The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

ancient walls

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Described in yesterday’s post, the Herr’s Island Railroad Bridge section of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Western Pennsylvania’s City of Pittsburgh is pictured above. It spans the north side of, and the “back channel” of, the Allegheny River.

It’s where a humble narrator decided that it was time to deploy the tripod and attach the ND filter to the lens. It had to be about 11 in the morning by now, and warnings about a weather situation blowing in from the west indicated that the 4:30-6:00 p.m. part of the day was not going to be conducive to photography due to a string of thunderstorms heading east. Best to get busy, despite it not being the best time of day – light wise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maritime industrial action on the Allegheny? Heck, yeah there is. Spotted this adorable little push boat towing an equipment barge towards the junction of the 3 rivers.

One did find a chance to interact with a sailor or two during my stay, and they were positively fixated on the fact that Pittsburgh is reachable by water from everyplace on Earth via its three rivers and their eventual connections to either the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the back channel of the Allegheny which the Herr’s Island Bridge spans. In the distance are a couple more of the 446 bridges in this city. If you’re the sort of nerd that I am, and you’re reading this right now so… yeah, you are… Pittsburgh is an open air museum of Civil Engineering. I chalk this up to JP Morgan’s American Bridge Company being based here historically, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Coraopolis.

There was so much private capital flying around the Steel City prior to WW2, it staggers the mind. American Bridge Company was a minor subsidiary of the larger Morgan project “US Steel,” which consolidated 28 steel manufacturers – including Andrew Carnegie’s “Carnegie Steel,” Elbery Gary’s “Federal Steel” and Judge Moore’s “National Steel” into the largest and wealthiest corporation of its time.

For those of you youngins – Steve Jobs and Apple. Google and Facebook. Monopolies immune to the Sherman Anti Trust Act by design.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Officially, that’s the “Thirty-First Street Bridge, Number Six Allegheny River” pictured above. Colloquially, it’s the 31st street bridge. Politically, it’s the “William Raymond Prom Memorial Bridge,” named for a local son who died while serving his country in Viet Nam. It’s a monster arch bridge spanning the Allegheny River, and I had decided that it would be my turn around point long before this shot was clicked off the list.

It’s a pretty high bridge, altitude wise. 72.6 feet from MLW (mean low water) where it meets the piers, and 180 feet up at the arch, 31st street Bridge is 2,681 feet long from on ramp to off ramp. Also, like each and every bridge I encountered here in Pittsburgh, 31st street bridge had pedestrian and bike accommodations. A walkable city where sidewalks don’t suddenly turn into highway off ramps. Imagine that.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Really, I could spend a month in Pittsburgh and not run out of bridges to shoot photos of. Wow.

Also, notice that there aren’t high chain link fences with barbed wire on top? That the sidewalks have grooves in them to aid walkers and bicyclists in icy weather? The near total lack of street litter, graffiti, garbage floating in the water, and all the other reminders that we receive daily in NYC telling us that our tax money is being spent badly and on the wrong things? Just saying.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 31st street bridge connects the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Troy Hill on the north side of the Allegheny with the Strip district on the Iron Triangle river delta. I walked through the strip district, but that’s something we’ll be taking a look at later on in this series of posts from my just under 72 waking hours here in Pittsburgh. I’ve got so much to show you all in the next couple of weeks.

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Also, I’d greatly appreciate it if any of you could share these posts out to your social media accounts if you like them. I’m about to start doing tours of Newtown Creek again, I think, and would like to increase the “reach” and readership of this continuing effort.

Back tomorrow with more.

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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 21, 2021 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. Hat’s off to the engineers, technicians, steel workers and general contractors who constructed these ageless engineering wonders at a time when no one could even imagine a modern-day conputer. But they had slide rules, building tools and most importantly their brain. Hope to visit this area some day and see for myself these bridges and overpasses which forever joined together people and places.

    Robert COLUZZI, MD

    October 21, 2021 at 5:14 pm

  2. […] from my autumnal visit, listed in chronological order – Great Elms, Gnarled Orchards, Ancient Walls, Lower Meadows, Choked Fissure, Human Clothing, Other Constellations, Certain Circumstances, […]

  3. […] from my first autumnal visit, listed in chronological order – Great Elms, Gnarled Orchards, Ancient Walls, Lower Meadows, Choked Fissure, Human Clothing, Other Constellations, Certain Circumstances, […]

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