Penning the loving ode to bridge poets

Pont de Chancy (Chancy Bridge) over the Rhone River west of Geneva, Switzerland. Photo taken in October 2006

A few years ago at Christmas time, my wife surprised me with something that she spent many months compiling but was one that was worth the project and I still read to this day: a collection of photos of bridges in Geneva, Switzerland, and with them, a collection of poems that were gathered and added, wherever it deemed to fit. The hub for various international organizations from around the world, Geneva, with a population of over 450,000 people (with 3 million inhabitants if counting the metropolitan area), is located at the southwest end of Lake Geneva, boxed in by the mountains of the Alps and situated on the peninsula surrounded by neighboring France. Over three dozen bridges of various types exist within a 20 kilometer radius of the city, most of them span the three rivers that slice the city into many different chunks: the Rhone, the Aire and the Arve. This includes this bridge, the Pont de Chancy, one of many bowstring arch bridges that feature riveted connections and the last crossing in Switzerland before the river enters France for good. All of them I visited during my three month stay in Geneva, working as an intern at the World Health Organization during the summer of 2006.

But Geneva is a topic that will be focused on in a different series of articles to come out soon through the Chronicles. I happened to run across a poem in the book that deals with bridge building and the reason why bridges are there, based on questions by many passers-by. Why do we have bridges at such locations and why do we replace them without looking at its unique value and past? There are as many reasons to build them as there are to tear them down and replace them. But there are just as many reasons to save them, as you will see in the poem called “The Bridge Builder”, by Will Allen Dromgool, written at the turn of the century:

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”


Do you know of some poems that have to do with bridges, have created poems of your own, or would like to create one to be posted? If so, you are in luck! This upcoming May, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be featuring some poetry on this topic, penning the loving odes to poets who made their bridges look beautiful through their writing. If you know of a poem that deserves to be posted (whether it is yours or someone else’s), please send it to Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles, at, and your poem will be posted. Bridge photos accompanying the poem are welcomed as long as it is cited. When using someone’s poem, please provide a source of citation (link, etc.) to avoid any issues with copyright laws, etc. You can post it in any language other than English, if you wish.

Let’s take pride in our bridges through poetry, for they go together like bridges and history go together.

Mystery Bridge update: The Horn’s Ferry Bridge and others

Photo courtesy of Luke Harden from the historic collections

Also: Another potential Mystery Bridge in Marion County gone by floods.

With plans wrapped up for the Historic Bridge Weekend and the events to take place in Marion County, combined with the plan to pay a loving ode to another historic bridge in Germany, a couple people brought the Horn’s Ferry Bridge up to my attention. Fellow pontist Luke Harden found an old postcard of the bridge when the entire structure was open to traffic. However, have a look at the photo above with the photos below. What differences can you see there?

Horn’s Ferry Bridge in the 1980s when it was open to bikes and pedestrians. Photo courtesy of Larry Brown




Oblique view of the spans after being converted to observation deck. Photo taken in August 2011

The difference on the through truss span is obvious: the first photo showed a pin-connected truss bridge with M-frame portal bracings. The second and third photos showed the same bridge but with riveted connections. Yet even more obvious was with the northernmost span, the pony truss. There, the top photo showed a Pratt or Howe pony truss span with pinned connections whereas the second photo showed a riveted Warren pony truss bridge.

Looking at the facts so far, the present northernmost spans were erected in 1929 by Wickes Construction Company of Des Moines. The extension of the bridge was necessary for flooding was undermining the northern abutment causing the potential for the Camelback through truss span to collapse. Yet this concern was raised as far back as 1915 by the county, which had advocated two additional spans to alleviate the problem. The river was channeled but reports indicated that the two additional spans were added in 1929. The question is:

Did the older spans exist before 1915 or between 1915 and 1929? By answering this question, we will have a better idea when the present spans, now serving as an observation deck were built. If the spans existed in 1929, the next question is:

When were the present spans built if the older spans were built in 1929? This is important because it would undermine the argument that standardized truss bridges were introduced in 1913, which phased out pin-connected truss bridges in favor of riveted truss bridges.

Any information? Please send it to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at and the information will be revealed then.

Sadly, one of Marion County’s bridges disappeared as it was wiped away. Why?

Mystery Bridge over White Breast Creek gone due to flooding.

