Stone Arch Road Bridge near Nineveh, Indiana

Photo taken by Tony Dillon in 2012

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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! 🙂

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History in Your Own Backyard:

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Mike Daffron:

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Best Kept Secret: A School Bus Bridge in Kentucky

PRESTONSBURG, KENTUCKY- When traveling through the state of Kentucky, one will be awed by the state’s hilly landscapes, several memorial sites and in some cases, perhaps some historic bridges that are worth a visit. One place a tourist should plan to visit is Floyd County- specifically in the area of Prestonsburg, where history and landscapes come into one. Most recently, a 8.6 mile trail running along Middle Creek Levisa Fork opened to cyclists and pedestrians, connecting Prestonsburg with a small, former mining village of David. All of the trail runs along KY Hwy. 404 and along the way, one will have a chance to see some historic sites, most notably the Middle Creek National Battlefield. Six historic bridges along the route have been restored for reuse.

Yet there is a unique bridge, located near Archer Park, that has gathered a lot of attention since the trail’s opening in August of last year. It’s a school bus that was converted into a steel through bridge. The motive behind this idea was reusing a school bus that was no longer in service, which was the case for a 40+ year old school bus that operated under the Nr. 404 by using the top half and integrating it into the wooden deck beam bridge. 

End result is instead of sitting down on the school bus, because we were told to do so by our school bus drivers when we were growing up, we are basically running through the school bus with both sides open. Some of us had tried to run up and down the school bus until the driver stopped the bus and put an end to the nonsense. From a personal point of view, we even played Simon Says and harassed the bus driver one time, only to get a call from the principal and some of us being punished for it.  For this bridge, it’s perfect to reenact that and then some. But horseplay is not the only thing you can do on the school bus bridge; one can enjoy getting photos of this unique structure, especially as it is tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, laden with luscious trees.

But there is an underlying meaning behind the school bus bridge and it dates back to over 65 years ago. On February 28, 1958, a school bus numbered 27 carrying 48 children collided with a truck along US Hwy. 23. The bus then fell off an embankment into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, where it was swept downstream by the violent waters before it was submerged. 22 children managed to escape, yet 26 others plus the bus driver drowned. The bus and the bodies were discovered two days later, and to this day, it is the third worst disaster involving a school bus in US history. Two songs and two movies were later released, paying tribute to the victims of Bus 27.  The school bus bridge not only pays tribute to these victims, but it sends a direct message to the public, which is to pay attention to the school bus, the signals and crossing guards, and the children who board the bus but also ride it to and from school. If there is a statement, it would be this: Be aware and respect the bus- red means stop.

There have been many ways to recycle materials and use them for bridges. Some have used roofs made of metal. Others use rail boxcars. But the use of the school bus is the latest example of creative ways to build a bridge and make it not only inexpensive but also fancy for people to see. The School Bus Bridge along the Prestonsburg-David/ Levisa Fork Trail is one of the most attractive sites along the trail, let alone in the region. It reuses a bus but pays tribute to not only the tragedy of 1958, but also to all the school bus drivers who devote their time and effort to escort children to and from school safely.  I’m not sure if my bus drivers of my childhood will have a chance to see this unique artwork, but if you don’t have it on your bucket list, add it and go there. You will not regret it. 😉

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Special thanks to David Kravetz for allowing me to use his photos and for point this out in the fb page The American Two-Lane.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

Endangered TRUSS: W Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa

This bridge is part of a series dedicated to the works of the late James Cooper and J.R. Manning. All photos here are courtesy of the latter, who visited the bridge in 2013.

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Eagle Center, Iowa- All it takes is a quick turn onto a gravel road and it all goes down hill from there. All the way to the end and you will find this hidden gem. You cannot drive your car over it because it is too fragil. Hence the barriers and signs saying road closed. Yet you can walk or even bike across if you are careful. The bridge is a through truss, with typical truss design and portals- Pratt and Lattice with heels. You don’t know about this bridge except for its metalic beauty, yet the construction of the bridge corresponds to the history of bridge building during the Gilded Ages- 1870 to 1910. You wonder what can be done to keep the bridge in tact because the structure appears stable and look into ideas on how to keep it in place, even though the road is less traveled and it is hidden in areas often ignored by motorists passing by.

And this is the story behind the W-Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa. Tama County has a diverse collection of truss bridges like this one, most of which can be found along Wolf Creek. Yet this one sticks out as a bridge that has a potential for reuse, even in its current location. There is not much to talk about the structure. The bridge is a typical Pratt through truss with pinned connections built after the turn of the century. It was built in 1903 by George E. King, son of Zenas King who operated his business in Cleveland, Ohio, yet the younger King had established his business in Des Moines and populated the state with bridges with his own signature portal bracings (Howe lattice with subdivided heels). The bridge had a simple life, serving local residents and farmers………

…….until its closure in 2011.

