2014 Historic Bridge Weekend in Michigan

Mackinac Bridge at night. One of the key bridges on the places to visit list for this year’s HB Weekend. Photo taken by Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org

Three-day Event to take place September 5-7, 2014.

Labor Day weekend usually marks the end of summer and the start of the school year throughout the US, unless you are living in some states that have already started school. Yet if you or your child is a bridge fan, like Nathan Holth, then you could consider this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend as the event to close out this summer vacation.

This year’s event, hosted by the author and columnist of HistoricBridges.org, will take place in Michigan, focusing on the creme dela creme of historic bridges. The three-day weekend will start with a tour of Historic Bridge Park on the evening of September 5th, beginning at 5:00pm. Located near Battle Creek, this park features six historic bridges that were brought in from places in southern Michigan, restored and erected as trails throughout the park. The complex received the Chronicles’ Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret in 2011.

After touring southern Michigan and parts of northern Indiana on Saturday (including a Saturday night photo opportunity of the bridges in Grand Rapids), Sunday’s tour will feature a visit to the Big Mac. Built in 1957 under the direction of David Steinman, the five-mile long bridge, with the main span of 3,800 feet, still remains the longest single bridge in the western hemisphere. Also included in the Sunday tour are the bridges in the Sault Sainte Marie area, which will mark the first time that the HB Weekend will include some bridges outside the US. Sault Ste. Marie is located at the US-Canadian Border and features over a half dozen key structures straddling the St. Mary’s River and the international border, including the International Bridge, built by Steinman and Associates in 1962.

If you have any questions or are interested in participating in this rather informal event that will bring together pontists and bridge enthusiasts from all over the country, please contact Nathan Holth using the contact details enclosed here.    Highlights of the Historic Bridge Weekend will be provided in the Chronicles in case if it is impossible to make the event but would like to know which bridges to see while visiting Michigan. The author of the Chronicles already has a few bridges to visit on his agenda for his visit to the region in the future.

Author’s Note: A book on the Mackinac Bridge will be featured in the Chronicles’ Book of the Month soon.

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Portland Waterworks Bridge for Sale: Any Takers?

Portland Waterworks Bridge before it was dismantled in 2010. Photo taken in 2009 by Michael Goff

 

PORTLAND, OREGON-  Mail order truss  bridge- truss bridges with welded connections that are assembled at the company but taken to its final destination for installment as a pedestrian crossing- seems to be the norm nowadays. While they are easy to build and cost effective, they lack the aesthetic taste that should be characteristic for its surroundings.

Yet it does not mean you need to scrap the plan altogether. Used truss bridges- namely historic bridges that are more than 60 years old- can fit the mold, and they usually tie in together with its surroundings because of their design and appearance. The Portland Waterworks Bridge spanning the Sandy River at Dodge Park in Clackamas County, Oregon is one of those unique bridges that once fit this mold.

Built in 1893, the bridge was a product of the Bullen Bridge Company of Pueblo, Colorado and was erected under the direction of Charles Loweth. It was deemed as the oldest historic bridge that served its original function in the state of Oregon, as it carried the Bull Water Pipeline Conduits 2 and 4, two of the important conduits that provide water to a quarter of the state’s population.  For over 80 years, this Pennsylvania petit through truss bridge with Howe portal bracing (with ornamental features) and pinned connections ran parallel to the Lusted Road Bridge, another Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge that carries vehicular traffic.

Since 2010 the Portland Waterworks has been in storage waiting for reuse somewhere else as a pedestrian bridge. After the two conduits were laid underground, running underneath the Sandy River, the bridge was rendered obsolete and was later dismantled, leaving the Lusted Road Bridge as the only historic bridge left to be seen as part of the Dodge Park complex.

