The Victoria Falls Bridge was designed by George
Andrew Hobson, M.Inst.C.E., of the firm of Sir
Douglas Fox and Partners, the consulting
engineers. Mr. Hobson was assisted by Mr. Ralph
Freeman who, a quarter of a century later, was to
design the great single- arch bridge over Sydney
Harbour and the Birchenough Bridge over the Sabi
River in Rhodesia.
Among considerations that had to be borne in mind
was, first, an appearance that would blend with the
natural beauty of the site. Then followed the more
material problems of rigidity, to permit railway traffic,
economy in building to keep within the limits of the
contract and, finally, a method of building that
dispensed altogether with scaffolding.
|Postcard published by Raphael Tuck
showing an impressionistic bridge
A single-span steel arch was chosen as meeting
all requirements. This is of the two-hinged type with
its four " feet " hinged to steel bearings in the
As the fierce African sun blazes down the steelwork
of the great arch expands and lifts slightly, turning
on its hinged bearings, but at the same time
retaining its rigidity without buckling or becoming
The bridge is of the braced spandrel type; that is to
say, there is an approximately horizontal top chord
that is linked by verticals to the lower chord or arc.
The panels so formed are braced diagonally and
thus the top chord, carrying the load, relieves the
arc of some of the stress. This type of bridge is one
of the easiest to erect and every part assists in the
building of the whole structure.
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The survey of the bridge site was made
during the Boer War of 1899-1902, and in
May 1903 the contract was let, despite
keen foreign competition, to a British
concern, the Cleveland Bridge and
Engineering Company, of Darlington, Co.
Durham. The firm was destined, thirty
years later, to build yet another bridge
across the Zambezi, the Lower Zambezi
Bridge at Sena, Mozambique, with a total
length of two and three quarter miles.
|Postcard published by Percy Clark