Interview with Sue Threader and Kate Castle of Rochester Bridge

From Left: Pictured are Kate Castle (Senior Engineer) & Sue Threader (Bridge Clerk) at Rochester Bridge Trust.

.

Love builds bridges where there are none, and bridges are built with the love and care that only bridge engineers can give them. Yet for a bridge to last forever, tender loving care is needed by the same engineers to ensure they are maintained not only by their function as a crossing but also by its outer appearance. In order to ensure they are properly maintained and to understand how bridges work, education and only education is the key. 

When looking at the Rochester Bridge, we look at a unique structure that features not only one crossing, but as many as four: Two roadway structures, one walkway for maintenance and one two-track railroad structure. Each one coming from different generations- a lattice iron bridge dating back to the Victorian era, a three-span steel arch bridge built in 1910s and the youngest bridge is over 50 years old and made of concrete and steel. But there are more things about the bridge that goes way beyond the structures that exist. We have the ornamental warden houses on each end of the arch bridge, the architecture mimicking the Roman times and each corner having a statue of the lion; the lion is the bridge’s mascot. There’s the bridge chapel which had many lives apart from being a church. It is now a meeting place for the bridge trust. And one mustn’t forget the Esplanade with its ornate walkway to allow for tourists to be in awe of the structure and get as many photos as possible.

The bridge has maintained its composure as a structure that not only functions, but also looks attractive to visitors but in part because of the regular maintenance it has received. It has also been a poster boy for learning about bridges and how they are built and maintained. After all, the first bridge at this site dates back to the Roman Empire, built using stone. The bridge has been rebuilt at least four times before the Victorian era when the present-day railroad bridge was built. And the rest was history.

To ensure that the public can appreciate the beauty of the bridge and understand how bridges are built and cared for, the bridge underwent an 18-month extensive rehabilitation project that included everything that needed to be fixed, cleaned and in some cases, renewed so that the bridge looks like new. In addition, further ways of educating the public about this bridge including the use of technology has brought the public closer to the topic of bridges, how they are built and more importantly, how they are maintained with tender loving care. This project has reaped awards as the bridge has received accolades from several institutions nationally and internationally.

And that includes the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards, where the Rochester Bridge won in the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Kate Castle won in the category Lifetime Achievement. We decided to interview both her and Sue Threader, about the entire project to get an inside look at the bridge, the Rochester Bridge Trust, the bridges’ restoration project and how the bridge has become one of Rochester England’s prized attractions. So without further ado, here are some things we know about the bridge from their aspects:

*******

1. (Both) How would you summarize the Rochester Bridge in terms of its description and history?

The first Rochester Bridge was constructed by the Romans, around the time of their invasion in 43AD. The Roman bridge crossed the River Medway on the line of Watling Street, the main Roman road running from London to Richborough and Dover on the Kent coast. 

After centuries of maintenance and repair, the Roman bridge was washed away by flood waters and ice in 1381.

Ten years later we have the medieval stone bridge, which was constructed some hundred yards upriver of the Roman ruins. Then in the 1850s the Victorians replaced that bridge and Sir William Cubitt built his new bridge on the route of the original Roman crossing.

Today we have three bridges. The Old Bridge (1914) a reconstruction of the Victorian bridge; the New Bridge (1970) and the often-overlooked Service Bridge.

.

2. What is the role of the Rochester Bridge Trust?

The Rochester Bridge Trust (RBT) was founded in 1399 by Sir John de Cobham and Sir Robert Knolles to ensure the provision of passage over, under or across the River Medway between Rochester and Strood, in perpetuity. They petitioned King Richard II for the organisation (now a registered charity) to be created, and they sought donations of land and money from other wealthy landowners. These donations formed the basis of the current estate of the Rochester Bridge Trust and fund all works.

Today, that means maintaining the three bridges (two road, and one carrying services). This includes managing the Trust’s historic estate to ensure there are enough funds to carry out any work; and supporting engineering and agricultural education, to ensure the expertise we require continues to be developed.

.

3. In the RBT Website, there is a lion named Langdon, who entertains the younger visitors who want to see the bridge. Who was behind the creation of Langdon and why? What role does he play with the bridge?

Langdon the Lion is our education mascot and has his own dedicated website: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/

His inspiration comes from the lion statues that decorate the Old Bridge, with his name taken from Langdon Manor Farm, one of the first properties to be donated to the Trust and still under the charity’s ownership today.

We introduce Langdon to children with this story: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/meet-langdon/legend-langdon-lion/

His role is to help inspire young people to take an interest in bridges and civil engineering.

4. Tell us in simple terms about the restoration project on the Rochester Bridge based on the following questions

    a. Why was the restoration needed?  

It is essential that large bridges are properly maintained. Although our team carries out regular routine maintenance, there comes a time when more extensive work is needed to make sure the crossings remain safe and secure. It’s a bit like the schedule of services you might have with a car – you routinely keep it clean, change the oil and replace the bulbs, but after a large number of miles, the timing belt needs to be replaced. We had reached the point where the Trust’s three bridges at Rochester needed some more major work, and so we carried out the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project.

.

    b. What areas of the bridge needed to be restored?

This is a brief introduction to the works. The New Bridge was built in the late 1960s and some parts, such as the lighting, parapet and expansion joints, had reached the end of their serviceable life and needed to be replaced.

The lighting on the Old Bridge needed a review and it was time to improve its efficiency and install LEDs to reduce the environmental impact. Because of the bridge’s Grade II listed status, the existing lights were refurbished and upgraded and some additional matching lanterns were specially designed. We also carried out numerous unseen works to repair steel and concrete, as well as a complete re-waterproofing and re-laying of the roadway.

