Mystery Bridge Nr. 92: The Unusual Truss/Arch Bridge at Van Loon

This next mystery bridge takes us to a place out in the middle of nowhere east of a larger city in Indiana. The Van Loon Bridge was one of the most unusual truss bridges found on record. The bridge used to span the Little Calumet River east of Hammond and features a two-span pony arch bridge with Warren truss features and riveted connections. According to an article in the Engineering News Magazine  dated in 1915, the bridge was assembled using scrap metal from an unknown source in Van Loon, Indiana. Unfortunately there were no records that indicated the existence of the community except that it was probably located somewhere outside Hammond. While fellow pontist Nathan Holth pinpointed the bridge’s location to the east, it is not 100% correct and chances are most likely that it could be either to the west or even somewhere along the Calumet. The same applies to the community of Van Loon for the community may have existed for a few years before having disappeared even from the record books.  What we do know is that the bridge, which is approximately 100-120 feet long and 13 feet wide has been extant for many years. This leads to several questions that need explaining about this bridge:

  1. Where exactly along the Calumet was this bridge located?
  2. Where was Van Loon located? When was the community founded, let alone when it vanished?
  3. If the bridge was built using scrap metal, where (in or around Van Loon) did the metal come from?
  4. When was the bridge built and by whom?
  5. When was the bridge demolished?
  6. Was there a replacement for the bridge?

This mystery bridge is unique for we are not only looking for the history of the bridge itself but also the community that only existed for a Brief time. Henceforth if you have any history of Van Loon that would be of great help for to better understand about the bridge’s history, one Needs to know more about the community it served. This includes the people who lived there, the businesses and the events that affected the community, including the factors that led to ist disappearance. You can provide one or both here or through the bridgehunter.com website.

While we have seen fancy bridges, like the one constructed using the remains of a Ferris Wheel, a car dealership, a stadium and the like, nothing is as fancy and interesting is a unique bridge built using parts from an unknown location. The bridge at Van Loon is one of those particular bridges that has that beauty.

 

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Venice: City of Bridges- Guest Column

There are two different types of historic bridges: One that stands out in terms of its design and history and one that integrates itself in a setting, where if visited, one can experience the culture that both the bridge and the area surrounding it offer. One cannot modernize with a new crossing without understanding the implications they have with the neighborhood or landscape. And this is where this guest column comes about.

I happened to stumble across this column by accident and wished I hadn’t for I have yet to visit Italy and explore some of the finest bridges in the country. Italy is home to thousands of crossings dating as far back as the Roman Empire. This include some of the bridges that were built before and rebuilt after the fall of the Empire, including some by King Theoderich (see my article on this topic), such as the aqueducts in Rome (as described in another article here.) Then there are the bridges serving the waters of Florence……

….and this city, Venice.

Home to over 2.5 million inhabitants (with 260,000 living directly in the city center), the city is home to over 430 bridges, including two of the most famous landmarks of the city: The Ponte di Rialto and the Bridge of Sighs. Both of these bridges, dating back to the late 1500s, are part of the majority that can be easily reached by boat or gondola. A guide to the highly recommended bridges to visit in Venice can be accessed by link here.

Yet this guest column written by a columnist who focuses on life in cities and sunsets, puts together Venice’s historic bridges with the colorful faces that the city has to offer. It is a long column about her adventures through the city, and her impressions lead to readers like this one to add this city to the places to visit and bridgehunt- very high up in the Top 3. To look at Venice’s bridges, have a look at the summary below and click to read to the end. When done, you will not regret it like I didn’t but more like provide an incentive to go there and have a look. Enjoy! 🙂

The city of bridges, as it is fondly known, is everything you would imagine it to be. It has a surreal feeling when there, living up to all of its stereotypical features; pretty bridges over winding canals, narrow paths nestled between old tall brick buildings, gondolas and motor boats carrying fruit and vegetables, singing gondoliers […]

via VENICE – CITY OF BRIDGES — LIFE I WANT TO LEAD

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 91: The Collapsed Jones Bridge in Georgia

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

 