We don’t know the underlying reason behind the bridge suddenly being closed to traffic except for some inspection reports from bridge firms specialized in modern bridges, like Schuck and Britson with its lopsided report on the Cascade Bridge in Burlington, which led to its closure in 2008. Such biased reports and scare tactics are common but following them like lambs to the slaughter house makes structures like this one be dangerous, when in all reality, the bridge is simply fine. Just a few minor repairs and extra special care and the structure would have remained open today.

Or is it closed?

During his visit in 2013, J.R. Manning took a chance to visit the bridge and saw that even though the bridge was out, according to the sign, it was anything but that with missing boulders, signs knocked over and the like. Some of his observations showed that the bridge was in relatively good shape and one could just have simply put a weight limit on the bridge to keep the trucks off of it. The decking was covered in asphalt and there was no real structural issues that would have justified its closure. In other words, the bridge could have taken a few more years of traffic, assuming that cars cross this location which were rare on this stretch of quiet road

Three years later, new barriers were put into place, but one can walk across it, take some pictures and enjoy the scenery that surrounds the bridge, given the fact that it’s tucked away in the valley. Today, the road to the bridge is all covered in grass but the bridge is safe and sound, hidden away and unused except by the local farm nearby. It makes a person wonder whether the bridge will remain as is given its condition or if it will be reused elsewhere. In any case if it remains where it is, it will make for a good bike trail crossing or park. It’s a matter of sprucing it up and making it safe for use. But given its location, it should not be a problem to spend a few thousand for that.

Whether the people will use it or not depends on the will to spend some time down there. The bridge may be out but it’s still in use for those who want to spend time in the nature, along a quiet creek like Wolf Creek…

…. and think about things in peace. ❤

Endangered TRUSS: New Bridge in Salem County, New Jersey

Photo taken by Jodi Christman

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Our next Endangered Truss article takes us to Salem County, New Jersey and to the New Bridge. Spanning Alloway Creek between Elsinboro and Quinton on the former County Road 623, this unique through truss bridge used to function as a swing bridge until the 1960s before it became a fixed crossing. The bridge is one of only three structures left that were built by the New Jersey Bridge Company and is considered elgible for the National Register. Yet the bridge has been closed to all traffic for three decades. Even though it is still accessible by foot, the bridge is being taken over by the remnants of time, for vegetation is covering the trusses and the bridge has become a focus for graffiti. Still, it has a potential for being a recreational crossing, if repairs are made to prolong its life.

Journalists from New Jersey.com, the state’s largest newspaper, have done a documentary on the state of the bridge, providing both video coverage of the bridge (inside and out) as well as an essay. While one could reinvent the wheel with their quotes, it’s simply appropriate to simply provide you with the video below as well as the link to the article, which you can click here to read.  Structural facts about the bridge can be found here, which includes a link to the HABS/HAER structural report on the bridge.

So sit back and enjoy the video on The Old and Abandoned: The Story of the New Bridge.  

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 160: Tribute to James Baughn

Our first Pic of the Week article since August 9th and with that, one of the pictures that was taken by the late James Baughn. This pic of the week provides us with a Guessing Quiz for readers to take a look at and guess where this bridge is located.

As a hint, James Baughn took this photo in 2009 while in Pennsylvania. The bridge no longer exists as it was replaced three years later, yet it is a multiple-span through truss bridge built during the time when the use of steel was at its peak.

Do you know what it is? Provide us with an answer in the comment section below, as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. The answer will come in the next week.

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Reminder: The Memorial Bridgehunting Tour has been extended to October 31st. In case you haven’t posted your favorite bridge photo honoring Mr. Baughn on the Chronicles’ facebook or Instagram pages, here’s how you can do that- Click here for details.

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Happy Bridgehunting, folks. ❤ 🙂

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HYB: Able Mitchell Bridge in Parke County, Indiana

Photo taken by James MacCray

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Between now and the end of this year, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be paying tribute to J.R. Manning and Dr. James Cooper through a series of photos and films to be posted on Sundays, as a way of giving thanks for their years of work reporting on and spearheading efforts in saving historic bridges in their regions.

Our first bridge in the tribute series takes us to the Able Mitchell Bridge, spanning Big Raccoon Creek northeast of Bridgeton. It is the last through truss bridge in the county that features a unique portal bracing, as seen in the picture. Yet even though efforts were undertaken to profile this bridge and its association with its builder, Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, OH, the bridge has been sitting idle for three decades in hopes that the structure will get a good facelift and a repurposement in hopes it can be used as a bike trail crossing or a park someday. Satolli Glassmeyer of History in your own Backyard will give you the rest of the story in the video below…….

