Maple Rapids Road Bridge lost to Mother Nature

Maple Rapids Road Bridge leaning over. Photo taken by Nathan Holth in February 2011

Neglect and Mother Nature brought this bridge down last week

If there was a word that should be added to the historic preservation glossary, it would be Neglect. A process of ignoring the needs of a structure with the consequence of it collapsing on its own, thousands of counties in the US and districts in Germany, France and other parts of Europe have dealt with structures crumbling, because of the lack of funding and will to restore them for future use.

The Maple Rapids Road Bridge, a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge, spanning the Maple River just outside Maple Rapids in Clinton County, Michigan is one of those bridges that represents a classic example of how neglect can destroy a structure. Built in 1888 by the Variety Iron Works Company of Cleveland, Ohio (according to state bridge inventory), the bridge was one of the last surviving examples left that was built by the company, and the last example to be found in Michigan.

That was until last week.

During the week of April 4, the stone abutments gave out on one corner the of the bridge, causing it to tilt over and fall on its side in the Maple River. Nobody was injured at the time, but a photographer tried to photograph the process of the bridge groaning as it fell into the river. The photos can be found here with the aftermath photos found here.  It is unknown how long this bridge has been abandoned, but prior to its collapse, there had been talk of dismantling and restoring the bridge before relocating it to its new home, with talks of it being incorporated in one of the historic bridge parks in Michigan and Iowa. Part of it has to do with the ornamental portal bracings made of iron, which made this bridge special.  Yet despite this, there was no progress in collecting funds to even move the bridge off site and dismantle and store it for reuse. As a consequence, the issue was tabled and it was a matter of time before another flood would wash away the remaining stone abutments and the bridge would be washed away in history.

The Maple Rapids Bridge on its side after being knocked in the river. Photo taken by Nathan Holth.

It is not the first time, such bridges fell victim to neglect and nature. Even in Michigan, as stated by Nathan Holth in his website, many notable bridges were lost because county officials had left them in place for too long of time without mininum maintenance, making it unsafe for people to use. As a consequence either these bridges collapse on its own or they had to be removed, before there was any chance to saving them. But this phenomenon has existed everywhere in the US and Europe, as many notable examples were lost because of this process. Two examples come to mind: the Horn’s Ferry Bridge in Marion County, Iowa and the Bridgeport Bridge near Wheeling, West Virginia.  Both of these bridges were closed to traffic because of structural concerns, yet no action was taken until it was too late. Two sections of the Horn’s Ferry Bridge, including the main span, collapsed in August 1991, whereas the Bridgeport Bridge was removed in 2011 because the bridge corroded to a point beyond repair or even restoration.

While many states and counties are tight financially and are having difficult times obtaining any funding to even repair the bridges, especially in light of the Sequestration process happening even as this article is being released, the issue of neglecting buildings and infrastructures should not be taken lightly, and in some cases, drastic measures, such as removal or tax hikes/ referendums in order to restore these places of interest may be the only two options left in order to at least stabilize the structures so that restoration is possible when the funding is available. In the case of historic bridges, dismantling and storing them before they can be restored and rebuilt is a practice that has increased over the past 10 years, and one that should be considered in cases of bridges like this one, that need the attention of all parties involved at any cost.

We can only hope that the tragedy of the bridge at Maple Rapids will serve as a wake-up call to determine which bridges will need the most attention, even if it means dismantling them so that they can be restored and reassembled at a fraction of the price of demolition and replacement. It is just a matter of inventory and prioritizing, keeping in mind that history and aesthetics dominate over modernization. Only then when common sense prevails that bridges like this one will be saved for future generations to come.

Name that bridge- A span over a popular canal in Germany

Before returning to Schleswig-Holstein and in particular, the tour along the Baltic-North Sea Canal, here is a question for some of you who are interested in doing some research and talking about it at the forum:

This bridge is located west of Kiel over the Grand Canal. Built in 1893, this bridge featured a pony-arch design, where there were steel arches and trusses supporting the deck and the center span, but with no overhead trusses. It used to have a truss design that covered the three lanes of traffic- two-lane roadway with a railway line connecting Kiel and Flensburg, but because it was extremely narrow- especially at the portal entrance, which featured an arch entrance made of brick and concrete, it was stripped down to just the pony arches in 1951 and the lanes were widened. Since that time, it has served traffic but not for long.

