When I first met John Graham at the 2nd annual Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh in 2010, my first impression of him was that he was a conservative, dressed up as white collar worker, but a man of detail and experience. It was John F. Graham who came up with a concept of augmented reality for structural analysis of bridges.
Augmented reality is a computer term that I had recently collected some general information on through a pair of presentations in an English for IT class at the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany. It basically analyses the inner portion of structures to analyze problems and find solutions. It had been introduced for medicine for identifying tissue damage in humans, making a precise diagnostic and recommendations for improving the body damage where the damage occurred. Yet could Augmented Reality work for infrastructure, such as bridges?
Apparently according to Graham, it does. In theory based on trial and error combined with experience, Mr. Graham at the conference showed that augmented reality can identify structural deficiencies inside bridge structures, through the use of special sensors, and make recommendations for fixing them. This latest technology would save money and prolong the life of the bridge, especially after the structure is rehabilitated. Evidence in praxis was shown with the Red Jacket Railroad Trestle south of Mankato, Minnesota later that year, for the Minnesota DOT was in charge of rebuilding the trestle after floodwaters undermined one of the piers, forcing officials to remove the deck plate girders while watching the stone pier collapse. In the other piers, structural weaknesses were identified to a point where the piers were reconstructed to resemble the original. The restoration ended in 2011. Other rehabilitation projects involved this type of technology which saved costs and opened the doors for reusing historic bridges.
Mr. Graham’s presentation based on this concept was one of many aspects that will make him a person who was conservative but reasonable when it came to the decision of rehabilitating bridges that were an asset to the area and replacing those that deteriorated beyond repair. He was a true Pittsburghese, having been born in the Steel City on 2 April, 1936 and studied civil engineering at Carnegie Tech (today known as Carnegie Mellon University. For most of his career, he was Director for Engineering and Construction for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, a position he held until 1989. During his time, he was responsible for the rehabilitation of hundreds of bridges in and around Pittsburgh, including the Sister Bridges, Sixteenth Street and the arch bridges at Fort Pitt and Fort Dusquene, just to name a few. He also had to replace some, like at Sutersville and Coraopolis, according to Todd Wilson, a civil engineer who knew him well during his days at Carnegie Mellon. Mr. Graham in 1978 pushed for and supported legislation that would allow the Federal Highway Administration to allocate the 90:10 funding ratio, whereby state and local governments would only bear 10% of the cost for rehabilitating or replacing the bridge, the former Graham championed and led to the prolongation of the lives of several of Pittsburgh’s bridges. Legislation continued this 90:10 ratio and prioritized rehabilitation until the Minneapolis Bridge collapse in 2007, which resulted in more radical measures to replace bridges. To the end, Mr. Graham continued advocating for identifying and fixing deficiencies in the structures, claiming that they were cost effective and would save on the use of materials needed for new bridges. Indirectly, it was a plus when identifying the historic significance of the bridges.
In 1989, Mr. Graham became the Director of Capital Projects for the City of Pittsburgh, where he oversaw the construction of the Pittsburgh International Airport and other related construction projects, including the Southern Beltway. He later worked for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and later taught engineering classes at Carnegie Mellon. He even operated his own civil engineering firm, where he was responsible for several projects, including the infrastructure for Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team. Much of the work in the greater Pittsburgh area has Mr. Graham’s name on it, and his unique conservative approach to bridge engineering will be remembered, even as people cross several of Pittsburgh’s restored historic bridges, of which he’s left a mark in at least half of them.
John F. Graham died peacefully on 14 March, 2019 with his daughter Wendy and her husband Marc by his side. In the last two years of his life he lived with her and her family in Philadelphia, which included her two sons. He was preceded in death by his wife, Kay. Mr. Graham was a true Pittsburghese and one who left a mark in Pittsburgh, the US and beyond, especially for his work in the field of civil engineering. Therefore, for his work, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is awarding him and his family Lifetime Legacy Post Humus with a big thanks for his contributions. Because of him, we have found many creative ways to make bridges safe and maintain its integrity instead of replacing them outright, a concept that does more than waste money. It impacts the environment negatively because of materials used that are dwindling and non-renewable.
After revealing the author’s pics through the Author’s Choice Awards yesterday, here are the final results of the 2019 Bridgehunter Awards. I’m doing things a bit differently this year. The results will be posted including some highlights. Yet the details of this award and the Author’s Choice Awards will be posted as a podcast, to enable readers to get to the point in terms of results but also listen to the details. The podcast will appear in the next post.
Top Four photos taken by two photographers.
New records set in this category including highest number of votes in one category.
Not one candidate had less than 200 votes
Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge International
Brunel Swivel and Rosenstein also share the Author’s Choice Award title for best Bridge Find.
Top Six finishers either from Germany or the UK.
Blow-out finish for the Swivel.
Tour Guide International
Title stays in Germany but going west for the first time
Big day for the Bridges of Edersee in this and the category Mystery Bridge (finishing second)
Tight race especially in the top three
Winner, who has been the webmaster of Bridgehunter.com, will be interviewed later in the year. Congratulations to James Baughn on his 20 years experience.
