Riverside Bridge to be repaired and reopened

Photo taken in August 2011

The repairs will short term while a permanent solution is being sought out for the bridge.

After three years of politicking, fund-raising, public speeches and publicity from all sides of the spectrum, residents of Ozark, Missouri and Christian County are celebrating a well-deserved victory, for the Riverside Bridge will be repaired and reopened to traffic in the coming months. The two-span through truss bridge, built 103 years ago by the Canton Bridge Company, was closed to traffic in September 2010 after it failed an inspection and was fenced off to all traffic in March 2011 fearing potential liability issues on the part of the county. However, efforts led by Zach and Kris Dyer and the organization Save the Riverside Bridge, combined with support from pontists from outside Missouri have led to the Christian County Special Roads District to initiate the repairs, which will include repairing the concrete piers and replacing the railings and parts of the bridge deck at the cost of $170,000. When completed in approximately five months, the bridge will be in service with a five ton weight restriction, minus all emergency vehicles that need to cross the structure to get to their destination.

However, these repairs are only temporary, as both the county and the state department of transportation are looking for a permanent solution for the bridge, which will feature building a new structure on a new alignment and handing the bridge over to the bridge preservation group and city for use as a recreational bridge. Already scratched was a proposal to build a low-water crossing by the Special Roads District because of high costs and the structural flaws it would feature, including being inundated by high waters and the potential for it to be undermined and turned over by flood waters (please refer to the Chronicles article here for more details). No matter how the bridge will be built, construction will not start for at least two years due to tie needed to buy the property adjacent to the bridge and to design the new bridge.

This might give Dyer’s organization more breathing room to rake in the funds to make the Riverside Bridge a permanent crossing for bikes and pedestrians. Already, the Save the Riverside Bridge has collected thousands of dollars in support for restoring and reusing the bridge. More and more people have joined the organization via facebook. Fund-raising events have been going on frequently since the beginning of 2011. Support and expertise were provided by bridge experts and enthusiasts from the US, Germany and elsewhere. Even the 2011 Historic Bridge Conference made a stop in Ozark for dinner and presentations that were visited by nearly 100 people including Lou Lapaglia, the County Commissioner.  While the plan to reopen the bridge is a victory for Dyer and Co., the organization knows that it must continue to push for a permanent solution for everyone to be happy with.

And with the Riverside Bridge being part of the National Register of Historic Places, in addition to being an integral part of Christian County’s history and heritage, combined with the support from people from Missouri, the US and around the world, there is a great potential that the Riverside Bridge will become a success story and a poster boy for other projects involving restoring and reusing historic bridges to follow suit.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the latest with the Riverside Bridge, but would like to congratulate Zach and Kris Dyer and the rest of the Save the Riverside Bridge for their tireless efforts. It is one giant leap towards the ultimate goal and thou shall continue to keep going until the summit is reached and the sun rises to greet a newly restored historic bridge laden with bikes and pedestrians, all saying thank you for a job well done. Keep up the good work.

More on the bridge and the comments can also be found here.


Book/Documentary of the Month: A Tour of the Rhine in NRW

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Hollernzollern Bridge at Cologne. Cologne and the River Rhine Region in NRW won the Bridge Tour Guide Award for 2013. Photo taken in March 2010

There are many ways to write a book on bridges, let alone do a documentary for a TV program. One can focus on one bridge and its history, but that is more for locals who are closely attached to the bridge. One can focus on a region with a handful of bridges, like writing about bridges in a county or district. Again, the main focus would be the locals, but it would draw some attention from other bridge enthusiasts. As the region gets bigger, so do the number of people who are closely tied to the bridges, and the people from outside who are interested in these sturctures.

However, if you want to focus on bridges along the river, like we have here along the Rhine River, this is where one has to be walk a fine line. While documentaries like the one televised by German Public TV Station WDR can draw hundreds of thousands of viewers to the region, one has to be careful that the people do not become bored with each and every single bridge that is documented and told in the language that everyone can simply understand. This does not mean that it is impossible to talk about a tour of bridges along the rivers. The problem is when the length of the rivers are longer and there are more crossings, then one really needs to divide the project into segments dealing with region, history and in a certain degree, importance to the community.

