a bridge in Milwaukee.

You can see some of the structure of the bridge here. It shows . . .

And here is a lovely chain bridge in Budapest.

I'd like to make a link here between. . . 

Your engineering chat is riveting, Emily.

It's just that quite a few benches are still towering over us.

I object to being cut off in mid sentence for the sake of a cheesy pun and a photograph which has nothing to do with bridges.

It's engineering though, isn't it?  Monsieur Gustave Eiffel's tour is a feat of engineering genius.   

OK, I take your point. Shall I explain a bit about the construction of the tower and its cantilevered legs? 


Here's a lovely photograph of some colourful bridges in Venice. If you're being pedantic about it, the white sofa counts as a bench.

And then moving on to London, an iconic view of London Bridge.

Seashell, I'm disappointed that you haven't given me an opportunity to show that engineering is a great profession. 

Oh, I think you've covered this.

You've convinced us that without engineers, we'd have no benches. 

We'd be sitting along the Seine, sans banc, regarding le pont. 

And you've shown us that bridge isn't just for men.

I hope I have persuaded some women to go into engineering.

You haven't. 

But Tamsin has finally found a name for her baby: Isambard Kevin Pink. 

Here is Tamsin and her fiancé Garçon Orange at the christening.

The baby was brought by the stork so his father is unknown. For Isambard's godparents Tamsin has chosen Lord Brassica's horse Tonks and his dog Pru. Tonks has a new hat for the occasion; he wasn't sure whether to eat it or wear it.  

I'm giving up now, Seashell. I am wasting my time on this blog if you are going to discuss things other than bridges and benches.

OK, Emily, but have another look. In the photograph above there are two benches and a baby named Isambard. If that isn't engineering, I don't know what is.  


**El-Len** is a physician and vintner who loves to travel and sees photography as a way of capturing moments and extending each trip she takes. She photographed beautiful bridges whilst travelling in China. The first two bridge photos are Miao architecture somewhere in Guizhou Province. The covered bridge at the end of the story is also Miao architecture; it's in Langde village in Guizhou Province. Ellen sent me several beautiful Miao bridges, which are from the Miao ethnic minority in this region of China. But that's just the beginning of the wondrous images I found in her photostream

The brilliant Brooklyn Bridge bench was photographed in Brooklyn Heights by DeShaun Craddock in 2011. A self-taught Brooklyn photographer, De Shaun shoots mostly urban landscapes. New York landmarks, music gigs, Brooklyn street life, no pants subway rides - his photostream has it all.  He also creates prints of the images for his shop.

The Seat with a View of the Humber Bridge was taken from the Hessle foreshore looking south in 2007. Hessle is in East Riding, Yorkshire. The photographer is David Wright at

Mungo and I went to the Balloon Festival in Bristol a couple of years ago so We'll Always Have Bristol. We cycled under the 210 metre (700 feet) long Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was slightly creepy because of the high bridge, the walls of the Avon Gorge, and the swirling muddy water of the river Avon. Clare Phillips from Bristol illustrates in vibrant colour and has captured the joy of the balloons, the bridge, and the bench. She has been working as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator since 2007, having graduated in 2011 with a distinction MA in Printmaking. Her influences are varied but themes include the retro aesthetic of the 1950's, busy cities, Classic Modernism, and old children's books and posters of that era. She also loves typography, especially hand rendered lettering.

Kenneth Tan from Kuala Lumpur photographed the black and white Bristol bridge and what he calls its Deformed Chair. In looking through many photographs of this scene I noticed that the bench went from good to bad to worse, to the point where the planks were missing completely. Kenneth has just one photo set and the Bristol bridge is a feature.

Ellie Laycock from London upcycles rare vintage textiles for her etsy shop Hunted and Stuffed  The Welsh cushion cover featuring the Severn Bridge is made from an original upcycled vintage tea towel and is one of many colourful and fascinating cushions and homeswares she designs. Ellie is a professional photographer with a Fine Arts background who loves upcycling as it lets all her interests collide. Her book Creating The Vintage Look (Cico Books) is a collection of 35 'How-To' projects on turning vintage finds into original upcycled treasures. 

Stockton-on-Tees Infinity Bridge at night was shot by Richard Shipley, a web developer from Middlesborough in the UK. I think he likes motors: besides this beautiful bridge, his photostream includes lots of the Isle of Man TT, relays, sports cars, and car racing

Emily Hardhat went to school with my husband His Excellency. She was very clever at school and was fortunate enough to be absent from chemistry class on the day His Excellency blew up the school. Emily has been our Engineer-in-Residence since last year, when she won the Spanner of the Year award for engineering achievement. Inspired by my History of Toilet Benches, one of her achievements is these attractive toilet benches made from recycled shampoo and shower gel lids. 