114-year old bridge collapsed into water. Crews seeking to remove it.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA-  Funeral services are being made for the 114-year old Jones Bridge, as the 114-year old bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River at an Atlanta metro park. According to recent sources, the collapse of the remaining span happened on the 25th of January 2018 at around 1:00pm local time. No one was reported injured at that time. The remaining span was an eight-panel Camelback through truss bridge with pinned connections and a three-rhombus portal bracings. The bridge was between 100 and 130 feet and was the remaining half of the two-span bridge that had existed for only a short time. The bridge was built in 1904 by an unknown contractor and had once connected Fulton and Gwinett Counties at John’s Creek. According to sources, the bridge served traffic for only 20 years before being made obsolete by a concrete bridge. It was subsequentially closed by 1930, yet how things led to the bridge being halved remains a mystery. Newspapers reported that a person masquerading as a bridge contractor had tried to tear down the bridge and sell the parts as scrap metal. Yet residents became suspicious and alerted law enforcement authorities, who came and arrested him but not before having successfully taken down one of the two through truss spans and the approach spans. The question is when exactly did this incident happen, for newspapers claimed that the incident happened in the 1940s, yet ariel imagery showed the entire span still remaining in place in 1955 and the span being halved in the 1960s. It is unknown which of the sources is proven incorrect for newspapers can make typing errors including the wrong date, whereas the photos make have been mixed up to make it look like the sturcture had existed during the 1950s when it was gone by that time. What is needed to solve this case is the exact date of construction of the bridge and its bridge builder, as well as the full detail of the incident: who were involved, when did it happen and lastly, what happened to the perpetraitor?

Two parks surround the remains of the structure are named after the bridge: The Jones Bridge section of the Chattahoochee River National Recreational Area to the north and the Jones Bridge County Park in the south. Both facilities will miss having the bridge there as crews work to remove the bridge and possibly salvage part of it as a monument. Yet for a bridge that had survived 70+ years in tact, one wondered had actioned has taken place prior to the incident if that remaining section would have been converted into a picnick area or even fishing pier. All it needed was a new set of cassion piers (as the one in the river had tipped over, causing it to collapse) and new decking. Unfortunately we may never know. However, the collapse will surely signal the need to look at other abandoned structures to see if they can be saved and reused for future purposes. If so, time is ticking for the next abandoned structure next door may be the next to go.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 91: The Collapsed Jones Bridge in Georgia

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

 

114-year old bridge collapsed into water. Crews seeking to remove it.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA-  Funeral services are being made for the 114-year old Jones Bridge, as the 114-year old bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River at an Atlanta metro park. According to recent sources, the collapse of the remaining span happened on the 25th of January 2018 at around 1:00pm local time. No one was reported injured at that time. The remaining span was an eight-panel Camelback through truss bridge with pinned connections and a three-rhombus portal bracings. The bridge was between 100 and 130 feet and was the remaining half of the two-span bridge that had existed for only a short time. The bridge was built in 1904 by an unknown contractor and had once connected Fulton and Gwinett Counties at John’s Creek. According to sources, the bridge served traffic for only 20 years before being made obsolete by a concrete bridge. It was subsequentially closed by 1930, yet how things led to the bridge being halved remains a mystery. Newspapers reported that a person masquerading as a bridge contractor had tried to tear down the bridge and sell the parts as scrap metal. Yet residents became suspicious and alerted law enforcement authorities, who came and arrested him but not before having successfully taken down one of the two through truss spans and the approach spans. The question is when exactly did this incident happen, for newspapers claimed that the incident happened in the 1940s, yet ariel imagery showed the entire span still remaining in place in 1955 and the span being halved in the 1960s. It is unknown which of the sources is proven incorrect for newspapers can make typing errors including the wrong date, whereas the photos make have been mixed up to make it look like the sturcture had existed during the 1950s when it was gone by that time. What is needed to solve this case is the exact date of construction of the bridge and its bridge builder, as well as the full detail of the incident: who were involved, when did it happen and lastly, what happened to the perpetraitor?

Two parks surround the remains of the structure are named after the bridge: The Jones Bridge section of the Chattahoochee River National Recreational Area to the north and the Jones Bridge County Park in the south. Both facilities will miss having the bridge there as crews work to remove the bridge and possibly salvage part of it as a monument. Yet for a bridge that had survived 70+ years in tact, one wondered had actioned has taken place prior to the incident if that remaining section would have been converted into a picnick area or even fishing pier. All it needed was a new set of cassion piers (as the one in the river had tipped over, causing it to collapse) and new decking. Unfortunately we may never know. However, the collapse will surely signal the need to look at other abandoned structures to see if they can be saved and reused for future purposes. If so, time is ticking for the next abandoned structure next door may be the next to go.