Because of rust and advanced aging plus as part of the plan to deepen and widen the Baltic-North Sea Canal, this bridge will be replaced with a tied through arch bridge, featuring four-lanes of traffic- two for automobiles and two for railway lines. The cost will be close to 48 Million Euros and will take two years to complete. The approach spans of the bridge will be preserved as an observation deck and a refuge for the thousands of bats residing underneath the old bridge at the moment.

Can somebody name that bridge and where it is located?  The answer will come later this month but you can place your answer in the Comment section or on the facebook pages.

SIA Conference coming to Minneapolis/St. Paul

Oblique of the Stone Arch Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River at St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, located next to the remains of the flour mill, the Pillsbury Plant and the Grain Belt Beer sign. Photo taken at night by the author in August 2011

All eyes seem to be focused on the Midwest for this year’s conferences and tours dealing with architecture, history and preservation. Apart from the ISPC Conference last month in Michigan and the upcoming Historic Bridge Weekend Conference in Iowa in August, a conference on industrial archaeology is coming to Minnesota at the end of May.  The Society of Industrial Archaeology, based at Michigan Tech University, hosts a four day event every year, focusing on a region that is rich in industrial architecture and history. The organization has been hosting the event for 41 years, whereas a symposium devoted to historic bridges has been taking place since 1991.

This year’s event will take place May 30-June 2 in the Twin Cities at the St. Paul Hotel. Pre-conference tours and the introductory session will be on the 30th, followed by a Friday tour of the Mississippi River and its crossings, as well as places to the south of the Twin Cities (in Rice County), Film Festival and Book Signing session in the evening. Saturday will be the busiest with presentations, business lunch and the Historic Bridge Symposium, featuring presentations by six pontists from various fields, including Nathan Holth, Christopher Marston, Mark Brown, Rebecca Burrow, Amy Squitieri and Scott Newman. Kitty Henderson of the Historic Bridge Foundation, which is co-sponsoring the event with SIA, will emcee the symposium.  And a post conference tour of the Mississippi River Waterfront and the newly refurbished Union Depot station in St. Paul on Sunday will round off the event.

Information on how to register for the four day event can be obtained here. You will also find all the contact information in case of questions.  Highlights of the event will be provided by those taking part and will be posted in the Chronicles.

Judsonia Bridge Reopened!

Photo courtesy of HABS-HAER

Located northeast of Little Rock, the Judsonia Bridge, spanning the Little Red River, is one of the last treasures left in the State of Arkansas, and one that makes the small community of Judsonia (near Searcy) proud to have as one of its important icons. Built in 1924, the bridge is almost 400 feet long and is one of the structures that will never be found to have such unique features. The main span is 265 feet long and features a subdivided Warren swing span that is built like a cantilever truss. This was a rarity in bridge construction back in those days, together with a 79 foot long Pratt through truss approach span and a 49-foot subdivided Warren pony truss span, whose center panel reveals an A-frame.  A close description of the bridge can be found here.

The future of the bridge was in doubt, when it was closed to traffic in 2007 because of a center floor beam. However, as significant as the bridge is to Judsonia and to the state of Arkansas, the state DOT began a drive to rehabilitate the bridge so that the structure, the last surviving example of one built by R.L. Gaster of Little Rock and the only link between Judsonia and Kensett, was reopened to traffic. Despite the costs and the length of time taken to fix the bridge- almost six years to be exact- the bridge was reopened to traffic last Easter, on weight and height restrictions. Cars not exceeding three tons can now use the bridge, together with pedestrians and cyclists, while truckers can take advantage of other options two miles to the west, using the US 67 expressway.

The Judsonia Bridge is the best example of how a bridge can be fixed even if a broken beam is revealed. It also shows that a truss bridge does not necessarily have to fail if a beam is missing or a pinned connection is broken. All it takes is a small amount of money to fix the bridge and the structure is open to traffic again. And even if people claim that this fix will prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years, one can still keep the structure in tact and in use if maintained properly. It just takes a small amount of money to get the job done (right).


