Century-old through truss bridge gives way after center pier crumbles. Future of last standing truss bridge remains open.
OKAY, OK- At this time last year, the Jefferson Highway Bridge, spanning the Verdigris River at Okay, in Oklahoma, was being written up as the first Endangered TRUSS Bridge article in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, reincarnating the original TRUSS Awards that was created by the late James Baughn for bridgehunter.com. It finished tied for fifth with two other bridges in the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category of Endangered Truss. The bridge appeared to have some hope although one of the two standing Parker through trusses is hanging by a thread due to a crumbling center pier.
That crumbling center pier may have put the last nails in the coffin for the bridge, as we fast forward to the present.
During the early morning hours of February 22-23rd, it took only a half minute for the through truss span to finally give out, taking with it the outer pony truss approach span. The bridge collapse is symbolic for it happened one day before its 100th anniversary of the infamous bridge collapse- ironically involving the same span- during the time of its construction. Winds from a storm blew down the span into the Old Channel of the Verdigris River, killing three people that were on the bridge. That bridge span was later rebuilt and opened to traffic later that year, incorporating it into the second oldest highway in the US, the Jefferson Highway, which opened seven years earlier and connected Winnepeg, Canada to New Orleans and Dallas.
With the latest collapse involving the bridge span, which was built by a Tulsa-based bridge building company, chances of rebuilding the bridge, which had been abandoned for over two decades, is close to zero. The only chance to save the last standing through truss span, would have to be done by lifting the span off the crumbling pier and relocating it to a different location on land. But with the finances and questions involving the stability of the standing truss span, chances of salvaging it are slim. According to information by Tim Alexander, who together with Payden Metzger have provided photos of the collapsed bridge, there is no word from the mayor of Okay regarding the future of the remaining standing truss span.
The collapse of the Okay Bridge should serve as a reminder that historic bridges require maintenance just as much as a original bridge. If a bridge has as much value as the bridge in Okay, or any other historic bridge, then it should be repurposed with the goal of maintaining it for future use. In the case of the Okay Bridge, years of abandonment may have doomed it to removal. While there may be a chance to salvage the last standing span, the question at this point is: Is it worth it?
A gallery of photos can be found here. As mentioned before, Tim Alexander took the on ground shots shortly after the collapse. Payden Metzger did the drone shots. Many thanks for the use of photos. An article by Rhys Martin looks at not only the collapse of this bridge but also the state of the town of Okay as it slowly becomes a ghost town. You can click here to see it, but it will also appear in the Chronicles as well.
Located on the River Mulde between Leipzig and Dresden is the city of Grimma. With a population of 28,700 inhabitants, Grimma is geographically located at the junction of the flat lands to the north and the hills and lakes region to the south. The name is of Sorbian origin and means a region that is at or below sea level, surrounded by water. The city has had its share of flooding in its 1000+ year history, but for each disaster it faces, it emerges bigger and better than before. It has survived six floods plus the bombings of the second World War only to become a more attractive community for people to live. Much of Grimma’s architecture today either originates from the Baroque period or mimick’s that because the original was destroyed. Grimma’s city center has many small shops in historic buildings that are over two centuries old. The historic city hall is one of them. The largest building in the city is the St. Augustin, a combination of high school and chuch located along the Mulde. To the south of the city near the dam is the castle, where the Margraves of Meissen and the Electors of Saxony once resided. Grimma is the largest city along the River Mulde in Saxony and is a major stop for cyclists riding along the Mulde. In terms of land size, it’s the fourth largest in the state of Saxony. And when it comes to bridges, Grimma has a storied history behind two of the city’s most popular attractions.
Eight bridges within a radius of 10 kilometers can be found in Grimma, including the Motorway 14 Bridge and a bridge south of Grimma at Grossboden, all but two spans the River Mulde. Yet the most important of the city’s bridges are the Grimma Suspension Bridge and the Poppelmann Arch Bridge because of its history of being rebuilt after each disaster and also because of their unique designs. These two bridges, plus an arch bridge along a former railroad line, the arch bridge at Grossboden and the Mill Run Bridge will be featured in the Top Five Bridge Pics when visiting Grimma. The other bridges will be mentioned in one way or another in reference to the bridges profiled here in this tour guide.
So without further ado, let’s have a look at the bridges in Grimma and find five bridge reasons to convince you to visit this fine community.
Poppelmann Arch Bridge
Location: Mulde River at Volkhausplatz and Muldenufer
Type: Stone arch bridge with tubular steel arch main span. Five arch spans exist.