A new roof was installed on the Service Bridge.

Rochester Esplanade was constructed in 1856, from the remains of the old medieval bridge. The structure and river wall needed some attention and a new drainage system was installed. The whole area in front of the Bridge Chamber was landscaped and new benches added, together with information about the history of the bridges.

.

    c. How was the bridge restored?

A major programme of engineering works was carried out over a period of 18 months. Hundreds of different activities took place along the length of the bridges and surrounding area. Much of the work was unseen by the public because it took place on the huge scaffold beneath the deck, which alone cost well over a million pounds.

.

    d. How was traffic impacted by the restoration project?

Traffic impact was kept to a minimum. During the whole 18-month project there were fewer than 100 hours of bridge closure, and then only in one direction. Works were carried out in phases and mostly at night, using single lane closures to ensure traffic could continue to flow.

.

    e. How was the project financed? Did you do any fundraisers prior to the project?

The £12m project was paid for privately, by the Rochester Bridge Trust, using funds generated by the historic estate. There was no cost to the public.

.

    f. Which engineering firms/ construction companies were involved with the project?

The work was carried out by lead contractor FM Conway and a team of specialist sub-contractors.

.

    g. When did the restoration begin and how long did the project last?

The refurbishment began in April 2019. There was a temporary closure while covid-safety measures were implemented at the start of the pandemic, with the works taking 18 months. The project was completed ahead of schedule in December 2021.

All the carbon generated during this project has been offset with the planting of more than 8,000 trees to create a new woodland.

.

    h. How is the Rochester Bridge different now than before the project?

The three bridges have now been put into the best possible condition for the future, meaning that no major interventions – excluding the unexpected – should be required for many years to come.

.

  1. Are there any missing items that need to be taken care of on the bridge?

There are no missing items on the bridge. The nature of bridge maintenance means there are always activities to be carried out.

.

5. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge? What statement does it have with historic bridge preservation in your opinion?

This refurbishment was a significant project for us and we are very pleased to see Rochester Bridge recognised in these international awards.

We spent many years preparing for this project and ensuring everything would be carried out to the best possible standard, prioritising quality over cost. To see such an interest in our refurbishment, and to have people from all over the world voting for our bridge shows how much they appreciated our efforts and our Old Bridge.

.

6. What roles did you play in the project (including title and description):

    a. Kate Castle
As the Bridge Programme Manager I worked alongside the Bridge Clerk to ensure all elements of the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project were carried out according to plan.

    b. Sue Threader

I am the Bridge Clerk [Chief Executive] of the Rochester Bridge Trust, and I oversaw the whole project.

.

7. What is your career background prior to joining the RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
I graduated with a degree in civil engineering at the University of Surrey in 2002 and my background is in traffic and road safety engineering. I’ve worked for both the client and consultancy design sign, including Transport for London and Hyder Consulting. During these differing roles I gained project management experience which gave me a combination of skills that was vital during the refurbishment project. I joined the Trust in 2020, having been part of the wider team at then Bridge Engineer Arcadis since early 2013.

    b. Sue Threader
I graduated with a degree in civil and structural engineering from the University of Sheffield in 1988. I’ve worked for several local authorities as a civil engineer and transportation planner before joining the international engineering consultancy, WSP Group plc, in 1998 as a Technical Director. Moving back to the public sector in 2001, I held the post of Deputy Chief Executive and firstly Director of Services, then Director of Resources, for a district council in Surrey. I joined the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2006.

I am also a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Engineers and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Archives Panel. I was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the University of West London and an Outstanding Contribution Award from the ICE in recognition of my work to promote civil engineering to young people.

.

8. Why did you choose your respective posts at RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
Having worked with the Rochester Bridge Trust for many years I already knew the structures and the breadth of interesting engineering involved in the site. It’s great to be able to contribute to this important historic river crossing.

    b. Sue Threader

As a civil engineer with an interest in history, the Rochester Bridge Trust brings together two of my favourite topics. It’s also a pleasure to be able to work for the same organisation that previously employed my engineering hero, Sir William Cubitt.

.

9. Kate Castle, the crew at Bridge Boys, based in California, nominated you for Lifetime Achievement which you won decisively in the voting. Congratulations on winning the title! What are your reactions to winning the awards?

I’m overwhelmed! It’s wonderful to have my work recognised. During the project I took a lot of trouble creating virtual tours of the bridges as a replacement to the hard hat tours that covid prevented. To know that my explanations were appreciated and helped to bring the engineering to life all around the world is really special. Thank you to the Bridge Boys for nominating me and to everyone who felt my work was worthy of this award.

.

10. (Kate Castle) What makes this bridge special to you, in your opinion?

All bridges are brilliant because they do an important job connecting people. This set of bridges is particularly special because of the extensive history that came before us – our archives om the Trust’s history are amazing and to be continuing that story is both a challenge and a joy. It’s also great to work on a local landmark, the Old Bridge’s bowstring-shaped trusses are an integral part of the Rochester landscape.

.

11. (Kate Castle) What elements of a historic bridge are important and that people should appreciate? 

For me it’s the little details, such as ornamentation. We have lots of lions, heraldry, fruit, rams, crowns and more and it really emphasises the care and attention lavished on the Old Bridge when it was constructed. The Victorians who built our bridge wanted it to be beautiful as well as functional.

Some historic bridges tell their story in their structure too, for example the piers of our Old Bridge are older than the bowstring-shaped trusses – identifying the different phases within the structure can lead to the discovery of interesting stories.

.

12. (Kate Castle) And that of the Rochester Bridge in your opinion?

That also.

.

