Interview with Greg Jackson Part II: The Brooklyn Bridge, the Roebling Family and Everything In Between.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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After talking about the podcast History that Doesn’t Suck (click here if you haven’t read the interview yet), we’re going to move on with the interview with Prof. Jackson about his masterpiece on the Brooklyn Bridge and the family that left their mark on its construction, from the planning to the realization of the historic landmark. Born in Mühlhausen in the German state of Thuringia, John Roebling had already established a reputation for his perfectionism and his inventions. He had already invented the wire suspension bridge and prior to building the bridge in Brooklyn, he had already left his mark with the Cincinnati-Covington Suspension Bridge as the longest of its kind in the world and the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls as the first suspension bridge with double-decking. Little did he realize that designing the Brooklyn Bridge was easy, building it presented more obstacles than necessary and after he died in 1870, the responsibility fell to his son, Washington and his wife Emily, who would complete the job even though the bridge opened in 1883.

This is just a summary. Yet the juiciest details would come in the form of a podcast Jackson created in June of 2021. It was then followed by a two-part interview with Dave Arnold and Kristen Bennett of Infrastructure Junkies in October. Both of these can be found in part 2 of the interview I did with Prof. Jackson. The first will start with the actual podcast which is enclosed below. It will then be followed by my questions and lastly, the two-part series by Infrastructure Junkies.

We hope you enjoy the show and will get an appreciation of how people come together to build a bridge that not only crosses a river but a landmark that helped America be what it is today. 🙂

And so, without further ado, here we go:

After listening to his podcast, here are the questions I had for him and his responses:

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1.      What got you interested in the topic on the bridge and with that, the Roebling family?

Well, the Gilded Age is often thought of as kind of a “downer” in US history. I wanted to tell some stories that highlighted the good in the era too. Among those, in my mind, are the magnificent construction projects undertaken in the time. I’d call the Brooklyn Bridge one of the most outstanding among those.

It also has such a compelling story in terms of its construction. It is Roebling family’s multi-generational work! The blood and tears in that thing (literally) makes it a compelling tale.

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2.      Have you visited any of the Roebling sites, including bridges, historic residences, and even the birthplaces including John’s in Mühlhausen, Germany?

Alas, I’ve only been to the Brooklyn Bridge. But you can bet I walked it, both ways, slowly, admiring every Roebling cable spanning the bridge and running into the anchors. 

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3.      Did you have an opportunity to read the novel by David McCullough on the Brooklyn Bridge or any of the works about the bridge?

I have read David McCullough’s most excellent history of the Bridge. In researching the episode, I also read Roebling biographies, histories of Gilded Age New York, Boss Tweed, looks at maps, plans, etc. Every episode is rigorously researched. It isn’t uncommon for me to have dozens of primary and secondary sources. If you visit my website you can see the sources I used in that episode (HTDSpodcast.com).

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4.       You mentioned a lot about the engineer John Roebling and his character in your podcast. What are two things that you know about him that many of us don’t know about him?

Two things most people probably don’t know about John Roebling: 1) he loved his family. He worked so hard and was such a serious person, I think this is lost sometimes. But under that tough skin was a loving heart, even if he failed to show it as often as he should’ve. 2) John wasn’t just an engineer, he was an inventor. Though I might say a successful engineer is and must be an inventor. I’m slow to speak to what engineers should do when I’m not one, but as a historian who’s studied a lot of engineers and their incredible works, I’ve noted that the greats don’t just build; they build things others said couldn’t be done: like the Brooklyn Bridge. Generations of Americans said it couldn’t be done. John never asked “if” a thing could be done. He just started figuring out the “how” on his own.

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5.    When John died from tetanus as a result of his foot injury, his son Washington took over. If you were to compare him with his father, what are some differences you can find between them in terms of their character, how they handled building the bridge, etc. ?

Both were brilliant men and excellent engineers. John was more stern in his demeanor. Washington displayed more emotional intelligence than his father.

Yet, John was the genius than Washington wasn’t. And I don’t mean that as an insult, I think “Washy” would agree with me. He was an excellent engineer, but if we reserve “genius” for the top 1%, the out-of-the-box thinkers, John is the one of the two who hits that mark.

