Dunlap’s Creek Bridge to be Rehabilitated

Side view. Photo courtesy of the HABS HAER Record

At first, the bridge seems to be a typical steel arch bridge in a small Pennsylvania community of Brownsville, located approximately 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, along the Monogahela River. However, instead of tearing down the structure, as it has been described in a textbook fashion by PennDOT, this bridge is due to be rehabilitated.

So what’s so special about Dunlap’s Creek Bridge, an 80-foot long bridge that reminds the author of the Blackfriar’s Road Bridge in London?

The bridge is definitely older than Blackfriar’s Road Bridge. It was built in 1869 and still serves traffic over the River Thames.

This bridge was built much earlier- 1839, to be exact!

Dunlap was the product of Captain Richard Delafield, the person who designed the bridge. The bridge consists of a Howe Lattice deck arch bridge, made of cast iron that was manufactured by Herbertson Foundry in town. Keys and Searight were the contractors for the bridge. The bridge was built 60 years after the first cast iron bridge in the world was constructed at Coalbrookdale, England, the structure that is still standing today. Yet Dunlap set the standard for the following developments:

1. The bridge set the standard for the introduction of the Howe Truss, designed and patented by William Howe in 1840, one year later. It is possible that Howe either influenced Delafield into using this design or used this bridge as a reference for his design.

2. The bridge was used as references for other arch bridges of this fashion, for hundreds of bridges of this type were used for crossings, big and small, in the US and Europe, built between the 1850s and 1900, a fraction of which are still standing today.

HABS HAER

The bridge is the first one to be built in the USA, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978 and is one of 76 bridges honored internationally for its unique design and historic significance. Now the 1839 bridge, which took three years to build and is the fourth crossing at this site, is scheduled to be rehabilitated. Plans are in the making to strengthen the arches, replace the roadway, and there is a possibility that the encasement installed in the 1920s will be removed, exposing the covered half of the cast iron arch. No details of how the bridge will exactly be restored, but PennDOT is looking at the restoration cost of up to $3.7 million, according to a report from the Post Gazette in Pittsburgh. The plan is to make it more attractive for tourists once the project is completed.

Builder’s plaque. Photo taken by James Baughn

A link with all the information about the bridge and its history can be found here. The Chronicles will keep you updated on the project as it comes.

 

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The Bike Challenge

The author and Galloping Gertie on the road. Shot of the Flutmulde Bridge at Sachsenburg, Thuringia. Photo taken in August 2014

Co-produced with sister column:

In the past few weeks, three out of four of us have been nominated for the Ice-Bucket Challenge, whereby of the 75%, four out of five of us have actually done this challenge, either by donating $100 or dumping the bucket of ice water on our heads and donating an amount of our choice to the cause, which is fighting ALS. This disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, disables the nerves and spinal area in the body, affecting the person’s motor skills.

The disease was named after the famous New York Yankees baseball star, who retired 75 years ago after being diagnosed with the disease and died less than two years later. He was the player famous for his comment: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

The idea of the bucket challenge came from Bill Gates and has received mixed reviews from those willing to present themselves doing this rather absurd act on social network and those who think society has become dumber by doing this. Personally, it would not be my cup of tea, as there are other crippling diseases that are just as deadly as ALS. This includes Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative muscular disease that kills a person just as tortuously as this one. This is speaking from the experience after losing a close relative and two friends to this disease. And even if there was a bucket challenge for MS, I would go for the $100 donation instead of suffering from hypothermia thanks to a large bucket of ice cold water. Sorry people.

But the ice bucket challenge presented a brilliant idea for another fundraiser- the bike challenge. With the increase in popularity of bikes and the proliferation of bike trails both in the US and in Europe, why not use the bicycle as the challenge for raising funds?

The idea is simple.

One can challenge someone to bike a certain amount of kilometers and donate an amount of choice. Yet if he/she refuses, then a fixed amount would have to be donated, just like in the ice bucket challenge. The person would have to provide photos and tracking information to prove that the kms were biked and pass the challenge to others who are either avid bike fans or are willing to take up the challenge.

For example:  If I was challenged to bike 50 km in one day, I would pick and choose a route that is bike friendly, like the bike trail along the Unstrut River in Thuringia between Erfurt and Artern, for example. Then I would provide a tracker and some photos, and after doing so, would challenge my next three compatriots to do the same. The amount donated can be based on whether I fulfill the challenge (which would be a fixed amount in my favor) or if  I pass and have to donate based on what was fixed by the organizer, as Bill Gates did with his ALS Challenge.  By the way, I did take the challenge a couple weeks ago, as you can see in the pics here.

A railroad bridge converted to a bike trail crossing at Artern.

Such a bike challenge is useful for not only fundraising drives to combat diseases, like MS or cancer. Yet it can be useful for projects to restore historic places, like bridges, churches and houses, and other causes. For grassroots groups seeking fund-raising posibilities, this challenge is healthy, affordable and provides a challenge to those who would take advantage of the great outdoors and provide a sense of personal achievement, instead of making a total fool out of him/herself by dumping a bucket of ice water over the head, risking a heart attack, hypothermia and other health issues. Furthermore, as you can see in my challenge, you can discover many new sights based on your interest (and the interest of others)

So if you are one of those groups seeking fund-raising possibilities and would like to challenge people, this is one worth considering. It runs parallel to the ice-bucket challenge, but it is a lot more interesting, fun, healthier and even safer than the other challenge. And even if you decide for another challenge- like a friend of mine from Minnesota did and thought of a creative way to challenge others to buy extra products to be donated to a local food shelter- it is much more beneficial than to be soaked in ice cold water, especially now, as my instincts are telling me that winter is coming much sooner than expected. It is already cold and fall-like, with snow already falling in Rapid City, South Dakota– not typical of September weather and something where the ice bucket challenge is not a good idea to begin with. 😉

Author’s note: The Bridges of Unstruttal will be featured later in the fall/ winter, as the author has yet to complete the second half of the leg from Artern to Naumburg. In the meantime, enjoy the preview of what is yet to come.