When Edwin Thacher patented his truss design in 1884, his intention was for it to compete with the likes of already well-established truss designs, like the Pratt, Warren, Parker, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, but also the more unknown types, like the Kellogg, Fink and Post, just to name a few. While there are now four Thacher truss bridges left in the United States (in Iowa (2x), Minnesota, Virginia and Colorado), we’re still figuring out how many more of these bridges were actually built since the first one was constructed at Independence, Iowa, three years before the design was patented.
While we’re looking for information of the one in Waverly (see article here), two fellow pontists brought this one up to the author’s attention. Spanning the Ocheydan River west of Everly in Clay County, Iowa, this Thacher bridge was the first crossing built in Clay County, according to records. Even though Clay County was organized in 1851, Everly was founded in 1884, originally known as Clark (the name changed to it current one in 1902). Keeping the two in mind, the construction date for the Thacher was probably between 1885 and 1895, as this hybrid version was built during that time at places such as Ellsworth Ranch (Iowa), Yellow Bank Church (Minnesota), Okoboji Swing Bridge (Iowa) and the now demolished Castlewood (South Dakota).
The question is when exactly and whether the builder for this bridge was the same one for the aforementioned ones- the King Bridge and Iron Company? The Wrought Iron Bridge Company built the longer span versions of the Thacher truss, the ones known to bridge historians today as the real form of the truss design. The Thacher truss crossing was eventually replaced by a pony truss bridge in 1911, a riveted Pratt type, only to be replaced by a concrete bridge in 2008.
So what more do we know about this bridge? If you have more information on the Everly Thacher truss bridge, please use the contact forms and inform Jason Smith at the Chronicles. You can also place your comments and photos in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. In either case, we have more we need to know about this unique but rare truss bridge, where despite its handful of numbers existing today, there were more built towards the turn of the Century than we thought.
Happy Bridgehunting! 🙂
Thanks to Luke Harden and Jeff Wieland for their help with this bridge. Not to worry, this mystery will be solved and Clay County will have another bridge history to the county’s name and history.
Our next mystery bridge takes us to Rock Valley, Iowa, located along the Rock River in Sioux County, and this bridge, located on the west end of town. Locally known as the Kiwanis Bridge, my discovery of the bridge dated back to 1998, where during a Spring Break trip from college, I took my Ford F 250 pickup and went along the Rock River from Pipestone County all the way to its confluence with the Big Sioux River north of Hawarden. The Kiwanis Bridge was one of a dozen pre-1945 bridges I found during that time. When walking across it for the first time, I noticed that the wooden trestle approach spans on the east end was much older than the piers holding the Pratt through truss span in place across the river. Also interesting to note was how the trusses were configured. Consisting of riveted and pinned-connections and Howe Lattice portal and strut bracings, the end posts on the outer ends of the truss spans have a 60° angle, whereas the middle pier in the main span consists of vertical end posts that do NOT meet. One of the first impressions I had was that the bridge was relocated from elsewhere, but was altered to accommodate the spans over the Rock River. At the time of the photos, the river was running wildly with march areas on both sides of the river.
I wrote a letter to the City of Rock Valley and received a confirmation by William Van Maanen, a city council member at that time, that the bridge was indeed relocated to Rock Valley. His father Gerrit had been involved in the relocation efforts in the early 1920s and noted that the original railroad crossing, owned by the Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee and Pacific Railroad), consisted of wooden trestle spans, and the truss spans were brought in to replace the ones that were obstructing the flow of the river, causing flooding upstream.
Fast forward to 2015, where the author is residing in Germany, but another pontist, John Marvig, is also looking for some information on this bridge. During his visit in December 2015, he found that the marsh area along the Rock River has been converted to residential areas with sidewalks and all. The bridge is still there, but the mystery of where the bridge came from is still open. The Milwaukee Road museum provided the building date of 1913, the time when standardized truss bridges with riveted connections were being introduced, but the hunches are that the bridge used to be a swing span, only to be altered when being put into place.
This leads to the following questions to be resolved:
Where was the bridge originally located and when was it relocated here?
Who was the bridge builder?
Was the bridge originally a swing span or part of a major crossing?
We must keep in mind that according to William Van Maanen based on the accounts of his father as well as his own personal experience, the Milwaukee Road abandoned the line in the late 1950s and efforts were made to buy the bridge in an attempt to preserve it. The question here is when this happened and when were the renovations made? The bridge was named after the Kiwanis Club in Rock Valley, which bought the bridge and spearheaded efforts to convert it into a recreational crossing. A job that was well done and one that will keep the bridge in service for a very long time, especially as more people reside on the west side of Rock Valley.