Built: 1719 replacing earlier spans dating back to 1292. Rebuilt seven times, the last being in 2012
Length: 143 meters, 7.3 meters wide
The Poppelmann Bridge has perhaps one of the most storied histories of bridge building not only in Saxony, but on the international front. Its first crossing dates back to the 13th Century. Counting the reconstruction in 2021, it has been rebuilt at least ten times in over 900 years of its existence. It was built and rebuilt using at least five different bridge types: arch bridge, covered bridge, metal truss bridge, suspension bridge and modern beam bridge. It is also considered one of the most ornamental bridges in Saxony, as today’s bridge is covered with ornamental lighting, and has a Baroque-style shield representing Saxony. To go into detail about the bridge would require a separate article but there is a book that was written about this bridge that was published in 2017. But to give you some facts about this bridge:
The bridge in its current form was constructed in 1719 by Mathias Poppelmann. It was the fourth crossing at this location as the previous ones were destroyed either during warfare or flooding. For almost a Centruy before Poppelmann built this bridge, there was no crossing and attempts to garner support had failed. Mr. Poppelmann had left his signature in bridge building in Saxony, which included not only the construction of the Augustus Bridge in Dresden, but also the Poppelmann design, where the covered bridge is the main span and the approach spans are made of red stone arch. Dozens were built in Saxony during his time as bridge engineer, yet sans covered bridge, only two of his examples exist today, here and in Waldheim. The Poppelmann Bridge in his current form had existed for over 170 years with the covered bridge having been rebuilt in 1816, three years after it was destroyed during the war with Napoleon.
In 1894, in response to the increase in traffic, the bridge was rebuilt. The covered bridge was replaced with a Schwedler pony truss span while the arches were strengthened. It was in service until the span was imploded by the fleeing Nazi troops on 15 April, 1945. It was rebuilt with an improvised suspension bridge right after the war, but was replaced with a deck truss bridge two years later. The bridge was extensively rehabbed in 1972 which included a permanent deck truss span. It remained in service until 1996 when the bridge was rehabbed again, this time with a concrete deck arch center span. At the same time, a taller span was constructed, located 100 meters north of the structure, which has been serving traffic ever since. The historic bridge was reopened in 1999 but little did the City of Grimma realize that a flood of biblical proportions would cause massive destruction to much of the city and this bridge.
On August 13, 2002, massive floodwaters caused extensive damage to the bridge. The newly built center span was dislodged from the bridge and was washed away. The two arches that had supported the main span was damaged to the point that they were not salvageable. The bridge was rebuilt from the bottom up, rebuilding the arches that could be saved and removing the ones that were not. A new center span, featuring a tubular arch design, was chosen as its replacement. On August 12, 2012, after a three-year project, the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and cyclists. It survived the 2013 floods unscathed, while other areas to the north of Grimma was affected the worst.
Today’s Poppelmann Arch Bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists and is conveniently located next to the parking lot that accommodates visitors to the shopping center and sports complex. The Poppelmann Bridge is the best accessory to Grimma’s city center as it presents a backdrop to the historic buildings that exist on the western side of the river, including the St. Augustin and the historic City Hall.
Location: Mulde River at Colditzer Weg and Bärenburg Castle
Type: All-steel wire suspension bridge
Built: 1924, rebuilt in 1949 and again in 2004
Length: 80 meters
The Grimma Suspension Bridge can be easily accessed by both car as well as through the Mulde Bike Trail as both run along the river. The bridge itself is the longest suspension bridge in Saxony and is one of six suspension bridges along the Mulde/ Zwickau Mulde. The suspension bridge is a photographer’s paradise as it presents a beautiful backdrop from both sides of the river. On the west side of the river is Bärenburg Castle located on the hill. Two eateries and a hotel are located nearby. On the east end is nothing but nature as the city park and forest cover much of the eastern side of the Mulde. The bridge is located 30 meters from the dam and one could find a perfect side view from that area, with or without the dam. The bridge is unique as the entire structure is all built using steel. The roadway is supported by Warren trusses which even curves around the western entrance. The cables and suspenders are all wired and pin-connected. The towers have three different portals with a V-laced bracing at the top, followed by vertical beams and lastly an A-frame portal bracing whose bottom endpost extends to the bridge deck. It’s one of the most ornamental of bridges in Saxony, competing with the likes of neighboring Poppelmann Bridge, the Blue Miracle Bridge in Dresden and the Paradiesbrücke upstream in Zwickau.
