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INTRODUCTION
Soon after the 2007 collapse of the I-35W Bridge
over the Mississippi River, speculations flew
regarding the cause of this catastrophic failure.
Only five days after the failure, one bridge engineer
was quoted as saying, Rivets are old technology
and that rivets slip, implying that a riveted
connection may be the cause for the collapse.
Though the main truss gusset plates soon after were
recognized as the true cause for the collapse, these
statements reflect the general misunderstanding
bridge engineers have for the way riveted
connections work and their durability. With
essentially no major riveted bridge construction for
over four decades, the bridge construction
community has steadily forgotten how rivets work,
and when compared to the work horse slip-critical,
high strength bolts, rivets appear both inferior and
relatively simple.
On the contrary, riveted construction may be the
most studied structural connection overall. From
1860 through the 1940s, over 1400 articles and
papers in North America and Europe were written
discussing the performance of these heated and
manipulated metal cylinders. However, riveted
construction will always be a labor-intensive
operation, and rivets were rapidly replaced starting
around 1960 as welding and high-strength bolts
became the preferred methods of structural
connection. This transformation occurred due to
economic considerations, not concern for the
performance of riveted connections.










A BRIEF HISTORY OF RIVETED BRIDGE
CONNECTIONS
Metal rivets had been used for centuries to connect
small metal straps. Only with the development of
larger rivets in the early 1800s could rivets then be
truly considered for structural applications.
However, the first American iron bridge of the 1840s
used bolts and threaded rods to connect members.
Central Parks famous Bow Bridge (1862)
incorporates countersunk bolts to attach adjacent
segments of the cast iron arch. The first use of
structural rivets on a European bridge was built in
1860. In the United States, rivets were first used on
iron bowstring and other small bridges in the late
1860s, steadily replacing bolts as a means of
fabricating built-up bridge members.
Pin-connections dominated truss connections into
the 1890s, but with the increased acceptance of
rivets and the development of pneumatic rivet guns,
rivets gradually replaced pin connections for all but
the largest truss connections.
Though rivets dominated the field of structural
connections through the 1950s, their reign was not
completely respected. Structural riveting, especially
with field connections, required at least four workers
in a gang. Labor costs for riveting led engineers to
investigate alternate connection methods as early as
1920. The 1920s saw the development of the cold-
driven rivet-bolt known as the structural ribbed bolt
(discussed later). This connection was used
sparingly on bridges, most notably on floor beams
connections for the strictly utilitarian pony trusses
fabricated by the Ohio Bridge Company in the
1950s.
Design and Performance of
Riveted Bridge Connections
William J. Vermes, P.E., Jones-Stuckey, Ltd., Inc., Akron, Ohio
KEYWORDS: Rivets, bridge connections, friction, bearing, shear stress, fatigue, fabrication.
ABSTRACT:
From the late 1800s to 1960, riveted construction was the predominant connection method of both steel bridge
fabrication and erection. Now, nearly a half-century since the general use of rivets ended, many American engineers,
unfamiliar with riveted design, look at rivets with suspicion and as an inferior connection. However, review of past
riveted construction practices, recent research and current field observations of riveted steel bridges show that riveted
connections are indeed an enduring and premium fastener among existing bridge connections.

2

However, the true competition and eventual
successors to rivet were welding and high-strength
bolts. Both of these connections saw early
development and testing by the 1930s. With smaller
work gangs and thorough testing, welding and
bolting were generally accepted by the 1950s. After
1960, many new steel bridge constructions were
completed utilizing shop riveting and the relatively
efficient bolted connection for all field connections.
By the end of the 1960s, riveted connections on
bridges were gone.
Among the last riveted constructions found on
American bridges are the shop rivets installed on the
suspension bridge towers of the Second Delaware
Memorial Bridge (Wilmington, Delaware, opened
1965) and the field connections of the lost I-35W
Bridge over the Mississippi River (Minneapolis,
Minnesota, opened 1967).
HOW RIVETS WORK
The popular understanding among todays bridge
engineers regarding how rivets work has been
passed down from the conservative view set forth by
our engineering forefathers 100 years ago or so.
Rivets are viewed strictly as a bearing connection
(Figure 1). No clamping force is considered from
the rivet shank, and thus no load is transferred
between adjoining steel members via friction
between their faying surfaces. This is a very
simplistic view for the rivet is a very complex
connection and difficult to calibrate. Because of this
complexity, the interaction between the heated rivet
and the fabricated hole, quality riveting was more of
an art than an analytic procedure.