The Pittsburg bridge bench was for sale on ebay last year. Oh, I wish I had made a bid for it. At the time I didn't know Emily and did not know we'd be looking at such well engineered bridge benches. 

Mark Carroll of Mark Carroll Photography took the photo of the elegant metal suspension bridge bench in 2013. It's in Dallas at the American Airlines Credit Union. Among other subjects, his photostream is full of benches of all types. I love the mid-century rest stop bench near Tampa.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in 1806 in Portsmouth and is responsible for some of the great engineering works of Victorian Britain, especially railroads, piers, and bridges. His father, Marc Isambard Brunel, was French, and also an engineer. His mother's name was Sophia Kingdom. So you see, his name is no accident. Brunel's genius stretched all the way to the Crimea, where he shipped a pre-fabricated wood and canvas hospital in response to requests from Florence Nightingale for safe, clean hospital accommodation.

Grahamc99 is from London and he gets around. His sets show photos from all over the world and opening a set in Grahamc's photostream is like opening up a surprise package. Street art - yes - but there's chewing gum art, a Brunel suspension bridge, and so much more.

Annie Mole photographed the Brunel train track bench. She is Head of Social Media for Great British Chefs and she lives in London where she keeps the  Annie Mole - London Underground Tube Diary She is webmaster of Going Underground and its companion blog about travelling on the London Underground   Her Flickr photostream is at

The Isambard Kingdom Brunel museum is in  Rotherhithe, London. Outside the museum is Brunel's bench replicating the Prince Albert Bridge over the River Tamar between Cornwall and Devon. And on the bridge, of course, a train is running. What did you expect? Sadly, Brunel's railway along the coast at Dawlish in Devon has collapsed into the sea. This is not due to poor engineering but to global warming and a jetstream which keeps Britain under water. 

The grey train bench is a model  of Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash. The bench is in the grounds of the Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe, London, photographed by  Mrbryanejones at en.wikipedia in 2007 and now on wikimedia at

The Polish train bench is called Świeżo malowane and it's a freshly painted rapid urban train (SKM) bench at the Zaspa stop in Gdansk. It celebrates the Installation of Plama, the Gdansk Archipelago of Culture (GAK), in May 2009. The photo is by magro_KR, who is an engineer in Gdansk.  

Elbe, Washington, population 29, is a particularly photogenic corner of the USA. It's where the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railway begins, and this is where Wendy photographed the lovely Elbe bench. Wendy NG loves photography and sharing her photos and browsing others'photos on Flickr. Wendy has more than 7000 photos from all over the world - she really fits the definition of well travelled.   

The lovely bench with a train back is the Gaststätte Rüdenstein in Solingen-Obenrüden in Germany. It was photographed by Frank Vincenz in 2008.

What Brunel was to bridges, Charles "Doc" Santee is to origami. His Firstfold Creative Origami photostream is amazing.  Animals, boxes, masks, musical instruments, gargoyles - he can make anything. Even bridges. Even benches.

The curved back train bench is in Oldbury, England, on the ring road opposite Sainsburys. It was photographed in 2009 by Tony Hisgett and available through Flickr Creative Commons at

The train bench in Canada was photographed by Kyler Evans, who grew up in Calgary and now lives in Lethbridge. He is a therapist and instructor who has been photographing for more than ten years. His photostream  has some stunning night shots, closeups of natural things, landscapes, abstracts and lots of black and whites, plus his own digital and visual artwork.   Kyler has travelled widely but my favourite set is his local, Lethbridge one. More of his work can be seen on his website at

The first locomotive bench is an 1897 electric locomotive from Werner Siemens, Wernerwerk, Berlin. It was built as a demonstration model for the Berlin Trade Fair and contributed by Siemens and Halske AG in Berlin. The bench was photographed by Mattes 2007, and if my German serves me rightly, is at the German Transport museum in Munich.

The heavy locomotive bench All Aboard is part of the Open Air Gallery, in Walcha, Australia. It was photographed by C Goodwin in 2007 and found on Wikimedia at
We can do it! is also known as  Rosie the Riveter. The poster was one of a series created by the War Production Board's Office for Emergency Management in 1942. The image is now in the U.S. National Archive, Local Identifier, NWDNS-179-WP-1563. The persistent URL is however I saw it on the wonderful Flickr Commons at

ZZIV in Milwaukee makes limited edition pieces of functional modern art, like the ZZIV Snowboard Bridge Bench, which features a unique bridge"ish" design. The welded steel posts rise independently of each other to bolt into the snowboard using the existing mounting holes. The entire structure is webbed together for strength and good looks. It's finished in a choice of snowboard design , powder-coating colors and stainless steel hardware. Like nothing you have seen or sat on, ZZIV makes sitting cool.