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More information on the bridge can be found here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 158: Tribute to James Baughn

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This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to Kansas City and to this unique landmark, the ASB Bridge. While the city has many unique historic structures to choose from, this one stands out as being the bridge you must absolutely see when bridgehunting, period. The bridge was built in 1911 by a combination of Armour Packing CompanySwift & Company, and Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. It’s a double-decker bridge featuring an upper deck used for highway traffic and a lower deck used for rail traffic. The most stunning is its vertical lift span of the lower deck, which lifts up towards the bottom of the upper deck. You can see how the span lifts in the video below:

This unique mechanism was part of the design introduced by engineer John Alexander Low Waddell in 1909 and is the only bridge of its kind that has it. While the upper deck has long since been removed with the replacement bridge having been built next to this span in 1986, the bridge is still being used for rail traffic. It is owned by BNSF Railways. The pic was taken during the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2011 where James and I (as well as other pontists) saw the bridge. While we never saw the lift span in action, we were treated to a train crossing the span. Unlike our trains in Germany, American trains are usually 5-10 kilometers long, and one has to wait just as many minutes as with the train’s length because most trains run at a maximum speed of 60 mph (100 mph). It was nevertheless a treat to see the structure in its awe and beauty. While I took many pictures of the bridge, this one was taken by Mr. Baughn, who created a detailed database of the bridge on his website shortly after our conference. You can find it here. In 1996, the remaining part of the ASB was designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. It is elgible for the National Register and it is hoped that this bridge will be added in the near future. With many bridges disappearing in the Kansas City area, this bridge deserves to be kept in its rightful place and deserves to be a tourist attraction.

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Covered Bridge in Maine Destroyed by Arson

Photo taken by Jack Schmidt in 2014

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LITTLETON, MAINE- One of Maine’s handful of century-old bridges was incinerated and the state fire marshal is looking into the possible causes. The Watson Settlement Bridge was a covered bridge featuring a Howe through truss design. It spanned the Meduxnekeag Stream on Former Carson Road in Littleton in Aroostook County, located between US Hwy 1 and the US-Canada border. It was built in 1911 and had served traffic until 1984 when the current concrete structure was built on a new alignment and the historic bridge was converted to a pedestrian crossing. Listed on the National Register since 1970, the 170 foot long bridge was named after the nearby Watson Settlement and was a magnet for photo opportunities including graduation photos.

May be an image of fire and outdoors
Soruce: Citizens of Littleton

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Fire Crews were called to the scene of a fire on Monday afternoon at 2:45pm Eastern Time only to find the covered bridge engulfed in flames. Three different fire departments from Littleton, Houghton and Monticello were at the scene to put down the blaze. The State Fire Marshal Office arrived at the scene an hour later to investigate. The entire structure, consisting of charred beams and a partially collapsed roof, has been considered a total loss and will have to be torn down. It is unknown at this point whether a replica will be constructed. The area has been barracaded off to keep people from going on the bridge due to its structural instability. The State Fire Marshal is looking into any information to determine the cause of the fire, including finding any potential arsonists. People with information on the fire should contact their office at 1-888-870-6162.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge, the fire and what happens next.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 156 Tribute to James Baughn

Our next Pic of the Series dedicated to James Baughn takes us to Bowling Green, Kentucky and this span- one of the last of its kind in the United States. The Richardsville Bowstring Arch Bridge is a three-span arch bridge spanning the Barren River on Old Richardsville Road near the Historic Beechmont Farm near Bowling Green. The bridge is a through truss design with the upper chord featuring beams with heeled bracings. The arches are I-beam shaped. Connections are pinned. The bridge was built in 1889 by the King Bridge Company in Cleveland and has a total length of 442 feet, each span has a length of 138 feet.  The bridge has been on the National Register since 1980. As of today, the bridge is the last of its kind in the state of Kentucky and currently efforts are being carried out to preserve the bridge and the road it carries to ensure it is visited by future generations. It had been closed since last year but funding has been garnered so that work on restoring the bridge can start.  The photo taken by Mr. Baughn in 2015 was when the bridge was still open to traffic.  The question is when the bridge is restored, will it maintain its continued use as a vehicular crossing, or will it be repurposed for pedestrians?

The bridge has a haunted secret which you can see more of here:

This one we don’t have an answer to. Yet if you have any updates, please feel free to add them in the comment section. It would be much appreciated.  Happy bridgehunting, folks. Enjoy this video of the bridge and the old abandoned road: