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The Commercial
Posted by Ted Sheppard on August 19, 2010 at 3:40 PM.

Ted SheppardWhen the Niagara Arch Bridge was constructed in the early 1960s, it was the world’s longest fixed arch span, an engineering marvel.  During its construction period it was replete with side issues that had nothing to do with engineering or construction.


How, or if, General Motors got permission to film a commercial for their new edition Chevrolet, I don’t know.  The film crew showed up in force.  The key element of their filming was a jet assisted helicopter that was rented from a Parisian firm.  With the aircraft came a pilot and photographer, Henri and Pierre, really, and they were the stars of the show.


We had not finished the paving of the bridge deck.  The asphalt in-fill between concrete haunches at each floor beam had not been placed.  The beautiful white Chevrolet sedan would actually bump across the bridge.  The car had the typical American family in it, man and woman in the front seats, and a boy and girl in back.


Henri and Pierre ate this up.  They flew over the bridge, under the arch, getting low shots and then high shots.  There was so much background, the arch, the river, the gorge, and they were trying to get the very best shot locations.  After two trial runs, Henri and Pierre signaled that they were ready for the real take.  I had seen enough and went back to the office trailer.


Shortly thereafter one of our ironworkers appeared in the trailer doorway asking to be laid off.  I told him that we were going to finish on Friday, and I needed everyone to stay until then.  He then told me that he didn’t want to be on our payroll when he hit “that guy.”  I was young and much sharper then, so I immediately knew that something had gone wrong with the commercial.


The head inspector on the Canadian side of the bridge was “the meanest man in town.”  No one had told him about this filming. As the white Chevrolet started across the bridge, he commandeered a bright orange pickup truck and chased it across.  When he caught up with the car, he got out and went to the passenger side of the car and yelled some very rude words at the driver.  At this point our ironworker said to the woman, “Say the word, lady, and I will let him have it.”  She didn’t say a word, and that is when he decided to try to get laid off.


By this time the film crew decided it was safer for everyone if they called off the shoot.  Poor Henri and Pierre; they had worked so hard and had had so much fun.  The commercial was supposed to have run on Bonanza and The Dinah Shore Show.  I watched those shows, but I never saw the white Chevrolet being chased across the bridge by an orange pickup truck.  I guess they had no sense of humor.


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For another post about this project, see Thunder in the Gorge.


To read about the new look Chevy unveiled in 1963, click here.


For background on the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge from Wikipedia, click here.


To see photos of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, from, including a stunning construction shot (c. 1962) click here.


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Upcoming Dates to Remember
Posted by Alison Trost on August 19, 2010 at 9:28 AM.

  • SJI/SDI Seminar - September 2 in Little Rock, Ark. - “Exploring Building Design with Steel Joists, Joists Girders and Steel Deck”





  • SteelDay 2010 - September 24 - plan to attend one of more than 160 events nationwide and beyond (and it’s just 36 days from now!)

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Mackinac Bridge Honored
Posted by Alison Trost on August 18, 2010 at 8:49 AM.

test The Mackinac Bridge, which opened in 1957 and connects Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, has been named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. With a main span of 3,800 ft, it is the third longest suspension span in the U.S. and twelfth longest in the world. Its overall length between anchorages, 8,614 ft, makes it the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere.


To view  a short and  informative video clip from the local television news website, click here.


For more background on the bridge from the ASCE website, click here.


The bridge’s official website,, features information about the upcoming 53rd Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk (scheduled for September 6, 2010) and numerous construction photos.


(click image to view the live bridge cam)


[updated link 9-30-11]

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A Welding Symbol Primer
Posted by Lauren DiPalma on August 17, 2010 at 4:03 PM.

ld.jpgWhich way does the triangle face? Where do I put the length? Which side is the arrow side? Here’s a handy reference site for standard welding symbols offered by Unified Engineering Inc.


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Free Webinar - BIM as an Estimating Tool
Posted by Alison Trost on August 17, 2010 at 9:10 AM.

AceCad Software offers a free webinar on using its StruCad and StruM.I.S. as estimating tools to:

  •     Save time by creating 3D steel models
  •     Increase accuracy by eliminating excess material waste


The one-hour webinar begins at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, August 19, 2010. To register for the August 19 webinar, click here.


To read AceCad Software’s announcement concerning its new BIM webinar series, click here.

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2010 Faculty Fellowship Call for Proposals
Posted by Alison Trost on August 16, 2010 at 8:25 AM.

AISC is now accepting proposals for the 2010 AISC Faculty Fellowship, a four-year, $30,000 per year award for promising faculty members. The program is designed to benefit the entire structural steel industry by developing engineering faculty who are excited and knowledgeable in multiple aspects of steel construction. Applications are due September 15, 2010.


