1907 - Situation at Little Otter

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Fri May 4 23:42:58 EDT 2007

Roanoke Times - May 2, 1907


Collapsed Concrete N. & W. Bridge Still Completely Dams Stream.


Men Endanger Lives When Offered Increased Wages to Labor Below Culvert -- Water
Backed Four Miles and at One Point is 30 Feet Deep -- Complete Story

A Times reporter went down yesterday to view the situation at the
scene of the
cave-in of the culvert over Little Otter river in Bedford county and the
following is a complete report of the situation:

About a year ago E. G. Nave Brothers Company, contractors, built this large
concrete culvert and then filled in an earth embankment over the culvert and on
account of the magnitude of the work it took about a year to complete it.
The culvert is about 40 wide and about 140 feet long. The earth
embankment on
top of the culvert is 70 feet high.
Last Saturday about 6 p.m., the arch gave way right in the center of the
roadbed, leaving a hole on top large enough to put a good-sized house into, and
completely damming the stream.
The chief engineer of the Norfolk and Western Mr C. S. Churchhill was called
upon as to what was to be done. He at once went to the scene of the
disaster and
put the wheels to moving to clear the debris away. Three steam shovels are at
work day and night lifting out the earth. It is necessary to remove
about 75,000
cubic yards of earth in order to clear the way for a new bridge.
Tuesday night a big fire engine of the Roanoke fire department was
at a great rate of speed to the scene of the trouble and was set up
on the upper
side of the embankment by 2 o'clock Tuesday morning and 750 feet of hose was
strung over the 90-foot embankment and down to the lower side and back up into
the culvert to where it could server a double purpose of diminishing the water
on the upper side and at the same time a hose is played upon the
earth inside of
the culvert, washing tons of earth down stream. This engine is also
kept working
night and day.
Then, beside this, there is a ten inch pipe being forced through
the earth in
the culvert. At 6 o'clock yesterday evening they had succeeded in forcing this
pipe 90 feet and by this morning it is expected that water will be flowing
through, greatly relieving the situation. This pipe, it might be
added, is being
forced in an unique manner. A 14x14 inch bridge timber about 25 feet long
containing several iron rods inserted into it, is forced against the
pipe by men
holding there iron rods, very much in the manner of the historic battering-ram
used in ancient warfare.
It is supposed that the weight of the earth caused the thin wall of the
concrete arch to succumb, or that there was fault in the arch being too narrow
at the top to sustain the immense weight of earth.
The bridge is located a short distance above the old one now being used and
is on the new double-track work of the N. and W., but fortunately, was not yet
in use. The work had been finished, however, and accepted by the
railroad company.
The men who are working below in the culvert are in constant danger and it
was with difficulty that the men where induced to endanger their lives, but at
increased wages they went to work.
The loss is variously estimated at from $200,000 to $500,000.
It will take at least five months to build a new culvert and embankment. The
new culvert will be a littler smaller and more substantial.
There are many officials and civil engineers on the ground supervising the
removal of the obstruction.
The water is backed up for about four miles and at the culvert is
has a depth
of 30 feet.

- Roger Link

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