And now, before we announce the winners of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, I have a few favorites that I hand-picked that deserve international recognition. 2020 was a year like no other. Apart from head-scratcher stories of bridges being torn down, we had an innummeral number of natural disasters that were impossible to follow, especially when it came to bridge casualties. We had some bonehead stories of people downing bridges with their weight that was 10 times as much as what the limit was and therefore they were given the Timmy for that (click on the link that will lead you to the picture and the reason behind it.) But despite this we also had a wide selection of success stories in connection with historic bridge preservation. This include two rare historic bridges that had long since disappeared but have now reappeared with bright futures ahead of them. It also include the in-kind reconstruction of historic bridges, yet most importantly, they also include historic bridges that were discovered and we had never heard of before- until last year.
And so with that in mind, I have some personal favorites that deserve international recognition- both in the US as well as international- awarded in six categories, beginning with the first one:
Best example of reused bridge:
The Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge in South Dakota:
One of three hybrid Thacher through truss bridges left in the US, the bridge used to span the Big Sioux River near Castlewood until it disappeared from the radar after 1990. Many pontists, including myself, looked for it for three decades until my cousin, Jennifer Heath, found it at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Brooks. Apparently the product of the King Bridge Company, built in 1894, was relocated to this site in 1998 and restored for car use, in-kind. Still being used but we’re still scratching our heads as to how it managed to disappear from our radar for a very long time…..
Built in 1866, this bridge was unique for its arch design. It was destroyed by floods in 2015 but it took five years of painstaking efforts to put the bridge back together again, finding and matching each stone and reinforcing it with concrete to restore it like it was before the tragedy. Putting it back together again like a puzzle will definitely make for a puzzle game using this unique bridge as an example. Stay tuned.
While it has not been opened yet for the construction of the South Park Gardens is progressing, this four-span arch bridge connecting the Park with the Castle Complex was completely restored after 2.5 years of rebuilding the 17th Century structure which had been abandoned for four decades. Keeping the outer arches, the bridge was rebuilt using a skeletal structure that was later covered with concrete. The stones from the original bridge was used as a façade. When open to the public in the spring, one will see the bridge that looks like the original but has a function where people can cross it. And with the skeleton, it will be around for a very long time.
This one definitely deserves a whole box of tomatoes. Instead of rehabilitating the truss bridge and repurposing it for bike and public transportation use, designers unveiled a new bridge that tries to mimic the old span but is too futuristic. Watch the video and see for yourself. My take: Better to build a futuristic span, scrap the historic icon and get it over with.
Demolishing the Pilchowicki Bridge in Poland for a Motion Picture Film-
Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruz should both be ashamed of themselves. As part of a scene in the film, Mission Impossible, this historic bridge, spanning a lake, was supposed to be blown up, then rebuilt mimicking the original structure. The bridge had served a railroad and spans a lake. The plan was tabled after a huge international cry to save the structure. Nevertheless, the thwarted plan shows that America has long been famous for: Using historic places for their purpose then redo it without thinking about the historic value that was lost in the process.
A one of a kind Thacher pony truss, this bridge went from being a swing bridge crossing connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, to a Little Sioux River crossing that was eventually washed out by flooding in 2011, to the storage bin, and now, to its new home- Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji. The owner had one big heart to salvage it. Plus it was in pristine condition when it was relocated to its now fourth home. A real winner.
Dömitz Railroad Bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania in Germany-
World War II had a lasting after-effect on Germany’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands of historic bridges were destroyed, either through bombs or through Hitler’s policies of destroying every single crossing to slow the advancement of the Allied Troops. Yet the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, spanning the River Elbe, represents a rare example of a bridge that survived not only the effects of WWII, but also the East-West division that followed, as the Mecklenburg side was completely removed to keep people from fleeing to Lower Saxony. All that remains are the structures on the Lower Saxony side- preserved as a monument symbolizing the two wars and the division that was lasting for almost a half century before 1990.
Forest Fires along the West Coast- 2020 was the year of disasters in a literal sense of the word. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a near standstill, 2020 was the year where records were smashed for natural disasters, including hurricanes and in particular- forest fires. While 20% of the US battled one hurricane after another, 70% of the western half of the country, ranging from the West Coast all the way to Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas dealt with record-setting forest fires, caused by drought, record-setting heatwaves and high winds. Hardest hit area was in California, Washington and even Oregon. Covered bridges and other historic structures took a massive hit, though some survived the blazes miraculously. And even some that did survive, presented some frightening photo scenes that symbolizes the dire need to act on climate change and global warming before our Earth becomes the next Genesis in Star Trek.