To read the full RFP announcement on the AISC website, click here.


For the Fellowship program description and requirements, visit

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Steel Shots: Hooks and Chains and Other Useful Stuff
Posted by Jennifer Jernigan on August 13, 2010 at 10:56 AM.

Steel Shots: Hooks and Chains and Other Useful Stuff

A view of the side yard from inside Hirschfeld Industries’ plate girder shop in San Angelo, Texas.


Jennifer JerniganA lot of steel has to be moved in and around fabrication shops, and often it’s done with a gantry-type crane that straddles the load. Mi-Jack Travelift rubber tire gantry cranes like this are a common sight in steel fabrication facilities. They have been around for years – the company started in 1954 – and are available with lifting capacities anywhere from 36,000 lb to 300,000 lb.


The spreader beam hanging from the two hooks on the underside of the Mi-Jack has anywhere from six to eight chains attached to it. The chains hang down in big loops that are used to carry long flimsy pieces of material, such as pieces of plate that are used for fabricating plate girders. At that stage it’s sort of like picking up a noodle — if you just pick it up in the middle, it will drag on the ground, but if you have multiple chains wrapped around it at various points, it will stay flat and ride into the shop well.


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Engineering Journal Q2 Now Online
Posted by Alison Trost on August 12, 2010 at 9:13 AM.

The Second Quarter 2010 issue of Engineering Journal is now available to AISC members online in digital edition format. Members can view the current issue online by clicking here.


New to this issue is the share feature, which allows you to share articles via email and social media web sites such as Facebook. And due to the popularity of the digital edition, the archive feature also has been enabled for the next few issues. The archive feature allows you to browse prior digital editions beginning with First Quarter 2010.


Article searches for the complete collection of Engineering Journal remain available at Downloads of current and past articles in PDF format remain free to AISC members and ePubs subscribers.


Please enjoy the latest digital edition of Engineering Journal. Feel free to e-mail comments and questions to Keith Grubb at

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Student Photo Contest Deadline Nears
Posted by Alison Trost on August 11, 2010 at 8:48 AM.

The AISC-sponsored Student Photo Contest, being held in conjunction with SteelDay 2010, is designed to capture the essence of SteelDay. It is free to enter and open to any student currently enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program at an accredited domestic college or university.


Each contest submission consists of a set of three photographs that together pictorially demonstrate the combination of structural steel and the theme “Interact. Learn. Build.” A completed application form and signed release form are also required. Deadline for submission is Saturday, September 18, 2010. The winner will be announced on September 24, which is SteelDay 2010. Winning photos will be published in Modern Steel Construction.


For more information, go to and

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Thunder in the Gorge
Posted by Ted Sheppard on August 10, 2010 at 2:23 PM.

Ted SheppardMen and women who have worked in the field erecting structural steel know that there are events that take place and people who show up that are memorable, interesting, humorous or all of the above. They have nothing to do directly with hanging iron, but they sometimes contribute to the overall experience. Usually the bigger the job the more stories there are to tell. A case in point is the erection of the Niagara Arch Bridge between Lewiston, N.Y. and Queenston, Ontario.


I was on a job in Detroit a few years ago, and the man taking me around was a Native American. When he told me where he was from, I said that I had worked with people from there on the bridge on the Queenston side. He asked me, “Were you there when the plane went down?” When I told him that I was, he went over to another ironworker and told him that I had been there “when the plane went down.” I remember it well, but it was obvious to me that it was a story that had spread to people who were not even there at the time. I for one will never forget it.


We had a creeper derrick on the arch and a material derrick up top on the tower behind the skewback. The creeper had finished erecting the two arch ribs in front of it, and almost all of the men on the American side were down on the river bank working on the next falsework bent. The falls of the material derrick were empty, but they were in the down position near the material buggy. There was not a lot of space between the rear leg of the creeper and the falls of the other derrick. All of a sudden a fighter jet came down the gorge, and just before it hit the creeper, it rolled so that the plane fit between the derrick leg and the falls. It then crashed into the side of the gorge. The only person who knew there was no pilot in the cockpit was the instrument man who was taking the arch rib elevations. It passed right through his line of sight. We had to retrieve the rod man. He fell to his knees and froze.


The explosion rocked the gorge, and you could feel the heat on the Canadian side of the river. The plane was a National Guard jet that flamed out shortly after takeoff. The pilot bailed out and when the plane got to the gorge, it made a right turn and headed for the bridge. It is something that I will never forget.



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For background on the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge from Wikipedia, click here.

To see photos of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, from, including a stunning construction shot (c. 1962) click here.

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