Located over White Breast Creek at 92nd Avenue, the bridge’s aesthetical features made it a treat to see, as seen in a pic taken by a person travelling by bike. Records show that the bridge was located here in 1947 and was built ca. 1899. Yet more information is needed to determine where the bridge originated from and who built it.  Sadly, according to locals, floodwaters took the structure out last week. More on the bridge will come, but if you have any information on this bridge, you know where to find the source for information. 😉




What to do with a HB: St. Anthony Parkway Bridge in Minneapolis

Tunnel view of the bridge. All photos taken by the author in Sept. 2010

The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, also known as the Northtown Bridge, is one of Minnesota’s historic bridges that deserves some recognition in itself. Located in the western part of Minneapolis near Columbia Height, this five span Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections is one of the last bridges of its kind to span the railroad yard in the Midwest. Built in 1925, the 530 foot long bridge is built in a 40° skew, another rarity one can find in the region, if not the country!  Despite the lack of information about the bridge- thanks largely in part to missing plaques on the end posts of the bridge- the Northtown Bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as it is located on the Grand Rounds of Parkways and crosses a historic railyard owned by Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railways- all of which have been considered nationally historic!

Yet this unique structure is in serious trouble. Both the City of Minneapolis and the Federal Highway Administration want the bridge removed and replaced, despite opposition from residents and the Minnesota Historical Society. Yet the decision to replace the bridge took many years to make due to series of studies conducted plus the debate over the cost between rehabilitation versus replacement.

In the meantime, the bridge has suffered a great deal, both in its outer appearance as well as with the decking. Officials at BNSF and the City of Minneapolis revealed in their surveys that the bridge is corroding, especially in the decking because of the trains passing underneath the structure combined with the use of salt in the winter time. Furthermore, the upper part of the bridge has sustained substantial damage to the portal bracing and upper chord, probably caused by trucks trying to cross the bridge despite height restrictions. A pair of photos in this article combined with a link to more photos (shown here) reveal a close-up view of the damage to the bridge.

As the city is actively pursuing a replacement bridge, pondering between a basket arch bridge similar to the Mississippi River Crossing at Lowry Avenue and a cable-stayed bridge similar to the Sabo Bridge, the question is what to do with the present structure, for even though one or two of the damaged spans are most likely going to be scrapped, the remaining spans have the potential to be reused, either along a bike trail in or around the Twin Cities area, or somewhere on a rural road for light vehicles, as has been done before. It may be possible that because of its historic status, the city may save only one of the spans, relocate it and reuse, as was the case with the Broadway Avenue Bridge in 1987, when one of the spans was relocated to its Merriam Street location, which still serves traffic to this day.

While the replacement plans are in the starting phase, the plans regarding the future of the present  St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is still open. So let’s take a look at the bridge and ask ourselves this question:

What would you do with the current St. Anthony Parkway Bridge?

a. Relocate the remaining truss spans to rural locations- and if so, which areas would be potential candidates?

b. Relocate the trusses to the bike trail in and around the Twin Cities area- and if so, which bike trails could use a historic bridge?

c. Relocate the trusses to the bike trails elsewhere in Minnesota and the surrounding states- and if so, which ones need a historic bridge?

d. Relocate one of the trusses to a street location, like the Merriam Street Bridge- if so, which street in Minneapolis would be a candidate

e. Keep one of the trusses and relocate it to a nearby park

f. Other options

Please place your comments here, on the facebook pages or send your comments via e-mail. However, just as important as replacing the bridge is addressing the importance of saving the truss bridge to the state historical society and other state agencies, as well as organizations that specialize in bridge rehabilitation so that they have a chance to think about the options and support your decision. A link to MNHS is enclosed here, if you want to talk to the personnel about it.

When there is a will, there is a way to save a historic landmark that is part of a bigger district. While the city parks administrator would like a new crossing that is a signature for the City of Minneapolis, would it not be better to have a relict of history be saved that is just as big a signature for the city and its historic district as the new bridge? Minneapolis has a lot of history that can be reached by bike, foot or car and St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is one of those that deserves its place in history, live and in person…


Side view of the Warren trusses and its skewed configuration
Close-up of the damage to the easternmost span of the bridge. Look closely at the portal and sway bracing. This span will surely be scrapped regardless of the outcome of the entire bridge.

Newsflyer 24 April 2013






Newsflyer:  24 April, 2013

Historic International Crossing spared Terrorist Attack, Two Historic Bridges lost to Flooding, One Bridge with connection to Internationally Renowned Bridge Coming Down

There has been a lot of action that took place in the US this past week, which included an unprecedented series of explosions- two at the Boston Marathon and an atomic-size explosion that nearly destroyed a Texas town- combined with the pursuit of the terrorists and those neglecting the safety guidelines of the fertilizer plant, and lots of rage by Mother Nature, implementing her wrath on the Midwest with snow and flooding.

