Mystery Bridge Nr. 36: The Ravenna Aqueduct in Italy

The Aqueduct of Segovia in Spain. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Segovia_Aqueduct.JPG

The next mystery bridge article is in connection with a project the author is doing for a university in eastern Germany- namely one involving a rather antique bridge type known as the aqueduct.  As you can see in the picture above, aqueducts date back to ancient times, first used by the ancient Greeks and Etruscans but later expanded by the Romans during their time in power, beginning in the second century BC. Tens of thousands of kilometers of aqueducts were constructed by 195 AD, the time when the Roman Empire was at its peak in size and power, with 11 of them totaling over 300 kilometers built in the city of Rome itself.

Aqueducts themselves are viaducts that feature multiple stories of arches but whose top row of arches transport water to the cities on land. In general, water extracted from a larger body of water- in the case of the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean Sea, with some smaller aqueducts being used to connect the major ones in Germany, France and England- and is transported through a series of canals and arch viaducts, making a gradual decline going inland. Most of these aqueducts were built using bricks and/or stone, while the pipes and troughs used to transport water were first built using lead, yet ceramics and clay were later used due to concerns of lead poisoning and water-borne diseases that affected the Roman population.  Many of these aqueducts were destroyed by Germanic tribes, Vandals and Franconians when the Empire crumbled bit by bit after it was split into two in 395 AD. Others were left in disarray. Yet there were some aqueducts that were restored by the Visogoths and Ostrogoths after the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist with the overthrow of Romulus, son of Orestes, by Odoacre in 476 AD.

The Ravenna Aqueduct was one of the surviving Roman aqueducts that was restored after 476 AD. It was first built by Emperor Trajan in the second century (before his death in 117 AD) connecting Ravenna with the port of Classe, located northeast of the city on the Adriatic Sea. Little was known about the aqueduct except it was approximately 20 kilometers long, with another branch being built later that was 70 kilometers. According to Deborah Deliyannis in her book, Ravenna in Late Antiquity, the aqueduct was out of service by 460, with portions destroyed during the conquest of Italy by Theoderich the Great, where he besieged Ravenna between 490 and the time he murdered Odoacre and took over the Italian kingdom in 493. It was then that he ordered all aqueducts to be restored, including this key connection between Ravenna and Classe. Reason for that was simple: he wanted to restore the water system to Ravenna to enable people to use it for drinking, irrigation and bathing.  The restoration was confirmed with the excavation of lead pipes that were part of the aqueduct in 1938. The restoration of the aqueduct was one of many architectural achievements that belonged to Theoderich during his regime of the Ostrogoth and later the Visigoth kingdoms before his death in 526.

Yet the question is what the aqueduct looked like during its existence and how it went from the port at Classe to Ravenna, for the path of the aqueduct remains disputed. We do know that Theoderich’s regime was similar to that of Alexander the Great, when he conquered Greece and the Persian kingdom in 323 BC, but allowed the civilizations to thrive. Theoderich’s tolerance over the civilizations based on religious and cultural backgrounds was legend during his time, and his initiative to rebuild Italy’s infrastructure and architectural landscape showed his willingness to allow the people to have a better life than before his conquest. The Ravenna aqueduct was one of those works of art that can reportedly be seen in Ravenna. The question is where the rest of the aqueduct was built and if some of the remnants outside Ravenna can be seen today.

If you have any historical information and findings to date, as well as photos and sketches of the Ravenna Aqueduct, regardless of what language, please use the following channels and contact the Chronicles:

Send your photos and sketches, as well as inquiries to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com

You can place your information about Ravenna’s aqueduct, Trajan’s architectural work or Theoderich’s restoration in the comment section of this article.

