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This post was written because of this unusual architectural photograph bought many years ago and stored in my archive! Yes, it is about a half finished bridge.

I realized when I bought it that the time frame when one could make this photograph would be a relatively short window of opportunity. The photograph is about engineering, even though that fact did not really sink in until I started doing some more research. I know nothing about the children’s portrait photographer that proudly lists his address on the back of the photograph. Apparently, he had to dabble in other subjects as well!

I know it was taken before the Viaduct was finished in 1909. The bridge in the picture above is the highest railroad bridge in France until 1973 and is still among the 10 highest viaducts in the world. A number of postcards of this enormous engineering feat can be seen on various sights. But a period photograph? Worthy of inclusion in the collection of the Smithsonian? Perhaps so, but I am sure their extensive archives have loads of artifacts! Do not take just my word for it, but this is surely one of the times when the “eye” of the photographer and collector were both in the right place but not at the same “right time“.

To make things easy reading I have copied a page from wikipedia with the story (below) about the viaduct, but if you really want to have fun go to this link.

You will find an enormous amount of information on this fabulous part of France well worth visiting in real life. You can even vicariously experience a wonderful trip.  You can also take a fabulous train ride over the bridge. It is all in the French language mais voila une moment moins serieux de la vie!

Added comments of political note:

Interestingly enough it is not only the French that have decrepit bridges and viaducts, this seems to be a quasi “American Saga” as we all know of decrepit roads and infra-structure in the USA.

No government from either the right or left, socialist, communist or capitalist has found a solution to this worldwide problem but there seems to be always enough money printed for those pet projects of the eternal bureaucrat where ever he or she may be found . Perhaps it is time as some philosophers and economists have claimed to go back to the self governing “city-state” types of governments from some 500 years ago. A sort of new “Hanseatic league” without the types like Mayor Bloomberg from the famous Nani state of course.

Certainly a” free man can abolish that which free men created”.

Fades Viaduct

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fades viaduct
Viaduc des Fades

The Fades Viaduct
Carries Railway
Crosses Sioule
Locale Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne region,  France
Designer Virard Felix
Design Truss viaduct
Material quarried granite and steel
Total length 470.25 metres (1,542.8 ft)
Height 132.50 metres (434.7 ft)
Construction begin 28 October 1901
Construction end 16 September 1909
Opened 10 October 1909

The Fades Viaduct (French: Viaduc des Fades) is a railway viaduct in the Puy-de-Dôme department, central France. At the time of its inauguration on 10 October 1909, it was the tallest bridge in the world, across all categories. As of 2010 it still is the tenth tallest railway viaduct in the world.


The Fades Viaduct is located close to Les Ancizes-Comps, in the Auvergne region, between the communes of Sauret-Besserve and Les Ancizes-Comps. It spans across the river Sioule. Its construction began on 28 October 1901. From 14 to 16 September 1909 it passed the performance tests, using a fully loaded train whose weight exceeded 1075 tons. It was opened on 10 October 1909, and put into service ten days later. What makes the Fades Viaduct exceptional is its monumental piers of quarried granite. Towering over 92 m in height they remain the tallest bridge piers ever built in traditional masonry. They each have a base larger than a tennis court.