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.
OZARK, MISSOURI- Ten years ago at this time, the community of Ozark, Missouri, with the help of many dedicated pontists from all over the US and Europe, came together to save a historic gem of a bridge, which had spanned Finley Creek at Riverside Drive- a product of the Canton Bridge Company of Ohio, built in 1909. An organization was formed in 2010 to save the two-span Pratt through truss bridge and to this day, this organization has almost 3000 members. The bridge was one of the main attractions of the 2011 Historic Bridge Weekend in August, together with the bridges of St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as the Gasconade Bridge and the now demolished structure at Enochs Knob. It was where old friends from high school reunited and new friends were made, some of which we are still in contact to this day.
It was through these efforts that the Riverside Bridge was restored in its place and reopened in 2013. It took another challenge through a monstrous flood in 2015 and the knee jerk reaction of the special road district officials and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to turn to removing the bridge because of damage to the piers and parts of the bridge deck.
Enter Bass Pro and Finley Farms who fell in love with the bridge and decided it would be a wonderful accessory to their facility. Since March 30th, 2021, the truss bridge is up and over Finley Creek again, yet in a new home 1.3 miles from its original location. Crews lifted the two-span bridge onto new piers, one truss span at a time, in a ceremonial event which brought friends, families, locals and bridge lovers together, including Kris Dyer, who heads the organization devoted to saving the historic structure, and Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro and Finley Farms who made it happen, not just through money and power, but with dedication and love.
Once the decking is put into place and the path is in place, the bridge will serve as key connection between Ozark Mill- a grain mill that dates back to the 1830s- and the wedding chapel. It will be a popular attraction not only for weddings and other formal events, but also for tourists who want to see the entire Finley Farms complex, with its historic buildings and experiencing living history including the local delicacies. The Riverside Bridge will have the company of another two-span through truss bridge that was built 13 years later (in 1922) by the Pioneer Bridge Company and features Baltimore spans. For a true pontists, a day trip to Ozark Mill and to the two bridges will be well worth it. For families, it is an experience with lots of memories! 🙂 ❤
From a columnist’s point of view, the restoration of the Riverside Bridge would not be possible without the support of locals, historians and people who wish to keep the bridge and consider its value as a tourist sttraction. We have seen many structures disappear because there was a lack of support among the public and connections through businesses and the local government. Speaking from personal experience, having the interest in the bridge’s history, let alone a plan on how to reuse the structure once its days as a vehicular crossing, are keys to winning the support needed and making the efforts to saving the bridge possible. It takes a lot of marketing efforts, wit and especially patience to pull it off. If one party says it’s impossible, the other has to counter with not only a why, but also a reason why restoring a bridge is possible. One can learn from the experience of those who have been successful in their efforts but also those who tried and failed for whatever reason it may be (mostly, they are political).
The Riverside Bridge represents a classic example of a bridge that got the love and support of the local community to save but also connections and a good plan to make the preservation happen. When we started on the campaign in 2010, we had a lot of ideas on how the bridge could be kept into place and shared lots of success stories with Kris (Dyer) and others involved to give them ideas on how it could be done. We did fundraisers and even produced some shirts dedicated to saving the bridge, two of which I bought and are still at home in Germany. 🙂 After the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2011, the local government stepped in, realizing that the bridge was indeed a valuable commodity to the community, and the bridge was subsequentially restored and reopened to traffic.
The flooding of 2013 put the bridge in danger again due to damage to the piers and there was doubt that it could ever be restored because it would have required the bridge to be raised to meet certain flood level requirements. Also, the historic Riverside Inn, which had been closed for many years, had to be removed as part of the plan to have a flood plain. That area is now a park next to the replacement structure, opened to traffic last year.
Still, the love for the bridge did not wane and thanks to our efforts in 2011, new actors came in with a plan to not only save the bridge but also find a new home for it. While buying a bridge for a buck ($1) is the easiest way to save a structure, that’s just the start. A good plan for moving it or even converting it to a park just off the road where the replacement structure is needed as well ensurance that the bridge is safe for use. In the case of Riverside Bridge, the idea of showcasing it in an area flanked by a mill and nearby parks was the best idea and the safest way to preserve the structure and prevent its ultimate doom. What is needed is a bit of love, creative ideas and also back-up plans in case plan A failed to bear fruit. Most importantly, it needs the support from the community and businesses who are willing work with the project to ensure future generations will enjoy it. The Riverside Bridge, who is up for its second Bridgehunter Award in the Category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge this winter, represents just that.
