WIT Press

Cast-iron Girder Bridges Of Belgian Industrialist Charles Marcellis (1798–1864)


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209 - 220




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WIT Press


K. Verswijver, I. Wouters, I. Bertels & E. De Kooning


In 1840 the Belgian industrialist Charles-Henri Marcellis (1798–1864) and his partner V. Duval developed a cast-iron girder bridge to replace traditional arch or suspension bridges. When 3 years later the town council of Ghent decided to connect the new railway station with the old Saint-Peter’s quarter, two areas that were divided by the Scheldt River, it became its first Belgian test. The 20-meter long ‘Marcellis Bridge’ as it would soon be called, consisted of two pairs of castiron pierced plates, each pair forming a box girder and serving as a parapet. The trump card of this bridge was its straight line that did not impede river navigation nor did it create a ‘mountain’ for horses and coaches crossing the bridge. When looking closely at the development of Marcellis’ bridges in books, plans and building permits one notices a striking resemblance between his projects and Robert Stephenson and William Fairbairn’s successive bridge designs in England. Both the Belgians and the English started with cast-iron girders in the 1830s-40s, developing into more complex box and tubular bridges in the 1840s-50s. A clear path of knowledge transfer is not yet identified, but dating the different designs makes it clear that Marcellis was inspired by England’s trial and error testing of this new and also momentary type of bridges. In the second half of the 19th century these bridges would be built using wrought iron and steel due to cast iron’s lack of tensile strength and ductility, and its risk of fatigue. Keywords: Belgium, bridges, cast iron, foundries, Marcellis, 19th century.


Belgium, bridges, cast iron, foundries, Marcellis, 19th century