What Bridge Design Holds the Most Weight?

By on July 27, 2007 -- Modified on October 12, 2016

Is there an absolute best bridge design? And if you know what it is, does this mean you can build a model bridge that blows everything else out of the water? These are actually not easy questions to answer, but they certainly come up a lot. The question I get asked the most is “What bridge design holds the most weight?” or “What bridge design is the strongest?

Let’s dive in with an example.

Is the the Pratt truss or the Warren truss stronger? Actually, the answer is up to you. You can make the Warren truss stronger. Or you can make the Pratt stronger. It depends simply on the strength of the wood you use. You can use 2×4’s to build the Warren, and toothpicks to build the Pratt. Obviously the Warren is going to be stronger in this case.

A Better Question

I think though, many people are trying to ask whether or not one of these trusses has an inherent advantage over the others. In my mind, none of them do. If you look at my truss design page, you will see that each truss spreads a load out differently, but none with an apparent advantage. Conclusion: no bridge design has an inherent strength over another.

However, this conclusion only applies to this general setting. It may be that in a specific situation one bridge design would be better suited than another. It is up to you to examine how each truss works and decide which one to use.

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40 thoughts on “What Bridge Design Holds the Most Weight?”

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  1. Do you have anything on a Cable-stayed bridges?

    By Maya Albarn -- October 16, 2016
    • I do not have anything about Cable Stayed bridges at this time.

      By Garrett Boon -- October 16, 2016
  2. more detail there are kids that are looking for info

    By brenden -- October 5, 2016
    • Thanks for the comment, Brenden. We have a lot more detail in our article database covering a wide range of topics related to model bridge building. One article can’t do it all, so we have things split up to focus on certain things.

      By Garrett Boon -- October 8, 2016
  3. Garrett, we recently did a bridge experiment in scouts using card stock to demonstrate how a regular piece will only hold a little weight but the same piece with the long sides folded up a little will hold a lot more. What is the principle being demonstrated? And more importantly, can you use it in Popsicle stick bridge design??

    Any one can try this using the front or back from an empty cereal box.

    By Brenda -- May 22, 2014
  4. Hi,
    Im in the seventh grade and in Industrial Arts we are building bridges out of balsa wood the bridge can only be 13 inches wide and we have as much balsa wood as we need.
    so what would be the best bridge design for this project?
    (the wieght will be put into a bucket that is attached to the bridge)

    By maddie -- March 24, 2013
  5. sweatland@peoplepc.com I am a welding student and have to build a brige 22 inches long 3 inches wide out of 1/8th in rod. the bridge will be tested by how much weight that can be hung on the underside before it collapses. I plan on an arch brige but am trying to figure the best truss system to use for strength. any feedback would be greatly appreciated. ty ben

    By ben sweatland -- March 14, 2013
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