One of the most successful projects is a two-volume book written by a former Iowa teacher, Mary Costello, on the bridges of the Mississippi River. Her book featured sketches of bridges she drew while on tour and some history to each one, yet it was divided unto the bridges along the Lower Mississippi (Gulf of Mexico to Iowa) and the Upper Mississippi (Iowa to Lake Itasca, Minnesota, where the river began). But what about another long river, the Rhine River?

The Ludendorff-Brücke at Remagen after American troops conquered the Rhine Region in March, 1945. It collapsed two months later. Photo taken by unknown soldier, credit to US goovernment as public domain

For 1200 kilometers (or 760 miles), the Rhine starts in the Swiss Canton of Grisons in the southeastern part of Switzerland in the Alpine region and makes its way north, forming borders with Liechtenstein and Austria before entering Lake Constance and forming the border with Germany. After Basel, the river creates a border between the Bundesrepublik and France before flowing into Germany after Karlsruhe. After passing through Mannheim, Mainz, and Frankfurt, the river creates a deep gorge which slithers its way from Bingen to Bonn and later through the industrial metropolises of Duesseldorf, Cologne and Leverkusen.  After turning west from there, it enters the Netherlands, where after passing through Rotterdam and Utrecht, it creates a delta where the river empties into the North Sea near Katwijk.  Nearly 100 bridges cross the Rhine, half of them in Germany. Each of them has a history of its own, not only in terms of its design and construction, but also its involvement in history.

When WDR (an arm of Berlin-based German public TV channel ARD with its branch office in Cologne) produced the two-part documentary on the Rhine River crossings in 2010, it was aware of the fact that it had to narrow its focus to only a few bridges, for each one had its own personal history to it, and the broadcasters there were aware that they could not afford to lose their audience with too many bridges, nor get into conflict with other German public TV stations who could benefit from this experience, like HR, which covers Hesse and Rheinland Palatinate and SWR, which covers the Saarland and Baden Wurttemberg. Therefore, WDR focused its bridge documentary on just the bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia, covering the bridges of Cologne, Duesseldorf and Duisburg.

The End Result?

A two part series where the first part focuses on the historical aspect. The story there starts in 1945 where the Nazis, in a desparate attempt to fend off the Allied Troops that were enchroaching the country, blew up any bridges along the Rhine that were not destroyed. Yet the mission was unsuccessful because of one of the last standing bridges at Remagen, the Ludendorff Railway Bridge, which the Americans captured on 7 March, 1945. Yet the bridge collapsed 10 days later but not before the troops constructed the bridge heads on both sides of the Rhine so that they could construct a pontoon bridge in its place. The original bridge heads were kept in place and is now a memorial.

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Hollernzollernbruecke and Cathedral in Cologne Photo taken in March 2010

The bridges laid in ruins together with the cities that were bombed out. Yet, one bridge, the Hollernzollern Bridge was rebuilt, using the through arch spans that were bombed off the piers and were sitting in the Rhine. Originally consisting of two three-span arch bridges, an additional one was added in the 1950s and today is the key link for trains travelling to Frankfurt and points to the east of Cologne Central Station. The Bridge serves as a symbol of love, as the railings are covered with padlocks with signs of love written all over them. Legend has it when lovers meet, the padlock was locked on the fenced railing with the keys thrown into the Rhine.

