Endangered TRUSS: The Jefferson Highway Bridge at Okay, Oklahoma

All photos courtesy of Mark W. Brown

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OKAY, OKLAHOMA- There are many historic structures that are endangered because of the need to have a concrete bridge to move traffic from point A to point B. There are some that have been sitting abandoned- many of which for too long and need the attention of the public to save it from its ultimate doom. When I think of the first endangered TRUSS candidate, the first bridge that comes to mind is this one: The Okay Truss Bridge. The bridge spans the old channel of the Verdigris River to the west of the town of Okay in Wagoner County. The structure was first discovered a decade ago and even though it has been abandoned for several decades, records have indicated that the structure was once part of the Jefferson Highway, the second oldest intercontinental highway that was built in 1915 and went from Winnepeg, Canada to New Orleans, cutting through parts of Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma in the process.

There is not much information on the bridge’s history except to say that given the materials needed to build the structure, let alone the features, the bridge must have been built between 1910 and 1915, as part of the project to extend the Jefferson Highway through the small community. The bridge features two Parker through truss main spans. Each span features a 3-rhombus Howe Lattice portal bracings with angled heels, latticed struts and V-laced vertical beams. There is also a Pratt pony truss span on each outer end of the bridge. The connections are pinned and the material: steel for the trusses and wood for the decking.

Westernmost pony truss approach span

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The bridge was later bypassed by another structure to the south, as part of the project to rechannel the Verdigris and the truss span has been sitting abandoned and in disarray ever since. The easternmost pony truss span collapsed many years ago and it would take a lot of climbing just to get onto the bridge itself.

The gravest problem though lies with the through truss spans because of a failing pier. It is unknown when and how this occurred, but the center pier is crumbling, causing the end post of the western through truss span to slip.

While the damage may be minimal when looking at it from a bird’s eye view, when on the bridge, it is far worse than it seems, as the crumbling pier, combined with the sagging of the endpost, is causing the western truss span to lean and twist on its side.

The twisted metal brought a reminder of one bridge that fell victim to flooding in 1990, which was the Rockport Bridge in Arkansas. Prior to its downfall, flooding in 1987 caused severe damage to the center piers causing the center span to tilt and twist. This is exactly what is happening to the Okay Truss Bridge, and if nothing is done with the truss span, the next flooding may be the bridge’s last.

What can be done to save the truss bridge? The easiest is to take the truss spans off the piers and dismantle them for storage. As it happened with the Bridgeport Bridge in Michigan, the twisted western Parker truss span could be straightened through welding, whereas the trusses in general would need to be sandblasted and repainted. The piers would need to be replaced and because the easternmost pony span is considered a total loss, a replacement span could take its place if one reerects the restored truss span and converts the area on the east end and the island between the old and new channels of the Verdigris into a park area. As this bridge is part of the original Jefferson Highway, research is needed on the structure’s history to nominate it to the National Register.

Oklahoma has seen a big drop in the number of truss bridges in the last two decades, yet efforts are being taken to save what is left of the bridges. There is little doubt that the Okay Truss Bridge can be saved if action is taken to salvage the trusses and rebuild the entire structure, while erecting a park to honor its history. It takes the will of not only the locals but also members of the Jefferson Highway Association to make it happen. Yet time is running out and we’re fighting windmills regarding even saving the truss structure before the next floodwaters. If there is a tiny sense of hope, removing and storing the trusses should be top priority. Afterwards, time and finances could be allotted to restore and rebuild the bridge to its former glory.

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Author’s Note: A big thanks to Mark W. Brown for allowing me to use his pictures for this article.

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2020 Author’s Choice Awards- Mr Smith takes his picks

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Pexels.com

And now, before we announce the winners of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, I have a few favorites that I hand-picked that deserve international recognition. 2020 was a year like no other. Apart from head-scratcher stories of bridges being torn down, we had an innummeral number of natural disasters that were impossible to follow, especially when it came to bridge casualties. We had some bonehead stories of people downing bridges with their weight that was 10 times as much as what the limit was and therefore they were given the Timmy for that (click on the link that will lead you to the picture and the reason behind it.) But despite this we also had a wide selection of success stories in connection with historic bridge preservation. This include two rare historic bridges that had long since disappeared but have now reappeared with bright futures ahead of them. It also include the in-kind reconstruction of historic bridges, yet most importantly, they also include historic bridges that were discovered and we had never heard of before- until last year.