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6.  Then there’s Washington’s wife, Emily. She basically took over when he fell ill and became bed-ridden. What role did she play in helping finish the bridge project?

Oh, Emily is a hero! She taught herself engineering so she could be the relay between her bed-ridden husband and the ground. She was the co-Chief Engineer in my book. 

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7.  There are some in the history community that say that Emily should have been credited for building the bridge, but in the end, Washington’s name was mentioned. Why was she fully left out and should there be something to honor her for she was Washington’s eyes and guidance?

Frankly, I think it’s a damn shame that the plaques on the Brooklyn Bridge listing the big shots who built it and made it happen do not list her. I think it should be updated.

The reason why she got left off … I have no sources that I’ve seen in which the decision makers explain their rationale. As a historian, I want those documents first and foremost. In their absence, however, I would say it is fair to speculate the reason comes down to US attitudes on gender roles in the 19th century. And I am all for her receiving the proper recognition she deserves in our present.

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8. Since the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, there have been improvements in safety standards regarding bridge building. Can you elaborate further on this?

Thankfully, John Roebling over-engineered it. The bridge was designed to hold far more weight than it was expected to. That’s why it didn’t need much change for the first few decades. But as the population increased and cars became a thing, concrete and steel-reinforced roadway had to be added in the 20th century. The bridge has been renovated (painted, cleaned, etc.) a number of times. Like anything you want to last, it needs care and attention. 

Though perhaps one of the most important things New York has done was simply building other bridges, which cut down on traffic and weight on the bridge each day!

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9. Last year, you did a two-hour podcast on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Roebling family through Infrastructure Junkies. Your original podcast was about an hour. What are some differences between the two podcasts? 

The key difference is that HTDS’s episode was the story of the Brooklyn Bridge told as a single-narrator. I got int the drama of the Roebling family a bit more and the intrigue of New York politics. With Infrastructure Junkies, not only was the story’s telling through a conversation, it was focused very much on the nuts and bolts (literally). Still a good time, just a different flavor.

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10. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Bridge Media and Genre?

Honored, of course! Thank you again for the acknowledgement. It’s always good to know one’s work is appreciated, and I’ll add that I was particularly proud of that episode. I really enjoyed it. I obsessed over getting the engineering details right. So getting a nod for my telling of the Brooklyn Bridge was great.

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11. Are you planning on doing some further podcasts on American bridges and if so, which ones? 

Likely going to do Golden Gate and Bay Bridges at least. Others … we’ll see!

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12. If you have some advice for people doing podcasts on bridges, what would you give them? 

I would say know your audience. Are you telling the history of bridges or the infrastructure? Not that they are mutually exclusive but figure out what your primary goal is and make sure your product matches your intentions.

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And now the two-part interview about the Brooklyn Bridge done by the crew at Infrastructure Junkies. Each part is approximately 40 minutes.

And before we close it on the series on the Brooklyn Bridge, we have one person to interview because of the book review on David McCullough’s work on the bridge. That will come in the next article. Stay tuned! 🙂

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Interview with Dr. Greg Jackson Part I: Why History Doesn’t Suck- The Creation of the Podcast

Teaching history is about the same as walking a tightrope. There are some subjects that are considered boring to many and the teacher who is presenting it may talk about it as if the content is dry, the passion is gone and it feels like a chore just to talk about it. For such topics, if one cannot find a creative way to at least entertain the audience and make it interesting, the teacher will be tossed off the tightrope and into a pool of boos and hisses.

Then there are subjects that teachers present that are very interesting and is taught in such a way that it brings the audience to their feet. Most of the time, by looking at one aspect that we don’t talk about on a regular basis, and by telling a story about it in a creative way, it will build an audience that will ask for more stories like that. It’s like telling a bedtime story with something that we’ve never heard of before but it is interesting to listen to.