Figure 1 Rivet Terminology
THE RIVET
Before installation, cold rivets are placed in a forge
where they are cooked (heated) to a cherry red
color. The actual required temperature of the rivet
is in a narrow range from 1850 to 1900 F for
approximately 20 minutes. Heating rivets for too
long or at too high of a heat will result in defective
rivets, either burned rivets with pitting on the shop
head (Figure 2), or added brittleness due to a
changed crystalline structure within the rivet steel.
Conversely, to heat a rivet too little results in a rivet
shank that does not fill the hole completely.
Temperatures within these forges can be difficult to
calibrate, and thus heating rivets requires a feel for
metal that now lies with todays blacksmiths.

Figure 2 Pitting on Head Indicating
Burned Rivet (Note: This photo was
taken after 77 years of service.)
Once the rivet is adequately cooked, it is placed in
the rivet hole and bucked up (held in place) on the
shop head side. The protruding shank is then
pressed into the semispherical shape. Shop rivet
heads were formed with a single hit from presses
while field rivet heads were made with multiple hits
using hand-held pneumatic rivet hammers, also
affectionately known as hell dogs by ironworkers.
The initial contact on the rivet shank would upset
the shank; viz. the first contact would cause the
shank to swell, filling the rivet hole completely with
rivet shank, at least in theory. Past and present
examinations of cut rivet sections show that gaps
ranging from 0.005 to 0.03 inches occur between
the shank and base metal. These gaps are more
likely to occur at the center and shop head end of
the rivet, and was more pronounced with rivets
having longer grips, or shank length (Figure 3).
Shop
Head
Plies
Field
Head
Shank

Figure 3 Comparison of Gap Between Rivet
Shank and Base Metal
THE RIVET HOLE
By the early 1900s, bridge engineers knew that the
performance of the riveted connection also
depended on the method that the rivet hole was
made and the quality of the rivet hole alignment.
Typically, there are three methods of hole
fabrication: punched, subpunched & reamed and
drilled. Punched holes are the less desirable as
severe deformations occur along the hole perimeter,
providing microcracking and uneven bearing areas
for the rivet shank. Drilled holes were time
consuming, required frequent changing of drilled
bits (especially with A8 nickel steel of the 1910s
through 1930s) and produced much heat in the base
metal. The preferred and common method for rivet
hole fabrication was the hybrid subpunch and ream
(drill) approach. Numerous tests conducted up
through 1940 generally concluded that the subpunch
and ream method produced holes with the fewest
defects and provided the best fatigue resistance in
the riveted connection (Figure 4).
Figure 4 Various Rivet Hole Quality
Subpunched & Reamed (Left
Punched (Right)

Comparison of Gap Between Rivet

By the early 1900s, bridge engineers knew that the
performance of the riveted connection also
depended on the method that the rivet hole was
made and the quality of the rivet hole alignment.
Typically, there are three methods of hole
cation: punched, subpunched & reamed and
drilled. Punched holes are the less desirable as
severe deformations occur along the hole perimeter,
providing microcracking and uneven bearing areas
for the rivet shank. Drilled holes were time
d frequent changing of drilled
bits (especially with A8 nickel steel of the 1910s
through 1930s) and produced much heat in the base
metal. The preferred and common method for rivet
hole fabrication was the hybrid subpunch and ream
ous tests conducted up
through 1940 generally concluded that the subpunch
and ream method produced holes with the fewest
defects and provided the best fatigue resistance in