Highlights of the 2013 ISPC Conference in Lansing, Michigan

Photos courtesy of Lansing Community College, used with permission.


Have you ever wondered how many historic bridges that were in dire state that they were candidates for demolition but were fully restored to look like it was brand new?  Every year since 2009,  Lansing Community College and Vern Mesler have held a three-day seminar featuring presentations from experts in historic bridges, preservation, steel welding and history, as well as demonstrations on how to remove pack rust, sandblast and straighten out beams with the welding machine, replacing steel components, including eyebars, and disassembling and reassembling truss bridges.  This year’s event brought in over 200 participants, including some from Europe, and featured many presenters, including Michael Mort, who provided people with a guide on how to save a historic bridge, Cynthia Brubaker of Ball State University, who talked about the Indiana bridge companies based on information brought to the history department recently, and Christopher Marston and Kevin Whitford, who talked about Moose Brook Bridge in New Hampshire and how it was restored.

Nathan Holth was also at the conference and talked about his book on Chicago’s Movable Bridges, which was released in the fall of last year. He agreed to provide the readers with some highlights of the event, including his presentation and some other facts that will encourage people to attend next year’s event. The Chronicles has a couple pictures to support the event that took place last month, during the first weekend of March. Yet they are only a tiny fraction of the bunch that one can see either through the ISPC Conference page on facebook, or through Nathan Holth himself.

Highlights from Mr. Holth:

My presentation on creative bridge engineering, past and present of Chicago, immediately followed an introduction by the president of the College. The president actually stayed and watched my presentation; he doesn’t always stay after he introduces the conference. My presentation was well received based on comments I got. We had a presentation about the Indiana Bridge Company from Ball State University. The good news out of this is that Ball State has a ton of archived materials from the company and is slowly digitizing them all and making it available online. Soon to be released are “bridge cards” that list all the bridges the company ever built, which should help identify bridges we don’t know who built. There also were several presentations of a more technical nature that were of interest to the many engineers in attendance. Some of the content in these presentations focused on updates in ongoing research to find ways to make riveting, welding and other historic bridge restoration techniques standardized and acceptable by groups like AASHTO and highway agencies. These updates indicate that research progress has been made, but at the same time more research needs to be completed as some challenges and problems remain. The day two demonstrations also went very well. The Lansing Community College staff that demonstrates and works with the attendees do a fantastic job and everyone seems to have a good time. Unique this year was a cast iron brazing demonstration using some broken manhole covers donated by East Jordan Iron Works.

Photos (all courtesy of Lansing Community College):

Vern Mesler demonstrating the process of sandblasting metal. Mesler has been the coordinator of the conference since 2009.
Ready, set, weld!!!
Overview of the demonstration with the participants looking on.


Author’s Note: A pair of books dealing with restoration and Chicago’s Bridges are in the possession of the author and will be profiled in the Book of the Month series, together with the interview with Nathan Holth and Michael Mort.

Guessing Quiz: Name that bridge type

Photo courtesy of Luke Harden


Beginning in April, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will start a series on unusual bridge designs- namely bridge designs that were not commonly used for roadways and railroads but were built for experimental purposes.

This bridge is one of them. Before talking about the truss type, take a look at the picture above. This was discovered by fellow pontist Luke Harden and was brought to the author’s attention shortly before Easter. The bridge spanned the Wapsipinicon River in Independence, in northeastern Iowa. It consisted of two truss spans, yet when looking closely at the bridge, it features a rather unusual truss design. It is not necessarily a Warren truss for the diagonal beams form a W-shape. Yet it is not a Whipple, nor a Bollmann, for the diagonal beams slice through three panels before meeting the A-frame panel, which is also sub-divided.






This leads to the Chronicles’ Guessing Quiz, featuring two questions:

1. Name that truss type.

2. When was it built, in your opinion?  As the bridge no longer exists, the other question is when was it removed.

You can leave your answers in the Comment section either here or in the facebook pages bearing the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ name.  The answer will be given at this time next week, with some interesting facts about this truss bridge type.  Good luck with the guessing!