Bridge of the Year
Two Iowa Bridges finish in the top 2 outdoing the international competition. This despite their uncertain futures
Tight finish between the second and fifth place finishers.
Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge US/Canada:
Top two finishers are scheduled to be renovated.
Bronze medalist’s future unclear
Royal Springs Bridge oldest in Kentucky.
Bridge Tour Guide USA
Winner has several restored historic truss bridges including the lone remaining Stearns through truss span (Gilmore Bridge)
Book on the Bridges along Route 66 to be presented plus interview later in the Chronicles
Madison County includes the freshly rebuilt Cedar Covered Bridge plus five other original covered bridges.
Top eight finishers received more than 100 votes each. 7th place finisher (Rosenstein) received 120 votes. 8th place finisher (Wichert Viaduct) received 100 votes.
Tight finish among the top six finishers.
Third and fourth place finishers are no longer extant- Buckatunna collapsed in January ’19; Dale Bend was destroyed in an accident on January 30th, ’19
Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge
Third Award in a row in this category for the crew of Julie Bowers, Nels Raynor and crew at Workin Bridges and BACH Steel.
Longfellow and Winona Bridges Awarded Author’s Choice for their work.
Second place finisher is first bridge in the world made of cast iron. Delicate restoration needed.
Several lead changes in this category.
Last but not least, the following announcements:
This year’s Bridgehunter Awards will be its 10th, which coincides with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ 10th anniversary. Therefore, entries are being taken now and until December 1st for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. They include two new categories which will be presented in detail in a later article. Details on how to enter is found here.
The top four finishers in the category Best Bridge Photo will have their photos displayed on the Chronicles’ website and its facebook and twitter pages between the middle of January and the end of July this year. Details in the podcast.
The 2019 Bridgehunter Awards will include a tribute to a former bridge engineer from Pittsburgh, whose invention has made inspecting bridges and diagnosting deficiencies requiring repairs instead of replacement much more advanced. More on him after the podcast.
Congratulations to all the candidates on their bridge entries and voters like you for supporting them in the 2019 Awards. And a big honor to the top finishers in each category! You deserve it! 🙂
With 2019 and the second decade of the third millennium over and done, we’re now going to reflect on the key events in the area of historic bridges and feature some head-shakers, prayers, but also some Oohs and Aahs, jumps of joy and sometimes relief. Since 2011, I’ve presented the Author’s Choice Awards to some of the bridges and bridge stories that deserve at least some recognition from yours truly directly. Some of the bridges from this edition are also candidates in their respective categories for the Bridgehunter Awards.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards in their respective categories starting with the unexpected finds:
Best Historic Bridge Find (International):
2019 was the year of unique bridge finds around the globe, and it was very difficult to determine which bridge should receive the Author’s Choice Prize. Therefore the prize is being shared by two bridges- one in Germany in the state of Saxony and one in Great Britain in the city of Bristol.
Rosenstein Bridge in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany:
Our first best historic bridge find takes us to the city of Zwickau and an unknown historic bridge that had been sitting abandoned for decades but was discovered in 2019. The Rosenstein Bridge spans a small creek between the suburb of Oberplanitz and the bypass that encircles Zwickau on the west side and connects Werdau with Schneeberg. The bridge is a stone arch design and is around 200 years old. It used to serve a key highway between the Vogtland area to the west and the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) to the south and east, transporting minerals and wood along the main road. It later served street traffic until its abandonment. The name Rosenstein comes from the rock that was used for the bridge. The rock changes the color to red and features its rose-shaped design. A perfect gift that is inexpensive but a keeper for your loved one.
Close-up of the bridge’s tubular railings. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Brunel Swivel Bridge in Bristol, UK:
The other bridge that shares this honor is That Other Bridge. Located in Bristol, England, the Swivel Bridge is very hard to find, for the structure is underneath the Plimsol Bridge, both spanning the River Avon. While Bristol is well known for its chain suspension bridge, built over 150 years ago and spans the deep gorge of the Avon, the Swivel Bridge, a cast iron girder swing span, is the oldest known bridge in the city and one of the oldest swing bridges remaining in the world, for it is 170 years old and one of the first built by I.K. Brunel- the suspension bridge was the last built by the same engineer before his death. Therefore, the Swivel Bridge is known as Brunel’s Other (Significant) Bridge. The Swivel is currently being renovated.
“S-Bridges” were one of the oldest bridge types built in the US, featuring multiple spans of stone or concrete arches that are put together in an S-shape. It was good for horse and buggy 200-years ago, especially as many existed along the National Road. They are however not suitable for today’s traffic, which is why there are only a handful left. The Fox Run Bridge in Ohio, as documented by Satolli Glassmeyer of History in Your Backyard, is one of the best examples of only a few of these S-bridges left in the country.
Royal Springs Bridge in Kentucky:
The runner-up in this category goes to the oldest and most forgotten bridge in Kentucky, the Royal Springs Bridge. While one may not pay attention to it because of its design, plus it carries a busy federal highway, one may forget the fact that it was built in 1789, which makes it the oldest bridge in the state. It was built when George Washington became president and three years before it even became a state. That in itself puts it up with the likes of some of Europe’s finest bridges.