Another source where you can send the information is Dr. Udo Hartmann of the Institute of Antiquity at the University of Jena in Germany, who teaches ancient history and has been teaching about Theoderich the Great this semester (Winter Semester 2013/14) and is overseeing the project the author is doing. His e-mail address is: udo.hartmann@uni-jena.de

As soon as the pieces of the aqueduct’s history are put together and the project is completed, an update in abbreviated form will be presented in the Chronicles. Your help would be much appreciated in this matter. Many thanks for your help.

Information on Ravenna, the aqueduct, Trajan and Theoderich the Great can be found by clicking on the following links below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classe,_ancient_port_of_Ravenna#cite_note-11

Ravenna in Late Antiquity and the Restoration of the Aqueduct

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravenna

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoderic_the_Great

 

Advertisements

Bailey Truss Bridge in Kentucky Closed- Interest in Purchase?

Photos courtesy of James MacCray. This one is most recent; taken in 2013 at the time of its closure

The Bailey Truss Bridge: a work of the past that’s still being used today. First developed by British civil engineer Donald Bailey in 1941, the truss bridge won its fame right away, as they were made of light steel, easily assembled and reassembled, used to replace thousands of bridges destroyed by German and Italian troops in World War II, as they tried to slow the advancing Allied Troops. But from the moment the first Bailey Truss bridge was erected in Tunesia in 1942 to the construction of 3000 of these bridges in Sicily totaling 55 miles, to the usage of double of the amount in Germany alone, neither Hitler nor Mussolini had a prayer as these bridges helped carry heavy artillery, tanks and truckloads of troops to their final destinations on D-Day. And while Donald Bailey was knighted in 1947 for his work, these trusses were later used for civilian uses in the US, Europe and even parts of Africa and western Asia, replacing bridges washed away by natural disasters. In Iowa, for example, several counties relied on these trusses after flood waters destroyed many bridges in 1945. At least a dozen of them were constructed in Harrison County alone. A couple of them are known to exist today.

In Shelbyville Kentucky, located east of Lexington, there is a Bailey truss span over Clear Creek that has been in the news recently. Located on Jail Hill Road just north of US Hwy. 60, this bridge was erected here in 1982, even though the span may have built earlier. Unlike many Bailey trusses that were built by American bridge builders (and of course are located on US-soil), this one was the work of a bridge-building firm located in Great Britain, the birthplace of this unique truss bridge. According to the plaque discovered by James MacCray and Jon Parrish, the bridge was built by Thomas Storey Engineering near Manchester, with the steel being manufactured by Appleby-Frodingham Steel in the district of Lincolnshire. Where the bridge was first built or how many times was the bridge rebuilt remains unclear.

The current status of this bridge is not good. Since the end of last year, the crossing has been closed to traffic because of structural concerns, with plans to replace the bridge being not so far off in the future. Yet there is interest in the purchase of the bridge to be used for private purpose, according to the latest report from the bridgehunter.com website. If you are interested in helping this gentleman out with some information or moving the bridge, please refer to the post here.  You can also contact the Shelby County Road Department using the contact details here.

There is hope that this bridge will find a home in one way or another. With its history as unique as it is, it would not be surprising if it appears on the National Register of Historic Places in the near future. But that depends on the amount of information that is available on the bridge.

Close-up of the Bailey truss. Photo taken in 2009

Author’s note: Special thanks to James MacCray for the use of his photos for this article.

 

Newbern Bridge in Indiana to be relocated

Photo taken by Tony Dillon

 

$1.4 million project aimed to convert obsolete historic bridge into a bike trail

Even though it is not as serious as last year, there are many historic bridges in the US that are up for grabs this year, for they are either functionally obsolete (meaning they cannot handle today’s traffic) or sitting abandoned and posing a safety hazard because of the lack of maintenance. Some of these bridges will be profiled in the Chronicles in the coming weeks.