Various Rivet Hole Quality:
(Left) &

QUALITY OF THE INSTALLED RIVET
Inspections of removed rivets reveal a multitude of
questions that have contributed to contractors
claims of the extreme difficulty in removing rivets
without damaging the base metal. As one would
expect, these questions have a multitude of
answers.
One difficulty encountered by fabricators and
ironworkers with the placement and removal of
rivets is the occasional misalignment of the steel
plies, known as the camming effect
the hole, the hot rivet,
1
/
16
smaller in diameter than
the rivet hole, is flexible enough to be placed in an
imperfectly aligned hole. Additionally, for shop
driven rivets, it was determined that excessive force
from the hydraulic presses used to
the rivets would compress the base metal and
deform the edge of the rivet hole, producing at
times deep grooves to the newly driven rivet shank
(Figure 5).
Figure 5 Comparative Hole Deformation
Under Increasing Shop Hydraulic Forces
When rivets are driven with pneumatically rivet
hammers in the field, the ironworker needs to apply
an even and consistent force on the rivet hammer to
form an even and concentric rivet head. Failure to
do so was considered grounds for rejection by the
inspector and the subsequent removal of the rivet.
A list of defective rivet characteristics
Appendix A.
Examination of pre-1890s rivets removed during
bridge rehabilitations generally show that non
concentric rivet heads and uneven shanks
the location of each steel ply of the rivet hole
(Figure 6). Review of rivets removed from bridges
erected in the 1910s through 1930s show the near
perfect shape of nearly all rivet heads and alignment
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QUALITY OF THE INSTALLED RIVET
Inspections of removed rivets reveal a multitude of
questions that have contributed to contractors
claims of the extreme difficulty in removing rivets
ase metal. As one would
expect, these questions have a multitude of
One difficulty encountered by fabricators and
ironworkers with the placement and removal of
rivets is the occasional misalignment of the steel
camming effect. When placed in
smaller in diameter than
the rivet hole, is flexible enough to be placed in an
hole. Additionally, for shop
driven rivets, it was determined that excessive force
from the hydraulic presses used to upset and drive
the rivets would compress the base metal and
deform the edge of the rivet hole, producing at
times deep grooves to the newly driven rivet shank

Comparative Hole Deformation
Shop Hydraulic Forces
en rivets are driven with pneumatically rivet
hammers in the field, the ironworker needs to apply
an even and consistent force on the rivet hammer to
form an even and concentric rivet head. Failure to
do so was considered grounds for rejection by the
ector and the subsequent removal of the rivet.
characteristics is included in
1890s rivets removed during
bridge rehabilitations generally show that non-
concentric rivet heads and uneven shanks showing
the location of each steel ply of the rivet hole
(Figure 6). Review of rivets removed from bridges
erected in the 1910s through 1930s show the near-
perfect shape of nearly all rivet heads and alignment
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of the shanks. This drastic improvement in quality
must be attributed to the overall constant
refinement of the craft by bridge fabricators and
erectors in the early 20
th
Century.

Figure 6 Extreme Camming of Shank on Iron
Rivets from an 1875 Truss Bridge
DESIGN ASSUMPTIONS & VALUES
For over a century, there has been no change
regarding the way allowable stresses for rivets have
been presented to designers. Allowable shear
stresses have been determined based on the cross
sectional area of the shank and the grade of the
rivet steel, while allowable bearing stress is based
on the product of the diameter and plate thickness
of the ply. With increased yield strength of rivet
steel and base metal, improved craftsmanship of
riveting and rivet hole alignment and fabrication,
allowable rivet stresses steadily rose during the 20
th

Century. A sampling of these values is shown in
Table 1 and expanded further in Appendix B.
Additionally, standard practice called for the
installation of 20 to 25% more rivets in field
connections than design called for to account for the
non-ideal working conditions and the added difficulty
for ironworkers to drive rivets perfectly.
Stress
Allowable Stress (psi)
1903
Cambria
1923
1953
AASHO
2009
ASSHTO
*
Shear 6,000 7,500 13,500 20,000
Bearing 12,00 15,000 27,000 40,000

* For high-strength A502 steel
Table 1 Comparison of Allowable Shear and
Bearing Stress
Still, allowable stresses do not fully describe how
rivets work, and despite extensive research
performed on riveted connections, engineers
typically stated several simplistic rules regarding
how rivets work: The most common rules-of-thumb
were, and still are:
1. Rivets completely fill the holes they are driven
into,
2. Any friction between plies is neglected,
3. Bending stresses in rivets are neglected, and
4. Stress is evenly distributed throughout joint.