When there is a will, there is a way. The slogan for saving the bridge, for a second time. While many historic bridges have met their doom despite efforts to save them, there are others that are still in the fight to be preserved and reused for future generations. There’s a lot to learn from the Riverside Bridge experience, something that can be used for other projects. And if there is a doubt, Ozark is in southwestern Missouri near Springfield. Have a look at Finley Farms and its new accessory and you will see success in historic bridge preservation right in front of you. 🙂
Quick Fact: This will be the third home of Riverside Bridge, yet as it was built at the Ozark Mill site in 1909, it’s a welcome home celebration. It had first served the mill until the Baltimore truss bridge replaced it in 1924 and it was relocated to the site at Riverside Dr.
The Author would like to thank 407 Drone Imaging for use of the photos, plus to Kris Dyer, Bill Hart, Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth and the community of Ozark and Christian County for many years of efforts, ideas and all for making it happen not only once but twice. Also a shout out to the heavens to James Baughn, who is probably watching this right now with the Lord at his side, enjoying some shots and a good beer. This one’s for you, bud. 🙂
Our next Pic of the Week takes us to Booneville, Missouri. The city is located on the Missouri River in Cooper County, yet the city was famous for saving this prized railroad bridge. The Booneville Bridge is a multiple-span through truss bridge with a vertical lift span, all of the spans are polygonal Warren with A-frame portal bracings. This bridge is the third crossing over the Missouri, having been built in 1932 replacing another multiple-span truss bridge with a swing span that was built in 1896 by the American Bridge Company of New York. The first crossing had been built in 1874 by another American Bridge Company, but one in Chicago.
Union Pacific Railroad (UP) used to operate the structure until the bridge and the line were abandoned in 1992. That is where the problems started. The railroad company wanted to remove the tracks and subsequentially the bridge. The community of Booneville, plus bike organizations and preservationists wanted to save the bridge and incorporate it into the KATY Trail. There were petitions, phone calls and the like, but UP ignored every plea and started arrangements to demolish the bridge, with the backing of the US Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which saw the bridge as a hindrance towards navigation. This was where one person stepped in and halted the plan: Jay Nixon. As Attorney General, he took on the DNR over the bridge before extending the lawsuit to UP in 2005-06. Yet his ascension to governor of Missouri in 2009 sealed the deal and with that, the defendants stepped down and UP handed over ownership to the City of Booneville. Rehabilitation followed and the bridge reopened in 2016.
Fast forward to 2021 and we see the bridge open to the public. It’s still not part of the KATY Bike Trail as of yet because of technical issues involving the lift span and the expenses involved to repair and renew them. But that’s no stranger as this was seen with the rehabilitation of the Stillwater Lift Bridge in Minnesota, which has been open to traffic since May 2020. But it is hoped that the problem will be fixed and there is a chance that the trail is relocated to the historic bridge from the highway bridge, to reduce the risks of accidents and personal injury. Nevertheless, the bridge is still a monument that can be accessed with a newly constructed bridge deck and has a great observation deck viewing the Missouri River and the city’s skyline.
James Baughn, who photographed this bridge in 2005, documented the bridge story quite well in his bridge profile, one that is ripe enough for a book on the trials and successes in saving and restoring the Booneville Railroad Bridge. It is hoped that when the bridge is finally in use as a bike trail crossing that the story is updated and someone, like Jay Nixon, whose state park is named after him, will write about it, let alone tell us about how he saved the bridge.
This week’s Pic of the Week still has the Whipple as the motif but this time we go to the Historic Bridge Park in Michigan, where James Baughn photographed this bridge. It’s perhaps the centerpiece of installments for the park which has attracted tens of thousands on a yearly basis. The Charlotte Road Bridge was built by the Buckeye Bridge Works Company of Cleveland in 1886 with H.P. Hepburn presiding over the design and construction of the 173 foot long Whipple through truss structure, which featured pinned connections and two different Town Lattice portal bracings that sandwich the middle X-frame, as seen in the portal view taken by Baughn during the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2014. The bridge was relocated to this spot in 2006 and has served as a pedestrian crossing spanning Bridge Park Road. You can see this and many other bridges in this tour guide Nathan Holth produced for his website (click here).
And with that come the answer to last week’s Guessing Quiz on Whipple trusses. Here, we wanted to know where this bridge is located, which was also photographed by James Baughn. As a hint, it’s one of only three that are left in Missouri. Any guesses?
It’s the BONANZA BRIDGE!