The Newbern Bridge in Bartholemew County, Indiana is one of those candidates, yet its future is about to be brighter. Located over Clifty Creek at North Newbern Road, ca. 10 miles east of Columbus, the 155-foot long Camelback through truss bridge, built in 1910 by the Vicennes Bridge Company, a local bridge builder, had been the subject of concern in the last few months because of a reduced weight limit, which forced many school busses and snow plows to turn around at the bridge’s entrance. The latest news story from the Columbus Republic from a week ago, had the bridge in the visier of the county for demolition. 

It appears that the demolition plans will not happen after all.

The Indiana Dept. of Transportation, according to latest reports by the Republic, has agreed to allocate $584,000 to the project, which will relocate the bridge to Columbus, to be inserted over Haw Creek south of Eastbrook Plaza on the People Trail. The total cost for the project is $1.42 million, with 80% of the cost coming from financial support from the state. Construction is expected to begin later this year. Once the truss bridge is moved, a new bridge is expected to take its place. More information can be found here.

Bartholemew County has lost half of its bridges over the last 20 years- a stark contrast to the majority of counties in Indiana that have restored and reused many bridges similar to Newbern. Many of them disappeared this past decade alone, including the infamous demolition of a through truss bridge at Mill Race Park in Columbus, which had been relocated from its original crossing at White Creek and placed on concrete piers as an exhibit. City officials ordered the bridge removed to make way for a cultural center in 2010.  Yet there seems to be a change of heart as some of the bridges, like the Galbraith Crossing, deemed unfit for traffic use, were repaired and reopened to accomodate vehicular traffic. That plus the high number of abandoned bridges make the county ripe for reusing them for recreational purposes, revitalizing some of the areas of the county that are in need.

The Newbern Bridge will be one of the first bridges in the county to be restored and reused for a bike trail. Yet as the decision will be well-received by many in the county, it will not be the last bridge that is restored and reused. With as many historic bridges as the county still has, it is highly likely that the next bridge ready to be taken off the highway system will join the Newbern Bridge on one of the county’s bike trails. This will fall into Indiana’s traditional role as the savior of historic bridges and its preservation policy.

The Chronicles will follow the developments and keep you informed on the latest.

San Saba Trestle Wins Spectacular Disaster Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trestle Fire wins Run-Off; I-5 Skagit River and New Castle Bridges tied for second.

Within 25 seconds, it was just gone, and then it just turned into a giant fireball, because of all of the creosote in the cross-ties.- Jack Blossmann

All it took was a combination of heat, dry weather and a spark from a passing train, and a 900-foot long wooden trestle bridge with a more than 100-year history, was engulfed in flames. 30 seconds later, it all came tumbling down, like a stack of dominoes. The San Saba Trestle Bridge near Lometa (located 90 miles west of Waco) spanned the Colorado River and featured a steel through truss span over the river and hundreds of feet of wooden trestle on the west end. Yet its demise created some curiosity among the readers as seen in the video here.  If a teacher shows this disaster to the students in class and they are awed by the sequential cascading disaster, as one of the voters noted, then there is no wonder that the San Saba Bridge would receive the devious prize it deserves. After a week-long run-off vote, the Texas trestle received the Spectacular Disaster Award because of the intense effects of the fire and the bridge’s sequential disaster that followed seconds later. The video shown of the disaster will definitely be shown in many engineering and physics classes to show how dangerous a fire can do to a structure, whose melting temperature is low enough for it to collapse. A devastating loss for the railroad, for it needs $10 million to replace the trestle approach spans, but one that created a lot of curiosity among bridge engineers and scientists alike.

The Trestle beat out the New Castle and Skagit River Bridge Disasters, as they were tied for second place, missing out by only two votes each. This marks the first time in the history of the (recently changed) Author’s Choice Award,  that two bridges received two different awards or honorable mentions in two different categories. The New Castle Bridge west of Oklahoma City had already received the Award for the Worst Preservation Example as the 10-span through truss bridge over the Canadian River was reduced to only one span, thanks to a tornado that destroyed two spans and the city government’s decision to demolish all but one of the remaining spans. It was the same tornado that destroyed Moore and devastated vast parts of Oklahoma City.

