Crow’s Bridge for Sale: Any Takers?

154117-L
Photos taken by Tony Dillon in 2009

PUTNAM COUNTY, INDIANA- The state of Indiana has long since been the poster boy for preserving historic bridges- in particular, those made of iron and/or steel. Putnam County has a wide selection of bridges of all sorts made from various materials, even though the number of truss bridges have diminished over the past 20 years. This explains the reason why the county would like to keep this bridge, but to give it to someone who is willing to reuse it.

The Crow’s Bridge, located over Big Walnut Creek north of Greencastle, has been in visier of the county for at least five years because of its age. Yet despite its rust and a builder’s plaque that has been the target of irresponsible shooters, the bridge is one of a few examples of pre-1910 truss bridges made with pinned connections and built by the American Bridge Company. The bridge was built in 1902 by the company, two years after its creation through the merger of 29 bridge builders, using the steel from the mills in Gary. It is unknown where the bridge was prefabricated and where the agents were located during that time, but given its proximity to Illinois, it is likely that the bridge came from one of the branch offices in Chicago that used to be Lassig and American Bridge Works, respectively, one or both of whom had connections with the steel mills in Gary.

In terms of description, the bridge was one of the last examples of truss bridges built with pinned connections and using a Pratt through truss design. Its portal bracing consists of a 3-rhombus Howe Lattice portal system with subdivided heel bracings having an angle of 45°. The struts feature V-laces with 45° heel bracings. Only a portion of the oroginal Howe lattice railings remain as the rest was replaced with modern steel railings. Upon its removal and relocation, the decking was all wood. The bridge is 121 feet long, 15.7 feet wide and 16.5 feet high. As in other bridge examples that can be found in Indiana, this bridge would be a perfect fit as part of a bike trail system, picnic area at a park or even as a secondary road crossing, if the structure is rehabbed accordingly to accomodate vehicular traffic.

At the present time, the truss bridge has been relocated to a field and is awaiting a new permanent home. It is currently being replaced with a concrete structure, unfortunately at the expense of historic wingwalls with inscriptions on there, as seen in the photos posted on bridgehunter.com (click here) and historicbridges.org (click here). If you have an idea what to do with the bridge and would like to take it home, please contact the Putnam County Engineer’s Office or Dan Reitmeyer at this address: danr@clrincgrp.com. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form under About the Chronicles.

The Crow’s Bridge is one of the oldest examples of an American Bridge Company structure. It is also one of the last structures built using pinned connections. Nevertheless, it is one of the surviving examples of what created our American transportation system. It is of utmost importance that this bridge is preserved for generations to come so that they understand why bridges like this made America great. 🙂

154114-L

bhc new logo jpeg

Mystery Bridge Nr. 67: The Railroad Bridge at Halle (Saale) Central Station

IMGP8888

Staying in Saxony-Anhalt for the next mystery bridge article, we head back to Halle (Saale). As many of you have probably read, the city along the Saale River has over 38 bridges along this main river, its tributaries and even along the ICE rail line. While there is a tour guide that takes you to the city’s bridges through the Chronicles and Halle in Bild, neither authors figured in that there would be a few additional outlyers with historic value that should be taken into account, and added.

Like this railroad crossing, for example.

Located less than 100 meters north of Halle Central Station, this western crossing looks like just an ordinary railroad bridge- or a series of railroad bridges as there are six bridges serving seven tracks- one each track except for the outermost crossing. As a bonus, one can enjoy the view of the historic water tower when crossing it.  Yet when looking at the bridge more closely, one can see the history behind this construction:

IMGP8890IMGP8889

The finials were located only at the southern entrance to the structure, right before entering the platform of Halle Central Station. They resemble sword-shaped towers resembling Washington Monument in the United States, with Victorian-like foundations, standing on the abutments made of sandstone and limestone brick and concrete. An inscription with the year 1909 indicated the year the bridge was constructed, spanning Delitzscher Strasse. The bridge’s railings are made of cast iron and feature a parapet that has circilar and mushroom shapes with posts that feature a pyramid-shaped finial and a an outrigger per post that resembles a raindrop.  Outriggers are diagonal posts that slant outwards at an angle 60-80° and used to support the trusses for pony truss bridges and railings for stringers, like this one, regardless of length. Many stringer bridges in Germany have these ornamental outriggers which makes the structure rather attractive. In America, one will see most outriggers on truss bridges, especially those built after 1900 with riveted connections in the form of Pratt, Howe or Warren truss designs, and have geometric shapes.

IMGP8892

Judging by the main span, it appears that the structure is one of two bridge types: 1. It is a stringer which was constructed a few years ago to replace an arch bridge with either open-or-closed spandrel design or a truss design. This would make the most sense as Delitzscher Strasse is one of key streets connecting Halle City and the train station with points to the west, including Delitzsch, the Leipzig-Halle Airport and neighboring Leipzig. To accommodate more traffic, the arches were removed in favor of the stringer span, but the ornamental railings and the finials were preserved as historical markers, showing people where the bridge used to stand. With the modernization of Halle Central Station, this theory would not come as a surprise, given the fact that the complex was in such a desolate state during the time of the East German Communist rule.

IMGP8886
Halle Hauptbahnhof Complex as it stands today.

Then there is option two, which is the stringer has stood since 1909 but had to be rehabilitated to accomodate rail traffic. This theory is tall but doable as engineering experiments have been done to either strengthen or partially replace the decking while keeping the bridge design in place, a concept that costs less money than a full replacement. Yet, given the modernization-happiness of the Deutsche Bahn, which owns the lines and the railway station complex, it is doubtful that the firm would go for quick fix-ups, as they want to conform to the modern rail standards and would rather have new bridges that function for 100 years than to have a restored bridge, like this one. Whe one looks at the firm’s campaign to have the 53-year old Fehmarn Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein torn down and replaced or the Chemnitz Viaduct replaced, one will understand why the Bahn is not listening to alternatives by local and regional governments. By the way, the fight to save the bridges is still on, and other European countries have modernized their rail lines but kept their historic bridges, including Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and even Belgium.

Keeping the theories in mind, we now turn to the forum, providing the following questions for you to ponder and share information about. Feel free to comment on them as the people in Halle would like to know more about this bridge, possibly adding it into a book that should be written on the city’s bridges (see a collection here). Here are the questions for the forum:

  1. When was this bridge built and who was behind the design?
  2. Is the current bridge the restored original or a replacement? If the latter, when was it replaced?
  3. If the bridge was restored, how was it done and who led the efforts?
  4. Who was behind the design of the ornamental railings and finials?

The forum is now open…… 🙂

IMGP8887

IMGP8893

bhc new logo jpeg