The Yerba Buena bench was photographed in 2011 by BenBench, who says thank you for viewing the photo but you also need to sit here.,_Bay_Bridge.jpg    This photo shows Yerba Buena Island and the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge as seen from the Mano Seca Bench installed in Rincon Park by Cupid's Span. The Mano Seca Group installs benches throughout the west at scenic areas that celebrate our wonderful and varied nation. For more information, visit

The Nelson Mandela Bridge was photographed by Evan Bench in 2009. I think that's a good enough reason for it to be here.  The photo looks out over Johannesburg from Braamfontein. Johannesburg's Central Business District is in the background. Evan Bench is a professional photographer based in Paris. Many of his photos are available on Flickr at    

The woman using a triangular ruler is at United Rubber & Chemical Company in 1958, photographed by Robert Yarnall Richie (1909-1984).  The photograph is part of Robert Yarnall Richie's photograph collection with rights from Southern Methodist University, Central Unviersity Libraries, DeGolyer Library.  

Wikicommons images and photographs is absolutely chock-a-block with benchmarks. Geograph people and other photographers seem particularly keen on finding and photographing the obscure little markings on the edges of buildings and benches throughout the UK.  Many of the benchmarks themselves are simple marks but this one, I thought, was just brilliant. And it's high time I had a real benchmark on Benchsite. This one's from H.L.I.T. at    H.L.I.T. has photos of family, pets, events, and more travel destinations than you can ever imagine. 

The caption of the pretty Vorhängeschlösser am Brückengeländer über der Talfer (Liebesschwur) I think, means that the pretty Brückengeländer bridge crosses the Talfer  in Bolzano/Bozen South Tyrol, photographed by Mattest in 2011. The padlocks on the bridge are locked onto the rail as tokens of lovers' pledges to each other. This padlock thing seems to be a growing trend on walls and bridges everywhere. In Paris one of the Seine bridges is reported to be in danger from the weight of these heavy padlocks.

The 525 metre Barak bridge in Melbourne was completed in 2005. It's named for William Barak (1824-1903), the last traditional elder of the Wurundjeri aboriginals based in that area. The photograph of the bridge benches and the Eureka Tower is by Jes Mugley, whose photographic philosophy is Find something stupid, and if you can't find something stupid, try to find something beautiful. Done. Jes's photostream is at

Eric Sandler from Atlanta graduated from the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale and works as an industrial designer by day, alongside his hobbies by night. His hobbies?  Design, build, play. His etsy shop is Tobacco Road Guitars at   It sells cigarbox guitars and accessories and a full line of woodworking plans for building bed lofts, furniture, mantle clocks, bird houses, tree houses, and yes, a popsicle bench. The design for the popsicle bench was modeled after a bench outside Disney theme park's "A Bug's Life" attraction. Apparently the bench is super easy to build. The plans contain 13 pages of detailed information including a tools list, materials list, assembly drawings and detailed drawings for building your own popsicle stick bench at home. My husband Mungo has a workbench; I wonder if he would make me one? 

Women in Allied-occupied parts of France were called upon to work for the war effort in the same ways as British women were. This photograph shows a female forewoman in her office at the workshops of the lady carpenters in France in World Ward I. It is an official photograph taken on the British Western Front in about 1918, collected in the National Library of Scotland photostream at

Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge is seen from the viewpoint behind the Tamar Bridge Offices, St Budeaux, Plymouth, Devon, England. It was photographed in 2009 by Geof Sheppard. As Emily explained, it is a bowstring girder (tied arch) construction and was completed in 1859, the year Brunel died.

The Route 66 bridge bench is a favourite with many people. It's called the Chain of Rocks Bridge and crosses the river between St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois. This photo is by Amy Dungan, aka Sparkys Girl. (I'm fighting the urge to put in the apostrophe here). Amy is a home schooling mother of two who has been happily married since 1991. Photography is her passion and she is working towards making it a fulltime career; she is currently a student at NYIP.

It's good to see people trying out the bench on Hammersmith Bridge in London. In fact, this is the  name of the photo. It's by Frank Hebbert, who has lots nice benches on his photostream at

Whilst staying in the Netherlands in 2010 Mungo and I saw the superyacht Twizzle passing through the tiny bridge at Vollenhove. The brand new superyacht was being moved one evening and the whole town turned out to watch. Twizzle is 56 meters long and has a mast of 68 meters. A crane lifted the bridge away and Twizzle was towed through the canal on a barge, then let go on its way to the Ijsselmeer.  