Demolition of the Historic Millbrook Bridge in Illinois-
Inaction has consequences. Indifference has even more painful consequences. Instead of fixing a crumbling pier that could have left the 123-year old, three-span through truss bridge in tact, Kendall County and the Village of Millbrook saw dollar signs in their eyes and went ahead with demolishing the entire structure for $476,000, coming out of- you guessed it- our taxpayer money. Cheapest way but at our expense anyway- duh!
Planned Demolition of the Bridges of Westchester County, New York-
While Kendall County succeeded in senselessly tearing down the last truss bridge in the county, Westchester County is planning on tearing down its remaining through truss bridges, even though the contract has not been let out just yet. The bridges have been abandoned for quite some time but they are all in great shape and would make for pedestrian and bike crossings if money was spent to rehabilitate and repurpose them. Refer to the examples of the Calhoun and Saginaw County historic bridges in Michigan, as well as those restored in Winneshiek, Fayette, Madison, Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties in Iowa. Calling Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor!
Collapse of Westphalia Bridge due to overweight truck-
To the truck driver who drove a load over the bridge whose weight was four times the weight limit, let alone bring down the 128-year old product of the Kansas City Bridge Company: It’s Timmy time! “One, …. two,….. three! DUH!!!!” The incident happened on August 17th 2020 and the beauty of this is, upon suggesting headache bars for protecting the bridge, county engineers claimed they were a liability. LAME excuse!
Located near the Göhren Viaduct in the vicinity of Burgstädt and Mittweida, this open-spandrel stone arch bridge used to span the Zwickau Mulde and was a key accessory to the fourth tallest viaduct in Saxony. Yet it was not valuable enough to be demolished and replaced during the year. The 124-year old bridge was in good shape and had another 30 years of use left. This one has gotten heads scratching.
Collapse of Bridge in Nova Scotia due to overweight truck-
It is unknown which is more embarrassing: Driving a truck across a 60+ year old truss bridge that is scheduled to be torn down or doing the same and being filmed at the same time. In any case, the driver got the biggest embarrassment in addition to getting the Timmy in French: “Un,…. deux,…… toi! DUH!!!” The incident happened on July 8th.
Consisting of vine bridges dating back hundreds of years, this area has become a celebrity since its discovery early last year. People in different fields of work from engineers to natural scientists are working to figure out how these vined bridges were created and how they have maintained themselves without having been altered by mankind. This region is one of the World’s Top Wonders that should be visited, regardless whether you are a pontist or a natural scientist.
This structure deserves special recognition not only because it turned 125 years old in 2020. The bridge is the longest of its kind on the South American continent and it took eight years to build. There’s an interesting story behind this bridge that is worth the read…..
For bridge tours on the international front, I would recommend the bridges of Schwerin. It features seven iron bridges, three unique modern bridges, a wooden truss span, a former swing span and a multiple span arch bridge that is as old as the castle itself, Schwerin’s centerpiece and also home of the state parliament. This was a big steal for the author as the day trip was worth it.
Geoff Hobbs brought the bridge to the attention of the pontist community in July 2020, only to find that the bridge belonged to a mansion that has a unique history. As a bonus, the structure is still standing as with the now derelict mansion.
The Bridges of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana-
The Proving Grounds used to be a military base that covered sections of four counties in Indiana. The place is loaded with history, as not only many buildings have remained largely in tact but also the Grounds’ dozen bridges or so. Satolli Glassmeyer provided us with a tour of the area and you can find it in this film.
Now that the favorites have been announced and awarded, it is now the voter’s turn to select their winners, featured in nine categories of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that, we will go right, this way…… =>
GLENCOE, MINNESOTA- When visiting McLeod County in 2011, rumors had it that the county had no more truss bridges. The last one had been taken down near Lester Prairie three years earlier. SInce my visit, two more truss bridge spans were discovered by local highway officials, including this one, the Koniska Bridge. The five-panel Pratt through truss bridge spans the South Branch Crow River and can be seen from the County Highway 11 bridge, a half mile away. Built in 1904 by William S. Hewett, one of the members of the Minneapolis School of Bridge Building, the bridge is 90 feet long, has A-frame portal bracings and is pin-connected. The bridge was once part of the village of Koniska, which had been abandoned before the bridge was replaced and left abandoned in the 1960s. Since then, it has sat quietly in the wilderness.
