What Bridge Design Holds the Most Weight?

What is the strongest bridge design?

This is the question I get asked the most.

Before we can begin to look for an answer, I need to know more specifically what you are looking for. Are you looking for the the strongest Type of Bridge, such as:

Bridge Types:

  • Beam
  • Arch
  • Truss
  • Suspension

Each of these has advantages and disadvantages. Each type could be the best for a specific situation, and there are a ton of factors that engineers must consider when choosing which one to use.

You can learn more about each of these by clicking the link above.

Perhaps you are asking about which truss design is the strongest. Since most model bridges are truss bridges, this is a great question to ask.

Truss Designs:

  • Warren
  • Pratt
  • Howe
  • Many More
Is the the Pratt, Howe, or the Warren truss stronger? Each of these designs, along with the host of variations, was developed for a specific reason or to make better use of existing or new materials or construction methods. Their history is fascinating, and you definitely should check out the articles about each of them.

Each truss design takes a load or force and spreads it out, eventually transferring it to the bridge abutments and/or piers.

So Which Truss is Strongest?

You really are going to pin me down to answering this question, aren’t you?

In my mind, none of these truss designs has an inherent advantage over the others in a very broad and general sense.

However, when we are considering small model bridges, I have a hard time seeing the Howe as efficient as the Pratt. But is one of these better than the most common, the Warren? You can explore my reasoning on this throughout this website.

Why don’t you take a look at each design and comment below which on you think is the best, especially in the context of model bridges.

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

  1. My son just won his school science fair testing the load bearing capacity of a few different bridge designs (beam, Warren truss and an arch bridge) and the arch bridge won, BUT he built abutments (and an abutment frame) to hold the bridge footings in place. An arch bridge, without the use of abutments, will pancake pretty quickly. With those in place, it had a 296/1 strength-to-weight ratio, which I thought was pretty impressive.


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