The root of these assumptions is due to the difficulty
for engineers to quantify the tensile stress in the
rivet shank and the resulting clamping force of the
rivet onto the plies as the rivet shank cooled.
However, past tests performed of riveted
connections revealed that these four assumptions
are all false. However, bridge engineers had known
that these assumptions were incorrect beginning at
the early stages of riveted bridge construction.

In Designing of Ordinary Highway Bridges (1888),
Waddell discussed both the means that rivets work
and the uncertainty of their long-term performance:

Where two plates are riveted together, the rivets,
driven when hot, contract, or tend to contract, in
length when cooled, thus drawing the plates together,
and producing a friction, which it is necessary to
overcome before shear can come upon the rivets.
Whether this friction will continue indefinitely is
doubtful, for rivets occasionally become loosened when
the structure is subjected to oft-repeated loads; so it is
not legitimate to become dependent upon the friction
in order to reduce the number of rivets. Again: if the
friction were to be dependent upon it would be only
right to allow for the initial tension on the rivets, which
tension is great enough to force off the heads.

The above text likely contributed to establishment of
the first two assumptions. Furthermore, though he
does not mention the phenomena by name,
Waddells statement likely contained one of the
earliest discussions of slip within loaded riveted
connections.

As stated previously, rivet shanks are not in
complete contact with the circumference of the rivet
holes and friction contributes to the performance of
the connection. To demonstrate and quantify,
researchers performed numerous lab tests in the
1930s to better understand how rivet truly work.
One such test involved simple rotation tests of
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adjoining plies about solitary rivets, indicating that
friction is indeed present.

A more definitive test measured the initial tension
present in cooled rivets of 3- and 5- inch grips (the
total length of the steel plies). After measuring the
distance between fixed points on both rivet heads,
the tension was relieved as one of the steel plies
was removed by a lathe. The measured
recoverance (contraction) of the rivet demonstrated
that the rivets were subjected to tensile stresses
commonly above the yield stresses, and that the
rivets were stretched in the order of 0.0012 inches
per inch of shank as they cooled and were not
permitted to correspondingly contract.

Additionally, one lab test of the 1930s identified
slight bending within rivet shanks through
observations of slight deformations of drilled holes
placed within rivet shanks, and just like bolted
connections, many lab results have demonstrated
that stresses are not distributed evenly throughout a
connection.

HOW RIVETS SLIP
Perhaps with the inspection of rivet holes following
removal of the rivet, many contemporary engineers
have concluded that the misalignment of the plies is
evidence of slipped riveted connections that they
have heard of. Rivets do indeed slip, but not
immediately upon loading, and not necessarily at the
same stress level. In a report released in 1924, it
was shown that initial slip may occur at shear
stresses anywhere from 2,500 to 10,500 psi, and
continue on until 15,000 to 20,000 psi shear stresses
are reached. During this slip stage, where friction
between the plies is overcome, the rivet may be
viewed as passing from a friction connection to a
bearing connection, or maybe even a bending
connection. Still, this stress is beyond all allowable
shear stresses of the time. Figure 7 shows a typical
shear stress-strain curve of one such test, with slip
occurring from approximately 5,000 to 18,000 psi.
Please note that the total slip occurring is less than
0.008 inches, and that the slip occurring at and
below the allowable shear stresses of the various
periods, say 10,000 to 13,500 psi, is perhaps only
0.003 inches. At shear stresses of 18,000 psi and
above is where the riveted connection truly act as a
bearing connection.

Figure 7 Comparison of Gap Between Rivet
Shank and Base Metal
Instead of performing as a bearing connection as
has commonly been assumed or a friction
connection that high-strength bolts are known to be,
riveted connections probably act as a hybrid
connection part bearing, part friction. It is this
dual characteristic, difficult to individually quantify
their contributions of each component, which have
led engineers to maintain the long-held simple
perception of riveted connections.

STRUCTURAL RIBBED BOLTS
Structural ribbed bolts were first introduced in the
1920s and by the mid-1930s, one manufacturer had
claimed that their structural ribbed bolt had already
been used on numerous bridge constructions.
Dardelet was a significant manufacturer of this type
of fasteners, also known as interference-body bolts
(Figure 8). The claimed advantage of these rivet
bolts was that they were driven while cold with the
ribbed tight against the fastener hole, the ribs
deforming as they grind against the rim of the hole.