And with that comes the demise of more historic bridges, but one was spared another potential terroristic plot to blow it up. How bad was this? The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has a list of news headlines that have been compiled under its latest Newsflyer.

Bridge at Niagra Falls saved from bombing attempt

The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge is a very important historic bridge in the Niagra Region for two reasons: 1. The 1897 steel deck arch bridge, measured at 329 meters long, and featuring a upper deck for rail traffic and lower deck for vehicular traffic is an important link between the US and Canada, serving rail traffic between New York and Montreal and Toronto. 2. It is one of two important historic bridges to see near Niagra Falls, as it is located 2.4 km from the Falls, where another arch bridge is located. It was refurbished in 2009-10 and is now owned by Amtrak which maintains the track and allows Canadian trains to cross.  This bridge was a target of a terrorist attack that was foiled by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Monday, arresting two people who had connections with Al Qaida in Iran- one of which was of Tunisian origins. Both were Canadians.  It is unknown how the planning was foiled for there was little information prior to the event, but had the attack succeeded, it would have resulted in massive loss of life among people in the train that they would have bombed in the process, car drivers and a historical landmark being destroyed, severing an important link between the two countries. The two men are currently in jail awaiting their fate. A close call for both countries, especially the USA, which was digesting its first terrorist attack since 9/11.

Two important Illinois historic bridges lost to flooding.

“No way!” This was the reaction of the amateur videographer who filmed the demise of the wrought iron Pratt through truss bridge spanning Big Bureau Creek east of Tiskilwa in Bureau County on 18 April. Built in the 1880s by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, the bridge had been abandoned for many years and like its cousin, the Maple Rapids Bridge in Michigan, it was also leaning to one side after sustaining previous flood damage. This most recent flood did the structure in. Half of the bridge is still in the water but the structure, which resembles the Jacobs Tavern Bridge in New Jersey, will most likely come out to be scrapped, as with another bridge.

Located over Wilburn Creek in Marshall County, this 1924 riveted Pratt pony truss bridge was in excellent shape with minor restrictions until flooding undermined the abutments and knocked the bridge over on its side. Despite the bridge being in good shape inspite of the fall, the county engineer has written it off and it will be replaced. The fate of the trusses hangs in the balance, but they do have a potential of being reused at a park if rehabilitated with welding technology…

Part of the Golden Gate Bridge gone!

The Doyle Drive Viaduct, located near the Presidio south of the Golden Gate Bridge is technically part of the grand lady. Built in 1936, the bridge features a rusty orange color, similar to the almost 76-year old suspension bridge. With the demolition of the bridge, it marks the loss of a piece of history. Currently this bridge is being replaced with a concrete viaduct as part of the plan to reconstruct the interchange with the road leading to the historic police station. This is part of a larger plan to modernize the Golden Gate area, which includes replacing toll takers of the grand lady with automatic electronic toll machines. This has taken place already. It makes people of San Francisco and other people who know about the bridge and its heritage wonder what will be done with the Golden Gate area next….

Yet there is a sign of life for one historic bridge with a pair of bonuses that are on the way. This time it involves the McIntyre Bridge in Iowa.

Bowers has it her way and possibly then some

After suffering numerous set backs this year, a glimmer of hope has finally arrived for Julie Bowers and the crew at Workin Bridges, as  Poweshiek County signed off on a grant for $184,000 provided by the Iowa DOT on April 19th to be used to rebuild the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge. The 1883 structure spanned North Skunk River until it was washed away by floods in 2010. Since then, painstaking efforts to raise money to restore the bridge were undertaken until the offer by the state agency, located in Ames, was brought to the table. Poweshiek County agreed to the proposal under the condition that Workin Bridges maintains the bridge over the next 20 years. If all is approved and the restoration efforts start in the summer, the bridge could be back over the river and in service again by the fall of this year.

In addition, a couple pony truss bridges from Carroll County may be heading to Poweshiek County to be reused for recreational reasons. When and where they will be relocated remains open, but the county is planning on replacing them this summer. More information from the Chronicles to come soon.