We had just as many bonehead stories as bridge finds this year. But a couple of stories do indeed stand out for these awards. Especially on the international level for they are all but a travesty, to put it mildly.
Tournai Bridge in Belgium:
Sometimes, bigger is better. Other times less means more. In the case of the senseless demolition of the Pont des Trours (Bridge of Tears) spanning the River Scheldt in Tournai, Belgium for the purpose of widening and deepening the river to allow for ships to sail to the River Sienne from the Atlantic, one has to question the economic impact of using the boat to get to Paris, let alone the cultural impact the demolition had on the historic old town. The bridge was built in 1290 and was the only bridge of its kind in the world. Its replacement span will resemble an McDonald’s M-shape pattern. In this case, less means more. Smaller ships or more trains to ship goods means better for the river (and its historic crossings) as well as the historic city. In short: Less means more.
Runner-up: Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke) in Saxony.
Residents wanted to save the bridge. There was even a group wanting to save the bridge. The politicians and in particular, the Saxony Ministry of Transportation and Commerce (LASUV) didn’t. While the 150-year old stone arch bridge over the Zwickau Mulde near Aue was the largest and oldest standing in western Saxony and was not in the way of its replacement- making it a candidate for a bike and pedestrian crossing, LASUV and the politicians saw it as an eyesore. While those interested wanted to buy the bridge at 150,000 Euros. Dresden wanted 1.7 million Euros– something even my uncle from Texas, a millionaire himself, would find as a rip-off. Supporters of the demolition are lucky that the bridge is not in Texas, for they would’ve faced a hefty legal battle that would’ve gone to the conservative-laden Supreme Court. The bridge would’ve been left as is. But it’s Saxony and many are scratching their heads as to why the demo against the will of the people- without even putting it to a referendum- happened in the first place. As a former member of the Friends of the Rechenhausbrücke, I’m still shaking my head and asking “Why?”
This story brings out the true meaning of “Half-ass”. The Gregon Street Overpass, which carries the Norfolk and Southern Railroad (NSR) is an 80-year old stringer bridge that has a rather unique characteristic: Its vertical clearance is 11 feet 8 inches (3.56 meters). It’s notorious for ripping off truck trailers, driven by truck drivers who either didn’t see the restriction signs, traffic lights and other barriers or were unwilling to heed to the restrictions because of their dependency on their GPS device (Navi) or their simple ignorance. In October 2019, NSR wanted to raise the bridge to 12 feet 4 inches (3.76 meters) to reduce the collisions. The standard height of underpasses since 1973 have been 14 feet (4.3 meters). End result: the collisions have NOT decreased. Epic fail on all counts!
My suggestion to NSR and the NCDOT: If you don’t want your bridge to be a truck-eater, like with some other bridges that exist in the US, like in Davenport and Northhampton, make the area an at-grade crossing. You will do yourselves and the truck drivers a big favor.
Not far behind the winner is this runner-up. A truck driver carrying 42 tons of beans tries crossing a century-old pony truss bridge, which spans the Goose River and has a weight limit of three tons. Guess what happens next and who got short-changed? The bridge had been listed on the National Register because of its association with Fargo Bridge and Iron and it was the oldest extant in the county. Luckily the driver wasn’t hurt but it shows that he, like others, should really take a math course before going on the road again.
This one gets an award for not only a spectacular disaster that destroyed a multiple Bailey Truss- as filmed in its entirety- but also for the swiftest reply in rebuilding the bridge in order to reopen a key highway. Bailey trusses have known to be easily assembled, regardless of whether it’s for temporary purposes or permanent. Cheers to the inventor of the truss as well as the New Zealand National Guard for putting the bridge back together in a hurry.
No bridge is safe when it comes to flash flooding. Not even concrete arch bridges, as seen in this film on the century-old Chania Bridge in Greece. Flash floods undermined the bridge’s piers and subsequentially took out the multiple-span closed spandrel arch bridge in front of the eyes of onlookers. The photos of the destroyed bridge after the flooding was even more tragic. Good news is that the bridge is being rebuilt to match that of the original span destroyed. But it will never fully replace the original, period.
This category was a real toss-up, for the US went through a series of what is considered one of the biggest wrath of natural disasters on record. In particular, massive amounts of snowfall, combined with extreme temperatures resulted in massive flooding which devastated much of the Midwest during the first five months of the year. The hardest hit areas were in Nebraska, Iowa and large parts of Missouri. There, large chunks of ice took out even the strongest and youngest of bridges along major highways- the most viewed was the bridge near Spencer, Nebraska, where ice jams combined with flooding caused both the highway bridge as well as the dam nearby to collapse. The highway bridge was only three decades old. Even historic truss bridges, like the Sargent Bridge in Custer County were no match for the destruction caused by water and ice. While the region has dried up, it will take months, if not years for communities and the infrastructure to rebuild to its normal form. Therefore this award goes out to the people affected in the region.