Figure 8 Catalogue Photo of the Dardelet
Rivet-Bolt

Ribbed bolts first appear in the ASSHO highway
bridge specifications in 1953, with allowable shear
and bearing stresses slightly less than traditional hot
rivets. Installation was secured with a wrench
tightened nut, but no claims of frictional resist
due to shank tension have been found. Ribbed bolts
were undoubtedly replaced by high-strength bolts
just like rivets had been.

HOW RIVETS HAVE PERFORMED
Not only has engineering folklore stated that rivets
slip, it had been stated that rivets can lo
time. While Waddell was still making this claim in
the 1920s, documented cases are hard to find. This
phenomenon is most likely due to an initial
installation error rather than failure of the rivet itself.
If insufficient rivet stock was placed in
resulting formed head will be too small, resulting in
a lack of clamping force, and a deficient shank not
filling the hole and providing little contact bearing
area. A possible example of poor riveting leading to
failed rivets occurred on the Fink-truss modified,
through girder Torii-Gawa Bridge (Japan, built
1887), where worn and loose rivets were found
throughout a top flange to web area and adjacent
web stiffeners (Figure 9).
Figure 9 Wear to Shanks of Loose Rivets
Torii-Gawa Bridge (Japan, 1887)
The most common occurrence of rivet failure, albeit
partial failure, is the random sheared rivet head.
The authors experience with this failure is that pack
rust between the plies likely produces additional
tensile stresses with localized corrosion in the
Ribbed bolts first appear in the ASSHO highway
bridge specifications in 1953, with allowable shear
and bearing stresses slightly less than traditional hot
rivets. Installation was secured with a wrench-
tightened nut, but no claims of frictional resistance
due to shank tension have been found. Ribbed bolts
strength bolts
Not only has engineering folklore stated that rivets
slip, it had been stated that rivets can loosen over
Waddell was still making this claim in
documented cases are hard to find. This
phenomenon is most likely due to an initial
error rather than failure of the rivet itself.
If insufficient rivet stock was placed in the hole, the
resulting formed head will be too small, resulting in
a lack of clamping force, and a deficient shank not
filling the hole and providing little contact bearing
area. A possible example of poor riveting leading to
truss modified,
Gawa Bridge (Japan, built
1887), where worn and loose rivets were found
throughout a top flange to web area and adjacent

Wear to Shanks of Loose Rivets,
(Japan, 1887)
The most common occurrence of rivet failure, albeit
is the random sheared rivet head.
The authors experience with this failure is that pack
rust between the plies likely produces additional
tensile stresses with localized corrosion in the rivet
shank (Figure 10). As discussed previously, this
failure results in a localized loss in frictional
resistance but possibly not bearing resistance.
Figure 10 Sheared Rivet Head
Due to Pack Rust

FATIGUE PERFORMANCE
With the adoption of fatigue prone details and
fatigue classifications, rivets have been designated
as a Category D fatigue prone detail, resulting in a
maximum allowable stress range of 7 ksi, similar to
some welded details. With rivets, fatigue failure
occurs with crack propagating from the rivet hole,
not the rivet itself (Figure 11). Conversely, high
strength bolts are a Category B detail, and have an
allowable 16 ksi stress range. With millions of rivets
in tensile connections present on American bri
in daily service from 40 to over 100 years,
there relatively so few fatigue failures of rivets
Figure 11 Fatigue Crack Propagating From
and Through Rivet
6
shank (Figure 10). As discussed previously, this
failure results in a localized loss in frictional
not bearing resistance.

Sheared Rivet Head
Due to Pack Rust
With the adoption of fatigue prone details and
fatigue classifications, rivets have been designated
as a Category D fatigue prone detail, resulting in a
maximum allowable stress range of 7 ksi, similar to
some welded details. With rivets, fatigue failure
occurs with crack propagating from the rivet hole,
not the rivet itself (Figure 11). Conversely, high-
strength bolts are a Category B detail, and have an
allowable 16 ksi stress range. With millions of rivets
in tensile connections present on American bridges
in daily service from 40 to over 100 years, why are
fatigue failures of rivets?