Question for the Forum: The Pennsylvania Truss Bridges in Iowa

Greene Bridge, spanning the Shell Rock River carrying Traer Street. Built in 1902, it served traffic for 79 years. Photo courtesy of Hank Zaletel

Pennsylvania Truss Bridges: The longest of the truss bridge types that were used for America’s transportation system, but the rarely used. Or was it? This is the question that many researchers have been asking for many years, as many of them are compiling materials for bridge books, for even though statewide surveys were carried out at the earliest 20 years ago, questions about the credibility of the information has come up, which includes finding out how useful these bridges actually were, let alone how many of them were actually built in comparison to what was found in the research. Part of it has to do with the number of post cards and old pictures that people have found recently of old bridges that carry the signature design.

Orr Bridge, Harrison County. Photo courtesy of Clayton Fraser

Developed and patented in 1875 for the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Pennsylvania Truss Bridge is similar to the Parker Bridge, because of its polygonal top chord, yet it has subdivided diagonal beams supporting the main diagonal beams. Furthermore, as seen in the photo of the now extant Orr Bridge in Harrison County (Iowa), diagonal beams cross not one but two panels at the center of the span.  Pennsylvania trusses were used not only as single span crossings but also for wider river crossings as multiple spans, including those along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, many of which have long since disappeared. Reason for that is the fact that these bridges can range from 130 to 600 feet long, some even longer.  While these bridges were used for that purpose, the danger was that of the pressure applied to the roadway, creating tension to the diagonal beams and upper chord, resulting in the failure of even one of the subdivided beams, and as a consequence, the failure of the entire structure. That is the reason why they were used rarely. Or were they?

Example of a Pennsylvania Petit with A-frame portal bracing: Thunder Bridge over the Big Sioux River west of Spencer, Iowa. Built in 1905 by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works, the bridge is 181 feet long. Photo taken in August 2011

This is where we look at the state of Iowa as the subject of debate.  20-25 years ago, a survey was conducted on Iowa’s truss bridges revealed that even though some Pennsylvania truss bridges were used for large crossings, like the Mississippi River crossings at Clinton and Muscatine, as well as the longest single-span crossing in the state at Greene (at 249 feet), the number of these bridges were rarely used in bridge building between 1880 and 1920. Seven bridges listed in the survey were examples of this bridge type, including the Thunder and Old Rusty Bridges in Spencer, the Bridgeport Bridge near Keokuk, one span of the multi-span Boone Bridge, the Rubio in Washington County, and the Berkheimer Bridge west of Humboldt, and the Orr Bridge. The Orr and Rubio Bridges have long since been removed. The Berkheimer Bridge currently holds the title as the longest bridge in the state, despite being closed to traffic between 2001 and 2005 for rehabilitation.

Yet two problems have come up that have the potential to refute the claim of its rare use on the state’s roads. The first one is the fact that at least three bridges surveyed have Pennsylvania truss types but have a flat lateral top chord, thus making them Camelback Pennsylvania trusses. This includes the Gochenour Bridge in Harrison County, and two bridges spanning the Cedar River in Mitchell County: the Otranto Bridge and the Deering Ford Bridge, the latter of which was replaced 15 years ago; the former is now privately owned and can be seen from its replacement bridge.

Otranto Bridge in Mitchell County. Photo taken in August 2011


The other one, which is perhaps the biggest of the problems supporting the claim is the number of Pennsylvania truss bridges that had existed prior to 1970. Even though they were demolished before a HABS-HAER survey was conducted on the Greene Bridge in 1979, two years prior to its demolition and replacement, recent discoveries by a pair of pontists residing in Iowa reveal that more of these that existed, thus putting the historic survey’s claim in doubt. This is not only applicable to multiple-span bridges, but also and especially to the single-span bridges. Some examples supporting the claim include another Skunk River crossing at Brighton, east of the Rubio Bridge, the Second Street Bridge in Independence, The Lincoln Highway Bridge over the Wapsipinicon River in Clinton County, a Big Sioux River crossing near Canton, South Dakota, Ripley’s Bridge in Floyd County, and a Little Sioux River crossing at Sioux Rapids in Buena Vista County.  With as many bridges of this kind along the Little Sioux River, one can even stretch the claim that the river may be the river with the highest amount of Pennsylvania trusses.