And so with that in mind, I have some personal favorites that deserve international recognition- both in the US as well as international- awarded in six categories, beginning with the first one:

Best example of reused bridge:

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The Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge in South Dakota:

One of three hybrid Thacher through truss bridges left in the US, the bridge used to span the Big Sioux River near Castlewood until it disappeared from the radar after 1990. Many pontists, including myself, looked for it for three decades until my cousin, Jennifer Heath, found it at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Brooks. Apparently the product of the King Bridge Company, built in 1894, was relocated to this site in 1998 and restored for car use, in-kind. Still being used but we’re still scratching our heads as to how it managed to disappear from our radar for a very long time…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/castlewood-bridge-in-a-new-home-on-the-threshing-grounds/

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International:

Plaka Bridge in Greece:

Built in 1866, this bridge was unique for its arch design. It was destroyed by floods in 2015 but it took five years of painstaking efforts to put the bridge back together again, finding and matching each stone and reinforcing it with concrete to restore it like it was before the tragedy. Putting it back together again like a puzzle will definitely make for a puzzle game using this unique bridge as an example. Stay tuned.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/plaka-bridge-in-greece-restored/

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Hirschgrundbrücke in Glauchau:

While it has not been opened yet for the construction of the South Park Gardens is progressing, this four-span arch bridge connecting the Park with the Castle Complex was completely restored after 2.5 years of rebuilding the 17th Century structure which had been abandoned for four decades. Keeping the outer arches, the bridge was rebuilt using a skeletal structure that was later covered with concrete. The stones from the original bridge was used as a façade. When open to the public in the spring, one will see the bridge that looks like the original but has a function where people can cross it. And with the skeleton, it will be around for a very long time.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/06/update-on-the-hirschgrundbrucke-in-glauchau-saxony/

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Worst example of reused bridge:

Northern Avenue Bridge in Boston

This one definitely deserves a whole box of tomatoes. Instead of rehabilitating the truss bridge and repurposing it for bike and public transportation use, designers unveiled a new bridge that tries to mimic the old span but is too futuristic. Watch the video and see for yourself. My take: Better to build a futuristic span, scrap the historic icon and get it over with.

Link: https://www.northernavebridgebos.com/about & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcWEvjdsAUQ

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International:

Demolishing the Pilchowicki Bridge in Poland for a Motion Picture Film-

Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruz should both be ashamed of themselves. As part of a scene in the film, Mission Impossible, this historic bridge, spanning a lake, was supposed to be blown up, then rebuilt mimicking the original structure. The bridge had served a railroad and spans a lake. The plan was tabled after a huge international cry to save the structure. Nevertheless, the thwarted plan shows that America has long been famous for: Using historic places for their purpose then redo it without thinking about the historic value that was lost in the process.

Links: https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/07/24/concern-over-reports-that-historic-bridge-in-poland-will-be-blown-up-for-tom-cruise-film/ & https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/so-long-tom-historic-bridge-saved-from-tom-cruise-bomb-14980

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Salvageable Mentioned:

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Okoboji Truss Bridge at Parks Marina in Iowa-

A one of a kind Thacher pony truss, this bridge went from being a swing bridge crossing connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, to a Little Sioux River crossing that was eventually washed out by flooding in 2011, to the storage bin, and now, to its new home- Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji. The owner had one big heart to salvage it. Plus it was in pristine condition when it was relocated to its now fourth home. A real winner.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/the-okoboji-bridge-at-parks-marina/

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International:

Dömitz Railroad Bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania in Germany-

World War II had a lasting after-effect on Germany’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands of historic bridges were destroyed, either through bombs or through Hitler’s policies of destroying every single crossing to slow the advancement of the Allied Troops. Yet the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, spanning the River Elbe, represents a rare example of a bridge that survived not only the effects of WWII, but also the East-West division that followed, as the Mecklenburg side was completely removed to keep people from fleeing to Lower Saxony. All that remains are the structures on the Lower Saxony side- preserved as a monument symbolizing the two wars and the division that was lasting for almost a half century before 1990.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/domitz-railroad-bridge/

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Spectacular Bridge Disaster

Forest Fires along the West Coast- 2020 was the year of disasters in a literal sense of the word. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a near standstill, 2020 was the year where records were smashed for natural disasters, including hurricanes and in particular- forest fires. While 20% of the US battled one hurricane after another, 70% of the western half of the country, ranging from the West Coast all the way to Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas dealt with record-setting forest fires, caused by drought, record-setting heatwaves and high winds. Hardest hit area was in California, Washington and even Oregon. Covered bridges and other historic structures took a massive hit, though some survived the blazes miraculously. And even some that did survive, presented some frightening photo scenes that symbolizes the dire need to act on climate change and global warming before our Earth becomes the next Genesis in Star Trek.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/great-western-fires-destroy-iconic-historic-bridges/  &  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/catastrophic-inferno-hits-western-united-states-photos-noble-reporters-worlds-iconic-news-media-site/  & https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/no-comment-nr-2-the-great-california-fire/