Bridge parts waiting to be reassembled at a new home. Photo taken by Michael Goff in December 2010

The Portland Waterworks Bureau (PWB) and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) are working together to give the bridge away to a known party that is willing to use it for recreational use. As the bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge must not be destroyed or used for anything other than as a pedestrian crossing, even if the length of the bridge is 300 feet, very unusual for a Pennsylvania truss bridge built small enough to be used as a pedestrian or bike bridge. The deck width is 14 feet.  The PWB and SHPO has a handbook guide with information about the bridge, how it is assembled and its historic significance, just to name a few items. They can be found on the PWB website by clicking here.  Any party interested in the bridge will receive the structure in parts (as seen in the picture), making it easier to haul, plus some information on how to reassemble the truss bridge at its new location. Yet additional help in terms of funding for the relocation of the bridge as well as expertise from the historic bridge and preservation communities are available upon request.

If you are interested in purchasing the Portland Waterworks Bridge for reuse as a recreational bridge, please contact Kevin Larson of the Engineering Services Group. The contact information can be found on the same website by clicking here.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you up to date as to when and where the Portland Waterworks Bridge will find its new home. It is possible that it could find a new home inside Oregon- a plus for many preservationists living in the state as well as those interested in seeing it reused again. Yet as has been seen in many cases, the Waterworks Bridge may end up out of state, like in Colorado, where a party in interested in bringing in bridges for recreational use. More on that in the Chronicles as the information comes in.

Linz Railroad Bridge Update: Aktionstag at Donaupark Urfahr on September 12

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark the date on your calendar: 12 September, 2014 at 6:00pm (Central European Time) at Donaupark Urfahr in Linz, Austria. The Group Initiative Save the Linz Railway Bridge (Rettet die Eisenbahnbrücke) is hosting the bridge festival Aktionstag, featuring the Austrian bands of Attwenger and Folkshilfe. There are no entry fees but you can donate to the cause. The festival brings together people with close ties to the bridge who want to see the 114-year old bridge saved and reused for pedestrian use.

This includes the political parties of the Free Democrats, the Volkspartei and Greens, who are making up the majority who are pressing the mayor of Linz, Klaus Luger, to reconsider plans to demolish the bridge. Luger, along with supporters of the party SPO (the Social Democrats), are pushing to see the bridge replaced with a modern structure, despite growing opposition from the majority of Linz’s population, preservationists, and even engineers who have expertise in preserving historic bridges, including Erhardt Kargel, whose invitation to speak with Luger was rejected, according to interview with the city magazine, Linzider (see article here for more details).  A new design is expected to be revealed in September, yet with the mayoral elections scheduled for next year, the topic of this bridge and its future will be one of the top themes of the election campaign.

For more information about this bridge festival on 12 September and/or on how to contribute to saving the bridge, click here for more details. The initiative is also on facebook, where as many as 8,250 likes have been posted. There is a potential that the 10,000 mark will be reached between now and then, and the numbers will double by year’s end.  Join in on the action in saving the Railroad Bridge by attending the concert and being actively engaged in pushing the city to support preserving the bridge.

The Chronicles interviewed Robert Ritter, who is one of the leading organizers in saving the bridge. You can click here to read the information behind the initiative to save the bridge. The Chronicles, which is throwing its support behind the bridge, will keep you posted on the latest developments as they come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINZ, AUSTRIA-

Linz Railroad Bridge Preservation: Interview

Obique view of the bridge. Image courtesy of Thomas Nemcsek.

The next Chronicles entry takes us back to Linz in central Austria, and in particular, this bridge over the Danube. Two years ago, the Chronicles published an article about the future of this three-span hybrid Parker-Whipple through truss span that used to carry rail and vehicular traffic and features a pedestrian boardwalk. At that time, public sentiment favored replacing the bridge with a modern one, which would fit the modern landscape but leave the Styregg Bridge in the northern part of the city as the lone historic bridge left. As seen in the article here, the Office of Historic Preservation was the last barrier to be taken down before demolition could proceed, which was backed by the city government and the Austrian Railways.

Fast-forward to the present, and we see a somewhat different scenario involving the bridge. The Austrian Railways has relinquished its responsibility of the bridge to the organization Linz AG, public support for the bridge has increased to the majority, but attempts to destroy efforts to preserve the bridge including one agency changing sides and producing one of the biggest scandals in the city’s history, are still there.