Lincoln Highway Bridge over Wapsipinicon River. Photo courtesy of Hank Zaletel.

In addition to the argument supporting more Pennsylvania trusses built in Iowa, it is possible that other bridge companies may have contributed in its construction of Pennsylvania truss bridges. While it is true that the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company constructed the majority of these truss bridges, including the ones in Greene, Spencer, and west of Humboldt, other bridge companies, such as the Iowa Bridge Company of Des Moines, Chicago Bridge and Iron Works, and even the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio took a piece of the bridge building pie as well. If one adds the Gochenour and Orr Bridges to the list of unknown bridge builders, as they were imported into Iowa in the 1950s, then one can claim that other bridge companies tried to keep Clinton from monopolizing the bridge building industry in Iowa by building their own Pennsylvania truss bridges, even though surveys confirmed that Iowa BC and Chicago B and IWC constructed them.

Brighton Bridge in Washington County. Photo courtesy of Hank Zaletel

The last one is the fact that Pennsylvania truss bridges were built well into the 1960s, for one can find two of these structures in Jackson County, spanning the Maquoketa River: one at Iron Bridge Road, and one on County Highway Z-34. It is possible that other bridges of that type built during that period can be found in Iowa as well, for these bridges were part of the standardized truss bridges, featuring riveted connections, that were introduced on Iowa’s highways beginning in 1914, although they were not used as often as the other truss bridge counterparts, such as the Pratt, Warren and Parker truss bridges.

All these claims lead to the following questions for the forum:

1. How many Pennsylvania truss bridges were actually built in Iowa between 1880 and 1960?

2. What other single span Pennsylvania truss bridges existed prior to 1970, besides the ones mentioned in the article? When and where were they built and who was the bridge builder?

3. Why were Pennsylvania truss bridges built beyond 1920 instead of the other truss types?

There are four ways to answer this question: One is directly through the social networking sites of Facebook and LinkedIn under the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles; the other is by leaving a reply in the comment section; the third option is via e-mail, and the fourth option is through the Historic Bridge Weekend, which takes place August 9-11 (please see the info here). There you can leave the info and photos in the Info and Photo Box, provided at the evening events or you can talk to the author directly, as he will be directing the conference in its entirety. The information will be used for the book project on Iowa’s Truss Bridges, which is ongoing as information is being collected as of present.

Pennsylvania truss bridges were a useful commodity on America’s roads, and to a certain degree, they still are today. Yet it remains questionable how many were really built and why they disappeared so rapidly, even though their lifespan was the same as any other truss bridge built between 1860 and the present- 70-120 years, pending on how they were used and how they were and still are maintained today.

Special thanks to Hank Zaletel and Luke Harden for digging out and submitting the photos, as well as allowing me to use the photos for this article.

5th Annual Historic Bridge Weekend Coming to Iowa

Hale Bridge near Anamosa in Jones County. Photo taken in 2010

Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend  Conference has  taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are  experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend is coming to America’s heartland, the state of Iowa, where the history of transportation and infrastructure and the development of America as a whole go together like bread and butter.  The Lincoln and Jefferson Highways meet in the state. Iowa was the first state to introduce the No Passing Zone signs. Kate Shelley made her heroic deed by stopping a passenger train from falling through a bridge washed away by flood waters.
And the bridges?  Iowa takes pride in its bridge building. The first bridge designs, like the Marsh arch, the aluminum girder and the Thacher truss originated from Iowa.  Numerous bowstring arches were built throughout the state. Many big-name bridge builders from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania made their mark in Iowa, while the state had its own bridge building companies located in Clinton, Ottumwa and Des Moines, which dominated the American landscape during the first half of the 20th Century.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on the eastern half of Iowa, where many historic bridges dating as far back as 1870 still exist today. Please refer to the detailed agenda at the end of this message for more information.