Mystery Bridge 22: A truss bridge made of wood

All photos courtesy of Craig Philpott, used with permission. This is the side view of the truss

Here’s a quiz for you: How many of you had either a set of Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, or something similar to that, when you were a child growing up? And if so, what kinds of things did you build with your set?  I remember when I was growing up, I used to build human beings with my set of Tinker Toys and covered bridges and telephone poles with Lincoln Logs. But like many engineers and bridge enthusiasts, I was different from those who were supposed to build log cabins and other skeletal structures, as was directed on the package.  Yet if we go back 100 years, many engineers and bridge designers referred to the Erector Set to get their imagination going. It was a set of steel beams with nuts and bolts, which allowed them to spend hours perfecting their ideal building- or bridge.

Perhaps the person who built this bridge in California used the combination of the three to design and patent this truss bridge. The Dinkey Creek Bridge is a jewel that was found by one fellow pontist two years ago while hiking through the Sierra Nevada National Forest. Built in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this bridge spans the creek which snakes its way through the forest from neighboring Fresno, in Fresno County. It is one of the most unique examples of bridges that were built during the era, where President Franklin Roosevelt encouraged bridge designers and builders- most of them out of work because of the Great Depression- to build something that will attract tourists and last forever. And for this bridge, it is something that is worth seeing. It was the first bridge to be built using Redwood trees and the first to use steel, split-ring timber-connecting devices, which enabled the bridge to handle heavy traffic, which was rare in this area when it served traffic. Yet the truss design can be confusing, for when looking at the pictures provided by Craig Philpott, it appears to be a Parker Truss because of its polygonal shape, even though the State of California considers it a bowstring arch bridge. While there are some examples of bowstring arches that have a polygonal-like shape, 90% of all bowstring arch bridges were built with the top chord creating an arch, like a bow and arrow, as seen with the Turkey River Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa (now extant).  In addition, it is unknown who designed this unique bridge, let alone oversaw the construction of the bridge, even though a couple workers have been honored recently for their work.

This leads us to two questions about the Dinkey Bridge, our Mystery Bridge:

1. Is this bridge a bowstring arch bridge or a Parker truss bridge? Please ignore the fact that the bridge is a through truss.

2. While the CCC was responsible for the construction of the bridge, who designed the bridge and utilized the steel connectors? And who oversaw the whole process.

Have a look at the pictures and let the author know, using all the channels available. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now a pedestrian bridge serving a local inn. It’s one of the bridges in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that is a must-see when passing through.

Special thanks to Craig Philpott for allowing the author to use the photos.


Portal view
Oblique view with green background

Bellaire Bridge to be sold for scrap metal on eBay?

Portal view of Bellaire Bridge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

With all the stories of thieves taking apart metal bridges for the price of metal, which includes stealing and dismantling a 50-foot long bridge in Pennsylvania, driving off with another short span in Turkey and the most recent story- stealing 90 meters of railing from a pedestrian bridge in Wales, one would think that stealing and selling this commodity at one’s expense would be the dumbest act ever, right?

Well, not yet. How about selling bridge parts on eBay without the consent of the demolition contractor?  This debate was recently added to a pile of other debates on the future of an Ohio River bridge, closed since 1991 but despite signing off on the demolition in 2002, has been put on indefinite hold since then.  The Bellaire Bridge is one of the oldest cantilever truss bridges still standing along the Ohio River. Built in 1926 by the Mount Vernon Bridge Company in Ohio with J.E. Greiner from Chicago overseeing the construction of this rather ornamental bridge, this bridge connected Bellaire on the Ohio side and Benwood on the West Virginia side for 65 years until its closure on orders by the Ohio DOT as part of the plans to demolish the Ohio ramp to allow the right of way for the Ohio Hwy. 7 expressway to be constructed. Since then, talks have gone from trying to reopen the bridge to now demolishing the bridge, considering it a total eyesore and a liability to both communities. Yet no one has really come forward with the money to get the job done. And given the historic value of the bridge and its aesthetic value, preservationists have stepped forward with alternatives towards demolishing the bridge because of its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, especially in the face of opposition.

The bridge is now under ownership of Lee Chaklos and KDC Investments, which signed off an agreement in 2010 with previous owner Roger Barack, who had advocated the reopening of the bridge despite opposition from the two communities, Ohio DOT and the US Coast Guard. Yet Chaklos has two major issues to contend: 1. He has to come up with proof of liability insurance and a $500,000 performance bond to execute the plan and 2. He has to deal with the Benwood City Council and its debate over the escrow funding set aside for the project.  Yet with the parts of the soon-to-be-demolished bridge being on sale through eBay, he has another issue on his plate, namely who was responsible for this act, for he was unaware of this when asked by the Wheeling Intelligencer.