That is until now. Crews are planning to remove the bridge sometime in the fall or winter for safety reasons. The bridge’s decking is wooden but it’s rotting. The structure is rusting but there is no word on how bad. Bottom line is the avoidance of liability issues. It is unknown whether the bridge will be scrapped altogether or will be in storage for possible reuse. But as records indicate it was a Hewett truss, there is a chance to take the structure and relocate it for reuse. Furthermore, like another Hewett truss bridge in Mazeppa, it has the potential to be listed on the National Register.
If interested in the truss bridge, contact the McLeod County Highway Department in Glencoe. The contact details are here.
CHEMIN HAMEL/ SHERBROOKE/ QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC, CANADA-
A rare gem of a historic bridge is no more, and police suspect faul play. The Pont Davy was a wooden deck truss bridge, whose design resembles a truss bridge built almost two centuries ago but it was 70 years old when it met its demise. The bridge was a two-span Town Lattice deck truss bridge, with a total length of 200 meters. Built in 1951, the bridge carried a local road until its abandonment a couple decades ago. It was first discovered by pontists 10 years ago and the bridge has become a popular tourist attraction. Its red Town lattice trusswork is one of the youngest that was built, and its natural surroundings made it a popular stop for hikers and photographers alike. Work had been progressing on finding out its history prior to its destruction.
Police and criminal investigators are looking into the cause of the fire, which occurred at the bridge on 23 September, causing the entire structure to collapse. No one was injured in the disaster. Since then, authorities have suspected arson and are looking for person(s) responsible for the fire. Information and leads should be reported to the local authorities immediately.
More information and photos of the bridge can be found via link here:
The Pont Davy was one of over a dozen covered bridges that are remaining in Quebec. A tour guide on the bridges can be found here:
It’s also in the Tour Guide page of the Chronicles. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the arson at the bridge.
PORTLAND, OREGON/ SEATTLE, WASHINGTON/ SAN FRANCISCO- If there is one word to describe 2020, especially in the United States, it would be this: apocalyptic! Eliminating the social, political and economical aspects, eliminating even the Corona Virus- which will put the country into its first Great Depression in over 90 years, we have not seen a year where we had record amounts of prolonged heat waves, flooding, tornadoes, drought, weather extremities and even forest fires as this year, 2020. Especially with regards to forest fires, this year has become the apocalypse, which may be the beginning of something far worse should we continue with the normalcy we are at, at the present time.
The Great Western Fires of 2020 will undoubtedly go down as the worst fires in US history. Over 300,000 fires have been reported in 12 western states- yet the hardest hit areas are California, Oregon and Washington. Over 8 million acres along the entire West Coast have been burned, caused by dry conditions, high winds of up to 100 km/h and high temperatures reaching 50°C! Communities have been wiped off the map with hundreds of thousands being forced to evacuate and losing their homes in the process. At the time of this report, 17 people have been reported dead with scores more missing- and the numbers are expected to skyrocket.
With these flames burning out of control come the loss of historic places- including historic bridges. Reports have come out that dozens of structures have been destroyed by the flames. Some of them come from Oregon, where over a dozen covered bridges used to exist. Some of them did not survive the inferno. In Washington state, a pair of rare bridges were burned to the ground. In California, some bridges narrowly escaped the flames yet others were not so lucky.
The Chronicles is doing a quick summary on the casualties of the Great Fires, keeping in mind that it will be updated frequently as more reports come in on the destruction of the fires. For now, here is what we know from the historic bridges that fell victim to the blazes:
Spanning the MacKenzie River on King West Road near Rainbow, this 180-foot covered bridge was built in 1966, even though the Howe truss span dates back to 1911 and it had been built three times. The Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The bridge and nearby Rainbow were both destroyed in the fires that happened on September 7th.
Built in 1938, this bridge features three spans totalling 237 feet with its largest span, a through Howe Truss, being 138 feet long. The design is similar to the one at Rainbow. And like the Belknap CB, this bridge was also listed on the National Register in 1979. While the MacKenzie River structure barely survived the fires, despite contridicting reports, its nearby town of Vida did not and that was confirmed by officials.
One of the most heart-breaking losses of a historic bridge is this one, near Colfax in Whitman County, Washington. The Harpole Bridge was an encased Howe truss bridge with each truss being covered in wooden siding. The structure, which used to carry railroad traffic before it was handed over to property owners, was a through truss bridge that spanned the Palouse River. It was built in 1922 but the trusses were encased six years later. It had been the last bridge of its kind left in the entire country untils fires swept through the region and brought this structure down to the ground on September 7th. Still no word on whether it will be rebuilt. Ironically, the last encased truss span remaining in the US is a Howe pony truss bridge in Coos County, New Hampshire. That bridge was rehabilitated and repurposed for pedestrian use in 2015.