Fatigue Crack Propagating From
Rivet Hole
7

First, the common philosophy regarding the
difference between the bolts and rivets is that bolts
provide a clamping force that will arrest microcracks
or flaws occurring along the edge of the connections
hole. With the lesser clamping force that rivets
provide, lab tests performed in the 1970s and 80s
indicated that riveted connections worst general
representation for fatigue occurred in the Category
D boundary for approximately 1,000,000 cycles
(Figure 12).

Figure 12 Compiled Fatigue Data for
Riveted Connections

However, the limited testing of riveted connections
out in the 2,000,000 cycle ranges show fatigue
failures at and above the Category C level.
Furthermore, maximum stress range of primary
riveted connections often is found to be below 5 ksi,
well below the stress range for Category D details at
2,000,000 cycles and beyond.
Further research conducted at Lehigh University
under John Fisher in 1985 concluded that Steel
connections with good clamping force and normal
bearing ratios can be considered equivalent to
Category C. Later, in 2003, the newly released
Manual for Condition Evaluation and Load and
Resistance Factor Rating (LRFR) for Highway Bridges
(2003) states quite simply:
Base metal at net sections shall be evaluated upon
the requirements of Category C.



CRACKING DUE TO STRESS CORROSION
Though rivet fatigue cracks may be less of a concern
now, cracking is probably more prevalent due to
stress corrosion caused by the combination of
thinning of connecting plies and secondary bending
stresses from the pack rust deformation (Figures 13
& 14).

Figure 13 Pack Rust Between Flange Angle
and Web Plate Resulting in Vertical Bowing
Between Rivets (multiple spots, including at
red arrow)

Figure 14 - Stress Corrosion Crack Resulting
From Localized Bending From Pack Rust and
Localized Section Loss
PROPER RIVET REMOVAL
Steel truss bridge rehabilitations often require
removal of both complete steel members and
individual components. With this, numerous rivets
must be removed to the chagrin of ironworkers.
Unfortunately, the bridge engineering community
does not yet appear to have a universally accepted
procedure that is both good for the bridge, the
owner and the contractor.
Rivet removal by rivet hammer, first with a chisel bit
to shear the rivet head off and then with a blunt bit
to push the firm rivet out, is hard on the
8

ironworkers body. Because of this, contractors will
advocate for burning the rivet out with a torch.
Despite assurances that the base metal will not be
damaged, too often this is not the case (Figure 15).
Furthermore, on at least one occurrence, a design
engineer permitted torch removal of rivet with the
upsizing of the connection (e.g., removing a
7
/
8
"
rivet, reaming the rivet hole
1
/
8
" larger in diameter,
and fastening with a 1" bolt). Unfortunately, this
procedure still resulted in unnecessary damage to
the structure with no benefit to the owner.

Figure 15 Damaged Truss Web Base Metal
During Rivet Removal Via Torch
Another method available was incorporated on the
Main Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation in Cleveland,
Ohio. This rivet removal method involved using a
proprietary cutting torch called Slice that would
pierce the rivet with a concentrated acetylene flame.
The rivet head was then sheared off with a
pneumatic hammer (rivet buster), and the rivet
driven out. The performance of this method is
summarized as follows by the bridge engineer, Bill
Beyer, who oversaw this work:
The piercing seemed to make the head and shank
removal much easier. I thought that it worked very
well, although I noticed that as the project
progressed, the men appeared to get more careless
with the piercing, and I would see holes in the
remaining base material that had been damaged by
the Slice rod.
Currently, the best method for rivet removal perhaps
is a two-step method similar to that being performed
on the current Golden Gate Bridge Seismic Retrofit.
First, a drill is placed over the rivet to be removed,
and the head is removed with the drill bit stopping
at the base metal. Next, a smaller drill is used to
remove significant portions of the shank, relieving
much of the pressure along the shankrivet hole
interface. The result is undamaged base metal and
an efficient method for the ironworkers to perform
the required repairs (Figure 16).
To get straight to the point, the best ways to
remove rivets with minimal chance of damaging the
original steel do not include any torches, heat or
flames. If torches are used, damage to the base
metal can and eventually will occur.

