Greetings to my bridgehunters and followers of the Chronicles,
For those travelling to Germany in the near future and in particular, Saxony, here’s a guide on what you need to know about the state which is comparable to California in terms of its inventions and innovations. More unique are the bridges that are located there. You will find them in the third sectio of the quiz. Without further ado, have a look at the Guessing Quiz on Saxony, courtesy of the sister column, The Flensburg Files. 🙂 Good luck! 😀
A few days ago, I took advantage of nice weather here in Germany and embarked on a what I’ve touted as an Ironman bike tour through western Saxony. Starting at Hohenstein-Ernstthal, the tour lasted seven hours, going to Glauchau, then along the Mulde to Rochlitz, encountering steep hills with grades of up to 20% and heights of up to 400 meters. Then it was to Geithain before boarding the train for Glauchau before having biked the last seven kilometers to neighboring Meerane. All in all, 85 kilometers by bike and every bridge visited was worth every drop of sweat.
While I will mention more about the tour in a later article, I have a found a net of bridges worth posting. This is located in Penig, about 23 kilometers northeast of Glauchau along the Mulde. We have two major highways crossing over each other while crossing the Mulde, yet there are more crossings in this area than those two. Before giving the way the answer, here’s my guessing quiz question for you:
Look carefully in the picture. How many bridges at this site can you identify and can you find out how old they are? This includes the tunnel.
For the number, here are the options:
a. 2 b. 3 c. 4 d. 5 e. 6 f. 7
A map with the location of the bridges is enclosed here:
The answers will be provided when the article about bridge touring along rivers will be posted in a few weeks. This will include the tour of the Mulde plus a couple river examples. Stay tuned! 🙂
During the summer of 1998, I embarked on a bridgehunting tour along six rivers in northern Iowa, among them the Des Moines River. Before splitting into the East and West Forks, the river literally cut the state and its capital Des Moines into two up until Frank Gotch Park south of Humboldt. Then before entering Minnesota, the East branch snakes its way through Humboldt, Kossuth and Emmet Counties, whereas the West Fork stays in Humboldt County, nicking a corner of Pocahontas before halving Emmet County and its county seat Estherville. It was along the West Branch I saw the bridge in the photo above: the Murray Bridge. Located two river miles southeast of Bradgate, this Pratt through truss bridge with pinned connections had a very unique feature on its portal bracing: star-shaped heel bracings welded right through. That, plus the plaque indicating its builder’s date of 1905 all belonged to a local Iowa bridge builder, A.H. Austin. Little did I realize at that time was that although Mr. Austin may have been a local bridge builder, he left a legacy in northern Iowa that is still talked about to this day. And while three bridges were officially credited to his name in a state-wide survey conducted by the late James E. Hippen in the early 1990s, he built more than any of the historians knew about. And henceforth, we will look at his legacy and the bridges that he built up until now, plus the ones that still exist today.
Born Alva Hiram Austin in Colchester, Vermont on 7 September, 1848, he grew to manhood, having graduated at the University of Vermont. After many of his friends decided to heed to the advice of Horace Greeley, the young man of 27 years emigrated west to Webster City in 1875. After having worked for the county auditor and a local church, Alva became interested in bridge building, and in 1877, did an apprenticeship for a bridge builder in Cedar Falls, who was building bridges in Hamilton County, where Webster City is located. Shortly afterwards, he became a contractor, having established his bridge building business in Webster City at 737 Bank Street. For over 40 years, Mr. Austin built dozens of bridges in Hamilton County, as well as surrounding counties, although records have indicated him constructing bridges mainly in Humboldt and Kossuth Counties. It is possible that he built bridges in other counties but more research is needed to confirm these claims. Mr. Austin was known for his athleticism as a civil engineer, having walked 10 miles between his workplace and the bridge building site daily, and thus having known every village and field in the county and its surrounding neighbors.
Mr. Austin was also a committed civic leader, having served as a mayor of Webster City from 1898-1900 as well as the head of the school board from 1899 to 1901, having successfully spearheaded efforts in building the Webster City High School. He later worked as a city inspector, having overseen the construction of the public swimming pool to ensure the design suited the builder’s expectations.