Bidwell Bar Suspension Bridges
If there were some bridges that survived close calls with a blazing inferno, it would be the two suspension bridges in California. The original Bidwell Bar Suspension Bridge was built in 1856 by Starbuck Iron Works of Troy, New York and is the last known suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River that was over 160 years old. The bridge is located at the Oroville Lake and Dam area. The Bidwell Bar Bridge replaced the 1856 span and spans the Middle Fork Feather River at the Loafer Creek Recreational Site. The suspension bridge was built in 1966 and has a total length of 1793 feet, with a span of 1100 feet. That bridge became a poster boy of the Oroville Fires that devastated much of the area, wiping out villages, resorts and the like. Berry Creek has been decimated whereas fires are threatening the Oroville area at the time of this posting. Despite fears that the two structures would be destroyed, news have come out that the bridges are still standing and are safe- for now that is. Work is underway to keep the structures in tact while using it to allow for people still stranded to evacuate.
Spanning the Yakima River in Benton County, Washington, this 680-foot long railroad trestle features a series of steel and wooden spans. Owned by Central Washington Railroad, this bridge had regularily served train traffic until fires destroyed the wooden spans on September 8th. It is unknown whether the fires caused the 1941 bridge’s demise or if sparks from trains crossing it may have caused the fire. It is known that much of the bridge will need to be replaced in order for the service line, which connects Benton City and Prosser to reopen.
More stories of bridge tragedies and close calls will follow was the Great Western Fire is still raging. As widespread as it is, there will surely be more casualties to be added to the list. For now though, stay tuned. For those living out west, stay safe and if ordered to do so, get out while you still can.
123-year old through truss bridge sent to the scrap yard.
Millbrook, Illinois- The bridge was the last of its kind in the county. It was a perfect fit as a hiking trail, a centerpiece for the village of Millbrook. Now the historic Millbrook Truss Bridge is no more.
Crews demolished the three-span through truss bridge on Monday, thus putting an end to all the talk of saving the structure. At the time of this post, crews are removing the truss parts and the stone piers that had held the structure in place for 123 years. The cost for the bridge removal is expected to be at $476,000 with the county and the forest preserve, where the bridge is located, expected to share the expense.
The Millbrook Bridge was built in 1897. One of the truss spans was replaced in 1910. It had served traffic until its closure to vehicles in 1984 and finally to pedestrians in 2015, following an inspection that deemed the bridge was unsafe for use. Talks of trying to save the bridge by handing over ownership and sharing the costs for rehabilitation failed to bear fruit due to liability concerns, something neither Kendall County, the forest preserve nor the Village of Millbrook were able to afford.
With the Millbrook Bridge gone, there are no more truss bridges in Kendall County and only a handful of historic bridges dating back to the 1920s remain in the county. Yet with the progress on its infrastructure with new roads and fewer railroads in operation, it is expected that the remaining historic bridges will be gone within a decade, thus making the county an HB-free state, one of an ongoing, increasing number of US counties that are following the trend. Sadly though, the new structures in place will be due for rehabilitation in 10-15 years, resulting in the question of whether this senseless progress of modernization was worth the price. It may be the case with the fall of the Millbrook Bridge in the short term. In the long term, one will be asking whether it was necessary.
To view the photos of the (demolition) of the Millbrook Bridge, click here to see the bridge before and after the demolition.
Over 115-year old crossing over the Zwickau Mulde will be torn down beginning June 6. Replacement Bridge to be completed by End of November
LUNZENAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- One can see the bridge from the Göhren Railway Viaduct. The structure and the viaduct itself were once a photographer’s dream, especially because of its unique setting along the River Zwickau Mulde. Now the historic Waldcafé Bridge will become a memory.
The Waldcafé Bridge is a single span stone arch bridge with open spandrels resembling mini-arches. It was built in 1904 and has a total length of 60 meters and a width of 7 meters. The bridge carries State Highway 242. The bridge was recognized in the book Steinbrücken in Deutschland (Stone Bridges in Germany), which has a short summary on the historic structure. It was also listed as a technical monument by the Saxony Ministry for the Protection of Historic and Cultural Places (Denkmalschutz).