Runner-up: Close-up footage of the destruction of the Brunswick Railroad Bridge.
Railroad officials watched helplessly, as floodwaters and fallen trees took out a major railroad bridge spanning the Grand River near Brunswick, Kansas. The railroad line is owned by Norfolk and Southern. The bridge was built in 1916 replacing a series of Whipple truss spans that were later shipped to Iowa for use on railroad lines and later roads. One of them still remains. The bridge has since been rebuilt; the line in use again.
The world’s first cast iron bridge got an extensive makeover in a two-year span, where the cast iron parts were repaired and conserved, new decking was put in and the entire bridge was painted red, which had been the original color when the bridge was completed in 1791. The jewel of Shropshire, England is back in business and looks just like new.
King Ludwig Railroad Bridge in Kempten, Germany:
The world’s lone double-decker truss bridge made of wood, received an extensive rehabilitation, where the spans were taken off its piers, the wooden parts repaired and/or replaced before being repainted, the piers were rebuilt and then the spans were put back on and encased with a wooden façade. A bit different than in its original form, the restored structure features LED lighting which shows the truss work through the façade at night.
Longfellow Bridge in Boston:
This multiple-span arch bridge with a draw bridge span underwent a five-year reconstruction project where every aspect of the bridge was restored to its former glory, including the steel arches, the 11 masonry piers, the abutments, the four tall towers at the main span and lastly the sculptures on the bridge. Even the trophy room underneath the bridge was rebuilt. All at a whopping cost of $306 million! It has already received numerous accolades including one on the national level. This one was worth the international recognition because of the hours of toil needed to make the structure new again.
The runner-up is a local favorite but one that sets an example of how truss bridge restoration can work. The Winona Bridge went through an eight-year project where a new span carrying westbound traffic was built. The cantilever truss span was then covered as it went through a makeover that featured new decking, sandblasting and repairing the trusses and lastly, painting it. To put the icing on the cake, new LED lighting was added. The bridge now serves eastbound traffic and may be worth considering as a playboy for other restorations of bridges of its kind, including the Black Hawk Bridge, located down the Mississippi.
And with that, we wrap up the Author’s Choice Awards for 2019. Now comes the fun part, which is finding out which bridges deserve international honors in the eyes of the voters. Hence, the Bridgehunter’s Awards both in written form as well as in podcast. Stay tuned! 🙂
In 2011 at the Historic Bridge Convention in Missouri, I had a chance to meet Clark Vance in person and found him to be open-minded in many aspects, but having knowledge that is enriched for historic bridges, and other artefacts. Mr. Vance just recently retired from his position as high school teacher, but has been a key contributor of historic bridges for bridgehunter.com for as long as the website has existed, providing readers with photos and interesting facts on historic bridges, mainly in the Midwestern part of the US, centering around the states of Kansas and Missouri. Because of his contributions to historic bridges- as a photographer, historian and sometimes consultant- Mr. Vance won the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement in 2018.
I had a chance to interview him recently about his interests in the topic and found some more interesting facts about him, how his interest in historic bridges first started and some words of advice for those who are working in the field of historic bridges, in terms of photography and preservation. This is what I learned from him, as you read the interview:
Tell us more about yourself in terms of professional and private life.
I recently retired from 11 years of teaching engineering, math, and software engineering to high school students. I previously worked in IT and automotive technology. I still enjoy working with and driving my (too many) cars and motorcycles. My wife is a psychologist in private practice and her daughter is a professor at an art and design school. I highly recommend being retired.
What got you interested in historic bridges?
My father was a civil engineer with the Kansas Highway Department in the late ‘40s before going to work as a structural engineer in private industry. He didn’t mind my gazillion “What’s that?” questions as a kid and actually had the knowledge to answer a lot of them, particularly about man made artifacts in the natural environment. My curiosity about infrastructure was rewarded with good explanations of whatever odd item caught my attention. Some of my best times as a kid were when he and I would visit road construction sites and he would answer all my questions then add information about things I hadn’t noticed.
You do mostly bridge photography, right? Or do you write or talk about them?
My main public activity surrounding bridges is as a contributor to BridgeHunter.com. I’ve enjoyed old maps as a way to see into the past and discover things that are unused and forgotten. My enjoyment of driving back roads and hiking fit with this, and BridgeHunter gave me an excuse to photograph the things I found. I don’t consider myself a bridge expert or historian and I try to avoid spending too much time talking with others about bridges lest they consider me odd(er).
Do you teach historic bridges in school? If so, how?
I didn’t get a chance to teach the second year class where we taught truss analysis, so my role as an educator was mostly as an informal consultant for the students working on entries to bridge building competitions. I taught an intro civil class where I got to cover infrastructure and of course I exposed my students to a lot of structural history using bridges. I hope they came to appreciate the significance of structures that their later instructors will possibly dismiss as obsolete.
What kind of historic bridges do you look for?