Figure 16 Drilled Out Rivets, Golden Gate
Bridge Seismic Retrofit

RIVETS IN THE 21st CENTURY
Noting that there are numerous steel vehicular and
railroad bridges in good condition that were built in
the 1920s and earlier, it is apparent that riveted
bridge connections will be around for many, many
decades to come. With the endurance of riveted
steel bridges, engineers will continue to need to
understand how these connections work and
perform.
More importantly, however, there is a revival in the
practice of riveting, though currently a very modest
one. With the rehabilitation of historic truss
bridges, historic preservation offices and engineers
are increasingly looking for ways of maintaining the
appearance and interpretation of these bridges.
Structural rivets are still readily available, and they
are still available at retail costs in the same range as
high-strength bolts. The challenge is retraining
engineers and contractors on the how to rivet, which
has been and steadily happening over the last 10
years.
9

One such example of new riveting for historic bridge
restoration was performed on the Zoarville Station
Bridge in Tuscarawas County (Figure 17), a rare Fink
truss incorporating Phoenix columns for its primary
compression members. Built in 1868, it nearly
collapsed after decades of abandonment. Following
a great civic and fund raising effort, the bridge was
disassembled for repair. Several of the original
Phoenix columns could not be reused, and these
members were replicated with shop riveted
connections (Figure 18). Furthermore, field
connections were also riveted, resulting in a unique
historic bridge preserved for future generation.
New structural riveting has been performed on
historic bridge rehabilitations in Michigan, Indiana,
Ohio and Washington, and a historic bridge
rehabilitation requiring riveted connections is
currently planned in Texas. Once again, rivets are
here to stay.

Figure 17 Restored Zoarville Station Bridge
(1868), Near Bolivar, Ohio

Figure 18 One 1868 Iron Rivet (Left) & One
2007 Steel Rivet (Right)
10

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Vern Mesler, VJM Metal Craftsman, LLC
Doug Lockhart, Blacksmith,
Maker of the Hand Forge, Logan, Ohio
Phil Fish, Wisconsin DOT (retired)
Bill Beyer, HNTB, Kansas City, Missouri
Tony Hatem, HNTB,
Golden Gate Bridge Seismic Rehabilitation
William C. Barrow, Cleveland State University
Special Collections
David A. Simmons, Ohio Historical Society

REFERENCES
I THOUGHT I WAS DEAD, Survivors tell of horror
as bridge collapses, The Cleveland Plain Dealer,
Tuesday, August 7, 2007, p. A6.
Riveted Joints, A critical Review of the Literature
Covering Their Development, with Bibliography and
Abstracts of the Most Important Articles, The
American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1945.
Bibliography on Bolted and Riveted Joints, American
Society of Civil Engineers, 1967.
Ketchum, Milo S., Design of Highway Bridges,
McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, 1920, pp. 469-75.
Blakelock, David H., Slip of Riveted Joints in Single
and Repetitive Loading, Engineering News-Record,
Vol. 92, June 5, 1924, pp. 972-3.
Landon, R.D., Comparative Strength of Short and
Long Rivets, A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the
College of Engineering University of Cincinnati, May
12, 1927.
Defects in Railway Bridges and Their Remedies,
Proceedings of the Symposium on the Failure and
Defects of Bridge and Structures, Japan Society for
the Promotion of Science, Tokyo, Japan, December
1958, p. 27-29.
Zhou, Y.E., Assessing Remaining Fatigue Life of
Existing Riveted Steel Bridges, Recent Developments
in Bridge Engineering, Proceedings of the Second
New York City Bridge Conference, 2003, p. 198-200.
Wilson, Wilbur M. and Thomas, Frank P., Fatigue
Tests of Riveted Joints, the Engineering Experiment
Station, University of Illinois, May 1938.
Shedd, Thomas Clark, Structural Design in Steel,
John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1934. pp. 270-2.
Field Manual for Bridge Inspectors, Maryland State
Roads Commission, 1932, pp. 75-80.
Out, Johannes M.M. and Fisher, John W., Fatigue
Strength of Weathered and Deteriorated Riveted
Members, Fritz Engineering Laboratory, Lehigh
University, October 1984.
Davis, R.E., Woodruff, G.B. and Davis, H.E., Tension
Tests of Large Riveted Joints, Engineering News-
Record, Vol. 122, February 16, 1939, pp. 220-221.
Manual for Condition Evaluation and Load and
Resistance Factor Rating (LRFR) for Highway
Bridges, ASSHTO, October 2003, pp. 7-1.
11