For those who are interested in participating in the dinner and presentations, please RSPV Jason D. Smith at the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at: or by no later than 15 July.  Information on the bridge tours and the dinner and presentations will be provided through e-mail.  Lodging and camping possibilities are available upon request.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County. Photo taken in August 2011

Day 1 – 9th August, 2013
The journey starts on 9th of August at the Old Barn Resort in Preston, Minnesota beginning at 10:00am, and after touring Fillmore County, we’ll focus on the northeast corner of Iowa, which includes the bridges in Winneshiek, Fayette, Dubuque and Jones Counties and features the bowstring arch bridges in the region as well as the Black Hawk Bridge, the Red Bridge, and the remaining spans of the original Dubuque bridge, built in 1868 over the Mississippi and is one of the last remaining historic bridges made of cast iron in the country.

Dinner and presentations will take place at the Stone City General Store in Stone City (near Anamosa) at 6:30pm. This event will be dedicated to James Hippen, who spearheaded efforts to save historic bridges in Iowa for over 40 years until his unexpected passing in 2010. People who worked with Mr. Hippen will speak at this event in his honor.

Day 2 – 10th August, 2013
August 10th will feature a tour of the historic bridges in the east-central portion of the state. This will include a guided tour of the bridges of Linn and Johnson Counties by Quinn Phelan, which starts at 8:30am at Palisades-Kepler State Park at Mt. Vernon and last throughout the morning. This includes a trip to F.W. Kent Park near Tifflin (west of Iowa City), where one can see nine fully-restored historic bridges, including a roof-top bowstring arch bridge, built using steel trusses from a building that was demolished in the 1980s.

Afternoon tours include visiting bridges along the Lincoln Highway, as well as the Quad Cities and can be done individually or in groups, pending on preferences.
Saturday evening’s dinner and presentations will take place at 7:00pm at Baxa’s Tavern and Grill, located at Sutliff Bridge, south of Mt. Vernon. Sutliff Bridge features two original Parker through truss spans and a replica of the easternmost span that was destroyed in the flooding in 2008. Members of the Sutliff Bridge Authority will talk about the restoration of the bridge and answer any questions the people have about the project. In addition, a pair of presentations by two important figures in historic bridges and preservation will also be provided.
Day 3 – 11th August, 2013

Tour of the bridges in the southeastern part of Iowa including the bridges in and around Burlington, Fort Madison and Keokuk, as well as the bridges along the Des Moines River between Keokuk and Des Moines.
Meeting to talk about the Horn’s Ferry Bridge at the Red Rock Informational Center located near the site beginning at 2:30pm, followed a tour of Marion County‘s bridges and finally the last of the presentations and dinner at Bos Landen Golf Course south of Pella at 5:30pm. A silent auction will accompany the evening event.  The Weekend will conclude with a night tour of the bridges of Des Moines.
Day 4 – 12th August, 2013
For those wanting to see the Kate Shelley Viaduct, there will be a tour of Kate Shelley, her life and the bridge named in her honor beginning at 10:00am at the Boone County Historical Center in Boone. The 2-3 hour tour will include a tour of the Kate Shelley exhibit, a trip to the train depot at Moingona and the remains of the bridge that was washed away by flooding (the same bridge which Kate Shelley crossed before informing the tenant of a nearby bridge being washed out), and a tour of the bridges, including the two viaducts (the 1912 steel viaduct and the 2008 replacement viaduct), the (freshly remodeled) Wagon Wheel Bridge north of the viaducts (which is opened to pedestrians), the Bass Creek Viaduct, and the Madrid Viaduct.

Oblique overview of the Sutliff Bridge. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

One More Note:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is also accepting donations for the following projects:
The restoration of the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge in Poweshiek County
The restoration of the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County.
A donation box will be made available on each of the evening dinner events for you to make a contribution.
Note: We will have a silent auction on Sunday 11 August at Bos Landen Golf Course near Pella at 5:30pm, the same time as the dinner and presentations. All proceeds will go to the two aforementioned projects.

Donations of Info and Photos for Bridge Book also being taken:
In addition, donations in the form of pictures, postcards, information, money for research, etc. are currently being accepted for the book project “The History of Truss Bridges in Iowa” which is being written by the author of the Chronicles. An information box will be available during the Historic Bridge Weekend, but you can also contact Jason Smith in person at the event or via e-mail of you have any information about any of Iowa’s bridges that is worth entering in the book.