Although I enjoy simply documenting older existing structures, my greatest enjoyment comes from locating and documenting bridges that have been forgotten. Most of the time there is little left physically but I like to record the location and identify any visible remnants. Kansas City still has places where one can see the paths worn by the wagons heading out on the Santa Fe Trail. For whatever reason, I feel it’s important for people to remember the paths used in the past.
A historic bridge in your opinion is…….
Defining what constitutes an historic bridge is similar to identifying an historic car. Anything old enough is worth preserving, and the more important it was when new, the more significant when old. Even the plainest, cheapest Model T should not be scrapped if it’s possible to preserve it. A Cadillac V-16 is obviously more rare and more worthy of preservation. From the perspective of the people trying to use objects in the economy, is would be foolish and wasteful to try to run a fleet of Model T taxis and it’s equally foolish to expect a tall, narrow pony truss to carry a combine or loaded grain trailer. It’s fun to drive old cars across the Chain of Rocks bridge but trying to keep it as part of the interstate system makes no sense.
What is your favorite historic bridge?
Picking favorites is difficult. Friends and I would walk out on the Chain of Rocks bridge not long after it closed. I haven’t been back since it got cleaned up but I imagine it’s still pretty spectacular. As a kid my family would visit relatives in southeast Kansas and I have a long standing love for the Marsh arches. I also enjoyed driving the old Flagler railroad bridges linking the Florida Keys back in the ‘70s.
What historic bridge(s) do you miss the most?
Probably the bridges I miss most are: The Chouteau Bridge in KC. Totally obsolete and awful for trucks and cars alike, it was nonetheless an important bridge when built and quite impressive an an old, still functioning work. The ASB automobile lanes were narrow and had a reputation for fatal accidents where the lanes split to go around the trusses. For better or worse, one could have a close look at the structure and mechanism while driving by. More generally, I miss the many through trusses that were everywhere when I began traveling and which have almost all been replaced by much more efficient boring bridges guaranteed to keep concrete plants busy repairing and replacing them.
What words of advice do you have for the following:
Photographing Historic Bridges: Get the big picture and the little details. Show the setting and what one would see driving by or passing under. Also, catch the details that can help identify the builder, date, and other parts of the history.
Teaching about Historic Bridges: I wish I had more knowledge about this. I found that I could engage students by providing some of the history behind modern concepts. Bridges played an important role in the development of engineering as a field, so I tried to cover bridge technology in discussions about changes brought about by developments in material science, structural analysis methods, etc.
Preserving Historic Bridges: Two things strike me as most important, public support and technical skills. Right now old bridges are in a place similar to steam locomotives in the ‘50s. They are being phased out and replaced by products deemed superior by policy makers. I don’t think there is much hope of their remaining in common use. The focus needs to be on finding ways to save them from being scrapped and preserving the knowledge needed to put them back in limited use when more of the public has the desire to experience the old technology. Each one lost will make the remaining ones more valuable and more likely to be saved.
Thank you for your time, Clark and wishing you all the best in your endeavors. J
The next question is who will win the now rebranded Bridgehunter Awards in the category Lifetime Achievement? If you haven’t voted yet, click here and you will be directed to the ballot. Deadline is January 10th and the winner will be announced two days later.
Note: Photos posted but not cited here are all courtesy of Clark Vance.
After processing the candidates and adding some information to some of them, the time has come to vote for our favorite candidates in nine categories for the 2019 Bridgehunter Awards, powered by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. As mentioned earlier in the year, the Ammann Awards were changed to this name to honor some of the pontists, whose category and prizes have been named in their honor. Nevertheless though, the format is the same as in the previous awards. There are two voting ballots- one here and one on the next page (which you can click here). With the exception of the category Best Photo, each candidate has a link which you can access so that you can look at them more closely in terms of photos and information.
For Best Photo, I’ve decided to do it differently. One simply looks at the photos and votes. The names of the top six (including the winner) will be announced.
Voting is unlimited due to the high number of candidates in each of the categories- both on the US level as well as on the international level- and because many of us have multiple preferences than just one. 😉
Without further ado, here’s part I of the voting ballot and have fun voting. 🙂
After voting in the first part of the ballot, here is the second part and the same procedure as in the first. Information on the Lifetime Achievement Candidates you will find at the end of the ballot, including links. The deadline to vote is 11:59pm your local time on 10th January, 2020. The winners will be announced two days later. Good luck with the voting! 🙂
Information on the Lifetime Achievement Candidates:
Workin Bridges: In business since 2009, Workin Bridges has been the leader in restoring historic bridges in the United States, both big and small. Consisting of a crew of bridge restoration experts, the company has garnered up lots of awards for bridge restoration, plus documentaries on a couple key historic bridges. Link: https://www.workinbridges.org/
James Schiffer: Founder of Schiffer Group, based in Michigan, Mr. Schiffer brings over 30 years of experience in the world of civil engineering and has worked with several preservation groups in restoring some historic bridges; among them the Paper Mill Bridge, now in Delaware. Link:http://www.schiffergroup.com/
John Marvig: Mr. Marvig brings over a decade of experience in historic railroad bridges in the upper half of the United States. You can find them on his website: http://johnmarvigbridges.org/
Friends of Brunel’s Swivel Bridge in Bristol, England: This bridge celebrated its 170th birthday this year and the group has been working to restore and reactivate I.K. Brunel’s bridge over the canal and River Avon for almost a decade. This features bridge (preservation) experts, historians, welders, city officials and the like- both past and present. Link: https://www.brunelsotherbridge.org.uk/
James Baughn of bridgehunter.com: For almost two decades, Mr. Baughn has run Bridgehunter.com, a database containing millions of historic bridges in the United States and Puerto Rico, both past and present. It still is active in collecting and storing information for people to use. Link: http://bridgehunter.com/
Author’s Note:Should you have problems accessing the links in the different categories, highlight and copy (Ctrl. + C) the link you want to open, then paste (Ctrl. + V) it onto the bar of a new window. In case of further problems with the ballot, feel free to contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form here.