The Skagit River crossing in Washington state had received the honorable mention for the Biggest Bonehead Story, as a truck driver dropped the southernmost span into the river after hitting the portal bracing. While this incident raised the debate on what to do with through truss bridges, suggestions by local politicians were above and beyond. The collapsed span has since been replaced and I-5 has returned to normal.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to thank everybody for voting in this year’s Ammann Awards and parts of the Author’s Choice Awards. As mentioned in the previous article, the voting format and the dates of the voting for this year’s 2014 Ammann Awards will be different as there will be more options but more simplicity to encourage people to vote on their candidates. It may be like the Bridge Bowl, but it might serve as a way to talk about the bridge candidates at the table, while serving traditional foods over the holidays. Entries will be taken in November, as usual, so go out there and get some pics, write about your favorite bridges and nominate your favorite historian.

Minus the Post Humous version of the Lifetime Legacy, let’s head back out there and look at the bridges that need your help regarding preservation, shall we?

New from the Chronicles

View of Quinn Creek Bridge (in Fayette County) from a distance. Photo taken by James Baughn.

As we wrap up the 2013 Ammann and Smith Awards, the author of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to make a few announcements regarding some changes and other items that will be brand new to the online column for this year.  We’ll start off with the Ammann Awards:

Author’s Choice Award or Bridge Bowl?

After receiving an enormous amount of entries this year and having some issues with the voting ballot, the Chronicles will be making some changes in terms of the structure as well as the voting process. Apart from including the category of Tour Guide Award and changing the name of Smith’s Award to Author’s Choice Awards, the dates of the Awards will also change to a certain degree.

While the number of entries for the respective categories will not be limited nor will the deadline for entries be changed, the voting deadline will be pushed back to January 6th, the Day of Epiphany for the 2014 Awards and beyond. That means entries will be accepted throughout November, but you will have a chance to vote on the bridges and/or pontist through Christmas and New Year, so that you have a chance to have a look at the candidates in each category carefully before voting. The changes have already been made in the Ammann Awards page of the Chronicles, which you can see on bar in the home page.

In addition to that, the voting process will change in time for the 2014 Awards. This means that there will be more embrace in 2.0 technology and social networks, enabling voters to interact and vote more quickly and efficiently. This includes (but is not limited to) the usage of facebook, linkedIn and Pininterest, creating videos of the bridge candidates through YouTube and Go Animate to be made available on the ballot, including the ballot on this blog, and making the ballot in Word format more user friendly. In short, more options to vote will mean more participation and less complication. By the time the Awards starts up again in November, a new and improved voting process will take shape. Other suggestions can be brought up either in the comment section or via e-mail.

New RSS Feed

The Chronicles now has a new RSS feed, so that you can subscribe to the page and read it wherever you go. Just click on the orange symbol under Subscription Options and you can receive the page on any computer device. You can also receive an e-mail subscription of the Chronicles. Just click on the envelop symbol in the options and follow the instructions on how to obtain the articles via e-mail. Both RSS feeds are courtesy of FeedBurner, which cooperates with Yahoo and other engines.  Other Subscription option symbols will be added in the next weeks, including that of flickr, PinInterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and others. Even the podcast of the Chronicles is being considered for experimental purposes. More information to come as some changes are made there.

New Stuff from the Chronicles:

While it has been experimented, the Chronicles will have more features for you to look at as you read along. For instance, a Glossary page has been set up, which will feature words associated with historic bridges and preservation practices and policies. While it is based on the Preservation ABCs, provided by Preservation in Pink, we will not be going in alphabetical order, but the words will be presented at random and through articles with some examples. While the author has some words to add to the Glossary via articles, you can also help. If you have some words to add to the Glossary, please submit them via e-mail with some examples to help, and they will be posted.