The bridge has survived a bombing attack before the end of World War II as well as several flooding events, among others, in 1954, 2002 and 2013. It has been rebuilt twice: in 1949 and again after the flood disaster in 2004. Repairs were made in response to the flood damage two years earlier and the bridge reopened again in 2015. Located near the dam, a memorial was erected in 2006 that was dedicated to the Great Flood in 2002 with people who risked their lives to save many others, some of which were profiled in newspapers and magazines.
Rabenstein Railroad Bridge (now extant)
Location: River Mulde south of the Grimma Suspension Bridge at the Rabenstein Observation Point
Type: Metal Through Truss Bridge
Built: 1876 (first crossing); replaced in 1931; destroyed in 1945; removed afterwards
When biking south along the Mulde bike trail, one will find piers and abutments of a bridge that once existed. The Rabenstein Bridge was built as part of the construction of a rail line that connected Grimma with Grossboden. The original railroad station was located adjacent to the market square. The original span, built in 1876, featured a two-span Schwedler through truss with skewed portal bracings. How the portals looked like remains unclear, but post card photos reveal how the end posts are skewed at the piers.
Because of the increase in rail traffic and the structural weakness of the bridge, the spans were replaced by multiple-span Warren through truss bridges in 1931, built with riveted connections and with I-beam portal bracings supported by heels. All but the easternmost span were imploded in April 1945 by the Nazis in an attempt to slow the advancement of Russian and American troops from the east. Grimma came under Soviet control and eventually became part of East Germany by 1949. Because of chronic material shortage, rail lines and bridges deemed expendable were removed with the steel recycled and reused for other purposes. That was the case with the rail line as it was relocated to the western side of the Mulde and up the hill making the original line useless. A new station at Leipziger Strasse near the city center was constructed which still operates to this day. The tracks of the old line and the remaining span were both removed in the 1960s, though when exactly it happened is unknown. The Mulde Bike Trail now uses the track remains along the eastern side of the river.
Mulde Bike Trail Arch Bridge
Location: Small hiking path near the Grimma Dam and Suspension Bridge
Type: Stone Arch Bridge
This bridge is hard to find, unless you happen to hike the trails in the city forest on the eastern side of the River Mulde. It is unknown who was behind the design and construction of this short crossing, which is no longer than 10 meters long and 3 meters high, but it was once part of the railroad line that had passed through Grimma until 1945. It’s now a rail-to-trail that is part of the Mulde Bike Trail. When going under the bridge towards the dam, one must pay attention to the mud that exists, partially because of the water run off from the hills into the river, 30 meters away.
Location: Mulde River near Grossboden
Bridge Type: Eight-span stone arch bridge
Dimensions: 142.5 meters long, 22.5 meters wide
As a bonus, one should drive 6 kilometers south along the Mulde to this bridge. This bridge is easy to photograph as there is plenty of grass land on the eastern side of the river which makes it perfect for a photo with a heavily-forested background. The bridge is located only two kilometers from the train station in Grossboden, which serves train traffic to this day between Leipzig and Freiberg via Grimma and Wurzen. The bridge is the first roadway crossing over the Mulde north of the confluence between the Zwickau and Freiberg Mulde at Sermuth. Not far from the bridge is an abandoned railroad bridge made of girder spans.
Grimma is a quick stop for a visit, with many possibilities to satisfy travelers for a good hour or so. If you are a pontist, the city has two historic bridges with a storied history in the Suspension and Poppelmann Bridges and three more bridges whose history belongs in the books and are worth a visit. It’s a junction between a well-traveled bike trail and some well-travelled highways. Speaking from experience of spending a couple hours there with my family, Grimma is worth the stop no matter where you go. 🙂
Author’s Note: A Biography on Mathias Poppelmann will appear in the next year as the author is currently collecting some bridge examples that were built by the engineer, namely the Poppelmann Bridges with the combination covered bridge with stone arch approaches. If you know of some postcards, photos and other information on these bridges, feel free to use my contact form (here) and send it over. Thank you for your help in this matter. 🙂
On November 7th, 1940, a suspension bridge spanning the Narrows in Tacoma, Washington, collapsed into the water. The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge had opened to traffic four months earlier and right away, it was nicknamed Galloping Gertie because of the roadway easily swaying by the high winds. It would not be until 1950 when the second Tacoma Narrows crossing was built connecting the island with the city. While the first crossing was later dismantled, much of the bridge remains were left in the water, only to be left alone……
A crew of divers took a trip to the Tacoma Narrows to see what was left of Galloping Gertie, now part of the natural habitat, and producers at Vester Media and Our World Films have released a documentary, looking at the suspension bridge then and right now.