Rendsburg High Bridge Coming Down

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011

France has its Millau Viaduct and the arch bridges along the Rhone and in Paris. Canada has its Lion’s Gate Bridge and the Confederate Viaduct. America has its Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges. In Germany, there is the Jungfern Bridge in Berlin, the Goltzschtal Viaduct in the Vogtland and this bridge, the Rendsburg High Bridge.
Spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal in central Schleswig-Holstein, the Rendsburg High Bridge features three parts: a cantilever truss bridge carrying a rail line connecting Hamburg and Flensburg; underneath is the transporter part, carrying cars, people and bikes across the canal at intervals, and on the northern side of the canal, there is the loop approach made of steel trestles which overshadows the city of Rendsburg. Built in 1913 by Friedrich Voss, the bridge is one of its kind in the world, with a total length of 2500 meters (8150 feet); the canal span measuring 140 meters (460 feet).
Yet this bridge became the target of outcry from residents in the city and many pontists throughout the world, as an agreement was made on Friday to tear down the entire structure and replace it with a cable-stayed bridge. While the design has not been developed yet, insiders at the German Railways Corporation Deutsche Bahn, have mentioned that the bridge is to look like the eastern half of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which is being constructed to replace the 1936 cantilever truss span, even as this article goes to the press.

Spiral approach of the Rendsburg High Bridge. Photo taken in April 2011

While work on restoring the entire bridge has been ongoing since 1990, the reason for the abrupt decision is that there were reports of extreme  rust and corrosion on four of the trestle spans on the Rendsburg side of the bridge, as well as the deck truss span that is located above the railway track that starts its gradual ascent to the bridge after leaving Rendsburg Railway Station. As the Deutsche Bahn recently signed an Inter-European Railway Agreement with Sweden and Denmark to introduce the Swedish SX2000 Trains, connecting Stockholm with Hamburg and Berlin, officials at the Deutsche Bahn, the Danish Railways, and the Swedish Railways have deemed the Rendsburg High Bridge incompatible to accommodate these trains going at 350 km/h.

Currently, the Danish Railways run four InterCityExpress trains in each direction between Aalborg and Berlin daily, with the Deutsche Bahn running six InterCity trains between Flensburg and areas to the south and west of Germany.  The Swedish Railways has two X2000 Trains running in each direction daily, connecting Copenhagen with Stockholm, and crossing the Oresund Bridge that links the Danish capital with Malmö.

Main span of Rendsburg High Bridge. Photo taken in April 2011

A petition has begun to stop the demolition of the bridge by as many as three different organizations, with calls for a second inspection on the bridge to be conducted by Fuchs and Lustig, a giant engineering firm located in Cologne, in North Rhein-Westphalia, being echoed throughout all of Germany. Founded by Peter Lustig and with Fritz Fuchs being president, the company has overturned plans for a box girder bridge over the Rhine River to replace the aging Neuwied Bridge in Rheinland Palatinate, a cable-stayed bridge that was built in 1970, and has advocated for suspension bridges as the main bridge design because of its flexibility in terms of managing wind and high volumes of traffic.
Still despite claims that the demolition and replacement of the bridge would be a waste of money, costing over $3.76 trillion, officials are not wasting any time with planning this event as they would like to introduce the XS2000 Trains on German soil by 2020. While traffic between Flensburg and Hamburg would be rerouted via Kiel and Eckerfördern- part of the reason being the construction of the mega-border train station Flensburg-West, which would relieve rail traffic going in and out of its current station in Flensburg- the demolition and replacement of the Rendsburg High Bridge will take place when pigs and cows grow wings and fly over the moon!  APRIL FOOLS!  😉
The reason it will never happen? Because renovations are almost complete on the bridge and as the mega-structure turns 100 years old this year, the bridge will be receiving international recognition in the fall by various international organizations. At that time, the bridge will be running two-way rail traffic again connecting Flensburg and Hamburg, with Flensburg keeping its main station for all international train travel.
The author has visited the bridge on three different occasions and has even filmed parts of the bridge from different angles. You can view them here. An impressionist article about the bridge will be posted this month in the Chronicles. Stay tuned!