If you know of any further information on the Kiwanis Bridge and would like to help answer the questions, please do. The channels are open on the part of the Chronicles as well as John Marvig’s Railroad Bridge Photography website and Bridgehunter.com. Your help and photos would be very much appreciated, as many people would like to know more about the bridge’s history. A gallery of photos of the bridge are below, but there are more via link, which you can click here to view. Happy Bridgehunting and Researching! 🙂
Despite the decking being added, there is still work left to be done with the bridge. A press release by the group shows you the details of the progress, what is next with the project, how much money is needed to complete the last phases and how you can help put the final touches on the project. The press release includes some photos and a cool video provided by Nels Raynor of BACH Steel showing how the new decking is being added. Here’s the release as of 4 April 2016:
In a stunning development, the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge® newly appointed officers decided on April 1, 2016 to leave the group managed and funded by NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges. Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA, was informed of their decision on Saturday at Bunker Mill Bridge by Henry Swantz. While we applaud their efforts to start a new non profit company to work with the bridge, under advise of counsel, until they are recognized as such, with the solid financial and insurance backing that they need, their efforts with the bridge ownership are over, and the representatives to our board from FBMB – Doris Park and Scott Allen gave up their rights as board members”, stated Julie Bowers. “I’m not sure they realized what they were doing when they decided to leave but we’ve seen this before when people that are working together get a title. However, the executive director needed more official help and it seemed to be a good time for that change. The new officers appointed were Travis Yeggy, President and Scott Allen, Executive Director, Mike Riddle, VP, Doris Park, Secretary and Irma Altenhofen, Treasurer. With the consent of the core group they decided to go rogue. They didn’t want to stand behind the binding legal agreements and promises held by NSRGA and FBMB. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges (W’B) is the legal owner and contractor for the project and will continue to work the bridge project as money and scheduling permit.
We are hopeful that the new non profit will work to find collaborators within the county and region to build a bigger and better park for northern Washington County. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges will donate $1000 to help get them started. We will not use any of the $1680 in donations that recently came in for bridge construction for that. W’B is really geared to be interim owners of bridges, and our insurance is realized because of the experts that we use to engineer and restore our bridges. This bridge was to be the first to become one of our bridge parks. Once the Bunker Mill Project is complete, we hope to have many conversations on it’s future. We’ve found, especially with this project, that we need to keep construction separate from the friends groups and local politics. Most friends groups don’t have the expertise to pull off such large and expensive projects, that is why the county allowed us to take on what they didn’t want, because we had those credentials. This is our mission, to preserve historic bridges and greenbelts, and with our growth we are pleased to be able to help an Iowa bridge.
Workin’ Bridges, in an effort to move the project forward in January, encouraged the group to reach out for donors. W’B invested $21,000 in materials and roughly $20,000 in labor for BACH Steel to bring the bridge this far, after their donated time installing stringers. Bowers wants people to understand that while we have come a very long way towards our goal of “Crossing the English”, we are not there yet. Another $30,000 will be required for repair of rail on the approach and the new railing system on the bridge. A wing wall for the south approach is being designed and engineered, and once ready we will bid that work. The north approach, while it held the weight of the JCB, has more spongy planks now. Funding will drive the schedule for completion. Portal gates will be installed on the bridge in order to keep those interested in the project safe until it is finished. We don’t want anyone falling off the bridge in their excitement. The bridge was engineered for recreational use, a maintenance truck, horses and buggies and people for the future, but it is limited in what it can do. The easements were acquired for the preservation and protection of the bridge only.
Each of the easements, Miller, Ehrenfeldt and Stumpf have different requirements. The Millers wanted nothing on their side, the Ehrenfeldt’s wanted no trespassing signs posted but no fence to keep folks out of their land. In the Stumpf easement, the area was vacated by the county in 2013 to Mr. Stumpf in order to grant us that last easement. At the time and in a meeting, the area was staked out and none of our easement touched Nutmeg Avenue. He has asked us to limit the access of folks coming from the north directly onto his property. Just yesterday someone came out at 5 am to try to walk over the bridge and that made us realize that the bridge park must be controlled more, and that was one of the areas that FBMB was to be working on before they voted to leave the services that we have provided behind. Stumpf has put an offer on the table for a purchase the “Catholic 40” as it is commonly known. Our binding agreement with Stumpf allows for a gated fence that will help us define the park boundaries on the south side. He would also allow the gates open for our regular Tuesday events (that won’t take place this summer) and for special events or visiting Sundays for the Amish. There is no further road vacation needed which only came out on discussions with Stumpf that should have happened years ago. Our south side friends that have enjoyed the bridge and the road will be able to continue to do so. We hope to see them in the middle soon, but in the meantime we have to go back to work to make more money to finish the job. Donations made to FBMB will continue to be tax deductible and if they flood in the schedule will move up. NSRGA has reached out to the Natural Heritage Foundation of Iowa, part of the Land Trust Alliance to help us define what a park would look like and what signage and posted hours need to be. Other groups would also be interested in a collaboration and if partners can be found for a REAP grant, the area could be managed the state DNR as we know the County Conservation Board is not interested in managing a park near Kalona.
Questions can be directed to Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges at firstname.lastname@example.org or 641.260.1262.