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Bonehead Story:

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Demolition of the Historic Millbrook Bridge in Illinois-

Inaction has consequences. Indifference has even more painful consequences. Instead of fixing a crumbling pier that could have left the 123-year old, three-span through truss bridge in tact, Kendall County and the Village of Millbrook saw dollar signs in their eyes and went ahead with demolishing the entire structure for $476,000, coming out of- you guessed it- our taxpayer money. Cheapest way but at our expense anyway- duh!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/26/historic-millbrook-bridge-demolished/

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Planned Demolition of the Bridges of Westchester County, New York-

While Kendall County succeeded in senselessly tearing down the last truss bridge in the county, Westchester County is planning on tearing down its remaining through truss bridges, even though the contract has not been let out just yet. The bridges have been abandoned for quite some time but they are all in great shape and would make for pedestrian and bike crossings if money was spent to rehabilitate and repurpose them. Refer to the examples of the Calhoun and Saginaw County historic bridges in Michigan, as well as those restored in Winneshiek, Fayette, Madison, Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties in Iowa.  Calling Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/10/the-bridges-of-westchester-county-new-york/

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Collapse of Westphalia Bridge due to overweight truck-

To the truck driver who drove a load over the bridge whose weight was four times the weight limit, let alone bring down the 128-year old product of the Kansas City Bridge Company: It’s Timmy time! “One, …. two,….. three! DUH!!!!”  The incident happened on August 17th 2020 and the beauty of this is, upon suggesting headache bars for protecting the bridge, county engineers claimed they were a liability. LAME excuse!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/truck-driver-narrowly-escapes-when-missouri-bridge-collapses-truckers-4-truckers/

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International:

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Waldcafé Bridge in Lunzenau, Saxony-

Located near the Göhren Viaduct in the vicinity of Burgstädt and Mittweida, this open-spandrel stone arch bridge used to span the Zwickau Mulde and was a key accessory to the fourth tallest viaduct in Saxony. Yet it was not valuable enough to be demolished and replaced during the year. The 124-year old bridge was in good shape and had another 30 years of use left. This one has gotten heads scratching.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/waldcafe-bridge-in-gohren-to-be-replaced/

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Collapse of Bridge in Nova Scotia due to overweight truck-

It is unknown which is more embarrassing: Driving a truck across a 60+ year old truss bridge that is scheduled to be torn down or doing the same and being filmed at the same time. In any case, the driver got the biggest embarrassment in addition to getting the Timmy in French: “Un,…. deux,…… toi! DUH!!!” The incident happened on July 8th.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/historic-bridge-in-nova-scotia-collapses-because-of-truck-reminder-to-obey-weight-and-height-limits/

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Spectacular Bridge Find:

Root Bridges in Meghalaya State in India-

Consisting of vine bridges dating back hundreds of years, this area has become a celebrity since its discovery early last year. People in different fields of work from engineers to natural scientists are working to figure out how these vined bridges were created and how they have maintained themselves without having been altered by mankind. This region is one of the World’s Top Wonders that should be visited, regardless whether you are a pontist or a natural scientist.

Link:  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/living-root-bridges-in-the-tropical-forests-of-meghalaya-state-india/

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Puente de Occidente in Colombia-

This structure deserves special recognition not only because it turned 125 years old in 2020. The bridge is the longest of its kind on the South American continent and it took eight years to build. There’s an interesting story behind this bridge that is worth the read…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/1895-this-suspension-bridge-in-colombia-is-still-the-second-longest-span-of-its-kind-on-the-continent/

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The Bridges of Schwerin, Germany-

For bridge tours on the international front, I would recommend the bridges of Schwerin. It features seven iron bridges, three unique modern bridges, a wooden truss span, a former swing span and  a multiple span arch bridge that is as old as the castle itself, Schwerin’s centerpiece and also home of the state parliament. This was a big steal for the author as the day trip was worth it.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/the-bridges-of-schwerin/

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USA:

Thomas Viaduct in Maryland-

Little is written about the multiple-span stone built in 1835, except that it’s still the oldest functioning viaduct of its kind in the US and one stemming from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad era.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/thomas-viaduct-in-maryland/

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The Bridge Daheim in New York-

