You are here

The Engineering Contributions of Wendel Bollman

Thomas Sputo, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., SECB
Course #2020071
PDH: 3 hrs
Price: $30.00

Course Description

The development of structural engineering has always been as dependent upon the availability of materials as upon the expansion of theoretical concepts. Perhaps the greatest single step in the history of civil engineering was the introduction of iron as a primary structural material in the 19th century; it quickly released the bridge and the building from the confines of a technology based upon the limited strength of masonry and wood.

Wendel Bollman, a self-taught Baltimore civil engineer, was the first to evolve a system of bridging in iron to be consistently used on an American railroad, becoming one of the pioneers who ushered in the modern period of structural engineering. Wendel Bollman’s name survives today solely in association with the Bollman truss, and even in this respect is known only to a few older civil and railroad engineers. The Bollman system of trussing, along with those of Whipple and Fink, may be said to have introduced the great age of the metal bridge, and thus, directly, the modern period of civil engineering.

Learning Objectives

• Learn the history of one type of early railroad truss, the Bollman Truss.
• Learn why the Bollman Truss was initially used, and why it fell out of favor.
• Learn why iron and later steel replaced masonry and timber as the preferred materials for
railroad bridges.

About the Author

Thomas Sputo, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., SECB is the Technical Director of the Steel Deck Institute, a trade organization of steel deck manufacturers. Additionally, he is a consulting structural engineer with the Gainesville, FL firm of Sputo and Lammert Engineering, LLC, and Senior Lecturer Emeritus in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida.


There are no special prerequisites for this course.