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Love locks on the Hollernzollern Bridge

But the first part also featured a tour of the bridges, inspected by the city engineer on a regular basis to determine how stable the structure is and what repairs are recommended. Marc Neumann, the city engineer serving Cologne provided a tour of the inside portion of the Zoo Bridge in Cologne, one of the most heavily traveled vehicular bridges in Cologne that was built in 1962 and is a box girder bridge, the first built in Germany at that time. Other highway bridges in Cologne have dealt with problems with increased traffic and the city has desperately tried to keep up the pace by constant maintenance of the bridge, as shown with the Severin Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge that was the first post-war modern bridge built over the Rhine in Cologne. The 1959 structure was the focus of structural issues with its stayed cables, which needed to be replaced with the rest of the bridge being painted lime green afterwards. The purpose: to protect the bridge from the salt and other debris that have a potential to make the bridge rust and corrode.

Oberkasseler Brücke in Dusseldorf  Photo taken by V. Janssen

The second part of the series focused on other bridges in the state. Apart from the ones at Remagen, there were many cable-stayed and steel arch bridges that were mentioned in the documentary. While the Theodore Heuss Bridge, built in 1957, was the first cable-stayed suspension bridge built in Germany, there are two bridges are worth mentioning: The Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg and the Oberkasseler Bridge in Duesseldorf. The Oberkasseler Bridge was built in 1973 replacing an ornamental arch bridge built in 1909 that was structurally deficient. The bridge was built alongside the old structure on the south end and after the old bridge was razed, the entire cable-stayed bridge featuring a set of towers planted in the middle of the roadway, was moved 47.5 meters to the original location of the 1909 bridge, a feat unimaginable for a bridge of that size and length, at 617 meters.  The Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg was built in 1950 replacing a similar bridge built in 1936. Yet the name stamms from a group of protesters who blocked traffic to the bridge to protest the closing of a steel plant nearby. From 10 December, 1987 until 20 January, 1988 the workers walked the picket line on the bridge and the nearby company they had worked, resulting in the state government discussing about the crisis in the steel industry and the bridge being renamed at the request of the protesters. A unique action that one can rarely see today unless one is in southern Europe protesting the European Union’s bailout package with the conditions, as seen in Spain, Greece and Cypern.

Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg. Attribution: © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons) 

The Rhine Bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia are unique in a way that one has to go beyond the appearance of each structure to look at its history, how they were built and rebuilt, and how they are integrated into the lives of the people today. While focusing on safety and history were the key elements of the document series, the report also looked at how the people and their bridges go together, whether it is a person living inside a bridge or if there are musicians performing inside or underneath the bridge- both were found at Zoo Bridge in Cologne. The Rhine bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia, once a pile a rubble because of the war, are now a part of the lives of the residents who use it regularly to get from point A to point B. And even if we are in the post-modern era where sleek modern designs dominate the land and cityscapes, the memories of the bridges, how they looked like in the past and how they look like now will remain in their memories for generations to come.

With this in mind, I would like to close with a couple questions for the forum, and for those interested in producing a thorough and history and culturally enriched documentary similar to what was produced by WDR on the Rhine Bridges of North Rhine-Westphalia. The documentary covered many key points that were important for people to know about bridges, infrastructure, safety, culture and history, giving them some interest and perhaps an incentive to pursue something that is similar to what was shown on TV. But the questions posed here are something different from what was profiled here. Keeping the documentary in mind:

1. How would you do a documentary on bridges along the river? Would you chop the river up into segments or keep it the same? Which aspects would you include?

2. When looking at the documentaries enclosed below (in German), what is your opinion of the documentary? What words of advice would you give to people wanting to do what WDR did with the Rhine? This applies not only to the Rhine itself but other rivers.

3. Which other rivers would you imagine doing a documentary on apart from the Rhine and Mississippi Rivers?




Rhein River Crossings to see (in NRW):

Ludendorff Bridge

Severin Bridge

Hollernzollern Bridge

Zoo Bridge

Theodor-Heuss Bridge

Bridge of Solidarity

Oberkasseler Bridge

Griethausen Railway Bridge

These are the bridges mentioned in the TV documentary. There are dozens of others that were not mentioned but should be visited. Please click on the Rhine River Crossings for more details.