Geoff Hobbs brought the bridge to the attention of the pontist community in July 2020, only to find that the bridge belonged to a mansion that has a unique history. As a bonus, the structure is still standing as with the now derelict mansion.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/mystery-bridge-nr-132-the-bridge-daheim/

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The Bridges of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana-

The Proving Grounds used to be a military base that covered sections of four counties in Indiana. The place is loaded with history, as not only many buildings have remained largely in tact but also the Grounds’ dozen bridges or so. Satolli Glassmeyer provided us with a tour of the area and you can find it in this film.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/the-bridges-of-jefferson-proving-grounds-in-indiana-hyb/

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Now that the favorites have been announced and awarded, it is now the voter’s turn to select their winners, featured in nine categories of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that, we will go right, this way…… =>

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 130: A Tribute to James Baughn

Sometimes the best photographers usually follow the events that are happening by visiting the site on a regular basis and taking lots of pictures. For bridge photographers, this applies when there are projects like bridge restoration or in this case, bridge replacement.

In our next series paying tribute to James Baughn, we go back to the year 2003 and to this bridge, the Cape Girardeau Bridge. This bridge was the oldest of the Twenties Trio that were built within a year of each other along the Upper Mississippi River. In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill, authorizing the bridge project at Cape Girardeau. The American Bridge Company of New York (superstructure) and U.G.I. Construction of Philadelphia were given the contract to build the bridge, which the project started in February 1927 and was completed in September 1928. Three months later, the Quincy Bridge followed and at the beginning of 1929, the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. The bridge featured a series of six Pennsylvania through truss spans, followed by a continuous through truss span (671 feet), with a total length of 4471 feet.

In 2002, construction was let to build its replacement, the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, the current bridge that features a cable-stayed span with H-shaped towers. The original bridge was closed to traffic on 13 December, 2003, the same day the new bridge opened to traffic. Demolition of the old bridge commenced in June 2004 and lasted a half year. What’s left of the original structure is an arch and the first two spans on the Missouri side, which were repurposed as an observation deck.

James did a detailed series on the bridge before and after its replacement and including the demolition of the bridge. During that time, he collected a series of facts and history of the structure, which he added as the bridge was being replaced. You can find this in his bridgehunter.com website by clicking here. The details he did of the bridge in terms of photos as well as research, served as an inspiration for another person to do the same with his website, Nathan Holth, who launched historicbridges.org in 2003, the same year the truss bridge was replaced. You can access his website by clicking here.

If there was a lesson learned from this, it is this: Details are key, especially if you are looking for hard-core facts that are needed to complete the bridge’s story or if you want to contradict the facts given by a previous author. Bridgehunter.com is like wikipedia as it provides a database with photos, facts and stories about bridges like these with the goal of making the information available for those to use for their own purposes, be it for research for a school project or for finding information to nominate a structure for the National Register of Historic Places or even for personal reasons. When this bridge was being replaced, the website was in its infancy. Now looking back at James’ legacy and in particular, this bridge, the website has been serving its purpose well- a library with interesting facts for all to access.

And if there is a word of advice for those who are doing a project that features one or more bridges, check out bridgehunter.com first, followed by the others. There you will find at least something that will serve as your starting point and can build off from there. The website is like an encyclopedia, you will most likely find what you are looking for. 🙂

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 129: A Tribute to James Baughn

The next photo in the James Baughn series takes us to Wayne County and this bridge, the Wapello Bridge. The Pennsylvania through truss spans the St. Francis River on County Road 517 between the Riverside Campground and Shepards Fold Ministry, four miles southeast of Lake Wapello. The bridge was a product of Stupp Brothers Bridge and Iron Company in St. Louis and the Pennsylvania truss design and the A-frame portal bracings were very common features of the polygonal truss structures built by Stupp. Built in 1911, the 10-panel truss bridge had a total length of 242 feet, the main span had a length of 209 feet. The bridge was one of James’s favorite spots to photograph and you can find a gallery with his pictures of this bridge on the bridgehunter.com website. Sadly, the bridge was replaced in 2008.

Years later, I had an opportunity to interview an extended family member of the Stupp family about the company’s history. It will be posted in a later article. For now enjoy the photos of this unique bridge. ❤ 🙂

No Comment Nr. 3

There are three ways of expressing the concept of no smoking on a wooden bridge. There’s the generic version: No Smoking. There’s the Papa Preacher version: Don’t even think of Smoking Here. Then there’s this version, as exhibited in a note found by the person running the Green Mountain Bridges Instagram page, shown above. I don’t know whether to laugh like Garfield the fat cat or behave like an Irish woman armed with a cast iron skillet, ready to smack one. 😀

Photo by Brian McKee taken in 2010

For sure this was found on the Dummerston Covered Bridge, an almost 150-year old covered bridge located in Windham County, Vermont. I don’t know if this note is in connection with the name Dummerston or even the word, which spelled backwards is mud. 😉 In either case, here are some facts on one of Vermont’s longest covered bridges which you access in this link.

