Mystery Bridge Nr. 108: The Dale Bend Bridge in Arkansas

Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Transportation

This 108th mystery bridge provides us with what is left of a historic bridge that should never have been destroyed. As of 30 January, 2019, this bridge is no more. During the night, a truck driver was using his GPS device which took him to this bridge: The Dale Bend Bridge.

What do we know about this bridge?

It spanned the Petit Jean River on the same road bearing the bridge’s name, approximately 12 miles north of the nearest town of Ola, in Yell County, Arkansas. The bridge was a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and V-laced vertical beams. According to the records, the 120-foot long structure was built in 1930 by the Vincennes Bridge Company in Indiana. Yet the date of 1930 seems to be a common number used to describe the bridge date, when in all reality, the structure is much older. Research has proven that pin-connected trusses, characterized by its beams being fastened by bolts, were phased out in favor of riveted or even welded truss bridges by 1915, for reasons that all state transportation departments created standardized truss designs, which were supposed to be sturdier and better able to carry increasing traffic in numbers, size and volumes. That means, truss designs with pinned connections were considered obsolete for reasons that they would no longer able to fulfilled the aforementioned standards. Yet during the 1930s, existing pinned connected truss bridges that used to serve main highways but still had some use left were relocated to secondary roads which were less traveled. There, they would serve a “second” life until they were considered obsolete and were either replaced or converted into recreational trails.

The Vincennes Bridge Company existed from 1898 until its reorganization in 1932, when the name was changed to Vincennes Steel. It continued to operate until it was folded into the Wabash Steel Corporation in 2006. The plaque on the bridge’s endpost had the following inscription: Built by the Vicennes Bridge Company, Vicennes, Ind.

Ibid.

That means between 1898 and 1915, the Dale Bend Bridge was built, originally. The question is where? And when was this truss bridge relocated to its current spot?

While we won’t know now because of the destruction of the bridge, it would be a benefit to provide a closure to the fallen structure so that a memorial plaque is constructed at the site where a new bridge will soon be built.

Photo by Trisha Holt/ Galla Rock Fire Department

Note: The Dale Bend Bridge collapsed on the night of 30 January, 2019 at around 8:00pm. A truck driver drove his semi-truck across the bridge until the trailer was lodged into the truss span itself and the structure collapsed completely. He escaped unhurt but was later cited for reckless driving and destruction of property. Both the truck and the bridge were considered a total loss. The bridge had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for eight years prior to the tragedy.

 

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