Also new will be the Bridge Tour Page, where articles about regions with a high concentration of bridges will be added, to provide you with an opportunity to plan your trip around visiting these bridges. As you saw in the 2013 Ammann Awards, there are plenty of places to see where you can photograph their bridges in a few hours’ time and still have fun at the beach or hiking in the woods.  The Tour page will include regions once populated with historic bridges but are more or less gone- the “Lost Bridges” Tour page. If you know of regions in that category, write to the Chronicles about it and it will be added- along with the pictures, of course. Individual Success Stories and Book/Media of the Month will remain as well.

 

Writers wanted!

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is looking for a few volunteer writers to write about the topics already mentioned here. If you would like to be a Guest Writer and write about some of your bridge topics, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. There’s no obligation as to how often you should write, just as long as the topics you write about are interesting to the readers. Advantage: you can put in your resumé that you did some writing on the side as a way of enhancing your career chances in the fields of journalism, history and preservation.

 

Run-Off Vote due at Midnight!

To round things off, a reminder that the run-off vote for the Smith’s Awards for Spectacular Bridge Disasters will end this evening at 12:00am Central Time or 7:00am Berlin Time. The winner will be announced tomorrow. The candidates once again are the following:

CANDIDATE 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugaVS4615P8

CANDIDATE 2: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2013/06/10/what-to-do-with-a-hb-the-newcastle-bridge/

CANDIDATE 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLVKb1HxhAY

Submit your votes via e-mail or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. The winner will be announced via Chronicles tomorrow during the course of the day.

 

A Bridge too Farm: Question for the Forum

Big Stone Marsh Arch Bridge spanning the Minnesota River west of Ortonville, Minnesota. Used to carry US Hwy. 12 but is now serving pedestrians. Photo taken in December 2010

Here’s a question for the forum, especially those who have children: Do you know of any children’s films or cartoon shows that depict the use of bridges? If so, how were they depicted and why? Did you think they were depicted appropriately or should they had been presented in a better way? What was the name of the film or show?

I had a chance to watch a classic cartoon show (modernized for today’s TV audience) that I grew up with when I was a child, but now my five-year old daughter is enjoying. Curious George was created by H.A. and Margaret Rey in 1940 but the first installment was published in 1941 after the couple fled to the US. Other installments followed over the next two decades. A TV series bearing the monkey’s name started broadcasting in 2006 and has been producing TV shows ever since, not only in the US but in Europe and parts of Asia.

For those who are not familiar with the plot, the main protagonist is a small monkey named George, who is curious, sometimes causing trouble, but very creative, especially when it comes to solving problems. He has many friends, including his big sidekick, The Man With The Yellow Hat, who works in a museum in a big city.

The episode I’m mentioning is entitled “A Bridge to Farm,” (click here to watch in full length)  where George and the Yellow Man drive to a farm place to grill. George was supposed to provide food and playing cards for the people, but ends up helping a hen, whose baby chicks are stuck on an island in the middle of a pond.  It was then when George uses the items bought at the store to create a bridge to allow the baby chicks to cross the pond back to shore. But he had to experiment until he found the right bridge to build.

Can you guess what bridge type George built?

What other bridges did George experiment with before finding the right design?

What other bridge types are depicted in the episode (but George did not use)?

Do you think the bridge type George end up building would have been the right one in your opinion?

And lastly, do you think that this bridge type should be built in reality? Why or why not?

Put your thoughts here in the Comment section or that of facebook or LinkedIn and start a forum about this topic. Also useful is determining how children should be educated about the important of historic bridges and the history of your home country. As we will discuss more about it later, you are also free to discuss this theme.

Dodd Ford to receive a makeover

Dodd Ford Bridge spanning the Blue Earth River near Amboy, Minnesota. Photo taken by the author in September 2010

Truss bridge to be placed onto concrete stringer with the decking encased. Work scheduled to begin in Summer 2014

It is a beautiful piece of artwork when crossing the Blue Earth River, as seen in the video produced five years ago. It was built by a bridge engineer who immigrated to the United States from Germany and later went into politics. Despite being closed to traffic for five years and being threatened with demolition, it is a local landmark that is nationally significant with a unique appearance.