This year’s results of the Ammann Awards is nothing like anyone has ever seen before. A record setting number of votes were casted in eight categories, and with that, a lot of suspense that is comparable to any bowl game in college football and waiting under a Christmas tree for Santa Claus to provide gifts. It was that intense. And with that, a lot of commentary that led to making some new changes in the award format and that of the Chronicles itself.
For the first time in the history of the Ammann Awards, there will be a podcast with commentary of the Awards in all but one of the categories. This can be found here but also via SoundCloud. You can subscribe to Soundcloud by scrolling down on the left column, clicking and signing up once you arrive there. Details on how podcasts will be used for the Chronicles will be presented in the next podcast, which will also be posted here. The table with the results of the Ammann Awards are presented here but in the order of the podcast so that you can follow. As in last year, the table features the top six finishers with some honors mentioned, but color coded based on the medals received in the following order: gold, silver, bronze, turquoise, quartzite and iron ore.
And so without further ado, click here to access the podcast but keep this page open to follow. The results in Best Photo is yet to come here.
2018 Ammann Award Results:
And lastly, the results of the Ammann Awards under the category Best Bridge Photo:
Photo 5: Sigler Bridge in White County, IL by Melissa Brand-Welch
Photo 13: Trolley Bridge in Waterloo, Iowa by Diane Ebert
Photo 10: Manhattan Bridge in Riley County, Kansas by Nick Schmiedeleier
Photo 3: Chesterfield-Battleboro Bridges by Dan Murphy
Photo 11: Route 66 Gasconade Truss Bridge in Missouri by Dyuri Smith
Photo 2: Tappan Zee Bridge in New York by Dan Murphy
As mentioned in the podcast, next year’s awards will be the same but under a new name: The Bridgehunter Awards. The name Ammann will be relegated to the Tour Guide Awards for US and international bridges; whereas the Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge will be renamed the Delony Award, after the late Eric Delony. An additional category is being considered for a historic bridge threatened with demolition but has the potential to being saved and reused. The Author’s Choice Awards will remain the same as is.
While we’re talking about those awards, you can see the results and commentaries here.
To those who won in their respective categories, as well as those who finished in the top 6 or were honored, congratulations. You may now bring out the sect and champaign and celebrate. Prost! 🙂
Before announcing the official winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards, it’s time to take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards. Here, the author of the Chronicles (yours truly) picks out the best and worst in terms of bridges. And for this year, there is plenty of fame to go around. So without further ado, let’s take a look at my picks to close off a busy year.
Spectacular Bridge collapse
Florida International (niversity Bridge in Miami- There are accidents with fatalities that are caused by natural disasters, then we have some caused by human error. The Florida International University Bridge in Miami, which had been built by FIGG Bridge Engineering was one that collapsed on March 15th, killing six people was one that was caused by human error. Faulty design combined with a lack of thorough inspection caused the double decker bridge to collapse in broad daylight, turning a dozen cars passing underneath into steel pancakes. Most of the fatalities were from people who were squished underneath. It was later revealed the FIGG and four other companies had violated seven regulations resulting in fines totalling $89,000. Yet they are not out of the woods just yet, due to lawsuits pending against them. It is unknown whether a new pedestrian bridge will be built.
Kingsland Bridge in Texas- We have accidents caused by mother nature that produced no fatalities and not even the most modern of bridges can withstand. A pair of runner-ups come to mind on the American side: The bridges that were lost in the worst forest fire in California history, and this one, the Kingsland Viaduct, a 50-year old bridge spanning Lake Llano that was washed away by floodwaters on October 6th. Fortunately here, no casualties were reported. A new bridge is being built.
Morandi Viaduct in Genoa, Italy- It was the collapse of the year. The Morandi Viaduct in Genoa in Italy collapsed on 14 August during a severe storm. 22 people were killed, many of them had been crossing the concrete cable-stayed suspension bridge at the time of the collapse. The work of bridge engineer Ricardo Morandi had been under scrutiny due to defects in the decking and concrete cables and it was a matter of a simple storm to bring part of the bridge down. It served as a wake-up call for the Italian Government as it introduced strict standards for bridges afterwards, also in Europe. Other Morandi bridges are being examined with replacement plans being put together. As for this bridge, the 54-year old structure is currently being replaced with a steel/concrete beam viaduct, which is expected to be finished by 2020.