13. (Both of you) If there is a historic bridge that has as high value as the Rochester Bridge, what advice would you give to the group wanting to save the bridge?

Keep up with regular maintenance because it’s more efficient to do that, in terms of both cost and carbon usage, than having to completely replace a bridge when it’s been allowed to deteriorate too much to save.

.

14. What is next for the bridge: Are you planning on writing a book about the project?

The project is fully documented in our archives which cover more than 600 years of the bridge’s history (the period since the foundation of the Rochester Bridge Trust).

As for what’s next? We never sit back and think, we fixed that bridge, so we can stop. We’re constantly looking for the next challenge and improvement.

.

Thank you to Sue Threader and Kate Castle for the exclusive interview and for the stories behind the bridge. Congratulations once again on winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and to Kate Castle for Lifetime Achievement. 🙂

.

Before ending this article, I would like to present you with a small clip of the bridge and the restoration project. While this was released in 2020, it will show you all the aspects of the project, as well as provide you with an overview of the bridge from ariel to ground view. Enjoy!

.

Sheepford Road Bridge in Pennsylvania to be Restored for Pedestrian Traffic

$1.4 million awarded to the bridge by PennDOT to restore and repurpose the bridge for pedestrians.

HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA (USA)- An early example of an iron through truss bridge built by a local bridge company in Pennsylvania is going to be restored after receiving a sizable amount of money from the state government. State Senator Mike Regan (Republican- Cumberland) announced on April 21st that the Friends of the Sheepford Road Bridge will receive $1.4 million from the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside (TASA) Funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The TASA Funds is money set aside for projects and activities considered transportation alternatives, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving non-driver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, community improvement activities, and environmental mitigation, trails that serve a transportation purpose, and safe routes to school projects. It also includes restoration of historic bridges considered vital for areas where recreation is popular.

The Sheepford Road Bridge was one of two bridges that received TASA Funding in the announcement. The bridge was built by Dean and Westbrook of New York City as well as the Phoenix Bridge Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania in 1887. It’s one of a handful of bridges remaining in the eastern US that was built using cast and wrought iron and has two unique features: Phoenix columns on its end posts and ornamental portal bracings with builder’s plaque on each end. The Pratt through truss bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Rehabilitated in 1975, the 133-foot long bridge was closed to all traffic in 2000 and since then, efforts had been undertaken to secure funding to repurpose the bridge as a pedestrian crossing, especially as it’s located near a park spanning Yellow Breeches Creek at the Cumberland-York County border. With the awarding of the funding, the Friends of the Sheepford Road Bridge, who have their own website (here), the funding has been secured and construction will begin shortly on restoring the historic bridge and making it a pedestrian crossing. Apart from repainting the bridge, there will be other work on repairing truss parts and renewing the decking, all of which will be done with a firm specializing in restoring historic bridges.

“Two and a half years ago we started this incredible journey to Save Our Bridge, a story with many twists and turns,” stated Janice Lynx, director of the Friends of the Sheepford Bridge, in an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. “We stumbled many times and on occasion thought all was lost.  But in the end we brought our community, local representatives, and historical organizations  together to save a piece of our history.” The Sheepford Road Bridge has already received grants and recognition on the international scale. This included winning the 2021 William Foshag Awards by the Cumberland County Historical Society. The bridge received a silver and bronze medal in the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the categories Endangered TRUSS and Bridge of the Year, respectively. The winner in both went to the Historic Bridges in Keeseville, New York. “Grassroots activism works and you can make a different,” stated Lynx. And indeed the Sheepford Road Bridge represents an example of how one local group can make a difference and keep a piece of history that others will enjoy, especially once the restoration is completed.

Your bridge matters, and therefore, congratulatons and best of luck with your next steps in restoring it. ❤ 🙂

.

All photos courtesy of the Friends of the Sheepford Road Bridge via facebook page.

.

The other historic bridge that is receiving funding through PennDOT’s TASA Program is the Bogert’s Covered Bridge in Allentown in Lehigh County. The Burr truss bridge was built in 1841 and spans Little Lehigh River. It can be seen north of I-78. The bridge has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980. PennDOT awarded $1.3 million to the City of Allentown, which will be used for a complete restoration of the covered bridge, which includes diassembly, restoration of parts and reassembly. When this will take place remains open. But it will continue to serve pedestrians once the restoration project in completed.

.

Endangered TRUSS: The Three Historic Bridges of Christian County, Missouri

Unless noted otherwise, all pics were taken by the author in 2011

.

OZARK, MISSOURI- When I first became involved with Christian County’s historic bridges back in late 2010, we were at the beginning of a renaissance- a renaissance where our country was becoming more aware of the importance of historic bridges, and there were numerous exchanges of ideas and success stories on historic bridge preservation. The public was beginning to wake up and whenever they heard about a historic bridge that was targeted for demolition and replacement, they stepped forward to halt the plans and worked together to save these precious structures, those that played key roles in the development of America’s infrastructure and with it, bridge engineering. Myself, together with fellow pontists Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth, Bill Hart and the late James Baughn worked together with Kris Dyer and the organization to save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, first restoring it onsite in 2012 and then after flooding caused damage two years later, relocating the bridge and restoring it at its new home at Finley Farms in 2020. The preservation movement gained a lot of support among the community and the county that they never forgot how important the Riverside Bridge really was to them- and still is today.

*****

After a double-success story which garnered a two gold medals in the 2012 Ammann Awards and three silver medals in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards, plus several other awards, there is hope that the Riverside Bridge story could be spread to three other bridges in Christian County. As mentioned in last week’s BHC Newsflyer podcast, three historic bridges are slated for replacement, though it is unknown how the county will fund these projects, let alone when they will be replaced remains open.

