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 […]





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




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 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.



2017 Ammann Awards Results: Part 2

Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, Wisconsin. Winner of the Bridge of the Year Awards. Photo taken by Troy Hess.

Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois Medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:





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The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at Schlema


This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg.  It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite Medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:


Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown (Lehigh Co.), PA  Photo by HABS-HAER


There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading  (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.


The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge at its new location in Conway, AR. Winner of the Best Preservation Practice Awards. Photo taken by Wayne Keller


In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas.  For Nels Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew, this 18-month project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.

It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the city council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold Medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.



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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, WI: Winner of Bridge of the Year.


With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded  in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021, but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.

Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pulp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with the Green Bridge in Des Moines and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:


And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.

While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.

For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂



2017 Ammann Award Results: Part 1

Rock Island Rail-to-Trail Bridge in Little Rock, AR at night. Photo taken by Chauncy Neuman, winner of this year’s Best Photo Award

New Olympic-Style Medal System to the Top Six Finishers

Record Number of Voter Participation

SCHNEEBERG (SAXONY), GERMANY- 2018 is here, and with it, the revealing of the winners of the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. This year’s awards ceremony is far different than in years’ past. For instance, instead of announcing the winners in nummerical order from top to bottom, the top six winners receive a medal in a combination of Olympics and Ore Mountain form. That means the top three finishers receive the typical Olympic medals, whereas 4th to 6th place finishers receive medals typical of the Ore Mountain region in Saxony in eastern Germany, the new home for this column (specifically, in Schneeberg). That means tourquoise, copper and iron ore to those respective finishers. To view the total number of candidates please click here for details, including how they finished.

This year’s awards set some impressive records that can only be bested by more participation and more awareness of the historic bridges that we have left in general. For instance, we had records smashed for the highest number of voter turnout in each of the nine categories. Furthermore, there were at least seven lead changes in each category, which was also a first. In four of the categories, there were lead changes with at least four of the candidates. In another category, each of the candidates took a shot at first place and stayed at the top for at least a week before it was dethroned in favor of another one. In summary, no leader was safe regardless of margin that was built with its second place competitor. 🙂

And with that we will take a look at the winners of the 2017 Ammann Awards, divided up into two parts so that the readers are not overwhelmed with the content. The winners of the 2017 Author’s Choice, where the author himself picks his favorites, will follow. But for now, let’s see what the voters have chosen for bridge favorites beginning with…..



This year’s Best Photo Category brought in not only double the number of candidates as last year (12 entries) but also double as many candidates that vied for first place as last year- there was a battle among three candidates for the top spot for the 2016 Awards. All six candidates finished in the top six with Chauncy Neumann bringing home the gold for his night photo of the Rock Island Railroad Bridge in Little Rock, AR., a fine example of a rail-to-trail crossing that still has its use in its second life today. His photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ facebook page as well as an avatar for the Chronicles’ twitter page. The silver medal went to Esko Räntilla for his stone arch bridge, built in the 1700s spanning a small creek in Finnland. That photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ wordpress page. Third place finisher receiving the bronze was Kevin Skow for his shot of the pony truss bridge Mill Creek in Kansas. His photo can be seen on the Chronicles’ twitter page. All of them will remain to be seen until mid-July before they become part of the header rotating page for the Chronicles’ wordpress page. The rest of the results:

Draschwitz Bridge north of Zeitz in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt: Winner of the Best Kept Secret International Award


This category is divided up into American and International Bridges and focuses on historic and unique bridges that receive little to no attention compared to other historic bridges, like the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges in the States. In the international part of the category, we had 14 entries from three continents with four vying for the top spot. In the end, the winner of award goes to a small village north of Zeitz in Germany and this unusual bridge, the Draschwitz Truss Bridge over the White Elster River. This bridge is unique because of its v-laced top chord. The story behind it can be found here. Silver goes to the suspension bridge at Betsiboka in Madagascar, whereas Bronze goes to another unique arch bridge in Greece nominated by Inge Kanakaris-Wirtl, the Plakidas Bridge. The rest of the top six include:

Sarto Bridge in Louisiana. Photo taken by Cliff Darby

In the States, we had ten entries, featuring bridges from all over the country. This included a “dead bridge”- one that has been extant for many years, yet one decided to nominate it post humously. As in the international portion, four of the ten vied for the top spot, but in the end, the Sarto Bridge, spanning the Bayou des Glaises at Big BendAvoyelles Parish, Louisiana came out the winner by a slim margin, outlasting the Johnson Bridge in Stillwater County (Montana) by five votes. That “dead bridge” mentioned earlier, was Sugar Island Bridge in Kankakee Illinois, came in third with 88 votes- a bronze medal well earned a century after it was converted into a pile of scrap metal. The bridge was destroyed by a tornado in 1916 and was replaced afterwards.  The rest of the top six include:

Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa. Winner of the Mystery Bridge Award. Photo taken by Luke Harden



Twelve bridges were entered in this category, of which three came from the States and the rest from Germany. Still, the winners of both the international and American competition were clearly decisive with the American bridge winning the all around by a wide margin. That was with the Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa, a Bedstead Howe pony truss that features two spans and was relocated at an unknown time. Information on that is enclosed here. The ancient arch bridge in Erfurt won the international division but came in second in the all around. That bridge spans a small waterfall that empties into the Diversion Channel on the south end of the city in Thuringia. It may be the oldest extant structure in the city’s history. For more, click here. Not far behind was another competitor from the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, a thatched-roof covered truss bridge in St. Peter-Ording, whose unique story can be found here. The rest of the standings include:

The rest of the winners can be found in Part 2. Click here to get there. 🙂

Ancient Arch Bridge at Pförtchen Bridge in Erfurt. Winner of the Ammann Awards for Mystery Bridge International