Enjoy the rest of the day and happy bridgehunting! 🙂

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Historic Bridge in Minnesota for sale- Any takers

Petersen Bridge
Photo by John Weeks III

NEW ULM, MINNESOTA (USA)- Officials from the Brown County Highway Department have a historic bridge for sale and for those interested, all you need is a plan to present and a dollar to pay. The Petersen Bridge spans the Minnesota River, carrying Rennville County Highway 3 and Brown County Highway 8. It’s approximately 7 miles SE of Franklin and 20 river miles NW of New Ulm. Also known as the Eden Bridge, it features a two-span Warren pony truss bridge with riveted connections. It was built in 1918 and has a total length of 250 feet- the largest span is 81 feet. The bridge has been considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

In a statement by Brown County:

Because the bridge has a visually-low profile (being a pony truss rather than a through-truss), and because there is flexibility to omit approach spans as needed, the bridge could fit well into any number of urban or rural settings

The bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places but needs to be replaced with a wider structure. The county hopes to find a new owner who can reuse the bridge on a trail, in a park, or in a similar setting.

The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and work is underway to replace the historic bridge with a modern one, with the project set to begin later this year at the earliest.

Those interested in purchasing and repurposing the bridge can obtain a package by clicking here. It includes the contact information for the Brown County Highway Engineer in case there are questions or if you are interested in taking the bridge.

The deadline for all entries is June 30th, 2021 at 4pm local time. More information on the bridge can be found via bridgehunter.com, here as well as John Weeks website, here.

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Note: While you are at it, there is a tour guide on the bridges of New Ulm which may be of interest of you. Have a look by clicking here. An interesting story on New Ulm can be found in the Flensburg Files by clicking here.

Truss Bridge with an A: A Look at the Difference Between the Lane and the Miller-Borcherding Truss Design

Buffalo Ridge Road Bridge in Franklin Co., Missouri (replaced in 1999). Source: Missouri DOT

Imagine this scenario: You have a rail line that is abandoned but not before leaving in the rail ties and rail track. You have a pair of abandoned railroad cars, one of which used to be a dining car while the other used to be a loading bed for logs. And your town needs a new bridge because the old one collapsed during a flood. Your town doesn’t have enough money to build a super, duper new concrete bridge. Your replacement bridge must be 40 feet long. How would you create your make-shift bridge?

Crab Run Lane Truss Bridge near McDowell, Virginia. Source: C. Hanchey

This was the question that two of the bridge builders had when they were finding ways to recycle steel and wood for a unique bridge design of their own. Daniel Lane, who later established the Lane Bridge Company in New York, and the bridge building firm of Miller & Borcherding, based in St. Louis, were not quite well-known bridge builders in the US in comparison with the likes of Wrought Iron Bridge and the King family in Ohio, let alone the bridge builders from the Minneapolis school. However the designers found a creative, but also affordable way to design truss bridges, using recycled materials such as steel parts, wiring and wood.

Ward & Teslow Bridge in Winneshiek Co., Iowa. Example of a Warren truss bridge. Source: J. Smith

Using the Warren truss design, with its W-shaped pattern as a motif, they came up with a unique design with a three-panel truss span, where the center panel features the A-frame. The difference is how the outer panels are constructed and how the diagonal beams are constructed.

Keeney Settlement Bridge near Cuyler, New York. Source: C. Gehman

The Lane Truss

Daniel Lane, who was the proprietor of the Lane Bridge Works Company developed the truss design using old railroad and trolley tracks. Between 1890 and 1901 the bridge company constructed single span Howe truss bridge designs, using old rails which were reformed and clamped together by bolts that were once used for laying the track. These rods were to represent the upper and lower chord of the design, pinned together by nuts and bolts by just simply inserting the bolts through the rails and screwing the nut on afterward. This made the disassembling and reassembling of the truss design a lot easier.  This design was to be a Howe truss configuration but with three panels with the center span consisting of an A-frame design. Many of the trusses constructed during Lane’s tenure were no longer than 100 ft. in length. 