The red bridge crosses over the B10 in Barcelona and was photographed in 2013 by Eric on the Barcelona Bus Turistic red route on the Passeig de Colom. Eric is an architect in ColumbusUSA. His photostream covers the whole of Europe, Australia and New Zealand: if you want to see a dazzling variety of bridges at all angles, this is the photostream for you.

The bridge with picnic tables was photographed by Roger W. Haworth in 2009.    This iron road bridge over the Rio Arade between Portimao and Parchal in Portugal was built in 1876. In November 2007 is was closed for extensive repairs, opening on July 15, 2009 and celebrated with tables and benches ready for a Feijoada party that evening.  

The bridge with benches beneath it is the Holton Street Bridge in Milwaukee.  Apparently the benches light up at night - how cool is that? It was photographed by Steven Vance, who lives in Chicago and graduated twice from the University of Illinois at Chicago, first for a bachelor's degree in sociology, and secondly for a master's degree in urban planning. He's a Bicycle Planner, consulting on bicycle parking, and he co-founded Grid Chicago, a blog about sustainable transportation issues and culture. He also writes about cities on Steven Can Plan. He's got lots of bridges from angles an engineer would appreciate; love the Marsupial Bridge (a bridge under a bridge)!

The beautiful chain bridge is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a suspension bridge across the River Danube between Buda and Pest in Hungary. Opened in 1849, it was the designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark, and photographed by webby1956, who has visited such lovely places as Budapest, Slovenia, Switzerland. His photostream is at   

Rosie the Riveter was a well-known character in World War II, a symbol of the 'reserve army of labour', i.e. women, who were wheeled out to fields and factories to aid the war effort. With so many men away at war, ordinary housewives put their kids into hastily erected government creches and turned up in draughty aircraft hangars to drill and punch and rivet. Come the end of the war, the creches shut down and all the Rosies were expected to go home and bake cakes so that men returning to war would have a job and a hot supper to come home to. The 1942 Beveridge Plan for the British welfare state assumed two things:  1) full employment (for men) and 2) women at home 'reproducing the nation'. Oh Rosie, where are you now? A call centre maybe? Or a till at Pound Shop? 

The woman shown is operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, Tennessee in February 1943. She is working on a Vengeance dive bomber and was photographed by Alfred T. Palmer. The photograph was transferred from the U.S. Office of War Information in 1944 to the Library of Congress. It's now available at

I fell in love with Peter Brand's drawings in soft pastel and charcoal on fabric. He does portraits, wildlife, pets, cars, architecture, people, landscapes and city life. For this story I chose the Eiffel Tower and the gorgeous photo showing benchless people with their feet in the Seine. Peter lives in Woodford, New South Wales, and obviously has an artist's eye. Some of his work is in his etsy shop at  The Eiffel Tower and many other delights I saw at

The Eiffel Tower was designed by engineers at the Société des Ingiénieurs Civils for the Paris World's Fair in 1889. In 1885 the idea for the project was promoted by Gustave Eiffel, who found that many artistic people opposed it. The project went ahead, constructed over two years and opening in March 1889 to great acclaim. At 324 metres tall (1,063 feet) it was the tallest built structure in the world for 41 years. It is also the most visited, with over 250 million visitors since its construction. Writer Guy de Maupassant was one who opposed it; after its opening it was said that he ate in the Eiffel Tower restaurant every day since that was the only place in Paris he could sit without seeing it.

The Venetian bridge and white sofa are from Ömer Bayçura in Bursa, Turkey. He does beautiful gobelin tapestries, bags and decorative pillow cases, many of them featuring the delights of European cities.

London Bridge is an iconic bridge and this is an iconic image. It's by Keri Bevan, who does fine art photos as well as travel photos of LondonParisItaly, retro USA and Spain. Her etsy shop includes nature photos, TTV, nursery wall art and carnival photography.   Her blog is at

A group of unidentified women playing bridge were photographed in Tallahassee, Florida in January 1954. The photograph is from Florida Memory, always a great source of photographs, in the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Isn't it great to see the old names coming back? Some people in Fribble are disappointed that when naming the baby, Tamsin didn't stick with Isambard Brunel's famous middle name - Kingdom. Tamsin wanted the baby to have the middle name of her little brother Kevin. She thought the name Isambard Kevin Pink has a nice ring to it. When Tamsin marries Garçon Orange the baby will become Isambard Kevin Orange. That sounds good too. For more about Tamsin, and young Isambard's dubious parentage, see the story of the Scottish weddings last July. 

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