When Alva died on 8 July, 1944 at the age of 96 years, he was survived by his three children, Roy, Jesse and Fred- all of whom had attended college at Iowa State University, yet his daughter Jesse became professor of economics at Cornell University in New York. Especially in his later years before his death, she became his caretaker. Alva’s wife, Chloe Rachel (née: Scullin) died in 1896 after having been married to Alva for 18 years. Another daughter, Grace, had preceded in death 18 years before his ultimate passing.
As far as bridges are concerned, at least 20+ bridges had been built by Austin in five counties, including Hamilton County, yet Kossuth County seemed to have been his primary customer for at least six bridges were built during his career as a bridge builder. One of them was later relocated to Emmet County. Three were reportedly built in Humboldt County, including the now extant Lewis Street Bridge in Humboldt and the aforementioned Murray Bridge near Bradgate. It is still unknown if and where Austin has built other bridges. However, here is the databank of the bridges that he had built. Information on its dimensions and other photos are available by clicking on the name of the bridge, which will take you to the bridge:
Murray Bridge- This 1905 bridge spans the West Fork Des Moines River southeast of Bradgate, in Humboldt County. The bridge is still open to traffic and considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It’s still open to traffic but plans for possible reuse for bikes and pedestrians are being considered.
Armstrong Gravel Pit Bridge- This bridge spans the East Fork of the Des Moines River north of Armstrong in Emmet County. It can be seen from 160th Street but is privately owned. The bridge was built in 1899 by Austin, but its original location was in Kossuth County. Emmet County’s engineer bought the bridge in 1940 for relocation to the gravel pit, where it served traffic until its closure in the 1970s. The bridge then sat abandoned for three decades until a new owner restored it for private use. The markings on the portals are typical of Austin’s design which could be seen with most of the structures built.
Albright Bridge- Spanning the Boone River at Inkpaduta Avenue south of Webster City, this 1907 bridge represents the common form of the Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and is one of the latest examples of Austin’s work. At 156 feet, this bridge is still one of the longest of its kind in Iowa.
Second Street Bridge- Spanning the Boone River in Webster City, this two-span Pratt through truss bridge with Town lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings was one of the first bridges built by Austin in 1878-9. It served US Hwy. 20 when it was designated in 1926. Sadly, a truck crashed into the bridge in 1949 and it was subsequentially replaced in 1950.
Blackford Bridge- Spanning the East Fork Des Moines River west of Algona, this bridge was one of the earliest structures built by Austin. It was one of the first with its star-formed heel bracings but one of the last using the Town Lattice portal bracing. The bridge was replaced in 1942 for unknown reasons except that the steel was probably reused for the war efforts.
Lewis Street Bridge- Located in Humboldt, this two-span Pratt through truss with Town Lattice portal and heel bracings used to carry this thoroughfare until the late 1960s, when it was bypassed by the Hwy. 169 bridge to the west. The bridge closed to traffic in 1970, yet attempts were made to convert it to first pedestrian then afterwards a pipeline crossing. Heeding to the demands of the county engineer to have the structure removed with haste, the bridge was removed in 1981. Today, only the center pier and the abutments can be seen.
Riverdale Bridge- Located over the East Fork Des Moines River at 150th Street, south of Algona and west of Hwy. 169, the Riverdale Bridge was a late example of a bridge built by A.H. Austin. He was awarded a contract to build the bridge in October, having completed it in 1900. The 142-foot Pratt through truss bridge with M-frame portal bracings functioned in place until its replacement in 1991.
Bancroft Bridge- Spanning the East Branch Des Moines River west of Bancroft, this Pratt through truss bridge is similar to the bridge at Armstrong in Emmet County. It was built in 1899 yet it was replaced before 1990, when the statewide Iowa historic bridge survey was carried out.
(Blue highlighted bridges denotes link to bridgehunter.com website; yellow denotes no info outside this page to date)
According to the surveys carried out by Hippen and Clayton Fraser, several other bridges may have been credited to Austin’s name, yet there has not been any full confirmation. Therefore, there is a plea from you. Do you know of other bridges that Austin built? If so, when was it built, where was it located and most importantly, what did it look like prior to its replacement?