A Documentary on Bridges

Jordan Drive Bridge in Saegertown, PA  Photo taken in 2010


A few days ago, German Public TV Channel ZDF, one of two stations based in Berlin, released a documentary on bridges in general for children. Loewenzahn (which is German for Dandelion), with its star Fritz Fuchs and his faithful companion Keks, a Saint Bernhard dog, took the viewers on a tour of bridges, how they were constructed, and how stabile they should be for people to get across. This was all in connection with the plot of the story, which was the fact that a bridge was removed for safety reasons, keeping the children from crossing the creek and entering the soccer field for practice. Fritz received the call for help in building a new bridge from one of the players and despite the criticism from another person working for TÜV (an agency which tests the safety of buildings and cars), he found a way to build a new one for the kids. A whole episode of Loewenzahn can be found below. As the episode is all in German, it provides people with a chance to learn (or brush up on) a little German:

This was the second episode produced on bridges in two weeks. ARD and its satellite station WDR, based in Cologne, had produced a two-part documentary on the Rhine Bridges in North Rhein-Westphalia, which will be featured in a separate article. But it did get my mind to thinking about how to educate the public on bridges, ways to restore and maintain them, and the historical perspective of these crossings. Despite the expertise we have available from engineers, preservationists and experts in restoration, there seems to be a gap between those who know about how to preserve a historic bridge, let alone build a bridge with high aesthetic value but a safe crossing and those who do not know about bridges and ways to build, maintain and restore them for people to use, let alone awe in their structural beauty.  Even more alarming is the fact that the majority of the public would like to save and restore a historic bridge but they do not have the know-how on how to do it. Or even if they do, the quest for knowledge on how to restore bridges is blocked by those who want the bridge removed at any cost.

As many people from the older generations (those born in 1987 and earlier) have become aware of historic bridges and have taken action towards saving them, there is a trend that indicates that even the younger generations have taken interest in the topic of bridges, how to build them, and how to restore them. While public awareness has mostly been successful through presentations, public forums and events and through news stories, there seems to be a lack of medium as to how bridges work and how they are restored to last longer. This means that more TV documentaries on these aspects are needed for the TV-viewers, using information that is neutral, practical and useful for people to learn from. If programs, like the ones mentioned here are being televised for people of all ages here in Germany, then it is a sign that the interest is there and increasing.

Keeping this in mind, here are a pair of forum questions for you to consider and discuss either with your own friends or through the online forums facebook and linkedIn:

1. Do you know of a TV-documentary on these bridges? If so, when and where was it televised? Do they deal with a tour of a city with bridges? What about the historical aspect of these structures? On a scale of 1-10 (1 being best) how would you rate it and what are your reasons?

2. If you want to produce a documentary on bridges to be televised, what content would you put in to interest the audience? What examples of bridges would you use for the documentary? Which TV channel would you release the documentary on?

3. Could you imagine a children’s documentary on bridges on TV similar to that of Loewenzahn’s? Why or why not?


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The Dandelion series was conceived by its original host Peter Lustig in 1979 and first televised in 1981. The children’s series featured Lustig and each episode dealt with a theme that is current but child-friendly, with diagrams and scenes produced and demonstrated by the actor. Despite a scare with lung cancer in 1983 (which almost took his life), Lustig produced 200 episodes until he retired in 2006 and was replaced with Guido Hammesfahr who has hosted the episode ever since, under the name Fritz Fuchs. Helmut Krauss, who plays the neighbor Paschulke, is the only actor left from the Lustig series that still appears in the Fuchs’ series.  The series spun-off into a pre-school series in 2012 and was produced as a film in 2010 as part of the 30th anniversary celebration. More information on Loewenzahn can be found here.


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One bridge spared, two on the way out?