Which of these bridges are targeted for replacement? Three remaining “wild” truss bridges- bridges that are either open to traffic still or have been abandoned for only a few years, waiting for repairs or replacement so that the crossing is used again. The only common variable: Like the Riverside Bridge, these three were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio. Specifically they are as follows:

Green Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Smyrna Rd. NE of Ozark

Bridge Type: Pin-connected Pratt through truss with A-frame portal bracings

Dimensions: 281 feet long (main span: 119 feet), 11.8 feet wide, vertical clearance: 14.8 feet high

Date of construction: 1912; rehabilitated in 2004 & 2017

The Green Bridge is one of only three through truss bridges left in the county and also the last of the single span truss bridge. Like the Riverside Bridge, its portals feature the typical markings and the bridge builder plates with the name Canton on there. It’s one of the tallest in the county and one where even a train could cross it. It’s narrow enough that only one truck and one person could be on the bridge at the same time. This was my personal experience visiting the bridge with Ms. Dyer and a friend (and former high school classmate) of mine and his family. The bridge is situated in a natural habitat surrounded by forests on both sides of Finley Creek. A beautiful place for a picnic or a photo opportunity.

Photo by Nathan Holth at historicbridges.org

Hawkins Ford Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Seneca Road

Bridge type: Two-span pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridge

Dimensions: 161 feet long (per truss span: 80 feet); 11.8 feet wide

Date of construction: 1915.

The Hawkins Ford Bridge is one of those mystery bridges, whose case needs to be solved before its ending as a vehicular crossing. It was relocated here in 1966 but no record mentions where its origin was. We just know that Canton built the structure in 1915 and that’s it. The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and even though there are claims that justify its end of life, the bridge still has a chance at a new life for because of its bridge type, there are many ways to save it. The bridge is quite popular among locals, as you can see in the photos in bridgehunter.com.

Red Bridge

Location: Bull Creek on Red Bridge Road south of Ozark

Bridge Type: Three-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections

Dimensions: 255 feet long in total (longest span 85.8 feet), 11.5 feet wide

Date of Construction: 1915; Repaired in 2005

The Red Bridge was built at the same time as Hawkins Mill but like the Green Bridge, it is located in a heavily forested setting and is a very narrow crossing- narrow enough that only one car and one person could fit, side by side. If there is one bridge that would need to be completely rebuilt, it is this one because of the piers that have been crumbling since my visit in 2011.

All three bridges are considered elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but given Canton Bridge Company’s good track record with the county, let alone the company’s agent, these three structures should be on the National Register. In fact, given the fact that also the Riverside Bridge and Ozark Mill Bridge, now standing side by side at Finley Farms, have not been listed yet, there should be a historic bridge designation with the purpose of not only protecting them but also making them a tourist attraction, as it is being done with the covered bridges in Lyndon, Vermont (as mentioned in the most recent podcast).

******

The bridges at hand here are no longer suitable for modern-day traffic and according to Christian County Highway Commissioner Miranda Beadles, the new structures would be two-lane to allow for all traffic to use them, especially emergency crews, school buses and utilities. But the county has expressed interest in saving the structures and is open to all options, including giving them to a third party. The question is what options are available? Here are a few worth considering:

Leaving them in place

This option has been practiced where historic bridges could be in place alongside the old one. For the three bridges, there is the option of making a park/rest area on the bridge, integrating them into a bike trail crossing, converting them into a fishing pier or leaving it as is. Advantage is that the relocation costs would be subtracted and the cost would only be allocated for repurposing them onsite, including the cost for the parking area and possible lighting. Plus it would allow for easier and quicker listing on the National Register. The drawback is the costs for ensuring that the bridge is not a liable risk. That means repairs to the structure, esp. with the Red Bridge, plus security and flood protection would be needed. But for this option, it is the most popular avenue for historic bridge preservation.

Relocating them

This was done with the Riverside Bridge already as Finley Farms purchased the structure and financed the restoration project. Normally relocating a bridge takes a lot of money, not only for the cost of disassembly and reassembly, but also the transport and the construction of the abutment and decking. In the case of the three bridges, there is the question of where to place them, though Ozark would be the best spot for these structures, be it as a city-wide bike trail network where these bridges would be showcased, or a bridge museum and/or park near the Finley Farm complex, or an open space where the bridges could be displayed and a new park would be created. That option would depend on the availability of space in town but most importantly, the interest in the community in this endeavor.

Integrating the historic bridges into the new structure

This practice is being done with several historic bridges, including the Route 66 Bridge at Bridgeport, Oklahoma, which will be considered the largest ever. And even though all three bridges would benefit from this “reconstruction,” including the National Register listing, the county has made it clear that the new structures would be two lanes, thus making Hawkins Ford and Red Bridges eligible, and the Green Bridge would be left out, its future unknown.

********

The current status is as follows: the three bridges are scheduled for replacement but the county has not given up on them just yet. They are looking for ideas on how to reuse them. The interest is still there to save them. The question is how. The Riverside Bridge has shown us that when there is the interest and the way to preserve a historic bridge, nothing will stop it from making it happen. While the Missouri Department of Transportation has been literally busy working on replacing every single historic bridge on the map, competing with Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin for the title of the first truss-bridge-less state in the country, there are some counties in the state and those along the Route 66 Corridor that do not subscribe to MoDOT’s point of view. The end of a bridge’s structural life does not mean the bridge must be torn down and replaced. And newer structures designed to last 100 years have turned out to have lasted a quarter of that time. With global warming and its disastrous implications on our environment, we have to rethink the way we preserve and replace bridges. We have to appreciate how bridges are built and make use of what history offers us by preserving what is left and using the playbook to build those that are adaptable to change and conform to the environment surrounding it. Truss bridges have played a pivotal role in doing both- as a bridge type that fits with nature and a bridge type that withstands floods and other natural disasters.