The organization Rettet die Eisenbahnbrücke (EN: Save the Linz Railway Bridge) was formed and started several initiatives to convince the city to change its mind. Despite its infancy, the support for the bridge has been enormous, with almost 8,000 likes on facebook and tens of thousands of signatures that prompted the city to involve the public about the plans for the bridge. Even the Chronicles has thrown in its support for this unique bridge that has been considered a historic jewel for the city, the Danube River and central Europe.

Underneath the bridge in black and white. Photo courtesy of Arno Schröckenfux

I had an opportunity to interview Robert Ritter, one of the organizers who is spearheading efforts to get the bridge saved, asking him about the current situation of the bridge and what the group wants to do with the bridge. Despite a long battle ahead of them, he remains optimistic that the public will have a say towards what they want to do with the bridge, which is restore the structure and convert it into a bike and pedestrian crossing with an option to include streetcar service in the future. Here is the Chronicles’ Q&A with Herrn Ritter:

1. What got you started with saving the Linz Railroad Bridge?
It was initially press reports saying that the demolition of the bridge had been enacted in the municipal council. We were wondering that nobody in public seemed to take notice of this incredible act let alone stand up against it. We learned that there were numerous initiatives campaigning for the preservation of the monument, all more or less remaining unnoticed or unsuccessful. So we decided to try the same through Facebook. Some weeks before we started a Facebook campaign demanding a beach cafe at the river Danube had led to a round table involving politicians and Facebook activists to realize the project.
2. In the past three years, political support has been mounting to replace the railroad bridge with a more modern one because of claims that the bridge cannot be restored. Is the political pressure there and if so, how have you been combating it?
It’s more ignorance than pressure we are fighting against. We are detecting massive economical interests in destroying the bridge and a network of actors that are very close to corruption the way they have been pushing their concerns. However, we have strong support by most of the political opposition to the government and even by members of the governing parties (which are the social democrats and the green party).
3. The bridge is now privately owned, from what I understand. Is it right?   If so, what are your plans for the bridge?
That is correct although the “private” owner is a company that is owned by the city. The company is a result of sourcing-out services provided by the city. Our plans are to preserve the monument as a bridge for cyclists and pedestrians and – if necessary – for a tramway. A new bridge for cars can easily be built beside the railroad bridge unless it should turn out that another position for the new bridge is a better option in terms of traffic concepts.
4. How much support have you received so far?
Well, we almost have 8000 supporters on Facebook. Even 7000 were enough to make the mayor invite the Facebook activists for “Linz braucht einen Strand” to a round table. We notice that there is also very much popular demand for a preservation of the bridge by persons that are not on Facebook. And we do not detect much open opposition against our concern.
5. Is it true about the Denkmalamt removing the historic status of the bridge (as seen in one of the fb postings)?  If so, how will you go about in convincing the agency to reinstate this status?
The permission to demolish the monument (so the official term) was politically motivated and is a scandal on its own. Some history: in the 1960ies the municipal government of Linz destroyed a textile manufactory of the 17th century in face of grim protest of the public. As a result an independent advisory board for issues concerning historical monuments (Unabhängiger Denkmalbeirat) was established by law to never let anything like that happen again. Well, the advisory board argued by majority vote FOR a preservation of the railroad bridge. For the first time in the history of the advisory board the Denkmalamt ignored its recommendation. Notice that the Denkmalamt is subordinated to the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture headed by a social democrat minister. Coincidence?
6. If plans for restoring the bridge are approved, what is the timeline for the project? How will the bridge be maintained?
Well, we are far away from speaking of timelines. We are preparing to utilize all democratic means to fight for a participation of the population in the decision. At the moment the city government is planning a timeline for the demolition of the bridge. The demolition has to be executed within 3 years after the permission of the Denkmalamt which means a lot of pressure for the destroyers. There are detailed offers by steel building companies to restore the bridge. It is possible and it is by far cheaper to restore AND build a new bridge than to tear down the monument and build a new one.
7. Any advice to anyone who is working on saving a historic bridge, especially one over such a large river like the Danube? Do you know of other similar bridges that are being restored that are worth mentioning?
There are more best practice examples for restoring historic bridges than can be mentioned here. Some of them are the bridges Baltoji Voke  and Kaunas (both Lithuania), Eglisau (Switzerland) and The Hef in Rotterdam. To anyone who is working on saving a bridge: fear nobody, don’t give up, involve the public! And utilize social media – they have an incredible potential for reaching lots of people within a short time.
The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider
If you are interested in taking part in any efforts to save the Linz Railway Bridge, go to their facebook page to like (here) and follow up on the updates and photos provided on the page. There is also a website, where you can sign the petition and subscribe to updates on the current situation with the bridge so that you have an opportunity to participate in the efforts to save the structure. You can click on the link here for more details.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving the bridge, as things are heating up between those wanting to save the bridge and those wanting to demolish and replace it. The Chronicles is also on facebook and twitter which you can subscribe to follow the updates on that and other bridges in Europe and the US.  As you can see in the interview, the battle is brewing, but in the end, the people of Linz will have the final say as to what will be done to the bridge. It is hoped that a compromise- a historic bridge as a bike and pedestrian trail and a new bridge alongside it for vehicular traffic will serve to the liking of both parties. But it will all depend on the number of votes needed to realize this project.
The author would like to thank Robert Ritter for the interview and wish him and the rest of the group best of luck. Also a round of thanks to the photographers who were willing to share their pics of the bridge for this article. Their names have been noted on each one. 