This Whipple through truss bridge features a similar design like the one in Michigan. Yet it is unknown who built it, though the build date is 1883. This bridge used to span Shoal Creek near the Bonanza Conservation Site in Caldwell County. The structure was in service until its replacement in 1994. Instead of tearing it down, the county moved the bridge offsite onto a field and has since been preserved. The 175 foot long span is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places and has a perfect natural backdrop for photos taken either from the car or up close by foot. You can see more photos and read up on other information by clicking here, courtesy of bridgehunter.com.
Now, the bridge is staying put, but will be the centerpiece, crossing over the Blue Earth River connecting two of Mankato’s largest parks.
The 148-year-old historic iron structure will span the Blue Earth River between two of the city’s largest parks, providing a pedestrian and bike crossing that also will fill a gap in the local trail system, and create a vital link between the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on Mankato’s northeast side and Minneopa State Park to the southwest. “From an engineering perspective, it’s an exciting project, but it’s also one that’s great for our community and the region on whole,” said Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty in an interview with the Mankato Free Press. He was in charge of putting together the winning application in an eight-way competition for the one-of-a-kind bridge. Four finalists had submitted full applications to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the structure. Aside from Mankato, the other three finalists came from Watonwan County, Fergus Falls and Sherburne County. “It was a close race. The applications were all really good,” said historian Katie Haun Schuring of MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit, one of the members of the steering committee of engineers and historians that ultimately decided Mankato’s plan was the best. “… All of the locations would have been good. I think Mankato’s just rose to the top after a lot of great discussion.”
The decision to keep the Kern Bridge home made a lot of sense as the last surviving bridge of its kind in Minnesota is also one of the Blue Earth County’s “Seven historical wonders” when it comes to architecture that had shaped the county in the past 150 years. Furthermore, the county is diverse in the number of different types of bridges that still exist and can be seen today. They include the Dodd Ford Bridge and, the Maple River Railroad Truss Bridge both near Amboy, as well as a Marsh arch bridge and the Red Jacket Trestle. Another truss bridge, the Hungry Hollow Bridge is sitting in storage and awaiting reuse elsewhere. When people think of Blue Earth County and bridges, the Kern Bridge would definitely go on top as it was the structure that spearheaded efforts by other engineers to leave their marks over rivers and ravines while expanding the network of roads and railroads that connected Mankato with Minneapolis and other points to the north and east.
Along with the wrought-iron bridge, now disassembled and stored in shipping containers, Mankato will be receiving federal funding that will cover 80% of the $1.8 million cost of reassembling it. According to the Free Press, numerous regulatory hurdles will need to be cleared because of the historic nature of the bridge, the need to build piers in the Blue Earth River, the existence of the flood-control system in the area, the design work on the bridge approaches, and the regulations related to federal funding. The Kern Bridge will be the main span over the river but will be flanked by steel gorders which will make the historic structure the centerpiece for the two parks. If all goes well, the bridge will be back in service by 2024 but as a pedestrian and bike crossing.
And while its 150th birthday celebration will most likely be in storage, the reestablishment and reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge, combined with its reinstatement as a National Landmark, will serve as a much-deserved belated birthday gift in itself. Even the best things come if we wait long enough and work to make it happen. 🙂
The Kern Bridge finished second in the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge of the Year because of the efforts to save the structure from its potential collapse.
The news came just as the Newsflyer podcast was released. To listen to the other news stories, click here.
MANKATO, MINNESOTA- The longest bowstring arch bridge in the United States and second longest in the world is available for reuse. The question is who has some ideas for the structure? The Minnesota Department of Transportation is soliciting interest in the purchase and relocation of the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, which had spanned the Le Seuer River on Township Rd. 190 south of Mankato between now and August 31st.
According to information on the MnDoT website, the bridge must be rehabilitated to meet historic standards as stated in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Projects. The restoration project must comply to the guidelines of both MnDOT and the Federal Highway and Safety Administration. Currently, costs for reconstructing and restoring the historic bridge is estimated to be at approximately $1.5 million. Fortunately, federal funding is available to cover 80% of the costs for the whole project, which means 20% must to brought up by the party owning the bridge. The bridge has currently been delisted from the National Register, yet it can be re-listed once the structure is reconstructed and reopened for use.
Letters of intent are currently being collected by cities as well as county and state agencies, with cities having 5000 of less inhabitants being required to have a county sponsor. At present two suitors are in the running, both cities and both outside Blue Earth County, where the bridge once stood for almost a century and a half: Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County and North Mankato in Nicollet County. Both plan to have the structure span a body of water and be used as a pedestrian bridge. It is unknown who else is interested in acquiring the structure at present.