And this is where we return to the three bridges of Christian County and their futures. How should they be preserved? If you have any ideas, here are the contact details of people with whom you can share your ideas and ask more about them.

Save the Riverside Bridge would be a good way to start. It has a fb page: https://www.facebook.com/saveriversidebridge

Then you have the following contact details of the Christian County officials:

Ralph Phillips:

rphillips@christiancountymo.gov

417-582-4302

………..

Lynn Morris:

lmorris@christiancountymo.gov

417-582-4304

………….

Hosea Bilyeu

Hbilyeu@christiancounty.org

417-582-4303

………….

Highway Administrator – Miranda Beadles mbeadles@christiancountymo.gov

………….

Christian County Commission

100 West Church St., Room 100

Ozark, MO 65721

Phone: 417-582-4300

Countycommission@christiancountymo.gov

……….

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the three bridges and their futures, which are currently up in the air. Will they be saved and if so, how and which ones will benefit? All options are open at this point.

Best Kept Secret: Munksbrücke near Ockholm

This past summer, my family and I had an opportunity to visit the North Sea coast near Dagebüll. The town of 2,500 inhabitants is located 65 km west of Flensburg and 30 km northwest of Husum. Not far from the mainland are the Halligen Islands. These small islands serve as wave breakers and are located between three and 15 kilometers off the mainland. With a couple exceptions, these islands can be accessed by foot during low tide (Ebbe) and only by boat at high tide (Flut). The influence of the tides can also be seen in the canals and waterways that exists on the mainland, which are controlled by a series of dams and dikes. This system has been in use since the Great Flood of 1961, which flooded half of Schleswig-Holstein and almost all of Hamburg, killing hundreds of residents and causing billions of US Dollars in damages. Yet the dikes are being improved as the water levels are increasing as a result of Climate Change.

Located eight kilometers to the south of Dagebüll is this bridge. Located over the Bongsiel Canal, this bridge is located in an area that is out of the way, serving a local road near Ockholm. Unique about this bridge is the fact that it is the oldest of its kind left in the state. Constructed in 1886, this bridge is 31 meters long and features a bowstring pony arch bridge with welded connections. The bridge is a year older than the swing bridge at Klevendeich near Hamburg.

Like with truss bridges in North America, the Munksbrück features welded connections, where the truss parts are bolted together by hand, supported by gusset plates. They were the forerunners to truss bridges with riveted connections, where the truss parts are slid into the gusset plates like a person wearing a glove and then bolted shut. Most of the truss bridges in Europe were built using this system of connections until the 1920s when riveted connections were introduced. Most truss bridges today are molded together offsite before sliding it into place.

Contrary to the tire tracks left on the bridge and the wear and tear, this bridge was restored in 2019. According to the engineering firm Grassl, the abutments were rebuilt, mimicking the original ones when it was built in 1886. Furthermore, the bridge itself was restored, in-kind. This means truss parts were sandblasted , strengthened and then repainted to protect them from corrosion. Some parts were most likely replaced in the process. Furthermore, a new wooden decking was installed which includes a drainage mechanism where the water is drained into the canal. The bridge was never widened, which means the one-lane bridge restriction was left in place. Based on my observation during our visit in 2021, road-users were paying attention to the oncoming traffic to ensure that those who have the right-of-way can use it. In American standards, it would be considered impossible for today’s bridges must have a minimum of three lanes- two for cars and one for pedestrians and sidewalks. A total of at least 35 feet in width, which puts the remaining truss bridges in service in danger of being replaced; the trusses sent to the recycling centers for reuse. One of the caveats I have as an American is when the bridge wobbles.
From an American bridge building perspective, it would call for an immediate replacement for a crossing must sit still when something crosses it. However if one does the homework correctly, he/she will find that a truss bridge vibration is normal as it undergoes regular stress caused by loads going across it. It’s just a mere question of how much of a load the bridge can tolerate. Yet from a neutral perspective, one needs to check and ensure that no damage is done to the diagonal beams or better yet, havea weight limit to ensure only light vehicles can cross the bridge. After all, a concrete bridge, built in the 1960s is located just a kilometer away from the bridge, clearly visible from the truss bridge.

There is very little information about this bridge except to say that it is the second crossing currently in service. The bridge is located only 200 meters away from a nearby restaurant that bears the same name. Unfortunately because of the Covid-19 epidemic, the restaurant is out of business, having been closed for quite some time. Likewise, many restaurants in this region has born the brunt of the epidemic for 70% of the restaurants located outside communities, like Dagebüll, Husum and Niebüll have shuttered because of Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions. As long as the epidemic exists, the way of life will be restricted unless we be active in our efforts to contain and defeat it. This includes getting the shot and even the boosters that are and will continue to be available. But it also making some fundamental changes in terms of our travel habits, such as reducing capacity at public events and on flights. The less is more approach cannot come at a better time than now. Already Schleswig-Holstein is leading the pack in these aspects and more and it is hoped that other states in Germany, as well as other countries, such as the US will follow suit. If in doubt, ask the politicians in Kiel. They will show you the path.

The (now shuttered) Restaurant bearing the bridge’s name.

.

But once the epidemic is over, perhaps places like this restaurant will reopen. If that is a case, it makes for a perfect stop to enjoy the meal and see the bridge. The Munksbrück Bridge is one diamond that one has to see while in the region where the Halligen Islands are located. It has maintained its structural integrity, even more so with its recent facelift. As long as the bridge is properly maintained and drivers pay attention to the other man on the (opposite end of the) bridge, the structure will remain in service for generations to come. It’s a trip that was not regrettable and is recommended to everyone, pontist or non-pontist.