Workers are prepping for the removal of the historic bridge and replacing it with a more modern structure. After installing a temporary footbridge over the river, the bridge will fall victim to the diggers. The project to replace the span will last from now until the end of November, pending on the situation with the weather and the Corona Virus. The footbridge will provide direct access to the Waldcafé from the parking area on the southern end of the bridge, which will be a relief for business owners who had already taken a hit from the loss of customers because of Covid-19 but also the cyclists who otherwise would have been forced to detour via Lunzenau or Wechselberg. The cost for the whole project is estimated to be at approximately 220,000 Euros.
When work on the new bridge is finished, tourists and commuters will see a modern bridge that is wider and safer for use. Yet its historic flavor will be missed, Especially if one sees the new structure from the viaduct.
Located in the southern part of the district of Stendal, the city of Tangermünde is located on the River Elbe in the northern part of the German state of Saxony Anhalt. The city has over 10,400 inhabitants and is famous for its historic architecture dating back to the Medieval period. It’s one of only a handful of walled cities left in Germany that is in tact and one can find many historic places within the walls of the city, such as the towers, St. Stephan’s Church, Elbe Gate, and the historic city hall. The hanseatic city survived almost unscathed during World War II, for only a few trussed houses (Fachwerkhäuser) were destroyed.
Yet one of the city’s prized historic works, the Elbe River Crossing, was destroyed, leaving a scar on the city.
The Tangermünde Bridge was built in 1933, after taking two years of construction. The 833-meter long bridge features a steel through arch main span (at 115 meters) with a height of 15 meters and a vertical clearance of 9 meters. There were a total of 24 spans featuring many forms of steel girders, through and pony alike. The bridge remained in service for only 12 years. On 12 April, 1945, in an attempt to hinder the advancing American army, Nazi soldiers blew up the crossing while retreating towards Berlin. Nevertheless, to avoid being sent to Soviet camps, sections of the 9th and 12th Wehrmacht armies (Germany) surrendered to the Americans. They had used the destroyed spans to help residents fleeing the advancing Soviet army. A temporary crossing was constructed afterwards.
Here are some videos of the Tangermünde Crossing after it was destroyed by explosives. This was filmed after the Nazis surrendered to American troops. The gravity of the destruction of the bridge was huge and was a symbol of the destruction that would be bestowed upon in all of Germany.
The Tangermünde Crossing was rebuilt by the Soviets and the East Germans after Tangermünde became part of East Germany in 1950. They recycled the bridge parts and rebuilt a multiple-span crossing that featured as a main span a curved Pratt through truss with welded connections. Ist portal was I-beam with 45° angle heels. The remaining spans featured Bailey trusses, both pony as well as through truss. A tunnel view oft he Bailey through truss can be found in a blog which you can read here.
The structure lasted through the Fall of the Wall before it was replaced with the current structure, a steel through arch that mimicks that of the 1933 span. The bridge itself is almost twice as long as the original span, having a total length of nearly 1.5 km. It was built nearly two kilometers to the north of the old span, which remained in use until it was closed to all traffic in 2001 when the new bridge opened to traffic. The old structure was removed two years later. At the same time, the main highway, B-188, was rerouted, thus bypassing much of the city and having only local traffic going through town.
Today, the Tangermünde Crossing still serves local traffic. Its design has fit into the rest of the city’s historic landscape, much of which has been restored since 1990. Yet as we celebrate the end of World War II, many people remember how their prized work was destroyed towards the end of the war in a cowardly attempt to prevent the inevitable. And because the city was for the most part spared, Tangermünde has continued to become a tourist attraction. People can go back to the Medieval times and enjoy the architecture, before heading to the River Elbe to see the structural beauty. Despite being one of the youngest crossings along the Elbe, it is one with a story to tell to children and grandchildren alike.
189-year old arch viaduct from the British era imploded.
LONAVALA, INDIA- A piece of history from the British era in India has fallen. Crews of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) brought down the Amrutanjan Bridge on April 7th, using explosives.It took no more than 10 seconds for the eight arches to come down in sequential order, as seen in the video above. Construction of the brick arch bridge started in 1829 and was completed less than a year later in November 1830. It is unknown who had directed the construction of the viaduct. The bridge was over 300 meters long and 20 meters high. The viaduct was integrated into the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in 2002, but was put out of service a decade later.
The Raigad District Collector provided the MSRDC the green light to proceed with the demolition, taking advantage of the Indian government’s Corona Virus lockdown order that is currently in place through May 3rd. It had been slated on the condemnation list since 2017 because of its deteriorating state. Nevertheless, there are still countless of ancient structures left belonging to the former British colony that had ruled India until its independence in 1948.