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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Hisorical Crossing is Aesthetically Pleasing Entrance to WCF:
Pratt Truss Bridge gets new lease
on life at Wyoming County Fair

LEFT: The historical Pratt Truss Bridge has been a useful addition to the Wyoming County Fairgrounds. It formerly carried traffic in Cowlesville. 
Fairgoers cross the Pratt Truss Bridge into the Wyoming County Fair on Wednesday. The bridge spans Wiscoy Creek near the Water Street entrance.

LEFT: The Pratt Truss Bridge now serves visitors to the Wyoming County Fair. 
RIGHT: The Pratt Truss Bridge is picture during its installation.

  When the Pratt Truss Bridge, located in Pike, was showing its age, demolition was just one of the options. But a better solution was found for the old span that used to be located in Cowlesville. The Wyoming County Fairgrounds has been home to the old bridge since 2021. It now has a second life helping fairgoers cross Wiscoy Creek.

“The bridge is a historical monument type of bridge. It’s not built for road traffic,” said Bill Marsh, superintendent of grounds at the Wyoming County Fairgrounds. “The Wyoming County Highway Department contacted me awhile back and said they needed to relocate the bridge. Then we got it. Hopefully it’s here to stay, at least for another 50 years.”

The bridge was constructed in the 1900s by the Oatka Engineering Company. It was relocated in 1933 from Erie County to Schoellkopf Road, in Cowlesville, to replace the former Mosier Covered Bridge. The Pratt Truss Bridge was relocated to its current location in 2021, and the Fairgrounds had itself been in need of a new bridge.

What makes it a relative rarity? The 101-foot, single lane, metal pin-connected structure is made of two trusses with the floor hanging between them. It’s a single lane, narrow, short bridge. 

The bridge underwent a full rehabilitation including steel repairs and painting before its relocation in Pike. It was initially intended to be placed adjacent to the then-existing bridge that crossed over the creek and into the Fairgrounds.

“We discussed the use of the two bridges but decided against the idea because one was more suitable for its purpose,” Marsh said.

The Pratt Truss Bridge was rehabbed 10 times between 1960 and 1999. It’s rated for 8-ton vehicles with a 10-foot clearance. It was reassembled on-site at the Fairgrounds. The bridge is considered historical because of its particular design and that few of its kind are left.

The through truss style of bridge was first developed in 1844 under the patent of Thomas and Caleb Pratt. According to its history, the bridge is designed with “diagonals in tension, verticals in compression, except for the hip verticals immediately adjacent to the inclined end posts of the bridge.”

The former Fairgrounds bridge, also historical, is now housed at the fairgrounds.

“This bridge [Pratt Truss] upgraded the crossing location into the fairgrounds for the next 30 to 40 years,” Marsh said. “This was completed through a federal grant through a federal program. It was beneficial to us because we wouldn’t have been able to make the upgrade on our own.

“It’s aesthetically pleasing and it’s a nice addition to the fairgrounds,” he continued. “It’s a nice introduction to the fair and it complements the grounds perfectly.” This year’s Wyoming County Fair will end for the season after tonight’s tractor pull.

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