In 1964 the documentary filmmaker, Charles Guggenheim, made a film for the Laclede Gas Company in honor of the bi-centennial of the settlement of St. Louis.
A small portion of the film, Guggenheim must have mounted his camera on the front of a train and photographed the train deck, what I call the interior, of the Eads Bridge, the first bridge to cross the Mississippi at St. Louis.
When I saw it I decided right then I wanted to go there. My opportunity came ten years later, when, as the editor and photographer of a small weekly, I photographed the interior of the Eads Bridge.
I called the Terminal Railroad, which owned the bridge, and arranged for a tour of the train deck.
When I arrived, the person I called the guardian of the bridge took me down a rickety staircase mounted on the outside of the bridge to a door at its foot. I stepped through the door and onto the bridge. A train roared out of the tunnel under the city and passed within what seemed like inches of my nose. The guardian left me there to take my pictures. He gave me free run of the bridge.
Only one side of the bridge had tracks. Quickly, I moved to safety on the other side.
I was still learning my craft, exploring the structure of the bridge.
Learning how light made the dust and dirt that clung to a coupling glow.
The drama of backlighting on the zig-zag, the main brace that connected the ribs.
How light bled through the main brace and the delicate wind brace.
I published the images in the paper under the title, “Captain Eads’ Erector Set.”
Two years later a friend suggested I do a book. My response was, “No. I don’t have a book.” No sooner had he left than I realized I had half a book on the Eads Bridge in my negative files. I invited Howard S. Miller, a professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis to write the text. The University of Missouri published the book in 1979, and the Missouri Historical Society published a revised edition in 1999.
I bought my first view camera, a speed graphic I named Imogen after the great Imogen Cunningham, loaded the film holders with color transparency film, leaned over the rail of the bridge, looked down at the river and made a photograph of the pier for the dust jacket.
If you love bridges or love someone who loves bridges,
The Eads Bridge would make a wonderful Christmas gift.
More images of the bridge are at quintascott.com.