Mystery Bridge 46: The Disappearing Bridge in Nicollet County, Minnesota

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Just recently, as I was looking for some information on some historic bridges for a book on one of the rivers in Minnesota, I happened to stumble across this bridge by chance. Located over the Minnesota River south of Fort Ridgely State Park, the only information gathered from an inventory of all bridges constructed in Minnesota revealed that the bridge was built in 1905, carried a township road, and was 259 feet long.  I bundled that bridge (known to locals as the Hinderman Bridge) in with my other bridge inquiries to MnDOT, only to receive this black and white picture from 1941. As you can see in the picture, the bridge was a two-span Pratt pony truss with pinned and eyebar connections.  According to information from MnDOT, with the construction of the MN Hwy. 4 Bridge to the northwest and a new bridgeat County Highway 13 in 1987, it was determined that the truss structure was rendered useless and was therefore abandoned, taken off the road system and most likely ended up in the back yard of a private farmstead.  Using Googlemap, it is revealed that the bridge no longer exists, as it was removed at a certain date, even though it is unknown when that took place, let alone why it happened to begin with.

The Minnesota River is laden with lots of information on bridges, both past and present, much of which have been documented for public availability at local museums, the state historical society and even online. Yet there are many questions that have yet to be answered with regards to this bridge. First and foremost, we have the issue of location. Many historic maps in the early 1900s had revealed that the bridge no longer existed with the exception of the canoe map provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, leading to the question of what type of service the road served before it was closed along with the bridge.  This was one of the findings that fellow pontist John Weeks III thought was odd, during his visit to the bridge in 2008. Yet the Hinderman Bridge does have some history behind it as Weeks discovered while researching about this bridge:

The bridge was named after Captain Hinderman and was once a popular ferry, connecting Ridgely Township in Nicollet County and the village of Home in Brown County. In 1905 the state appropriated $1,800 for a new crossing to replace the ferry, and the bridge was later built under the direction of Captain Hinderman and William LaFlamboy on the Nicollet side and Hans Moe from Sleepy Eye on the Brown side.  It is unknown where the steel was fabricated and who the bridge builder was, but it is likely that Hinderman and local residents may have ordered the structure from the bridge builder and it was shipped to the location to be assembled.  Information from a source with relation to the Hinderman family revealed that the bridge was washed out by flooding in 1951 but was later rebuilt at the exact location. But more concrete information came from the great-granddaughter of Captain Hinderman in 2012, who revealed that the bridge had been in service for 82 years before it became a liability for Brown County (which had own the bridge) because of a weight limit of three tons and was later closed to traffic in the fall of 1987.  More information about the bridge can be found through John Weeks’ website here.