While many of these Lane pony trusses became popular at the turn of the century, one can only find four existing Lane trusses today: a 30 ft. long structure near Mc Dowell, Virginia built in 1896 and christened the Crab Run Bridge, the 90 ft. long Park’s Gap Bridge near Martinsburg, West Virginia, which built two years earlier, the Bonnie Branch Bridge in Howard County, Maryland and lastly, the Keeney Settlement Bridge in Cuyler, New York. The Crab Run and Keeney Settlement Bridges have been restored and repurposed for recreational use, while the Bonnie Branch is open for private use. Park’s Gap Bridge is still in use but features a three-layered Queenpost truss design with a Lane truss in the central panel. The company itself dissolved sometime after 1903, according to the Darnell Bridge Builder catalogue yet there is little information on both the company and Mr. Lane himself.

Portal view of the Hargrove Bridge in Butler Co., Missouri Source: J. Baughn

The Miller-Borcherding Truss:

While the Lane truss bridge was phased out after 1901, another company in Missouri, the Miller and Borcherding Bridge Builders of St. Louis altered the Lane and made it sturdier but easier to   disassemble and re-assemble. The company featured two different bridge builders- R.L. Miller, who had established a bridge building company in 1888, and Louis Borcherding, a German-born engineer whose firm merged with Millers in 1915 but lasted only two years. The Miller-Borcherding truss was developed using the remnants of the Lane truss. The Lane truss was altered by adding vertical beams which start at the lower chord and vertical post and end at the center of the end post at a 90° angle. Unlike the Lane truss, the Miller-Borcherding trusses design were fabricated using steel, just like with the original designs of the Pratt, Warren, and Howe designs that were being constructed during this time, and the joints were riveted, meaning the beams could be slid and molded together.  

Most of these bridges were constructed during the 1910s and 20s in Missouri, with many of them located in Butler County. Five of them were reportedly built, yet only one of them still exists to this day- an unusual 219-ft. two-span structure supported by a steel tower in the middle of the river west of Poplar Bluff, also known as the Hargrove Bridge. Built in 1917, the bridge was restored in 1999 and continues to serve traffic to this day. It is one of the most unique of the Miller-Borcherding truss bridges that can be found. All in all, a total of three bridges of its kind can be found today, counting the Hargrove Bridge. The Logan Creek Bridge in Callaway County is the oldest of the Miller-Borcherding trusses with a build date of 1911. This was perhaps the prototype that was built. It is abandoned. The Slagle Creek Bridge in Bollinger County is the last single span truss bridge in use. Another bridge in Cape Girardeau County was replaced yet the trusses were last seen leaning on the barn awaiting its fate.  

Cane Creek Bridge in Butler County, Missouri (now extant). Source: J. Baughn

Fazit:

While there were other truss designs that were developed or even modified with the purpose of using recycled materials, the Miller-Borcherding and the Lane trusses represent a more common example of this type of trend. With bridge building firms in fierce competition, combined with the rise in the price of steel, regions with a dense population but with enough financial resources were able to take advantage of the offers provided by them and were greeted with sturdy but sometimes fancy truss spans, using designs that were becoming more and more common for use: Pratt, Warren, Pennsylvania, Parker and Baltimore. The regions with a sparse population and with that, the lack of financial resources, were forced to either go with cheaper offers by smaller, less known bridge firms or had to resort with recycling the materials to be used for crossings. Both of these were done through local firms that only existed for a short period of time because of the competition. Yet these were the firms that designed and patented the bridge design for the purpose of making a crossing that is affordable to build and easier to disassemble and reassemble elsewhere. 

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Parks Gap Bridge in West Virginia. Source: Sewing Taylor (wikiCommons)

The idea of disassembling and reassembling trusses was later adapted with the introduction of standardized trusses beginning in 1910 with riveted connections. Yet the shortage of steel during the two World Wars and a Great Depression in between also led to the pinned-connected truss spans to be reused elsewhere on roads that were less traveled.  In any case, the idea of recycling materials was kept but at the cost of creativity as seen with the two truss designs presented here. The Miller-Borcherding and Lane Trusses represent one of the last examples of truss designs where creativity but with less use of materials, like steel, came together like bread and butter. And in today’s world of bridge building, both are left aside in the name of functionality, the mentality most engineers have, to ensure a crossing carries a road from point A to point B.

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 124

Photo by James Baughn

After a tumultous week, learning about the sudden passing of fellow pontist, James Baughn and preparing for a nation-wide lockdown in Germany, scheduled for next week, we’re going to feature one of James’ greatest bridge photos. His favorite historic is the Appleton Bridge, a wrought iron bridge built in 1879 and located at the Cape Girardeau and Perry County border. Washed away by floodwaters in 1982, the bridge was rebuilt in 2005 and has since been a fixture to the historic town of Old Appleton. The bridge is decorated annually and James caught a night photo of the structure in 2012 when the entire structure was lit and a Christmas tree was on the decking. It was one of James’ favorite bridges and he talked a lot about that and other structures in and around the region where he lived. Information and history of the bridge can be found here.

