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Through Howe Bridge

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This review appeared in the May-June 1994 issue of "Garden Railways" and was written by Richard Schafer

Part of the romance of narrow-gauge railroading has to be rooted in the quaint structures and bridges that served as accompaniment to these operations.

A truss is an open framework based on a triangle that, when supported at tow points, is designed to carry a load across the intermediate space. A truss can be built of wood, metal, or a combination of these materials. It uses a system of compression and tension, which allows timbers and iron rods to consolidate their forces to form a functional bridge.

The Howe truss, designed by William Howe and first used in 1838, is the earliest type of simple truss, and it called for timber construction wherever possible. Top and bottom chords and diagonal members are timber, with the vertical members typically being iron rods. Cast iron was also utilized for the bearing blocks for the diagonal web members.

Long spans were possible with the technology of the Howe truss, and since this bridge's primary material (timber) was already on-site, the Howe became an ideal choice for river crossings.

Mark Smith of Lone Star Bridge continues as a practitioner of the traditional Howe-truss style. He is now offering a 1:20 scale model, which he has dubbed the Silverton Branch Through Howe. This version is not a scale model of any specific structure, but rather is based on the construction practices of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

Lone Star's through-Howe bridge measures 48" long x 9.5" wide x 12" high over its outside demensions. Clearence through the inside of the bridge is 7" wide x 10" high, which provides plenty of clearence, even for LGB's Congdon-stacked locomotives.

It has a definite prototypical feel to it. The bridge is built to accomodate LGB's #10610 1200mm sectional track on a drop in basis. Mark will also hand spike-in your choice of rail before the bridge is assembled as an option.

Furniture-grade mahogany is used throughout. It is very cleanly and accurately cut, with no evidence of splitting, splinters, or fuzzing anywhere. The wood is hand rubbed with teak oil and has a beautiful light-brown color. It should become more gray or silver with age and exposure to sunlight. Brass rods and castings are used on all the functional aspects of the bridge. Nut-bolt-washer castings are used wherever they serve no real function on the model. All hardware, with the exception of the Lone Star builder's plate, is painted flat black.

The bridge is a beauty! Its exquisite craftsmanship and accurate representation of the through-Howe-narrow-gauge bridge make it a definite asset to the garden railway. The Silverton Branch Through Howe truss bridge is priced at $575.00, which includes shipping to the "lower 48" in a protective, custom made foam packing carton.

This review appeared in the June/July 1994  issue of "Outdoor Railroader" and was written  by Russ Rienberg

Four feet long and it smells good, too. Yes, folks, Lone Star's owner Mark Smith is back with his biggest bridge in some time and if you see one you almost certainly will want one. The through Howe truss bridge began as an exact copy of a Colorado & Southern prototype but when Mark showed the first sample, most people suggested he incorporate some esthetic improvements. The result is a "near copy" following prototype practice and, as the photo can only suggest, it is more than big; it is stunning.

The overall dimensions are 48 by 9.5 by 12 inches. In 1:20 scale, that works out to typical narrow gauge dimensions of 82 feet long by 16 feet wide by 20 feet high. As on all Lone Star bridges, the wood is hand crafted high grade mahogany, the truss rods are blackened solid brass rod, and the detail castings are blackened pewter, the deck timbers allow you to drop in LGB sectional track but, at additional charge, Mark will build the bridge with scale ties and spike down your choice of rail.

In past reviews we have pointed out the quality of Lone Star's workmanship and materials is unsurpassed. In our review of Lone Star's Hermosa Creek bridge, we noted that when Mark's hardware varied from what ap-
peared on our plans, Mark was actually right and the plan was wrong. Only in the case of size, number, and placement of some nut-bolt-washer castings might Lone Star stray from precise prototype practice and then it will be intentional. Mark points out his larger than scale NBW's look better, using fewer of them keeps down the price, and changing their placement becomes necessary when he reduces their number. In the case of an almost prototype bridge such potential discrepancies may be incidental but, either way, they fall into the category of artistic license and this bridge certainly a work of art. The bridge does capture the overall appearence and spirit of a full size counterpart and it seems unlikely even a fastidious modeler would find much to criticize.

The wood has a rich, satin, impregnated, weather resistant finish. The almost flat black finish on the metal parts is paint. Only Lone Star's trademark, the polished brass star, shows its natural color. The quality of the NBW castings is excellent, as is that of all other metal parts. Every aspect of the workmanship is topnotch. The wood-to-metal joints are virtually seemless. Every corner is square and clean; each piece mates precisely with every other. The end of each timber exhibits no splintering, rough grain, or fuzz; everything is satin smooth.

The finish of the wood surfaces seems more appropriate to top quality furniture than an outdoor model. Lone Star still putties every nail or pin hole flush with the wood surface. It is impossible to detect a filling by touch and very difficult to find it with the eye. The glue joints are invisible and, as we know from reports over the years, the bridge is durable. Even the custom foam packaging to protect the model during shipping is a work of art. In the past, I have found the perfection of Lone Star's work to be throughly disgusting. Moreover, I find my utter lack of criticism of of Mark's products (including this bridge) unnerving and hideous. I hate it when any manufacturer is able to impress me so completely time after time. And, now that Lone Star offers products so accurately reflecting either specific prototypes or, as in this case, prototype ractice, I am ever more nonpulsed. Finally, considering the time it takes to build a product of such obnoxiously outstanding quality, the price seems very reasonable. Few of us could equal Mark's precision and artistry no matter how much time we spend. I despise anyone with such an abundance of talent. Regrettably, then, I must bestow upon Lone Star's Through Howe Truss bridge our highest praise: It is superb.

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