The Bailey Truss Bridge: a work of the past that’s still being used today. First developed by British civil engineer Donald Bailey in 1941, the truss bridge won its fame right away, as they were made of light steel, easily assembled and reassembled, used to replace thousands of bridges destroyed by German and Italian troops in World War II, as they tried to slow the advancing Allied Troops. But from the moment the first Bailey Truss bridge was erected in Tunesia in 1942 to the construction of 3000 of these bridges in Sicily totaling 55 miles, to the usage of double of the amount in Germany alone, neither Hitler nor Mussolini had a prayer as these bridges helped carry heavy artillery, tanks and truckloads of troops to their final destinations on D-Day. And while Donald Bailey was knighted in 1947 for his work, these trusses were later used for civilian uses in the US, Europe and even parts of Africa and western Asia, replacing bridges washed away by natural disasters. In Iowa, for example, several counties relied on these trusses after flood waters destroyed many bridges in 1945. At least a dozen of them were constructed in Harrison County alone. A couple of them are known to exist today.
In Shelbyville Kentucky, located east of Lexington, there is a Bailey truss span over Clear Creek that has been in the news recently. Located on Jail Hill Road just north of US Hwy. 60, this bridge was erected here in 1982, even though the span may have built earlier. Unlike many Bailey trusses that were built by American bridge builders (and of course are located on US-soil), this one was the work of a bridge-building firm located in Great Britain, the birthplace of this unique truss bridge. According to the plaque discovered by James MacCray and Jon Parrish, the bridge was built by Thomas Storey Engineering near Manchester, with the steel being manufactured by Appleby-Frodingham Steel in the district of Lincolnshire. Where the bridge was first built or how many times was the bridge rebuilt remains unclear.
The current status of this bridge is not good. Since the end of last year, the crossing has been closed to traffic because of structural concerns, with plans to replace the bridge being not so far off in the future. Yet there is interest in the purchase of the bridge to be used for private purpose, according to the latest report from the bridgehunter.com website. If you are interested in helping this gentleman out with some information or moving the bridge, please refer to the post here. You can also contact the Shelby County Road Department using the contact details here.
There is hope that this bridge will find a home in one way or another. With its history as unique as it is, it would not be surprising if it appears on the National Register of Historic Places in the near future. But that depends on the amount of information that is available on the bridge.
Author’s note: Special thanks to James MacCray for the use of his photos for this article.