Former Iowa Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored and Reerected in Delaware

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Nearly nine years after the McIntyre Bridge (aka Skunk River Bridge, Hump Back Bridge, McDowell Bridge) was swept off it’s piers on August 13, 2009 and into the N. Skunk River the old iron bridge has been restored, rehabilitated and repaired. It was erected June 1st, 2018 over the Red Clay Creek in Yorklyn, Delaware, part of the Delaware State Parks trail systems at Auburn Heights Preserve.

The bowstring bridge, fabricated in 1878 and erected in 1883 in Poweshiek County, Iowa has been in the craftsmans hands for the past few years in Michigan. Bach Ornamental and Structural Steel, in Holt & St. Johns, Michigan has had the massive task of bringing the bridge back to life. Nels Raynor participated in pulling the bridge from the river in the fall of 2009 and a larger gang of craftsmen including Derek Pung, Lee Pung, Brock Raynor and Andy Hufnagel, completed the bridge project. They spent countless hours welding old iron, riveting broken pieces back together and pounding out the packed rust. The cruciform posts were completely fabricated to replace the old and the bridge has been painted, wrenched back together and was lifted into place by John Hayden of First State Cranes who helped with adding sway bracing to the trusses and placing the stringers for installation.

The bridge was engineered by Jim Schiffer, P.E. of Traverse City, Michigan. The engineering and the repairs allow this bridge to go back to vehicular traffic, handling the Marshall Steam Museums fleet of classic cars and Stanley Steamers with a live loading limit of 8 tons. The bridge is 119.5 feet long and weighs with planks and iron 76,000 pounds.

The bridge has been renamed the Paper Mill Bridge, the story of it’s years in Iowa and the people that rallied to support it’s preservation is being told and while the bridge isn’t in Iowa it has been preserved.

“It was never our intention to save a bridge for somewhere else”, stated Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges. “We worked very hard from 2009 until spring of 2012 and thought we had an arrangement with Poweshiek County to preserve the bridge in Iowa. The Board of Supervisors reneged on the application for Transportation Alternative Program to preserve the bridge at Mill Grove Access and it was at that point that we began to work on other people’s history.” When the plan to restore the bridge in Iowa failed, the next option was to find a new home for the structure, even outside Iowa. It was eventually sold to DNREC in 2015 and it was decided that it would span Red Clay Creek serving a train in Newcstle County.  She added that Workin’ Bridges with BACH and Schiffer Group, had won an award for preservation for the Springfield Bowstring Bridge restoration in Conway, Arkansas. In addition, the crew won the 2017 Ammann Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge with this same bridge with Nels Raynor winning the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Currently they are working on the 80-foot Hope Memorial Bowstring in Rosebud, Texas and has submitted a proposal for the Old Richardsville Bridge – a three span hybrid bowstring in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which was closed by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet earlier in 2018. Workin’ Bridges has been instrumental in preserving bridges all over the country. This is in addition to turning two bridges into land / bridge conserved parks in Pennsylvania and Oregon, as well as the bridges for a recreational area in northern Delaware, where the Paper Mill Bowstring is located.

More on the successes of BACH Steel, Workin Bridges and Co., as wel as Nels Raynor’s storied career will come in later articles. Stay tuned.


Workin’ Bridges is the The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), a non-profit dedicated to historic truss bridges and greenbelt restoration. A documentary on Historic Truss Bridge Restoration is on YouTube. Donations are accepted for bridge repair and may be mailed to NSRGA, PO Box 332, Grinnell, IA 50112 • • PayPal • Workin’ Bridges on Facebook.


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