If you are interested in acquiring the bridge, you should click onto link that will usher you to MnDOT’s Historic Bridge website. There, information, contact details and applications are available. The Letter of Intent is to be submitted by no later than 31 August. Applications for the bridge must then be filled out and the deadline is 30 September.
We have seen many bowstring arch bridges being reused for various recreational purposes. The Freeport and Eureka Bridges in Winneshiek County, Iowa are now picnic areas in parks. Springfield in Arkansas and Paper Millin Delaware are now pedestrian crossings. The interest in reusing the Kern Bridge as a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists is strong among those in Minnesota and beyond who wish to see her in action again. The question is where will it go and how will it be reused?
The story of the bridge’s fate is unraveling and we’ll keep you posted……
Our 102nd Pic of the Week tells a story of how a bridge became a tunnel and how no one but the biker could tell of the change. This bridge-converted-to-tunnel is located in Jena, in the eastern German state of Thuringia and spans Ammerbach Creek, which runs through the southern suburbs of Ammerbach and Winzerla before it empties into the River Saale near the Ernst-Abbe-Sportsstadium. It was constructed during the same time as the railroad that connected Weimar with Gera with a regional hub station at Jena-Göschwitz- namely 1876. The stone arch span is no longer than 20 meters and has a height of six meters.
So how was the bridge „converted“ into a tunnel?
This was in connection with the reconstruction of the rail line between Weimar and Jena-Göschwitz and it had to do with a nearby bridge that was built in 1935, spanning Kahlaische Strasse, which was a combination of car and tram services. Because of structural instability due to age and the low clearance on the street, workers built a new bridge off site that was a meter higher and twice as long as the main span of 30 meters over the street. This does not include a tunnel on the west side of the street. The entire structure was then torn down, and the new span slid into place.
At the same time, this short-span crossing in the picture was rehabilitated and an additional one meter of railroad bedding was added in order to smooth the grading between the two bridges. A double-concrete railing was added on each side to allow for electrical wires to run through the top railing and to capture the falling rocks by the bottom railing.
This whole conversion and nearby bridge replacement happened from the fall of 2016 until the middle part of 2017 and resulted in detours of all kinds, from rail traffic all the way to the bike trail, which the now-converted tunnel crosses. Living in Winzerla for 15 out of the 20 years I spent in Jena, one can find the detours rather annoying unless you know some short cuts and detours to the city center by car or bike. But this was one that was part of the mega-project on several routes through Jena that brought 70% of the city’s total traffic to a standstill and increased the blood pressure of every driver and biker by an average of 45%! It was a bit over the top and still to this day, management could have been better.
In either case, with the water under the bridge, one can still enjoy this scenic view of the tunnel, now covered with vegetation after a a couple years of bare concrete and rock. Like the bridge, this tunnel comes up fast when you bike between the city center and the south of Jena, and one cannot see it right away- unless you make a stop, like I did with my family. This photo was taken last year, in 2019. And the weather was perfect for the pose. The original arch is still there, covered by bushes and trees. However, it is obvious that the structure has been converted into a tunnel. 😉 Nevertheless, one can enjoy the scenery with just the trains passing by. A real treat when you bike through Jena and along the River Saale. 🙂
The Holzlandbahn provides direct connection between Dresden and Düsseldorf via Chemnitz, Glauchau, Gera, Jena, Erfurt and Kassel. While regional trains run on this route mostly, plans are in the making to electrify the railline completely so that InterCity trains can use them by 2030. More information on the line’s history can be found here.
This Pic of the Week takes us back to Glauchau and a site where no one really expected this- a work of art that doesn’t need any type of bracing for support. This photo was taken during our walk on Easter Sunday and is that of the Hirschgrundbrücke at the Castle Complex. Since October 2018, the bridge had been rebuilt, piece by piece under a coat of steel scaffolding. Since the beginning of April, the cranes have disappeared and it was only the decking that needs to be finished on the bridge. Still, the scaffolding was covering the bridge for many days.