700 Feet Down was released on July 27th, 2021 and can be available via online TV channels such as Amazon Prime or AppleTV. Its primary focus goes beyond the mistakes made by building a bridge laden with structural flaws; it looks at the bridge remains that have become part of a larger natural habitat and addresses environmental themes that surround the area. The 45-minute documentary looks at the bridge in the past, the tragedy, and why much of the bridge remained in the water. It features some of the forms of flora and fauna that have made the remains of Gertie home for many years. While Gertie is talked about a lot in physics and engineering classes, this documentary features another side of Gertie that should be discussed in environmental studies class, as some of the effects of global warming and overfishing/ hunting have already left its effects in the area. The documentary brings together all the elements that will have viewers talking about it, and hopefully take action.
There are links to the film for you to look at. They include the following:
LITTLETON, MAINE- One of Maine’s handful of century-old bridges was incinerated and the state fire marshal is looking into the possible causes. The Watson Settlement Bridge was a covered bridge featuring a Howe through truss design. It spanned the Meduxnekeag Stream on Former Carson Road in Littleton in Aroostook County, located between US Hwy 1 and the US-Canada border. It was built in 1911 and had served traffic until 1984 when the current concrete structure was built on a new alignment and the historic bridge was converted to a pedestrian crossing. Listed on the National Register since 1970, the 170 foot long bridge was named after the nearby Watson Settlement and was a magnet for photo opportunities including graduation photos.
Fire Crews were called to the scene of a fire on Monday afternoon at 2:45pm Eastern Time only to find the covered bridge engulfed in flames. Three different fire departments from Littleton, Houghton and Monticello were at the scene to put down the blaze. The State Fire Marshal Office arrived at the scene an hour later to investigate. The entire structure, consisting of charred beams and a partially collapsed roof, has been considered a total loss and will have to be torn down. It is unknown at this point whether a replica will be constructed. The area has been barracaded off to keep people from going on the bridge due to its structural instability. The State Fire Marshal is looking into any information to determine the cause of the fire, including finding any potential arsonists. People with information on the fire should contact their office at 1-888-870-6162.
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge, the fire and what happens next.
The days of the tallest and longest bridge in Schleswig-Holstein are about to be numbered. The Rader Hochbrücke is a multiple span cantilever deck plate girder viaduct that spans the Baltic-North Sea Canal, carrying the Motorway 7 between Flensburg and Kiel. It’s also known as the Europabrücke because the motorway, which is the longest in Germany, connects Denmark (and subsequentially, Scandanavia) with Austria (and other parts of southern and eastern Europe) and also is one of the most heavily-travelled bridges in the state. The 1491-meter long bridge is so heavily travelled that cracks, rust and other ailments are showing on the almost half-century old viaduct, which has a main span of 271 meters and a height of nearly 60 meters. The viaduct has only four lanes of traffic, which makes it functionally obsolete due to high traffic congestion on the bridge. Smoke and other ailments from the ships passing underneath have added to the misery to the bridge.
Therefore, planning is underway to replace the entire viaduct with a brand new one. Beginning in 2022, crews will construct one half of the bridge which will be used temporarily for motorway traffic upon ist completion. Once traffic is diverted onto that span, the old viaduct will be demolished and in its place, the second half of the new bridge will be built. When the new bridge is completed by 2027, the structure will carry six lanes of traffic in total- three in each direction.
Unique about the new bridge, as you will see in the illustration below, is that the piers will be V-shaped and the cantilever design will be similar to that of the 1972 structure. In other words, the newer bridge will be fancier than the structure at present. It’s a win-win situation for the region of Rendsburg, which prides itself of its beloved High Bridge and Rail Loop, for two reasons:
There will be relief in terms of traffic in and around the city, reducing congestion and diverting unnecessary travel away from the city and
The city will be greeted with a unique bridge that will be appealing to tourists and bridgehunters alike. It will be not only modern but also unique.
And with that, a film on this project, courtesy of DEGES:
Even though the Motorway will remain open to traffic, construction will hinder traffic due to the machinery at the site. As a shortcut, you can take the Motorway 215 to Kiel, then follow Highway B76 to Schleswig via Eckernförde, crossing the Prince Heinrich Bridge that spans the Canal. Another alternative would feature taking the Motorway 23 along the North Sea coast from Hamburg. This changes to Highway B 5 after Heide. At Husum, follow Highway B 200 to Flensburg.
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this project.
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.