Chiajara Viaduct in Colombia- Runner-up here is another cable-stayed bridge, but located in the forest near Bogota. Here one didn’t need a storm to bring down the partially-built bottle-shaped cable-stayed suspension bridge, which happened on 15 January. 200 people were attending a seminar when the collapse happened, unfortunately those who were on the bridge- about 20 workers- were not so lucky. Eight were killed and others were injured, some critically. The completed half of the bridge was taken down six months later. It is in the process of being rebuilt.
Biggest Bonehead Story:
We had a lot of eye-rolling and forehead-slapping stories in this category. So we’ll start at the place where anything can happen: The United States
Man Destroys Historic Bridge in Indiana, Gets Sentenced and Asks for a Retrial- This really bonehead story goes back to the now extant Hohmann Railroad Bridge, which used to span the Grand Calumet River near Hammond. The person was arrested and tried on federal charges of not only trespassing onto the bridge, but destroying property for the sake of scrap metal- without even a permit. His claim: no one owns it so the metal was his. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole, yet he just recently asked for a retrial- for treating him unfairly in court and for wrongful judgement! Mr. President (Donald J. Trump): I have the perfect candidate for you to replace Elaine Chao as Head of the US Department of Transportation! He’s that type of guy!
Truck Driver Destroys Covered Bridge in East Chicago Days after Its Reopening- If the mother of this driver was at the scene of this rather careless accident, the person would have had a lesson of a lifetime, known as You break it, you fix it! On 28 June, 16 days after it reopened and was designated as a historic structure, Mr. Eriberto Orozco drove his truck through the covered bridge, ignoring the warning signs and sensors, and plowing smack dab into the newly restored structure. When he got out of the truck, he smiled. He has since been cited for reckless driving and destruction of property. The covered bridge is considered a total loss.
Three-Bridge Solution in Saxony- The battle between preservation and progress got a bit hairier and went way over the top with this story: A stone arch bridge had to be rebuilt elsewhere, moved aside for a modern bridge. Unfortunately, as you can see in the video, things went south in a hurry. Watch and find out what happened and why we have three bridges instead of one. The story is in the documentary Voss & Team and starts in the 11th minute.
Best example of a restored historic bridge:
Blackfriars Street Bridge- This year’s awards are the year of the bowstring arch bridge for there were some great examples of restored bridges of this kind that have been reported. While the Paper Mill Bridge won the Ammann Awards in two categories, the Author’s Choice goes directly to the Blackfriars Street Bridge because of the painstaking task of dismantling, sandblasting and repairing (in some cases replacing) and reassembling the structure back into place. All within 18 months time, keeping the historic integrity in mind and the fact that the bridge still holds the world’s record for longest of its kind. This is one that will be discussed in the historic bridge community for years to come and one that deserves some kind of recognition of sorts.
A pair of bridges visited during my US trip definitely deserve some recognition for its work. The Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota is one of them. The 1930s two-span through truss bridge underwent a makeover in 2017 with new decking and lighting, fixing some truss parts and a new coat of paint. The forest green colored bridge looks like it was newly built. It’s definitely one for the ages. The other bridge worth noting is the State Street Bridge in Bridgeport, Michigan. The 112-year old two-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored in 2016 where the trusses were taken apart, sandblasted and painted. Some of the truss parts were bent and needed to be straightened. A new pier and new decking followed. The bridge is now one of the key components of the county historical museum, where a collection of historic houses and a park line up along Main Street, adjacent to the Cass River crossing.
The Hidden Gem: Best Find of a Historic Bridge
Originally meant for finding only one historic bridge, I had to make some exceptions for two of the notables that deserve to be recognized. Henceforth, let’s have a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice in this category:
The Bridges of White County, Illinois- Fellow Bridgehunter Melissa Brand-Welch found a collection of abandoned truss bridges in this southeastern Illinois county, each of which had its unique design and history. There are at least six through truss bridges and numerous pony trusses that one can find here. Each of them have potential to be restored and reused as a bike/pedestrian crossing. This county got second place in the category of Tour Guide for American Bridges in the 2018 Ammann Awards, while Ms. Brand-Welch won in the Best Bridge Photo category with her oblique photo of the Siglar Bridge. Winning the Author’s Choice Awards in this category should be the third and most convincing reason for county officials to act to collaborate on saving these precious structures. If not, then Ms. Brand-Welch has at least three accolades in her name.
Camelback Girder Bridge in Wakefield, Michigan- Runner-up is this small crossing. Michigan is famous for its camelback girder bridges of concrete, for dozens were built between 1910 and 1925. This bridge, located 500 feet away from a park in Wakefield, is easy to miss unless the oversized chair next to the shelter catches you. Then during your stop for a photo and picnic, you will see it. May be a boring concrete structure to some, but it is unique enough for a brief stop.