.

.

Author’s note: I’m looking for more information on this bridge’s history, especially in terms of its builder. It’s in connection with the bridge book I’m compiling on Schleswig-Holstein’s bridges. For more information, click here. My contact info is here. Thanks in advance for your help and happy bridgehunting, folks.

.

.

💉🌉BHC

The Bridges of Grimma (Saxony), Germany

Poppelmann Bridge at Volkshausplatz and City Center. Photos taken in August 2021

.

.

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 ornamental monument with the seal of Saxony, constructed with the bridge in 1719. Source: Joeb07, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

.

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.

The Poppelmann Bridge after the 2002 Floods. When this was taken in 2009, two additional arches were removed. Source: Joeb07, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

.

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.

More on the bridge, including historic photos and the like here: http://www.poeppelmannbruecke.de/

Grimma Suspension Bridge

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.

.

Source: Falk2, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

.

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.

Source: Brück & Sohn Kunstverlag Meißen, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Built: 1876

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.

.

.

Kössern Bridge

Location: Mulde River near Grossboden

Bridge Type: Eight-span stone arch bridge

Built: 1887-88

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.

.

Fazit:

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. 🙂

.

Stone Arch Road Bridge near Nineveh, Indiana

Photo taken by Tony Dillon in 2012

.

There are thousands of metal truss bridges in Indiana that were discovered and documented in the 50 years James Cooper was in the field of historic bridge preservation and one could make a list of bridges that would not have existed as long as they did, had it not been for his contribution to his work. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that only a handful of truss bridges were used primarily for building purposes between 1880 and 1920, such as the Pratt, Whipple, Warren, Warren, Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Parker designs. Then we have the question of bridge builders who not only competed with each other for bridge-building contracts, but they also merged with each other and consolidated the businesses. Classic example was the creation of the American Bridge Company in 1900, which featured 28 bridge builders including Wrought Iron Bridge, Lassig Bridge and Iron Works and even Masillon Bridge Company.

Little do we pay attention to are the details of the truss bridge, such as connections, portal and strut bracings, types of beams used for the trusses, railings and most importantly, plaques and other ornaments. Most of these “decorations” indicated that the bridge builder wanted to leave their mark and make it fancier for the passers-by. In short, the more “decorations” the more likely it will be appreciated by the locals, and in terms of historic bridge preservation, the more likely it will be documented and preserved in the present for future generations to see.

In this film documentary, courtesy of Mike Daffron and Satolli Glassmeyer, we have one truss bridge that represented a classic example of a typical Pratt through truss bridge, yet its unique portal bracings and the stone abutments used for construction made it a unique structure that needed to be saved. The Stone Arch Road Bridge is located on a road where a stone arch bridge does exist nearby (will write more later), but is the more beautiful of the two bridges. The bridge spans Nineveh Creek near the community but in the Attebury Fish and Wildlife Preserves and was open to traffic in 1886. The bridge was fully restored in 2011 and has been serving vehicular traffic ever since. How the bridge was built and all the other details about it, you will find in the videos below.

Enjoy! 🙂

.

History in Your Own Backyard:

.

Mike Daffron:

.

10th Anniversary Bridgehunter Awards: Now Accepting Entries for the 2021 Awards

Singing Bridge in Frankfort, Kentucky.

.

2021 Bridgehunter Awards

Ten years ago, in November 2011, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles started the Othmar H. Ammann Awards, featuring bridges in the original categories of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Lifetime Achievement, Best Bridge Photo, and Best Kept Secret- Best places to find a historic bridge. The voting was done by selected people and the awards were given out at the beginning of 2012.

Fast forward ten years later, we have a different name (awards name changed in 2019), same categories but also newer ones and we have many more people in public voting than the select few. And this year will be more exciting than ever before. 🙂

Between now and December 1st, entries are being gathered for the 10th Annual Bridgehunter Awards. This year’s awards are special as we are paying tribute to four pontists who passed away within the last year: James Baughn, who died on December 6, 2020, Toshirou Okomato who passed unexpectedly in May of this year, and lastly, JR Manning and Dr. James L. Cooper, who both died on August 19th.  The new categories and bridge entries presented in this year’s awards reflect on the achievement of each person. One of the categories is a reincarnation of the one that was hosted by Mr. Baughn who had created bridgehunter.com, which is now owned by Historic Bridge Foundation.

Photo by Miquel Rossellu00f3 Calafell on Pexels.com

.

If you are interested in submitting your favorite bridges, photos and persons, who left a mark in historic bridge preservation and tourism, please use this link, which will take you to the page about the Bridgehunter Awards. There, an online form is available and you can submit your bridge entries there. For bridge photos, please ensure that there is no more than 1MB per photo and are sent in jpg. The online form can also be used if you have any questions, need the author’s e-mail address, etc.

.

The categories for this year’s Bridgehunter Awards include:

Jet Lowe’s Best Bridge Photo

Othmar H. Ammann’s Bridge Tour Guide

Mystery Bridge

Ralph Modjeski’s Lifetime Achievement

Eric DeLony’s Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge

And lastly, Bridge of the Year.

.

With the exception of Best Bridge Photo, Bridge of the Year and Lifetime Achievement, there will be separate categories: Bridges in the USA and Bridges on the International Scale. Entries are welcomed from all over the world in all of the categories.

.