Common signs of defective rivets include the following:
1. Loose rivets.
2. Rivets where either head is not in full contact with the plate.
3. Burned rivets, caused by overheating and possibly brittle (See Figure 2).
4. Split head rivet, caused by overheating and driven too cold.
5. Soldier cap rivet, caused by excessive length of rivet, giving a lip around the
head of the rivet (Figure A-1).
6. Rivet with unfilled head, caused by too short shank or driven too cold (Figure A-2).
7. Spherical head rivet, caused by being driven too cold (Figure A-2).
8. Rivet with head not concentric with the axis of the rivet.
9. Rivet being driven when plates are not drawn up properly and metal and metal is
wedged between plates.
10. Caulked rivets. These are loose rivets that may have been caulked so to appear and
sound tight. This is done by tilting the pneumatic hammer or snap at an angle when
driven or using a cold chisel to caulk down the lip of a rivet head.

Any of the above defects could result in the removal of the defective rivet by cutting or drilling. However, the
inspector may permit a defective rivet to remain if its remove may loosen adjacent rivets.










Figure A-1 Soldier Cap Head and Figure A-2 Unfilled Rivet Heads
Unsymmetrical Head



Appendix A Common Characteristics of Defective Rivets


12



Year Reference
Allowable Stress per Rivet (psi)
Shear Bearing
1878
Practical Treatise on the Construction of
Iron Highway, 2
nd
Ed., Alfred P. Boller
-- 10,000
1888
The Designing of Ordinary Highway
Bridges, 4
th
Ed., J. A. L. Waddell
Shear was not a factor as
rivets were considered to
fail in bending.
12,000 (Class A Bridge)
15,000 (Class B & C Bridges)
1900
Southern Pacific Railroad
(Cooper Specifications)
9,000 16,000
1902 Roofs and Bridges, Jacoby & Merriman 12,000 24,000
1903 De Pontibus, 2
nd
Ed., J. A. L. Waddell
10,000 (Shop Rivets)
8,000 (Field Rivets)
20,000 (Shop Rivets)
16,000 (Field Rivets)
1909
General Specifications for Steel Highway
Bridges & Electric and Street Railway
Viaducts, Bernt Berger
12,000 (Shop Rivets)
9,000 (Floor System, Shop)
(Reduce
1
/
3
for field rivets)
18,000 (Shop Rivets)
14,400 (Floor System, Shop)
(Reduce
1
/
3
for field rivets)
1916 Bridge Engineering, J. A. L. Waddell
10,000 (Shop Rivets)
8,000 (Field Rivets)
20,000 (Shop Rivets)
16,000 (Field Rivets)
1920
General Specifications for Steel Railway
Bridges
12,000 (Shop Rivets)
9,000 (Field Rivets)
24,000 (Shop Rivets)
18,000 (Field Rivets)
1920
The Design of Highway Bridges, Milo
S. Ketchum
12,000 (Shop Rivets)
10,000 (Field Rivets)
24,000 (Shop Rivets)
20,000 (Field Rivets)
1934
Structural Design in Steel,
Thomas Clark Shedd
11,200 (Hand Driven)
13,500 (Power Driven)
22,400 (Hand Driven)
27,000 (Power Driven)
1935
Standard Specifications for Highway
Bridges, 2
nd
Ed., The American
Association of State Highway Officials
12,000 (Shop Rivets)
10,000 (Field Rivets)
24,000 (Shop Rivets)
20,000 (Field Rivets)
1953
Standard Specifications for Highway
Bridges, 6
th
Ed., The American
Association of State Highway Officials
20,000 (H.S. Rivets)
13,500 (Power Driven)
11,000 (Ribbed Bolts)
40,000 (H.S. Rivets)
27,000 (Power Driven)
20,000 (Ribbed Bolts)
2009
Standard Specifications for Highway
Bridges, The American Association of
State Highway Transportation Officials
20,000
(High Strength Rivets)
40,000
(High Strength Rivets)

Note: Waddell specified the same allowable stresses that he professed in De Pontibus (1903 edition) and
Bridge Engineering (1916).


Appendix B Survey of Rivet Allowable Stresses