This was all the information that was found about the Hinderman Bridge. All that is left of the bridge is wood pilings and the road approaching what is left of the bridge from both sides. A center pier in the middle of the Minnesota River, which revealed a two-span structure was knocked into the river by flooding in the 2000s. Yet it still does not answer the following questions:

1. Who provided the steel and was contracted to build the bridge?

2. When was the bridge removed and why?

3. When was Hinderman’s Ferry in service, and how long did the village of Home exist?

Any information about the bridge would be much appreciated, so that we can close the book on the story of this bridge that had once been an important crossing but became an unknown memory after 1987. The article and information about the bridge are available through bridgehunter.com, where you can place your comments in the section by clicking here. Yet, you can contact the Chronicles and John Weeks III using the contact details provided both in the Chronicles page here as well as here.

The author wishes to thank Peter Wilson at Minnesota DOT for providing some important information and photos of this bridge. 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 45: The Disappearing Bridge at Schoolfield Road

Schoolfield Road Bridge in Clay County, Missouri Photo taken by Clark Vance in November 2013

How long does it take for an abandoned bridge to be ignored before it becomes an important agenda on the desk of the local government? And what actions are usually taken when the issue comes about and why?

It is very hard to tell, really. Some bridges are usually left in place for pedestrian use for many years before they are closed off and eventually either renovated, replaced or even removed. But they can take many years- at least seven to ten. But why ignore the bridge before it becomes an issue?  Could be for money reasons. However, it could also be a question of political tactics where the structure deteriorates to a point where it becomes a liability and then they apply for state and federal aid.

The Schoolfield Road Bridge presents a rather peculiar scenario that justifies a mystery article to find out what exactly happened to the structure. Spanning Williams Creek at Rocky Hollow Lake west of Excelsior Springs in Clay County, Missouri, this double-intersecting Pratt pony truss bridge was built in the 1930s and featured riveted connections. The truss span was 60 feet long, whereas the total length was 91 feet. The bridge was last photographed by Clark Vance in November 2013. As of July of this year, the new bridge has taken its place and is open to traffic.

Is this normal?

If we look at the situation and compare, it is anything but that. According to satellite findings, the bridge was intact with a deck in 2009, damaged by flooding in 2010, stripped of its decking and approach spans in 2011, and was last seen in this manner in November 2013. Judging by the overgrowth that had covered the road approaching the bridge, the truss bridge had to have been closed to all traffic for five to six years, which is also less than the normal time needed to ignore the bridge before it is eventually removed and/or replaced.  Apart from one theory that it may have been destroyed by flooding earlier this year, it is possible that attempts had been made in 2011 to remove the bridge, yet it failed due to either the county lacking funds for the project or the contractor going bankrupt and not finishing the job. In either case, it was rather weird to strip the bridge down to its truss structure and leave it as is, unless the county wanted to make sure that everyone stayed off of it until there was enough funding and a contractor to finish the job of replacing the bridge. Yet logically speaking, it would have made sense to remove the entire structure as is and left the road abandoned until there was a chance to bridge it again.  In either case, there was a motive behind rapidly swapping the steel truss for a slab of concrete, given its proximity to the lake and the potential to redevelop the area.

So what was the story behind the bridge at Schoolfield Road? How did it go from a normal bridge that was safe enough for crossing or even fishing to one that was partially demolished but was left sitting in place, to a hunk of concrete in a span of four years? And for the latter part, how did the bridge be replaced in such a quick time? Any ideas, post your comments here at the Chronicles or through James Baughn’s bridgehunter.com website.

Eventually the truth will be revealed as to what happened to this rather normal truss bridge, and with that, consequences will come about as to how to take better care of bridges and to a certain degree, our infrastructure, for after discussing this topic for many years since the I-35W Bridge disaster in Minneapolis in 2007, we still have some problems to be solved which deals with our inability to maintain even the basic aspects.

The author wishes to thank Clark Vance for the use of this photo. More photos of the bridge can be found in the bridgehunter.com website, by clicking here.