On this day, the bridge was presented in its former glory- stone bridge with its four arches; the photo taken just as the trees were about to blossom with flowers and leaves and the ground was about to become greener. It looked like the bridge has arisen, as much as Jesus had arisen from the dead- both coming back to life to bring good tidings and love to the people. The difference, the bridge is here to stay while Jesus blessed it because of its beauty and its attachment to the castle and the nature that surrounds it. It was a real treat to see the bridge again after almost two years of absence. And while the old structure could’ve been a great bridge of vegetation, like the one in Massachusetts, this structure will again connect history with nature- the castle and the park will again be one. And one that can be seen from the main street heading into the city center. ❤ 🙂
The decking is almost finished and work will then include the south approach, which is a meter higher than the bridge itself. The plan is to make a ramp to allow for pedestrians and the handicapped to cross the structure. At the same time, a new park south of the bridge is being constructed to provide visitors with some nature and recreation. That area used to have garden houses before the property was completely razed in December, last year. While CoVid 19 has delayed numerous construction projects globally, this project, weather permitting, is expected to be finished well before the deadline of the end of June. The reason: Despite the lockdown in the state of Saxony, some construction projects were allowed to continue but using safety guidelines to ensure nobody was infected with the virus.
The Chronicles will keep you updated on the latest with this project, including the grand opening of the bridge and park complex. Stay tuned. 🙂
The Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge to be dismantled and stored awaiting relocation to a new home.
MANKATO, MINNESOTA- It finally happened. After 147 years spanning the LeSueur River south of Mankato as the longest bowstring arch bridge in the US (and second longest in the world behind the Blackfriars Road Bridge in Canada), the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge is off the river and awaiting for a new home. Construction crews on Thursday lifted the 189-foot long bowstring arch bridge, in one piece, off its stone foundations and placed it in the field to the east of where it once stood.
One of the main obstacles that workers faced was the issues with the crumbling eastern abutment. “We were all kind of holding our breath,” said Lisa Bigham, state aid engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s District 7 in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio News. “It took a while to get everything kind of in place, the cranes to be positioned where they needed to be. Then, we were just kind of watching. And then, all of a sudden you could see air in between the bridge and the abutment. And it actually went very smoothly.” The eastern abutment had been coming apart, piece by piece in the past 5-10 years thanks to years of erosion and neglect, raising concerns across the board, from engineers and preservationists to even locals that the historic structure could potentially collapse. The structure had been closed to all traffic since 1989, with the township road having been abandoned. But nonetheless, the workers were satisfied with the lifting as it went smoothly as it could.
With the bridge standing in the nearby field, the wrought iron structure will be disassembled and stored in containers awaiting relocation for reuse as a bike and pedestrian crossing. Currently, MnDOT is soliciting proposals for reusing the bridge at a different location on a statewide level. “The pieces will be kept safe and dry,” Bigham said. “And so then whoever gets to take this bridge in the future, will be able to put the pieces back together and they’ll have a really cool bridge.” Federal and state funding has been placed aside for the project, with some funding having already been collected prior to the move. Carlton Companies of Mankato bidded $595,660 for the move itself. Because many bridge parts may need to be sandblasted and/or repaired before being reassembled, the cost for completing the whole project, including rehabilitation and reassembly is still unknown. The bottom line is the bridge is out of the water and is safe on land. The question will be what the future will hold for the bridge. That will be answered in the coming months.
The Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge was built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1873, 15 years after the creation of the State of Minnesota. It was also known as the Yaeger Bridge, named after the nearby farm owned by George Yaeger. The structure is all wrought iron with pinned connections. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and the relocation project will not affect its status. The bridge is the last of its kind in Minnesota, even though dozens of them had existed mainly in the southern half of the state up until the 1970s. The bridge was closed to traffic in 1989 and was taken off the highway and bridge data bank in 2003. The structure has been the focus of literary works and also attempts to refurbish it for future use, all of whom had failed to date. This attempt came because of its historic significance and popularity among pontists and (bridge) photographers and locals familiar with the bridge and its enriched history. Since 2019, a facebook page on Relocating the Kern Bridge has been in use, where people can share ideas on how to reuse the bowstring arch structure, as well as photos, stories and the like. A link to the page is at the end of the article.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest with the Kern Bridge and its future.
The Osborne County Hall of Fame Honors celebrates the Osborne County Sesquicentennial Year of 2021, marking the first 150 years of the county's existence. The "Honors" will present, recognize, and appreciate the various aspects of Osborne County, Kansas heritage and culture both past and present in a different manner than its parent organization, the Osborne County Hall of Fame. The series of lists that comprise the "Honors" will be revealed throughout the year on this site and via other social media. All Individuals already enshrined in the Osborne County Hall of Fame are excluded from the "Honors". Happy 150th Birthday, Osborne County!