Old bridge at Viksdalen — FrejaTravels

It is always fun to spot some old demolished constructions and see how the world just pass them by and replace what might have been an important piece of infrastructure back in the day. One of those constructions is just next to the road on highway E13 from Gaularfjellet. We stop at the small village […]

Old bridge at Viksdalen — FrejaTravels

This is Mystery Bridge be. 142. What did this bridge look like prior to its demise? Thanks to the columnist for the discovery.

Wolf Point Bridge – Born out of Tragedy — Journeys with Johnbo

Wolf Point, Montana. On a July trip to Montana, we traveled through the town of Wolf Point. At the Missouri River crossing between Roosevelt and McCone counties, we passed by a small park that led to the original Wolf Point Bridge. On our return home, we stopped to check out the bridge. A placard posted […]

Wolf Point Bridge – Born out of Tragedy — Journeys with Johnbo

Two Bridges — Old Structures Engineering

That’s the Black River in Wisconsin, with a rail bridge in the background and a small road bridge in the foreground. To be more specific, this is at a dammed rapids in the river – the Black River Falls – and adjacent to the town of Black River Falls. Here’s a close-up of the rail […]

Two Bridges — Old Structures Engineering

Going Maybe Too Far — Old Structures Engineering

This bridge, opened in 1897 and replaced in 1923, has an appealing name: it was the Free Bridge, carrying Little Rock’s Main Street across the Arkansas River. The name was descriptive of a crossing rather than inspirational: the purpose of the bridge was to provide free crossings. It was replaced, as was so common in…

Going Maybe Too Far — Old Structures Engineering

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 117

The last pic of the week series on Schwerin looks at a rather unique structure.  Located at the entrance to Schweriner See (Lake Schwerin), the Knüppeldamm Bridge is a wooden, Town Lattice truss bridge with a length of 10-15 meters long and a width of about 2-3 meters. It ist he only known wooden bridge on the castle complex and it can be seen from Lennestrasse. It is unknown when the bridge was built, but judging by the woodrot on the trusses, it appears that the bridge is over a century old.

The Knüppeldamm Bridge has been closed since April 6th of this year after damage to one of the trusses. Apparently the upper chord warped and the diagonal beams bent inwards, as you can see in the picture below. Inspections revealed potential collapse and most recently, the Schwerin City Council recommended demolishing the structure and replacing it. When this will take place remains unclear, but it will mimick the original structure.

But despite having found the bridge and getting some pics on it- both of the good truss on the left as well as the bad truss on the right, one question remains unsolved: How did the damage to the truss happen?

The question was posed on Instagram when I posted it a couple weeks ago. Now it’s being asked here as well as in the other social media channels. Your ideas on how it happened are more than welcome.

Arch — David M’s photoblog

This is my contribution to the One Word Sunday prompt Arch. This is the Old Dee Bridge at Chester, Cheshire, England, the oldest bridge in the city. The Romans built the first bridge at this site. It’s thought this bridge dates back to some time between 1357 and 1367. It’s built of local red sandstone […]

Arch — David M’s photoblog

Industrial Stone Work — David M’s photoblog

The new Cosmic Photo Challenge is WRITTEN IN STONE: STONE WORKS AND STRUCTURES NEW OR OLD. This is the Weaver Railway Viaduct, also known as the Northwich Railway Viaduct. Built in 1860 of red sandstone, blue brick and iron. Half a mile long with forty-eight stone arches and two wrought-iron girder bridges it crosses the […]

Industrial Stone Work — David M’s photoblog

Wartime Bridge: The Legacy of the Bailey Truss

Photo taken by Kevin Skow.

One will find this one anywhere. Even on the backroads like this one: a single span truss span spanning Soldier River just south of Iowa Hwy. 141 in Crawford County. The bridge was erected here in 1957 to replace a span destroyed during the great flood of 1945. At 90 feet, one would think a through truss span could have fit here. Yet the span is a pony truss and it was put together in layers and put together with bolts. A set of Tinker Toys that was put together easily with the purpose of ensuring even the heaviest vehicles- in this case, farm equipment like tractors- would be allowed to cross it. One has to assume that it was imported somewhere where it had a purpose.

And it was. This span is an example of a Bailey Truss bridge. And even though one can find them here and there, in the farmlands of Iowa to the steep hills of central Saxony, even to the far east, such as India, Australia and New Zealand.  Bailey Trusses were unique because all they require is a few metal beams and bolts, combined with manpower, and the bridge is put together in an instant.  Bailey Trusses were the works of a brillant engineer and and without his expertise, it would not have won World War II. As Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, the British commander, once said. ”It was the best thing in that line we ever had; without the Bailey Bridge we should not have won the war.”

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Who was that brillant engineer?  Sir Donald Coleman Bailey.