To answer last week’s Pic of the Week Question of where this bridge is located, the one I photographed, this was a covered bridge located in the village of Cantrill in Van Buren County, Iowa. The village has two covered bridges located around the pond at the city park. This area is lit every year for the holiday occasion, including 2014, when my family and I visited the area, during our US visit to my parents and brother in Minnesota.

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Despite the tragedy this week, the ballots for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards are finished and voting has taken place. Between now and January 22nd, you can vote for your favorite bridges in each of the four ballots, totalling nine categories.

There are four different ballots for you to vote.

Part one is Best Bridge Photo: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/12/06/2020-bridgehunter-awards-best-bridge-photo/

Part two: Bridge Tour Guide (US/International): https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/12/06/2020-bridgehunter-awards-part-2-tour-guide/

Part three: Mystery Bridge and Lifetime Achievement: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/12/07/2020-bridgehunter-awards-part-3-mystery-bridge-and-lifetime-achievement/

Part four: Best example of restored hisoric bridge, bridge of the year and best kept secret: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/12/09/2020-bridgehunter-awards-part-4-bridge-of-the-year-best-example-of-a-restored-historic-bridge-and-best-kept-secret-individual-bridge/

Each candidate has a link you can click on that features stories and photos of each bridge and each candidate. Due to circumstances that are unexpected (see Ballot Part 4) the voting has been extended to January 22nd and the winners to be announced on the 23rd.To honor James Baughn, there will be some changes to the upcoming Bridgehunter Awards for 2021. The announcement is expected in January. Already a fundraiser is being set up for a memorial fund honoring James; click here for details. Plans are to keep bridgehunter.com running but if you have any questions or to wish to help in any way, the contact details are in the link.

The Bridges of Frankfort, Kentucky

Singing Bridge. Photo taken by David Eads

Our next bridge tour takes us to the city of Frankfort. With a population of 27,600 inhabitants, it’s the capital of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the county seat of Franklin County. Frankfort is home to Fort Hill, an important post that played a role in the Civil War. It’s now a monument and park complex. The city is situated at the junction oft he Kentucky River and Benson Creek, and contrary to common beliefs, Frankfort was not derived from the name of the German city of Frankfurt but of Frank’s Ford, a crossing and salt mill that were established by settlers out of Bryan Ford (now Lexington) but was abandoned after an attack by the Native Americans in the late 1780s. The plot is across the river from the tract of land purchased by James Wilkinson in 1786 which later became known as Frankfort.

Our focus of the bridge tour is on the remaining truss bridges that span both Benson Creek and Kentucky River. Subtracting our bonus bridge at Devil’s Hollow Road, all but one bridge in Frankfort was built before 1895. The lone bridge built after that period was built in the 1920s and became part of a dual bridge crossing complex. When visiting Frankfort and its bridges, you will be amazed at what you will find there, including these crossings:

Photo by J. Parrish

Benson Creek Bridge at Taylor Avenue:

Built in 1881, the Taylor Avenue Bridge is the last crossing over Benson Creek before it empties into the Kentucky River. The structure is a pin-connected Whipple through truss bridge with Howe lattice portals and angled knee braces. Unusual for the pin-connected truss span is the square-shaped pin nuts used for connecting the truss beams. The bridge is the third crossing at its original site for the first crossing was a covered bridge built in 1871. Nine years later, it was moved to the Red Bridge site at Devil’s Hollow Road and an iron bridge was built in its place, using the abutments from the covered bridge. It collapsed before it was completed and was subsequentially replaced with the current span, even though it is unknown which bridge building company was contracted to build the structure. The Taylor Avenue Bridge served traffic until its replacement on a new alignment at State Highway 1211. The truss span was rehabilitated in 1996 and has since served pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge survived the 2010 floods, as water levels rose halfway up the truss span- miraculously without a scratch!