It seems that Chaklos and company are either clueless or lack the funding needed to get the job done and such action from an unknown source is another sign of desperation to get rid of the bridge once and for all. Already concerns of falling debris from the West Virginia approach has irked many residents and the US Coast Guard has issued an ultimatum, ordering Chaklos and company to finally start the demolition process by 20 June or face a daily delay fine of $1000.  Even residents are shooing photographers and pontists away from the bridge with shotguns, as experienced in a visit in August 2010.

Chaklos and company are scheduled to bring up the matter with the Benwood City Council, during a meeting on 23 April and come to an agreement to the issues involving the project. Yet given the circumstances involved affecting all parties involved, both cities, the Ohio DOT, US Coast Guard, and CSX Railways, which travels underneath the bridge, it would not be surprising if they in the end sell their assets to another party. This may serve as a sign of hope for preservationists and people attached to the bridge, for through extensive rehabilitation, which includes new decking, lighting and railing, combined with new steel parts and new paint job, the bridge may be converted from the most hated ugly hunk of metal to a piece of artwork connecting Benwood and Bellaire.  But as we saw with the demise of the Ft. Steuben and Bridgeport Bridges, this may be wishful thinking and the best solution is to sit and watch how the situation pans out in the next 8 weeks.

And as for the party responsible for putting the bridge on eBay: Congratulations! You may receive one of the 2013 Smith Awards for the most absurd action done to a historic bridge. While stealing metal parts from a bridge is just not cool for it can cause a life if the structure collapses, putting bridge parts on eBay without consent of the bridge owner to encourage people to buy the metal, despite its high price value is simply something you can never get away with and can spell doom if it backfires. Hope you have a good lawyer to fend off any potential lawsuits for falsifying information out of desperation, or your deed will be more than costly….

Check out Nathan Holth’s website describing the Bellaire Bridge here as well as through Wikipedia, which is here.

Fitch’s Bridge coming down

Fitch’s Bridge before the demolition work started. Photo taken by David Pitkin, used with permission

Groton, Mass. (USA)

A few months ago, this bridge was featured in an article on the massacre of historic bridges in the United States, which had caused alarm to many who were attached to them and their history.  After approving a measure in February to demolish the bridge, work has now started on the Fitch’s Bridge.  As early as last week, as seen in this picture by David Pitkin, barriers that had kept the people off the bridge have been removed and much of the remaining decking has long since disappeared. Excavators are at the site and this double-intersecting Warren through truss bridge will be gone by the end of the month. In its place will be a new bridge which will be part of the project to complete the bike trail network along the Nashua River, which the 1898 bridge once crossed.

The new bridge will be its fourth at its present location for the first bridge was built ca. 1750 as a wooden bridge. After 120 years and many repairs, it was replaced in 1871 and again with this structure in 1898. After serving traffic for almost 70 years, the bridge was closed to all vehicular traffic in 1965, and for the next 35 years, served pedestrians who walked along the river, marveling at the beauty of it and the bridge that crossed it. In 2000, the bridge was condemned, barricaded with concrete to all traffic after much of the decking disappeared and the structure deteriorated to a point where it was no longer safe to use.

While interest was there to repair and reopen the bridge as part of the bike trail network, two thirds of the town voted unanimously to tear the bridge down and replace it with something new. While the reasons are understandable- safety and liability isues, combined with structural issues with the bridge- the demise of the bridge has more to do with the lack of resources and options that were available at their disposal. Already, concerns for the bridge had started to arise after it was reduced to pedestrians only but the movement towards saving historic bridges had just started, and to this day, despite the public becoming more aware of the importance of these antiquities, there is still a lack of information on restoration options that cost a fraction of bridge replacement and threfore could have saved Fitch.

It is unknown what will replace Fitch, but it is clear that whatever comes in to replace it will never look like the bridge that the people of Groton were used to and are about to lose to history. Therefore, many of them are saying good-bye to a treasure that had served its purpose for almost 120 years, in hopes that the new bridge will have the exact charm as its predecessor and last just as long.

David Pitkin has a gallery of photos of Fitch’s Bridge available on flickr, which you can click here.  In addition, Fitch’s Bridge has a facebook site, where you can follow up on the bridge replacement process. The history of the bridge can also be found by clicking here.