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Source: Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer / Public domain

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Bailey was born on 15 September, 1901 in Rotherham in Yorkshire. He obtained a degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Sheffield in 1923 and was a civil servant in the War Department when the war broke out in 1939.  The concept of the Bailey Truss was developed in 1936, when Bailey scribbled the design on the back of an envelope. His idea was that prefabricated sections that were interchangable could be deployed to the war front and, with steel pins, soldiers could construct the span, which would be anchored on one side and connected on the other side by the use of force. No heavy equipment would be needed to construct a temporary span, and the parts could be transported with the basic equipment or with man power from one place to another because of their lightweight. Constructing them would be easy for it could be achieved within hours, instead of months. For the war effort, the concept of makeshift bridge construction in the shortest time span possible was of utmost importance in order to win the war.

Firstly ignored, Bailey’s truss design was accepted in 1941 when the Ministry of Supply requested that Bailey construct a full scale span completed by May 1st.  The design was successfully tested at the Experimental Bridging Establishment (EBE), in Christchurch, Hampshire, with several parts being provided by Braithwaite & Co. The first prototype was tested in 1941. For early tests, the bridge was laid across a field, about 2 feet (0.61 m) above the ground, and several Mark V tanks were filled with pig iron and stacked upon each other. Another prototype was constructed in 1943 at Stanpit Marsh also in Dorset and was proven successful. That span still exists to this day. After a series of successful trials, the Corps of Royal Engineers introduced the Bailey Truss as a means of construction in 1942 and companies began constructing parts for the Bailey Truss to be transported to the war front.

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Use in World War II:

The first Bailey Truss was constructed over Medjerda River near Medjez el Bab in Tunisia on the night of 26 November 1942 by the by 237 Field Company R.E. After learning about the bridge‘s success, both the Canadians and Americans embraced the truss and started their own production to complement that of  Britain. Detroit Steel Products Company, the American Elevator Company and the Commercial Shearing and Stamping Company were three of dozens of companies that constructed the Bailey Trusses in the US, which was known as the Portable Panel Bridge. In total, over 600 firms were involved in the making of over 200 miles of bridges using the Bailey design,  composing of 500,000 tons, or 700,000 panels of bridging during the war- at the height of the war, the number was at 20,000 panels that were produced and transported. Bailey Trusses were used successfully for transporting military equipment and supplies during the war, including the Normandy and Italy. American troops built over 3200 Bailey Trusses in Italy as they advanced through the Alps into Germany from the south.  The longest bridge there was located over the Sangro and had a span of 1200 feet.

Bailey Trusses were also implemented in Germany, when hundreds of key structures were imploded by the Nazis as a way to slowing or stopping the advancement of Allied Troops. This included the bridges along the Rivers Rhine and Main. Canadians were credited for building the longest Bailey Bridge during the war. The Blackfriars Bridge, a 1814 foot long (558 meters) over the River Rhine at Rees, in North Rhine-Westphalia, was the longest span in the world when it opened to traffic on 28 March, 1945.

US Army soldiers working together to put a Bailey Truss span in place at the site of the crossing at Wesel (NRW). Source: Beck, Alfred M., et al, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Even when the war ended on May 7th, 1945, Bailey trusses were in use as temporary crossings while the bridges were either repaired or rebuilt throughout Germany. It had a dual purpose: To help displaced residence get around and to allow for the transportation of necessary goods needed while the country was being rebuilt. Some of them were made permanent, while others, including the major crossings along the Rhine, Main and Elbe were temporary, allowing time for the original structures to be either repaired or rebuilt fully.

Bailey Truss span erected over damaged arch bridge in Italy in 1944. Source: War Office official photographer / Public domain

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After World War II:

When the war was over, there was a surplus of Bailey spans that were available for reuse. This allowed for Americans, British and Canadians alike to reuse them for various projects. Many of them made their way to Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, where counties in the western half of the state needed at least temporary crossings to replace the spans that were destroyed during the floods of 1945 and again in 1952. Some examples still remain in use today. Bailey trusses were used as temporary crossings as bridges were being replaced. In the case of a viaduct in Maryland, the Bailey spans were built prior to the original trestle being replaced with steel trestles.

Large numbers of Bailey truss spans were built in mountainous areas in California where constructing bridges to accomodate travelers was difficult because of the steep, rocky terrain. Some of the spans were part of the ACROW bridge- temporarily built as moveable bridges. The Fore River Bridge and the Lynn Baschule Bridge both in Massachusetts are classic examples of such Bailey Trusses used. Bailey trusses were also used as extra support for the truss bridge, as is the case with the Haiti Island Bridge in New York, which happened in 2007. The span and the truss bridge itself were replaced three years later.

