2013 Iron and Steel Preservation Conference

Waterford Bridge in Dakota County, Minnesota: One of a few bridges awaiting restoration and conversion into a bike and pedestrian bridge. Photo taken in August 2011

Historic bridge preservation can take on various form. While some bridges are sandblasted and repainted, some bridge parts are welded together to make them look like they were just recently built.  And as the need for welders for preservation projects are as high as ever, Vern Mesler and Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan are once again hosting the Iron and Steel Preservation Conference, a two-day event that takes place on 4-5 March.

Apart from showcasing live welding demonstrations, such as oxygen welding, pack rust removal and straightening metal through heating,  many speakers will be participating in the evening presentations, among them, Michael Mort, owner and producer at Equity Studios, who published a book entitled  “A Bridge Worth Saving, A Community Guide for the Preservation of Historical Bridges” in 2010, which has won many awards in Michigan and elsewhere. Other speakers participating at the event include Cynthia Brubaker of Ball State University, who will talk about the history of bridge companies in Indiana, Dario Garspini, Chris Marston and Kevin Whitford, who will talk about Moose Creek Bridge in New Hampshire, and Mark Bowman of Purdue University, who will talk about Evaluating and Repairing Metal Structures in Indiana.

Cost for the event is $175 for one day and $300 for both days. Information on how to register is available by clicking here, or contacting Vern Mesler either at (517) 483-9583 or by e-mail using the form here.

Waterford Bridge to be restored- mainly decking and abutments

For the people working on restoring the Waterford Bridge northeast of Northfield in Minnesota, an event like this might present them with a chance to pick up some useful skills to use and share with other preservationists. As recently as this month, a survey on the structure conducted by Workin’ Bridges revealed that the steel truss structure is in great condition and the majority of the work being conducted on the bridge is the decking and abutments. This is good news for the preservationists who are striving to incorporate it into the bike trail. A contract has been let out by Frank Wergin of Waterford Township to rehabilitate the structure, which can be viewed here.  More information about the project is made available via Julie Bowers at Workin Bridges, Liz Messmer of the Waterford Iron Bridge Organization and Frank Wergin at the township. Mr. Wergin’s e-mail address is: waterfordtownship@gmail.com.. Ms. Bower and Ms. Messner can be reached through their respective pages available via facebook.

Other good news regarding historic bridge restoration:

Gilliecie Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa- another bridge under the radar of Workin’ Bridges as it will be replaced in 2014. Photo taken by the author in Oct. 2005










Gilliecie Bridge to move to Sunny Brae Golf Course-

Spanning the Upper Iowa River on Cattle Creek Road in Winneshiek County, Iowa, this bridge, which also goes by the names of Daley and Murtha, was one of over two dozen bridges that were constructed in the county by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio between 1870 and 1890 and one of three bowstring arch bridges that existed over the same river (the Lower Plymouth (now extant) and Freeport (now located at a park in Decorah) were the other two). The structure, built in 1874 and has a length of 129 feet (main span), sustained heavy damage to the top chord of the structure and was scheduled to be replaced in the near future (2014). Yet the bridge may soon have a new home as a golf course bridge at Sunny Brae in Osage in Mitchell County.  As soon as funding is available, the move of the bridge to the golf course could take place by the end of next year and open to all traffic in the coming golf season in 2015. Mitchell County will then have four through truss bridges in use for recreational purposes, which includes the Otranto Bridge and two through truss bridges along the Wapsi Bike Trail northwest of Riceville. More information on how you can contribute to the relocation of the bridge can be sought through Workin Bridges.

 Rothrock Bridge to reopen as a pedestrian bridge

Located over Blue River at the Harrison and Crawford County border in Indiana, this Parker through truss bridge was built in 1916 and had a length of over 155 feet long. It was replaced by a pony truss bridge in 2005 and the future of the structure was unclear. Less than eight years later and a full restoration later, the bridge is awaiting to be placed onto new foundations at the Hayswood Natural Preserve southwest of Corydon.  The $1.4 million project featured the dismantling of the entire structure, sandblasting and welding, fixing and replacing broken parts, painting the bridge parts and reassembling it at its new site. The last phase of the project will be to reinstall it over the new piers over Indian Creek at the preserve and integrate it into the bike trail that is being constructed. The project is scheduled to be completed by spring. An article on the restoration can be found here.  It will be the third historic bridge to be restored in both counties, yet another bridge, the Breeden’s Bridge may soon follow as it is scheduled for restoration this year. It is unknown however when this bridge will be used again and for what purpose.