For Best Bridge Photo:  The top five winners will have their bridge photo posted on the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles website (for 1st Place), BHC’s facebook open page (for 2nd place), BHC facebook group page (3rd place), BHC twitter page (4th place) and BHC LinkedIn (5th place) for the first half of 2022.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

.

.

New to the list of category include:

.

Endangered TRUSS: Reincarnated from James Baughn’s TRUSS Awards, the award is given out to a historic bridge whose historic value is being threatened with demolition or alteration due to progress.

James Baughn’s Individual Bridge: Awarded to a bridge, whose unique design and history deserves recognition.  This category replaces the old one, Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge.

Lost Bridge Tour Guide: Awarded to a region that used to have an abundance of historic bridges but have long since been wiped out or reduced to only one or two.

Best Bridge Book/ Bridge Literature: Awarded to a literary piece that is devoted to bridges. This can be homemade by the submitter or a book written by somebody else but deserves an award.

.

While some entries have already been added in some of the categories, you have time to submit your entries between now and December 1st. Afterwards, voting will commence throughout all of December and the first half of January. How the voting will be done will be announced once the ballots are ready for you to use for voting. Voting will end on January 21st, 2022 with the winners to be announced a day later on the 22nd.

This year’s awards will be special for many reasons, all of which will be focused on one thing: Giving thanks to many who have devoted their time, money and efforts to documenting, photographing and spearheading efforts to restoring historic bridges, not only in the United States and Canada as well as in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. There are many people who deserve a large amount of thanks for their work. The Bridgehunter’s Awards, in its tenth year, is going to put these people and the bridges in the spotlight, no matter where we travel to, to visit the bridges.

Looking forward to your entries between now and December 1st and as always, happy bridgehunting and happy trails, folks. ❤ 🙂

.

Three Historic Bridges in Wisconsin Available for Reuse: Any Takers?

LONE ROCK, WISCONSIN- Three historic truss bridges in and around the Lone Rock area are being marketed off to those who are interested in purchasing a piece of history and repurposing it for recreational use.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is replacing three truss bridges in 2024, yet they would like to give the structures away with hopes their historical integrity are maintained under the care of the new owner(s). They are all located along Wisconsin State Highways 130 and 133, two of them span the Wisconsin River and feature multiple-span through truss spans, one of them is a pony truss span. They date back to the 1930s. All are within two miles (4km) of each other. The details are below:

Long Island/ Border Crossing:

Location: Wisconsin River at the junction WI Hwy. 130 & 133

Year of Construction: 1942

Bridge Type: Three-span polygonal Warren through truss with subdivided vertical beams, riveted connections and W-frame portal bracing

Dimensions: 682.4 feet long (212 feet per truss span); 24 feet wide

.

Lone Rock Bridge:

Location: Small Branch Wisconsin River on WI Hwys. 130 & 133

Bridge type: Four-span Warren through truss with riveted connections, W-frame portal bracing and X-frame strut bracings.

Construction Date/ Builder: 1933 by the Clinton Bridge Company of Clinton, Iowa

Dimensions: 553.5 feet long (truss span 138 feet each); 20 feet wide

.

Long Lake Bridge:

Location: Long Lake on WI Hwys. 130 & 133 at the entrance to Lone Rock

Bridge Type: Single-span Warren pony truss with riveted connections

Year Built: 1932 (possibly also by Clinton Bridge Company)

Dimensions: 83.7 feet (truss span: 80.1 feet) long, 20 feet wide

.

According to a press release provided by WIDOT, recipients must agree to relocate the structure (or structures) to a suitable spot and assume all obligations and responsibilities for maintaining it. Funding is available for relocating the structure, yet the transfer of ownership will be made once the structures are dismantled and loaded onto the truck beds for transport to their new homes, at no additional cost. Further information on the bridges on the market can be found in the link by clicking here.

The company Michael Baker International is overseeing the project of replacing the three crossings and giving the historic structures away to the new owners. If you are interested in obtaining a package and providing proposals for relocating one or all of the crossings mentioned here, please contact Sue Barker via e-mail at: Susan.Barker@mbakerintl.com or via phone at 608-821-8712. She is your contact for additional questions and other items you may have about the bridge project. Deadline for obtaining the informational packages is October 31, 2021. Further information on the procedures to nominate parties willing to take the bridge(s) will be made available after the deadline.

Wisconsin has already had an attempt to relocate the historic Cobban Bridge in Chipewa County, only to be met with failure and the two-span Pennsylvania through truss spans being doomed to demolition. It’s scheduled to come down next year. It is hoped that something can be done with the Lone Rock crossings between now and 2024 in terms of preserving them for future use. All it takes is the will of the public and all parties involved to make it happen.

.

.

.

All photos courtesy of the late JR Manning. He took the pics in 2012.

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 154 Tribute to James Baughn

With bridgehunting come one event that happens each year in the summertime. The Historic Bridge Weekend was introduced in 2009 through a coalition which featured Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth, Kitty Henderson and James Baughn, among others. The 3-4 day conference brought in many experts in bridge preservation and maintenance, as well as engineers, historians, and many interested bridge enthusiasts and locals with a passion for history.

The first two years of the conference took place in western Pennsylvania, which had one of the highest number of iroan and steel truss bridges in the country, yet it was the same state where the rate of replacing historic bridges was one of the highest in the US. Many of the bridges lost to modernization had ties to bridge building firms in the greater Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas. In fact most of the bridge building companies building bridges west of the Mississippi River prior to 1900 came from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and New York, with the likes of King, Groton, Nelson and Buchanan, Lassig and Wrought Iron among others stamping their labels on the portals and endposts, with some ornamental decoration that went along with it.