Ontario had the largest number of Bailey truss spans for the years after the war, with the spans being built in and around Toronto in response to damages caused by Hurricane Hazel. The Finch Avenue Bridge is the last of its kind and is now a historic landmark. The Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission used some for their office and as walkways. And lastly, Australia built several Bailey bridges, including the world record holder, a 2585-foot (788 meter), two-lane structure over the Derwent River at Hobart, which was constructed in 1975. It served as a temporary structure before the Tasman Bridge was opened to traffic on October 8, 1977. Later, Bailey Truss Bridges were constructed in the far east, including northern Africa, Suriname, and India. Many of them, like the trestle at Wadi el Kuf in Lybia were built by the British during the time of its Empire.

Bailey bridge, Wadi el Kuf, Libya. Constructed by the British Army, shortly after World War II. Source: Jollyswagman on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

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The Legacy of Bailey:

Many scholars and even those who served in the military during WWII believed that the Bailey Truss was the key to mobilizing Allied Troops and securing a victory over Germany and Italy in World War II. As a result, Mr. Bailey received several international accolades for his work. In Britain alone, he was given the Knighthood on 1 January, 1946 and the Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau exactly two years later. By that time, Bailey was living in Southbourne in Bournemouth and was unaware that he had been knighted until one of the girls at the bank had informed him about it. Bailey would live out his days in Bournemouth, where he died in 1985.

He was considered a quiet man but one where he left a footprint with his truss bridge design, which is still widely used in bridge construction, big and small. And while the successes of World War II fell to the common person who fought for freedom and democracy, Bailey was considered one that played a key role, not only in helping bring an end to the war, but to help rebuild the areas ravaged by war with the Bailey Truss. And when you see a bridge like this one below, one will see how the use of simple parts and tools, combined with the use of manpower could make a work of simple art, something we still see today on our roads.

The Prototype Bailey Bridge at Stanpit Marsh. Photo by Eugene Birchall for wiki

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Memorials:

There are not many memorials dedicated to Bailey, even in Britain, for most of the places where he lived have been razed and replaced with newer housing. Yet the prototype Bailey span at Stanpit Marsh still exists today and his birthplace at 24 Albany Street in Rotherham still stands albeit privately owned. Yet there are some companies that specialize in Bailey trusses, including one in Alabama that bears its name. Bailey trusses were rarely used in films, except one based on the battle of Arnhem, A Bridge Too Far, released in 1977. There, the Bailey Truss Bridge was used in the film.

It is really hoped that a statue and/or additional honors, even a museum would be created honoring Bailey for his life and works. 75 years after the end of the great war, nothing of that sort has been considered. This should be considered, especially as talk of the significance of World War II is disappearing together with the War Generation and the children of the Baby Boom that followed. For historians, bridge enthusiasts, teachers and the public in general, it would produce some great talks about the common man who did great things and became Sir Donald Bailey in the end.

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K-Truss Bridge

TYB: In connection with a forthcoming article on another truss bridge type, I would like to take you back to this article I wrote in 2013 on the K-truss bridge. Designed by Phelps, this design was used extensively in the western half of the US as well as some parts of Pennsylvania and Europe between the 1910s and 1950s. Surprisingly they were also used to rebuild bridges destroyed during World War II and some examples can still be seen today. Since its release, this has been the most visited and commented article. Enjoy the article 🙂

The Bridgehunter's Chronicles

Before I go into the topic on K-truss bridges, the second of many to come in a series on unusual bridge designs, I would like to tell you how I managed to come across this bridge, located over the Monongahela River near the town of Speers in western Pennsylvania. I did a paper on this subject during my time of my Master’s studies at the University of Jena in eastern Germany and sent out a request on the topic of K-truss bridges to the Bridge Mafia, as Eric DeLony coined it- a group of hundreds of bridge experts with a vast knowledge of bridges, history and preservation.  Already I knew of the number of K-trusses that existed in Oklahoma, according to Wes Kinser’s website on Oklahoma’s historic truss bridges. Yet I did not know that there was a bridge like this, built in the 1920s carrying the Wabash-Erie Railroad. Given…

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Armchair Travel:Richmond Tasmania — Our Other Blog: Two Sisters and Two Points of View

Richmond is another attractive Tasmanian town. Like Oatlands, it has many old buildings dating from the convict era. The Richmond Bridge, built between 1823-5, is Australia’s oldest bridge still in use. Richmond is located in the Coal River region and is only a short drive from Hobart so over the last few decades it has […]

Armchair Travel:Richmond Tasmania — Our Other Blog: Two Sisters and Two Points of View

This bridge was in the news most recently as residents are pushing to close the bridge to all traffic except pedestrians and cyclists because of its historic value. More on the bridge, its history and significance to the community can be found in the link above.