All of these bridges will be added to this page on A.H. Austin in the Chronicles’ Bridge Directory. Stories are also welcomed.
Special thanks to Martin Nass of Webster City for the information on A.H. Austin and Doug Miller at the Kossuth County Highway Department for the photos and information on the bridges in the county.
New Photo Apps and other changes to make the online column more attractive.
JENA, GERMANY- Two weeks after introducing the Bridge Builder’s page for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ wordpress page, the column has expanded to include several apps with the purpose to better address the audience. Some of the new features the Chronicles has available for you include the following:
Pin-interest: As part of the plan to replace the flickr photo app, the Pin-interest app will features photos and some information on the bridges the author has visited, linking it back to either this page or the wordpress version. It had been introduced in 2015 but had been seldomly used up until most recently. Having been relaunched, the app will continue its function as before, but will provide the most basic facts for readers to look at. Most of these bridges pinned here will be the ones in the United States and Canada.
Instagram: The Chronicles is the first historic-bridge-related website to have an Instagram app for photos. The purpose is to transfer the photos of the bridges taken by the author directly onto the website. It’s basically following the same method as its colleague in Vermont, Preservation in Pink, but more focused on historic bridges, mostly in Europe and elsewhere, where the author resides (in Germany). Both apps (located under the category Social Network on the left side) will effectively replace the flickr app, for security issues with Yahoo combined with its recent merger have resulted in the author abandoning the app, even though the bridges there will remain on there until further notice.
Google Translate: Readers will now have an opportunity to read about bridges in their own language. The reason behind this is the number of request by readers in Europe to have the texts translated into their own language, including German as many international bridges profiled have originated from Germany. To access the app, scroll down and you will find it on the right hand side.
Planned Events: Open to all pontists, historians and others, planned events can provide readers with information on upcoming events dealing with historic bridges, preservation, and other seminars dealing with history. If you would like your event to be posted, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Planned events are open for everyone both inside and outside the US.
Tour Guide/Lost Bridges: The Tour Guide page has been updated, including the ones produced by the author as well as the top two finishers of the Ammann Awards for the category Tour Guide as well as winners of the Author’s Choice Awards. The plan is to include more tour guides based on contributions by the author and guest writers, but also based on the results of the Ammann and Author’s Choice Awards from now on. If you have a city or region laden with historic bridges that you wish to write about, please contact the Chronicles.
There are a few touch-ups to be made, including fixing Clustrmaps, adding a couple more apps and updating the themes and other widgets. But the main purpose is to provide better coverage to readers wishing to follow up on the findings of historic bridges and read about the preservation policies that are being advanced. Nonetheless we intend to continue writing and photographing historic bridges, making them attractive for tourists and bringing them up to the attention of people that care about the structures and their significance in terms of history and design and would like to preserve them for generations to come.
Location:White Elster River in the village of Draschwitz, 7 kilometers north of Zeitz in the state of Saxony-Anhalt
Built:1891-2; Damaged during World War II in 1945, Rebuilt in 1946, Restored in 1999/2000
Type:Parker Pony Truss with subdivisions
Length:ca. 30 meters
Status:Open to traffic on a weight limit of 6 tons
During a recent bike tour along the White Elster from Gera to Leipzig (all 90 kilometers of it), I came across this unique structure. After passing through Zeitz and having revisited some of its historic bridges (see link), one would expect to see more of these historic bridges along the river, especially as Saxony-Anhalt has a wide selection of historic bridges worth visiting. One needs to see the towns of Halle (Saale), Magdeburg, Quedlinburg or even the bridges in the Saale-Unstrut River corridor in order to gather the impression that the bridges are being cared for by the state; this includes using funding provided by the European Union but also by the federal government to restore them to their original form while ensuring that cars and bikes can use the bridge.
The Draschwitz Bridge is one of these structures that received this kind of care, as it was restored in 1999/2000, which included new wood decking plus paint on the superstructure, as well as work on the foundations. Given its location on a less used road that is occupied mainly by cyclists and locals driving their cars across, the restoration was worth it, as the bridge serves a local road and the White Elster bike trail, which connects Hof (Bavaria) and Halle (Saale), running parallel to the river until its confluence with the Saale River, between Halle and Leipzig.