DWP Railway Trestle in West Duluth, 1977- Mystery Bridge Nr. 90

The first, and at the same time, 90th Mystery Bridge article takes us back to Duluth, Minnesota. As the gateway to the Great Lakes, the third largest city is loaded with bridges in the past and present, including its key landmark, the Ariel Lift Bridge. I compiled an article on the city’s bridges, which was nominated for the 2017 Ammann Awards in the category of Tour Guide US Bridges.  You can acess the tour guide here.

One of the bridges that is not on the list is this bridge that was dug up “In the Attic” by the colleagues at Duluth News Tribune. The Duluth and Winnepeg Viaduct was perhaps the longest railroad viaduct of its kind in the city, and one of the longest in the state. At between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, the viaduct caresses across West Duluth enroute going north towards Winnipeg and parts of Canada. It features multiple steel girder and trestle spans crossing several streets. Wooden trestles split the neighborhood, while it forms a snake-like curve as the rail line runs along Lake Superior and the St. Louis River going southwards; the sharpest curve to the north takes the trains to the Messabi Range and onwards towards Canada.

There is no date on its construction but looking at the records, the Duluth-Winnipeg Route was established in 1901, providing access to the Iron Range, where Hibbing, Virginia and Eveleth were located. It continued on towards the northwestern corner of the state before crossing over into Canada at Emerson in Manitoba, the site of the former US/Canadian Customs station. That station was closed in 2006, leaving the Port of Entry at I-29 and Trans Canada 75 north of Pembina. The route continued to Winnipeg where it joined the main trans-continental route. The route was taken over by Canadian National, which still operates the route today as part of the subsidiary Wisconsin Central.

Despite its continual operation today, the viaduct in West Duluth is long since gone. While it is possible that the viaduct was built at the time of the creation of the railroad line itself (between 1900 and 1903), we don’t know when exactly the railroad viaduct was removed, for despite the line being abandoned in the late 1970s in favor of an alternative line going north, the viaduct was removed after 1983, as shown in the pictures provided by the Duluth News Tribune.

This takes us to the following question, which after looking at the article released by the Tribune should give you some incentive to looking into the history of the bridge. First and foremost, when exactly was the viaduct built and by whom? Secondly, how long was the bridge exactly? And lastly, when was the bridge removed and why? While fear for liability is understandable, there has to be some other concrete reasons for the bridge’s demise. But we won’t know until we click on the link below and do some research to solve this case.

Good luck and happy bridgehunting! 🙂

Source: DWP Railway Trestle in West Duluth, 1977

 

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DWP Railway Trestle in West Duluth, 1977- Mystery Bridge Nr. 90

The first, and at the same time, 90th Mystery Bridge article takes us back to Duluth, Minnesota. As the gateway to the Great Lakes, the third largest city is loaded with bridges in the past and present, including its key landmark, the Ariel Lift Bridge. I compiled an article on the city’s bridges, which was nominated for the 2017 Ammann Awards in the category of Tour Guide US Bridges.  You can acess the tour guide here.

One of the bridges that is not on the list is this bridge that was dug up “In the Attic” by the colleagues at Duluth News Tribune. The Duluth and Winnepeg Viaduct was perhaps the longest railroad viaduct of its kind in the city, and one of the longest in the state. At between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, the viaduct caresses across West Duluth enroute going north towards Winnipeg and parts of Canada. It features multiple steel girder and trestle spans crossing several streets. Wooden trestles split the neighborhood, while it forms a snake-like curve as the rail line runs along Lake Superior and the St. Louis River going southwards; the sharpest curve to the north takes the trains to the Messabi Range and onwards towards Canada.

There is no date on its construction but looking at the records, the Duluth-Winnipeg Route was established in 1901, providing access to the Iron Range, where Hibbing, Virginia and Eveleth were located. It continued on towards the northwestern corner of the state before crossing over into Canada at Emerson in Manitoba, the site of the former US/Canadian Customs station. That station was closed in 2006, leaving the Port of Entry at I-29 and Trans Canada 75 north of Pembina. The route continued to Winnipeg where it joined the main trans-continental route. The route was taken over by Canadian National, which still operates the route today as part of the subsidiary Wisconsin Central.