In the international category we have three bridges that deserve recognition because they are either rare to find or are rarely recognized by the public. We’ll start off with the first bridge:
Höpfenbrücke in Pausa-Mühltropf (Vogtland), Germany- Located just off a major highway, 15 kilometers west of Plauen in Saxony, this bridge was built in 1396 and was an example of a typical house bridge- a bridge with houses either on the structure or in this case, on the abutments. This structure was restored recently after flood damage forced its closure. The bridge is definitely worth the stop as it is one of three key points the village has to offer. The other two are the palace and the city center, where the bridge is located in.
Pul Doba Suspension Bridge- One of the fellow readers wanted some information about this bridge. It is one of a half dozen in India whose towers is shaped like one of the towers of a castle. It was built in 1896 but we don’t know who built it. We do know that this bridge is a beauty.
The Bridges of Conwy, Wales- How many bridges does it take to get to a castle? Three, according to the city of Conwy in Wales, which has three structures that lead to one of the most popular places in the country: an arch bridge for traffic, a chain suspension bridge for pedestrians and a box through girder with towers for trains. Not bad planning there, especially as they fit the landscape together despite its space issues with the channel and the penninsula.
This sums up my picks for 2018. While we will see what 2019 will bring us for historic bridges, we will now take a look at the results of the Ammann Awards, which you can click here. Remember the results include a podcast powered by SoundCloud.
Finally, after the last minute push for nominations, combined with all the registrations being added, the 2018 Ammann Awards voting Ballot is now here. Between now and 7th January, you have a chance to vote for your favorite bridges in each of the categories below. As in the past, there is no limit in the number of votes you can submit per category. Yet a couple minor items to keep in mind:
In the categories of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Mystery Bridge and Best Bridge Photo, only the photos with little information is available. This way, voters can have a look at the photos more carefully before voting. Especially in the Restored Historic Bridge, the voter should have a closer look at what was done with each bridge and decide what was done with it. All the information will be revealed when the winners are announced in January.
Before you vote, you can look at the Information for each of the candidates and click on the links for more Details. For all except the category Best Bridge Photo, you can find the Information by clicking onto this link here.
In case of questions on the voting process or any issues that come about, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at the following address: email@example.com. The polls will Close on 7th January at 11:59pm Chicago time, which means 6:59am Berlin time on 8th January.
Good luck and may the voting begin! 😀 We have a bumper crop this time around!
James Baughn- 16 years ago, Mr. Baughn created a website devoted to historic bridges in the midwestern part of the USA. Since then, Bridgehunter.com contains a database of millions of bridges, past and present, which includes photos, stories and history and interesting facts about the structures in the 48 mainland states, plus Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other US territories.
Kitty Henderson- Kitty is the founder and executive director of the Historc Bridge Foundation, located in Austin, Texas. Since 2007, HBF has been assisting people and parties in the US and Canada in preserving historic bridges, whose numbers have been exceptionally high. The HBF is not only an agency that provides services in that aspect, it is an advocacy group and also provides a Newsletter on the successes and importance of preserving historic bridges.
Todd Wilson- Together with Lauren Winkler, Todd runs the bridgemapper Website, which provides tourists with an opportunity of finding bridges in the eastern part of the US. Todd has been active in the field of historic bridges in the greater Pittsburgh area and has produced several written works including a pair of books on this topic.
Clark Vance-Clark Vance is a long-time math and engineering teacher in the greater Kansas City area, whose other occupation also includes researching on lost bridges and photographing bridges in the midwest, focusing mainly on Missouri and Kansas. Both of which he has been doing for many years.
The Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke)-Consisting of several locals living in and around the Aue area in the German state of Saxony, the Friends of the Rechenhausbrücke have been working together to save the almost 150-year old stone arch structure from its demise in the name of progress. The beauty behind this Group is that they are people who have learned a great deal behind the trials and tribulations in saving the structure, having more knowledge of the Bridge and the ways to save and reuse them than the politicians in Dresden (Saxony’s capital) who want to see the Bridge destroyed.
Edgar Mehnert- The Bridges of Aue (Saxony) would not be the bridges as they are, if it hadn’t been for this Gentleman, who researched on the bridge’s history and contributed a great deal in a book published a few years ago. Like Todd Wilson, Edgar has reisded in the area all his life and has see a lot of changes to the bridge landscape.
Jason D. Smith- One of the fellow pontists nominated the creator of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles for this Award and with having the News column since 2010, which features the Othmar H. Ammann Awards plus the Author’s Choice Awards, plus success stories and tour guides on historic bridges in the US, Europe and elsewhere, it is highly justified to being nominated in this category.
Vern Mesler-A bridge preservationist just isn’t a preservationist, and a welder is not a welder without the precise instruction and the practical know-how of this long-time welder and teacher at Lansing Community College and manager of VJM Craftsman. Mesler has been doing this for 35 years and has hosted a metal craftsman conference held every spring for a decade.
Nathan Holth-Nathan Holth’s experience in saving and advocating for the preservation of historic bridges in the US and Canada through his website historic.bridges.org and his other Engagements in restoring historic bridges both in theory and in practice. He has been doing this for over 17 years and counting.