But what makes this bridge unique is its unusual truss design. The bridge was built using welded connections instead of pinned connections, as seen on truss bridges in general. Welded truss bridges, together with those with riveted connections were starting to come onto the scene at the time of its construction, as vehicular traffic- namely trains, but also later cars and trucks- had increased since the expansion of the railroad. This prompted the introduction of a network of roads connecting towns on the local level, but later expanded to cities on the regional and in the end national levels. While pinned-connected truss bridges were able to handle light traffic on local roads, as traffic increased and highway systems were introduced, they were replaced with truss bridges with riveted connections. Welded truss bridges were introduced in the 1890s to replace the pinned-connected bridges for despite its biggest asset of dismantling and reassembling the bridge at a different location, missing or broken bolts and cracked eye-bars made it difficult to impossible to relocate the bridge. With welded truss bridges, one has the advantage of relocating the bridge without having to take it apart. Plus with the beams fixed together and welded with bolts, there is more resistance to weight that is on the bridge. The Draschwitz Bridge has this on not only the trusses themselves, but also the outriggers that support the two center panels- an anomaly given the fact that truss bridges usually have outriggers on every vertical beam and panel, especially those in the US built after 1900.
Another unusual feature is the upper chord itself. Normal truss bridges have upper chords that are of either squared shaped beams, V or X-laced or those whose shape resembles the letters I, L and C. They are supported by vertical and diagonal beams that are up to half its size and width. For this bridge, the upper chord and the vertical and diagonal beams are of nearly the same size. However, even more unique is the angled bracings that weave along the top chord, the points sticking outwards by up to 10 centimeters. While some truss bridges in the US and Germany built prior to 1885 may have had features like this bridge, the Draschwitz Bridge is the only known bridge to have an upper chord, decorated with such unusual bracing.
Apart from the renovations, nothing has altered the bridge, even when villagers installed a plaque on the western wingwall, indicating the high water mark set by the flooding in 1954. Chances are, the White Elster may have been rechanneled after that, raising the bridge to prevent it from being swept down stream. Yet, a curved beam connecting that wingwall and the pier raised some eye brows as we don’t know what this serves, except to support the bridge in one way or another.
The Draschwitz Bridge is really a gem in the field when it comes to finding historic bridges. The structure continues to serve local traffic and the Elster bike trail to this day. It’s one of the landmarks one should see when passing through Zeitz and the Elsterau, also the last one to see as one bikes north toward Leipzig, but one that the quiet village of Draschwitz should take pride in, one that Saxony-Anhalt has taken great care of, just like the state’s other historic bridges, and one that historians, pontists, engineers should study further to find out more on its history and structural features. It’s the one bridge that a person can spend lots of hours with the camera and a picnic blanket, sitting and indulging at its beauty, surrounded by a historic and natural landscape.
If you know more about this bridge, feel free to post your comment in the Chronicles’ facebook page or contact Jason Smith using the contact information in the About page.
Our 79th Mystery Bridge takes us to Oklahoma; specifically to Whitesboro in LeFlore County and this bridge. Spanning the Kiamichi River at Township Rd. 4044C south of Whitesboro, this bridge is one of the most unusual through truss bridges a person will ever see in the United States. According to the data from Bridgehunter.com, the total length of the bridge was 270 feet with the largest span being 127 feet, the width of the bridge is around 13-14 feet and the vertical clearance is 13.3 feet. Yet despite the date of construction being ca. 1940, this bridge is unusual as it is a pinned connected through truss, thus bucking the standards of truss bridge construction. As many resources have indicated, most truss bridges built at this time had riveted or welded connections, making the structure sturdier and able to carry heavier loads. Pinned connections had a tendency of dislocating or even having the bolts connecting the beams to break off, causing bridge failure. This resulted in many of the structures being taken off the state highway system and relocated onto less-used township roads beginning in the 1920s and extending well into the 1950s, especially as the US was lacking materials and engineers as a result of World War II. Judging by the appearance of the bridge, it appears to have been built between 1910 and 1915 as this was the cut-off period for constructing truss bridges with pinned connections. It was congruent to the time standardized bridges were approved by the state governments, which included not just focusing on truss bridges with riveted connections and either Howe lattice or lettered portal bracings (namely, A, X, M and West Virginia framed), but also the key truss designs, which were the Pratt, Parker, K-truss, Warren, Polygonal Warren and in some cases, Pennsylvania petit.