Wheeling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River in Wheeling, West Virginia. Photo taken by author during visit in August 2010

Sioux Falls’ local bridge receives a new life; Wheeling Suspension Bridge failing; Sewell Falls Bridge to be razed and replaced

With Sequestration (the process of initializing automatic budget cuts across the border) taking hold on the American way of life with the potential of putting the recovery process in reverse, for many pontists and bridge enthusiasts alike, the last bit of news one could receive are some more bridges either failing or coming down with the wrecking ball. Unfortunately for two key bridges in the eastern part of the US, that may be the case, as the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles presents its newsflyer with the details:

Wheeling Suspension Bridge

Spanning the Ohio River in Wheeling, West Virginia, this wire suspension bridge, built in 1849 with the total length of 1307 feet (main span 920 feet), used to carry the National Road, which connected Cumberland, Maryland with Vandalia, Illinois and was the first road to use macadam for surfacing. It took 26 years to construct 620 miles of highway, the first in the country, but the suspension bridge at Wheeling did not come into being until 1849, with Charles Ellet Jr. designing the bridge. After its collapse in 1854, it was rebuilt by Ellet again and was later reinforced with additional wire cables, including stayed cables designed by Washington Roebling (in 1872), the same person who oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York after the death of his father, John Roebling.  While the bridge was restored in the 1980s to provide local traffic to the city, trouble is now looming for this National Historic Landmark, as inspectors found a snapped cable on the eastern tower of the bridge, prompting officials to close the bridge to all traffic, including pedestrians. The cable was designed to keep the bridge from swaying. How long the bridge will be closed off depends on how the repairs will be made to the bridge, let alone the length of time it will take to get the bridge back into service. It will without a doubt leave people with the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down” in their heads, replacing London with Wheeling. Yet it would create a tragedy similar to the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge crossing in 1940, when “Galloping Gertie” succumbed to 40 mph winds thanks to poor engineering. More news on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge will follow. A link to the bridge closure can be found here.

Note: Wheeling had already lost another historic landmark with the demolition of the Bridgeport Bridge in 2011 after over 20 years’ abandonment.


Sewell Falls Bridge coming down

The process of decimating New Hampshire’s historic bridges continues as another bridge is slated for demolition, with no chance to protest the decision. The city of Concord voted on Thursday to proceed with the demolition process as inspection reports revealed that the bridge deteriorated to a point where a complete rehabilitation of the structure would be futile. The original plan had been to construct a new bridge alongside the two-span through truss bridge with riveted connections that was built by a prominent bridge builder, John Storrs, who was influential in the city of Concord, and later became mayor of the state capital. While residents are hesitant regarding the potential to convert the residential street into a major highway, city officials believe that a new bridge is a necessity due to safety and liability concerns. The bridge will remain in its place for another year or so as funding is being collected for the project, meaning it will be in service for people to see until 2015, when the entire city landmark becomes a pile of scrap metal. More on the city’s decision can be found here.

Photo taken by the author while on a bike tour in 1999. Note, this was taken underneath the McKennan Hospital Car Park Complex

McKennan Railroad Bridge receives new life

Of the dozens of bridges that were targeted for demolition, as mentioned in an earlier article in the Chronicles, it appears that this Big Sioux Crossing, located at the former McKennan Hospital Car Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will be spared after all. Built in the early 1900s, this two-span Howe pony truss bridge used to serve the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad before the company went into administration and the bridge was given to the City of Sioux Falls in the 1970s to be converted into a pedestrian bridge. Despite one of the spans falling into the river during the 1946 Flood, the bridge has remained in service since then. Despite talks to demolish the sturcture, sources closest to the Chronicles revealed that the bridge will be saved thanks to the plans from a local hotel to integrate it into its plans. It will serve as the entrance to the hotel’s terrace, while at the same time, provide access to the city’s bike trails. This is a win-win situation for the city and the developers, especially as the city already has a grand track record for reusing its historic bridges for recreational purposes. Over a dozen historic bridges are still being used as bike trails and other recreational purposes, half of them coming from former railroad lines that had existed prior to 1970. It accounts for a third of Minnehaha County’s number of historic bridges including those along the Big Sioux River. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will provide you with a tour of the region, which will be posted later on the in the spring.