Touring The St. Louis Arch

No sleeping in this past Saturday. Instead I got up, showered and was on the road by 6:15, driving a little over 2 hours to St. Louis. Fortunately, the roads were fairly clear of ice and snow and there was none falling during my drive.

It was an enjoyable visit. For those who have never been, the entire arch operation, including the entrance to the trams, the “Westward Expansion Museum”, the various theaters, gift shops and stores are all underground, beneath the arch itself. Before heading down there, I took several outdoor shots from the city-side of the arch.

The trams are actually little egg-shaped cars that transport you up through the arch curves to the top in about 3 or 4 minutes. The cars are small with 5 seats (you cannot stand, that’s how short they are), though I don’t see how 5 adults could ever sit together in the small space. On my ride up I was alone. On the trip back down I was seated with a father and his young son and we were cramped.

At the top there’s not much else to do but lean over to the small window-slits that are angled downward and take photos of the city side and the river side. I was finished getting all the shots I wanted in about 15 minutes.

When I returned to the base I walked through the museum while waiting for the start time of the movie “How The Monument Was Made.” The museum is laid out in a circle with concentric rings within it, depicting the history of Missouri and it’s role as the gateway to the expansion of the United States to the west.

By far, I enjoyed the “How The Monument Was Made” film most. What an engineering marvel and accomplishment it was to design and build the St. Louis Arch, also known as the Gateway to the West. The arch is an integral part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which is operated by the National Park Service.

Here are some interesting facts about the arch:

The Arch is the tallest national monument in the United States at 630 feet.

Construction began February 12, 1963 and the last section (the very middle at the apex) of the Arch was put into place on October 28, 1965.

The span of the Arch legs at ground level is 630 feet, the same as its height.

Each year, approximately a million visitors ride the trams to the top of the Arch. The trams have been in operation for over 30 years, traveling a total of 250,000 miles and carrying over 25 million passengers.

The Arch weighs 17,246 tons. Nine hundred tons of stainless steel was used to build the Arch, more than any other project in history.

The Arch was built at a cost of $13 million. The transportation system was built at a cost of $3,500,000.

In order to ensure that the constructed legs would meet, the margin of error for failure was 1/64th of an inch. All survey work was done at night to eliminate distortion caused by the sun’s rays. Since the Arch was constructed before the advent of computer technology, relatively crude instruments were used for these measurements.

The Arch sways a maximum of 18″ (9″ each way) in a 150 mph wind. The usual sway is 1/2″.

After browsing through the gift shop for some souvenir ideas, I went to see the film about Lewis & Clark. Though I was never a big history buff in school, I was always entranced by the story of these intrepid pioneers and am fairly familiar with the history of their expedition. Their famous expedition into the unknown western part of the continent in their day was the equivalent of our first manned expedition to the moon in 1969. The film was entertaining and I actually did learn one thing I did not know before.

At the conclusion of the film it was back to the gift shop to get some souvenirs and postcards. Then back outside to the cold and wind so I could take some shots from the river-side of the arch. I ended up leaving around 1pm for the drive back to Jefferson City. Cold and tired, but glad that I had taken the trip and made the visit to one of America’s most famous national monuments.

My photos are here.

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