Photo taken by James MacCray

The Broadway Avenue Duo Bridges:

When traveling along the Kentucky River on Taylor Avenue, one will be greeted by the Whipple Truss structure. Yet he will be awed by this duo crossing complex at Broadway Avenue. It features two through truss crossings over the Kentucky River, but there have been five crossings at this place over the past 170+ years. The first two crossings featured covered bridge spans. The first crossing was destroyed by the Confederates during the Civil War in 1863. At that time, Frankfort was occupied but the Union troops later successfully liberated the city after it was held captive for over a year. The second covered bridge was washed away by flooding in 1867. It was decided that an iron bridge must take its place. The third crossing featured a multiple-span Fink through truss bridge. Built in 1868, it had served traffic for 30 years until a steel through truss bridge, the Pratt span with Town lattice portals, replaced it in 1898. Rail traffic had started using the Fink truss span until its replacement. It was then shifted onto the 1898 span. In 1928, the American Bridge Company built a massive, multiple-span crossing right next to the Pratt through truss span. It features two truss spans- a Pratt and a Pennsylvania, each with riveted connections. Rail traffic was shifted onto that span in 1929. The Pratt span was then converted to vehicular traffic and raised several feet to avoid flooding. The duo spans have a total length of over 600 feet across the river. Currently, the 1929 span is serving rail traffic, while the future of the 1898 span is up in the air. It has been closed to traffic and fenced off completely, yet given its unique history, especially in connection with the railroad, there is hope that the Pratt through truss span is rehabilitated and put to use in another life form- for recreation.

Singing Bridge
Photo by Elaine Deutsch

Singing Bridge:

The tallest and perhaps the longest single span truss bridge in Frankfort is the Singing Bridge. The bridge spans the Kentucky River and carries Us Hwy. 60 into the historic business district of the city. With a span of 405 feet long, it is the longest remaining span of its kind left in the country that was built by the Cleveland-based King Bridge Company. The bridge was built in 1893 and has been rehabilitated twice- the last one was in 2010. It’s a pin-connected Pennsylvania through truss bridge with Town Lattice portals and heel bracings. It’s unknown how tall the bridge is, but estimates point to somewhere between 25 and 40 feet tall. Sans plaque and gothic railings, the bridge still retains its unique feature- a metal grate girder, which makes a humming noise when crossing the structure. Hence the nickname- turned official name, the Singing Bridge. 😉

Photo by Elaine Deutsch

Red Bridge:

The last truss bridge featured here is the Red Bridge. It spans Benson Creek and is located seven miles west of Frankfort along State Highway 1005. The single-span, pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge, with Town Lattice portals and curved heels, was built in 1896 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, replacing a covered bridge that had been relocated to this site from the Taylor Avenue Bridge spanning the same creek. Interestingly enough, that covered bridge span replaced the first bridge that was also covered, but christened the name Belleport. That structure collapsed on April 30, 1880 due to flooding and was replaced with the second covered bridge from Frankfort. It remained in service until King built this span. In 1980, the replacement span was built alongside the truss bridge. Since then, it has been left standing and has maintained its structural integrity. It’s eligible for the National Register and there is hope that this bridge will be rehabbed and reused for pedestrian purposes.

To sum up the tour, five well-known truss bridges are worth seeing in and around Frankfort. While three of them are seeing some use, there is hope that the other two will follow suit in the near future. Each structure has a unique history that is important for the city of Frankfort, especially because of King and Fink. Yet even with the historical facts, it is up to the people to decide what to do with them. When looking at them, I really hope that people will see the value in these structures as I do, as well as the rest of the bridge community.

There is a facebook site devoted to these bridges which you can click on, visit and contribute. Check it out:

https://www.facebook.com/HistoricBridgesofFrankfortKY/

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Media Tip: Cleveland State University Album

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

The first Media Tip of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, and a first bridge book/genre in a long time, this tip takes us to Cleveland State University and to the Wilbur & Sara Ruth Watson Bridge Book Collection. This website was found by chance while searching for some bridge information and it’s one that is considered a jewel.

Dr. Sara Ruth Watson donated a series of rare books written and collected by her father Wilbur J. Watson to the Michael Schwarz Library at the University in 1983. Wilbur was a well-renowned civil engineer and bridge designer who founded the Watson Engineering Company in Cleveland. He authored several books including one that was produced together with her daughters, Ruth and Emily. The Emily M. Watson Endowment Fund was created three years later and focused on the collection of civil engineering works, including that of the Watson Company.

The Schwarz Library has recently been digitized with several works written by Watson on Cleveland’s bridges that can be found online. Yet this website features a gallery of photos collected by Watson during his lifetime, sixteen chapters worth with structures found throughout the US, Canada and Europe, including some in the southern and western half of Germany. They are categorized based on the chronological period of bridge construction, stemming from pre-1890, all the way to the 1920s. Feel free to access the site and the literature written by Watson, et. al.

Link: http://web.ulib.csuohio.edu/watson/albums/album11pg1.html