The Whitesboro Bridge features a Warren through truss, but looking at the structure further, it appeared that in its former life, it was a deck truss bridge that had many spans, totaling at least 500-600 feet. One can see how the overhead bracings were added, which consisted of thin cylindrical steel beams. Furthermore, there is no portal bracing, like other truss bridges, and lastly, when looking at the joint where the upper beam and the diagonal end posts meet, the upper beam appears to have been sawed off. According to observation by fellow pontist, Mark W. Brown, the piers are 2-3 feet wider on each side and 1-2 feet higher, thus creating a slight slope when entering and crossing the structure. Two theories go along with the piers: either they were installed when the bridge was built or they were reinforced after the bridge sustained structural damage because of flooding.
It is possible that this crossing was the first to have been built as the town expanded because of the baby boomer population. But the expansion did not last as many people moved to bigger cities for job opportunities. As of the 2008 Census, the population of the town incorporated in 1908 and named after one of the founders is only 1298. The hunch is that the highest population of Whitesboro was about 3,400 by 1960.
The Whitesboro Bridge has a design that is not like any unusual designs developed by the engineers at all. It is neither a Pegram nor a Kellogg, now is it a Schaper truss, which you can see in many truss bridges built in Germany and other parts of Europe. This bridge is definitely a repurposed truss bridge, having gone from its previous life as a deck truss spanning one of the state’s greatest rivers, like the Red and the Canadian, to one spanning a smaller river but on whose width justified a through truss span.
This leads us to the following questions:
When exactly was this bridge built and was there a previous structure?
Who was the mastermind behind this repurposing project and why did the engineer choose this?
Where did the bridge originate from?
When was this built and who was the bridge builder?
Are there other remnants of that bridge left besides the one at Whitesboro?
What do we know about Whitesboro aside the facts and figures presented in wikipedia?
Got any leads, please share in the comment sections here as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the link here. As this bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, any information you have or can find will help build a solid case for its nomination, let alone preserving it for future generations. As Oklahoma is losing historic bridges in large quantities in the past 8 years, the time is ripe to preserve what’s left of its culture, especially when it comes to unusual designs like this bridge in Whitesboro.
Special thanks to Mark W. Brown for bringing this to the author’s attention and for providing some interesting pics of this bridge.
Back in October, I had a chance to interview Paul Loether of the National Register of Historic Places and Christopher Marston of HABS/HAER/HALS about the policies of designating and preserving places of historic places. The NRHP has a large database of historic places, categorized based on four criteria (see the interview here), whereas HABS/HAER/HALS deals with the documentation of places of interest, which includes historical and technical aspects (see that interview here). Some exemptions apply but based on special circumstances.
But what about freeways? How historic are they and which parts should be designated historic places? As Kaitlin O’shea documents in this column, freeways are much more difficult to document as much of them are modern. The Interstate Highway System was introduced in 1956, ushering in the use of freeways, using the system that existed in Europe before World War II, in particular, Germany and Poland. While historic highways, such as Route 66, Lincoln Highway, Jefferson Highway and parts of the Pennsylvania Turnpike have received some historic designation in one way or another, the Interstate highway is much more difficult to document and designate because the model used in the 1950s is still being used today, including ramps, bridges, rest areas and the roadway itself. Furthermore, the majority of the Interstate highways have been built from the 1980s onwards.
This leads to the question of whether certain exemptions can and should apply. This is where her column comes in. Have a look at it and ask yourself how an agency can and should approach this carefully.
Exemption from the exemption? If you’re in the regulatory + infrastructure world, you’ve likely come across this. If you are not, step into our world for a few minutes. By law (the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966), all projects that receive federal funding are subject to review under Section 106. Review includes identifying historic […]