HOOKSETT, NEW HAMPSHIRE- After the Boscawen, Milford and Sewall Falls Bridges, another bridge is being targeted by the State of New Hampshire. The Lilac Bridge, spanning the Merrimack River in the town of Hooksett, is one of a handful of examples of truss bridges built by local bridge builder John William Storrs, with this one having been built in 1909 using bridge parts manufactured by the American Bridge Company. The bridge has a total length of 490 feet, consisting of 165-foot long riveted Pratt through truss spans, each featuring Town Lattice portals with curved heels and How Lattice struts. The bridge served Main street, going alongside the railroad tracks until it was bypassed in 1976 and left in place.
The city council and the state has been in talks about the future of the bridge because of its current state. The bottom decking is failing and there is a lot of rust, yet the truss bridge superstructure appears to be in great shape. Still, the city has elected not to spend the necessary $35 million for restoring the bridge and instead will spend half of the sum for a complete bridge replacement. According to the proposal, the truss bridges will be gone in favor of a mail-order truss bridge, whose design is yet to be determined. The historic bridge is for sale at a price of a dollar but only for a limited time.
Even if dismantled and stored before being restored and relocated, there is a better chance to save at least a portion of the bridge’s history than to have it scrapped, a traditional technique, which is being used like the Bible in New Hampshire, for over 70% of the pre-1930s truss bridges have been demolished and replaced in the past 10 years- an alarming and sobering statistic! And for the bridges that are products of Mr. Storrs, should the demolition machine process continue, his works will be a memory before anyone has a chance to know about him. Should that happen, then we know how our own American history will look like- instead of knowing about how America developed in terms of its infrastructure and social themes, we will eventually know about Ronald McDonald and Coca-Cola- a concept even the writer of the book Jennifer Government had envisioned when the dystopian novel was released 13 years ago, but is slowly becoming realized day by day.
Thanks to Royce and Bobette Haley for allowing the author to use some pics for this article.
Castles, cathedrals, domed buildings and bridges. From the Baroque Period, as well as Renaissance. Where history and actors re-enacting history meet. Potsdam, located 20 kilometers south of the German capital Berlin has a lot to offer to people of all ages. It has at least a dozen palaces, including the Sansoucci. The historic city center is laden with concert halls and the state parliament. Parks and gardens line up along the city’s lakes and the River Havel. Then there are the bridges in and around the city of 160,000 inhabitants that have their place in the city’s history. This includes the Glienicke Bridge at the border to Berlin, once the site of the famous prisoner exchange between East and West Germany (see here).
But this bridge came to my attention during a visit back in October with some American friends living near Babelsberg. Located at Babelsberg Park, the largest in Potsdam, the bridge is near the historic tower Flatowturm, approximately 300 meters from Tiefensee going east. It spans a ravine and carries a trail going around the hill for 500 meters before entering the tower. From the Kleines Schloss, the bridge and tower are 800 meters south of there. The bridge is a steel beam but features one of the most unusual railings made of cast iron that a pontist has ever seen. It is very hard to describe the design of the railings only to say that its natural tree-branch-like design matches the natural landscape quite nicely. Looking at it much more closely, it appears that a group of people used heavy wiring to twist and form the railings to give the bridge its unique shape.
It appears that the bridge is rather new but the question is how new? When was it built and who were the artists? Was the bridge built after the Wall fell, or was it a product of East Germany by an author wishing to make peace with the western counterparts against the will of Erich Honecker? The reason behind these questions is no further information has been given on this bridge. Therefore, if you have any information that is useful for this bridge, please feel free to comment. Some additional photos are shown below to help you.
After a long absence, the mystery bridge series takes us back to Harrison County, Iowa. Except the main focus is not on the Buellton Bridges that made their way to the county and all but one of which have vanished into the history books. Nor does it have to do with the Orr Bridge, which met its unexpected end at the hands of the tornado in 1999, after serving the county for 40+ years. The mystery bridge we’re looking at is located only three miles east of Logan, which is not only the county seat but was also nearly wiped out by the same tornado.
When one turns right onto 240th Street from US Hwy. 30 and drives 1.5 miles east, then one will find the structure on the right hand side. According to Googlemaps, it is on Pontiac Lane, just 400 feet south over a small creek, surrounded by three farmsteads. When looking at the bridge closely, one can rule out the Warren type right away as the Warren truss has W-framed diagonals. Judging by the number of panels the bridge has (ca. 10 panels) one can assume that the through truss bridge is either a Pratt, Whipple or even Howe type. Further descriptions of the bridge- the portal bracing and whether the bridge is pin-connected or riveted- cannot be seen from a distance.
Yet, the history of the bridge is similar to the ones mentioned in earlier articles. According to Craig Guttau, the bridge spans a small creek and may have been imported to the county in the 1940s. It served traffic for 20-30 years before being replaced with a concrete culvert, while realigning the road at the same time. The purpose of a straightened road was to eliminate sharp curves and accommodate farm traffic. But when the bridge was built and when it was abandoned in favor of the culvert are still open to be solved.
Can you help?
The task is simple: We need photos and information on the bridge, using the data below. You can post your photos on the Chronicles’ facebook pages, send the information to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact info provided in the About page, or post the info on the Bridgehunter.com page. In either case, bird’s eye views are good, close-up shots are better, but the stories behind the bridge’s life is always the best. Let’s complete the story about this bridge, shall we?