The Dodd Ford Bridge is now getting the rehabilitation it deserves. Residents living in and around Amboy, located south of Mankato in Blue Earth County, Minnesota have found a way to save the bridge by getting the support needed from the county as well as agencies on the state and national levels, with two goals in mind: saving the bridge and reopening it to traffic again. Both of them will be realized later on this year.

Workers will place the truss superstructure onto a modern concrete stringer bridge, encasing the lower chord with new decking, and adding new ornamental railings in the process. New paint and other repairs will be in the mix as well. The cost for the whole project: $1.3 million, $130,000 of which had already been allotted by the county for the project with the rest being provided by grants and other financial resources. Construction on this bridge is set to begin this summer, and while it is unknown how long the project will last, once the bridge is reopen to traffic, farmers and tourists alike will at last have the opportunity to cross the structure again. The 150-foot long bridge had been closed to heavy vehicles for over two decades and to all but pedestrian traffic since 2009. Upon inspection by both official contractors as well as private sources, the truss bridge itself was in pristine condition, leading to the question of “…why it was closed to begin with,” according to one source.

The Dodd Ford Bridge was built as a Camelback through truss bridge in 1901 by Lawrence H. Johnson, a bridge engineer who had once presided over the operations of Hennepin Bridge Company but built this structure as an independent contractor. Born in northern Germany (with sources pointing to Flensburg in Schleswig-Holstein) in 1862, Johnson emigrated to the US in 1875 and eventually to Minnesota in 1884, when he started his bridge-building business. He served in the Minnesota legislature, representing the Republican party and Hennepin County from 1901 to 1910, during which he was also president of the Hennepin Bridge Company in Minneapolis.  He died in 1947 but it is unknown where he was interred.  Johnson built numerous bridges in Minnesota, both as an independent contractor as well as during his days as president at Hennepin, but the Dodd Ford Bridge, as well as the Old Barn Resort Bridge near Preston in Fillmore County are the only two structure left with his name on there (surprisingly enough, the latter has been closed to traffic since 2010 and is also the subject of efforts to reopen it to traffic again).

If the bridge becomes encased with concrete decking, it will not be the first one that will receive this treatment. Several Minnesota truss bridges have received similar treatments and are still in operation. Most notable ones include the Merriam Street and Washington Avenue Bridges both in Minneapolis. The former consists of one of the spans of the original Broadway Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River that was relocated to its present site east of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in 1987, spanning the mighty river’s small channel. The latter spans the railroad tracks in downtown and was encased in 2001, with the trusses widened to accommodate traffic. While questions have been raised regarding the historic integrity of the bridge being compromised through this type of rehabilitation, many people have embraced this claiming it’s “…better that than to have no historic truss bridge at all.”

Compromise or not, the Dodd Ford Bridge is about to receive new life again, thanks to the efforts undertaken to save this bridge from becoming scrap metal. With 50% of the number of historic bridges gone across the country and Blue Earth County only having a handful left, including the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, people are taking a stand to preserve what is left of infrastructural history in America. The Dodd Ford Bridge not only represents that, but also a bridge that was built by an immigrant from a country that produced many bridge engineers of their time to build great infrastructures. And like Germany, the US and with regards to the Dodd Ford Bridge, the locals are fighting to save the unique few that are left for the next generations to enjoy.

Author’s Note: More information is needed about Lawrence H. Johnson’s life as a bridge builder and politician, as well as a confirmation of where he was born and where his tomb is located. If you have any information, please send it to the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Information will be added once it’s received.

Click onto the links to learn more about the bridge and Lawrence Johnson, including the photos taken by the author during his visit in 2010 as well as Nathan Holth during his visit last year.