Despite its continual operation today, the viaduct in West Duluth is long since gone. While it is possible that the viaduct was built at the time of the creation of the railroad line itself (between 1900 and 1903), we don’t know when exactly the railroad viaduct was removed, for despite the line being abandoned in the late 1970s in favor of an alternative line going north, the viaduct was removed after 1983, as shown in the pictures provided by the Duluth News Tribune.

This takes us to the following question, which after looking at the article released by the Tribune should give you some incentive to looking into the history of the bridge. First and foremost, when exactly was the viaduct built and by whom? Secondly, how long was the bridge exactly? And lastly, when was the bridge removed and why? While fear for liability is understandable, there has to be some other concrete reasons for the bridge’s demise. But we won’t know until we click on the link below and do some research to solve this case.

Good luck and happy bridgehunting! 🙂

Source: DWP Railway Trestle in West Duluth, 1977

Historic Portage Viaduct Coming Down

Bird’s eye oblique view. Photo courtesy of HABS HAER

143-year old historic viaduct, one of the highest in the country is being removed after new replacement span opens.

LETCHWOOD STATE PARK, NY (USA)- The Portage Viaduct at Letchwood State Park was one of the most important attractions in the state. Hundreds of thousands come to Letchwood State Park annually to see a spectacular site- an 820-foot long combination iron and steel viaduct with a height of over 300 feet towering over the falls of the Genessee River. The bridge used to serve Erie Railroad until it was acquired by first Conrail and later, its owner, Norfolk Southern. After 143 years in service, the National Register-listed bridge is coming down. Work has begun to remove the structure, piece by piece, beginning with the railbed, and then dismantling it down to the foundation. The project is expected to be completed by this summer.

This comes after a replacement structure, located 75 feet south of the structure, was open to rail traffic in December. The new bridge, a Warren deck arch bridge with riveted connections and made of heavy steel, was a necessity as the old structure was no longer able to carry heavy rail traffic. Because of heavy traffic combined with shale mining nearby, the contract was let in 2014 to build the new structure which would replace the historic bridge upon its opening. It took two years to build the bridge.

The historic Portage viaduct is actually the third sturcture in the history of the crossing. According to a small essay posted on bridgehunter.com by Sherman Cahal:

“The Erie Railroad completed a wooden crossing of the Genesee on August 16, 1852 at a cost of $175,000. At 234-feet-high and 800-feet-long, with 13 stone piers, it was the largest wooden bridge in the world.”

Cahal added:

“The Erie Railroad moved to quickly replace the wooden bridge with an iron and steel structure after it burned in 1875. A contract for a wrought iron bridge was let to the Watson Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey on May 10, just four days after the fire. Construction began on the second crossing on June 8, 1875, opening to traffic on July 31.”

 

The third structure came in 1903 but it was only in the form of replacing the iron parts with that of steel, thus making it a full-fledged rehabilitation and renovation of the bridge. The McClintic-Marshall Company of Chicago and Pittsburgh were the contractors for the 1903 viaduct, the same company that built the 1848 High Bridge in New York City (the oldest known bridge in the city), the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit and the Beaver Falls Railroad Bridge in Pennsylvania. The (still) current structure has a combination of deck Pratt truss and girder spans, supported by tall, layered rectangular towers with X-lacing. The connections with the skeletal towers are riveted while the trusses and the lacings are pin-connected. The bridge (and the park itself) were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. The newest bridge that is replacing this one, a product of the American Bridge Company as well as Mojeski & Masters, is the fourth structure on the Northfolk & Southern Route.

 

Unlike the Kate Shelley Viaduct in Boone County, Iowa, there was no interest in converting the historic viaduct into a walkway pier- neither from the railroad nor from the state park officials, which led to the decision to include the demolition of the bridge in the contract for the new bridge. The historic viaduct in Iowa has been out of service since 2008 when a new one south of the structure was open to traffic and plans to make the bridge an observation point and/or monument has been on the table since then. But the historic Portage Viaduct received no such interest from park and railroad officials because of the importance of progress due to shale mining.

While the new Portage Bridge may eventually replace the historic variant as the new scenic place of photography at Letchwood, there are many who still feel attached to the older bridge and will definitely take the opportunity to photograph the bridge was it comes down, bit by bit….

…and sadly into the history books.