This picture was taken of the Quaker Bridge by James Baughn in 2010. It was my first year attending the conference and the very first time I met Mr. Baughn, with whom we worked together on his website bridgehunter.com, which is now owned by the Historic Bridge Foundaton. It was this bridge and the movement to save it that caused the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to turn the tide towards bridge replacement and decided that instead of tearing down history, one can save it, even if it meant relocating the structure for reuse, for the agency had been notorious for being too passive in its policies towards historic bridge preservation.

The Quaker Bridge was built in 1898 by the Cleveland Bridge Company with James R. Gemmill overseeing the project. The bridge is a Pratt through truss span with pinned connections, Town lattice portal bracings and finials on each corner. PennDOT had originally pushed for plans to tear down and replace the bridge as far back as 2004. Yet it took the efforts of Nathan Clark to purchase the bridge and persuade the agency to retract its plan and construct a bridge on a new alignment. The project was completed in 2006 and the truss bridge has remained in place ever since- still in pristine condition as shown in the picture taken over a decade ago but now part a hiking trail, although one can use the bridge for fishing and picnicking.

The Historic Bridge Weekend focused on efforts to preserve historic bridges and maintain them for future use, visiting historic bridges that are frequently visited, while some of them were the focus of preservation efforts. We included a lot of bridgehunting tours in addition to the talks that were given by many including myself. It drew hundreds of people to the event, many from the far outreaches of the country. After the first two events in Pennsylvania, we had our next one in Missouri in 2011, Indiana in 2012, Iowa in 2013 and Michigan in 2014 before it became an informal event afterwards where bridgeshunters gathered to just visit the bridges in the areas of interest. The event in Missouri (James’ home state) included tours of bridges in St. Louis and Kansas City with a big gathering to save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, an event that reunited friends and made the preservation attempt at Riverside a smashing success. 🙂 The event in Iowa in 2013 was one I coordinated with an open-air speech on James Hippen’s legacy by his wife Elaine at a restaurant in Stone City, a large scale informal event at Sutliff Bridge and its nearby Bar and Grill and in Pella at the golf course with a chance to explore the bridges in the Bluffs region, Des Moines and Boone and along the Mississippi.

What we learned from these events was that there was a large interest in saving these historic bridges by the public, yet the problem is trying to convince government officials to cater to the demands of the public. In some cases, we were greeted with lip service, while behind-the-door deals were carried out to have it their way and not with the people. Sometimes, the media sometimes distorts the information on the bridge without thinking that the bridge has a unique value in terms of its history and its association with the community. Still, the word gets around faster with social media than what modernists and government officials championing bridge replacement try conveying, which led to the creation of this online column and its social media pages in 2010. In turn, we have over three dozen pages devoted to historic bridges and preservation around the world on facebook, twitter and even Instagram. Some focus on bridge photography, which is the most liked because they contain brief information on the structures’ history. Yet there are individual pages that focus on preserving a bridge which has gained thousands of supporters each bridge. Save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark had over 3000 supporters on its facebook page, for example. In any case, the Historic Bridge Weekend has produced a large interest in bridges around the world, and when word on a historic bridge being a target for replacement comes around, the interest in saving the structure will be there, each with ideas on how to save it and each one with ties to the bridge and the memories that go along with it.

The Historic Bridge Weekend brought back a lot of memories of friends and bridges, ideas and stories and with that, a circle of pontists that has gotten tenfold bigger since its inauguration. It is hoped that the tradition will continue in the US, Europe and beyond, so that more people can take interest in bridges, its design and especially ways to preserve them for generations to come. The event is not just for pontists but for everyone with an interest in bridges, their histories and how they are tied together with community.

.

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 145: Tribute to James Baughn

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us back to Paoli, Indiana and this shot, taken by James Baughn. This is of the Gospel Street Truss Bridge (left) and Bowstring Arch Bridge (right), standing side-by-side. The truss span was built in 1880 by the Cleveland Bridge & Iron Company and was built using iron. The Bowstring Arch Bridge dates back to the 1930s, even though we don’t know when exactly and by whom the span was built. This pic was taken before the town of Paoli made the news on Christmas Day when a semi-truck tried to cross the span- and failed to succeed, putting the truss bridge into the waters of Lick Creek.

While the truck driver, a rather inexperienced Bible-thumper, got jail time for the incident, and the trucking firm was forced to close down, questions still linger as to how the truck driver managed to ignore the “No Trucks Allowed” sign, bigger than the Weight Limit sign! We know that the driver didn’t figure the math and that the GPS put her in the wrong location. But really: How much bigger can the sign be?

Sometimes, a sign like this one may be needed in order for drivers to pay attention:

Photo by Art Suckewer

.

The bright side to this bridge disaster is that it made for an example of how the police should handle situations like this in the classroom, for regardless of country, the police officer has to know how to handle such a situation in his/her own language, let alone the fines for disobeying the traffic signs and other restructions. In my classroom in the German state of Saxony, it has been a hit for discussion both in English as well as in German, especially as the state has a few metal and wooden truss bridges left including five covered bridges.

The bridge has been restored to its former glory, with the trucking company having paid for the whole project. You can see it in the video below:

And even with the headache bars and other restrictions, there’s still work to be done to ensure that truckers must obey the traffic laws, even if it means having to redo some of the features in the GPS system to ensure that they stay off the roads where light-weight, small but historic bridges are located. But at the same time, tougher measures will still be needed to hold the truck driver and the company responsible. Jail time, fines and other sanctions are one thing, but education in trucking and law enforcement are just as important. After all, even if we live in a democracy, we have laws and laws are there to save lives and protect persons and property.

And that tops all the money being spent on more modern but bland concrete slabs whose value will never top a structure like the Gospel Twins of Paoli. 🙂 ❤

.