This is where Professor Greg Jackson comes in. A professor of history at Utah Valley University, Mr. Jackson created such a set of bedtime stories about the history of the United States and focusing on the aspects we don’t talk about much, in the podcast “History That Doesn’t Suck” (HTDS). This bi-weekly podcast looks at certain areas of history and focusing on one topic of interest, turns it into an one-hour show which shed some light and some thought on how things happened the way they did. We have one example worth showing you in the Transcontinental Railroad (the first of a three-part series), which you can click on below:

From my own personal point of view, listening to HTDS takes you away from the stresses of teaching life, counting the daily commutes and traffic jams, into the unknown, where you just have one story teller who takes you on a tour of the past. It’s a perfect escape but you have the opportunity to take a bit of knowledge with you and this speaking from a historian’s point of view.

I had a chance to interview Prof. Jackson about his podcast on the Brooklyn Bridge and the family that built the first structure over the East River in New York City in the Roebling Family. I had a lot of questions for him about his podcast and the bridge, especially because his work landed him with the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards Winner in the Category Bridge Media and Genre. Therefore, I’ve decided to divide this interview up into two parts. Today we will focus on HTDS itself, while tomorrow we will get to the meat of the subject, which is the bridge that helped pave the way for the development of America’s infrastructure, which we know today.

And so, without further ado, here is the interview. Enjoy! 🙂

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Questions about History that Doesn‘t Suck (HTDS) in General:

1.      How long have you hosted the podcast HTDS?

4.5 years. It will be 5 years this October.

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2.      What was the concept behind HTDS? And in simpler terms, why the title?

To explain the concept behind HTDS I think I have to first point out that I’m a university professor. My professional life is dedicated to the study and teaching of history. To that end, I wanted to create an engaging, entertaining, yet academicallyrigorous way for Americans of all walks of life to be able to learn their history; the stuff that we should pick up in K-12 or general ed courses in college (and very well may have but could now use a refresher). So that’s what I set out to do. HTDS is designed to be––and I think and hope it is––rigorous as a dull textbook yet entertaining enough that you come to it for fun. That’s the sweet spot I’m going for.

Ah, the name! I went with “History That Doesn’t Suck” because even though I love history and do not believe it sucks at all, I know that, for many, formal education can suck the joy out of learning. I’m trying to conveying to that specific listener, to the person who thinks history is boring, that I get what their experience has been, but that it doesn’t have to be that way. History isn’t just names and dates. It’s real people and their stories. And with this podcast, you’ll get the latter.

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3.      Who’s your general audience?

I have a broad audience. The old school fans of all things history listen, sure, but per my goal, I’ve got a number of listeners who tell me they’ve always hated history until now. 

I have AP history students, college students, and homeschooling students listening. I also professionals listening, white and blue collar. People who just want to brush up on things.

I kids listening; have retirees listening.

I’m all over the place!

4.      Some history teachers and professors present their topics and they are boring. Yours provide some deeper insight with a little spice that garners attention and very positive feedback from the audience. How do you make the topics so interesting to the audience and what is your secret recipe for success?

Well, thank you for the kind compliment! The key here is easy to explain but hard to do: make history a story! No one cares about a name and a date until you bring it to life. So rather than bore you with the details of colonial taxation policy and mention that Patrick Henry was involved the fight, I take you into Patrick Henry’s fight. Show you his spirit. His Tenacity. And of course … the trouble he gets himself in. When I do that first, then I can tell you about colonial tax policy and you’ll care. Because you’re invested in Pat’s story. History teachers who do this day in and day out will find their students far more invested.

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5.      What topic presented in HTDS has become the most successful and talked about and why?

Oh, that’s hard to answer. I’d say the Revolution is a big hitter, but partly because that’s just where people start the podcast (at the beginning). Honestly, my audience doesn’t really cherry pick. I have consistent listens through the whole “story” of America that I’m telling.

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6.      What topics are you planning to present in the future?  They can include some on your wish list.

Well, since I conceive of this podcast more as an audio textbook delivered in story mode, I will continue from where I am now (Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency) right through the 20th century. I’ll hit all the major events. I’m really looking forward to getting to World War I though. I wrote my dissertation partly on it, so it will be rewarding to revisit the subject.

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7.      How many episodes have you produced to date? How many topics have you presented?

Episodes to date: Number 112 will come out in a few days. Topics … wew, that depends on how you break it down. A lot! The Revolution, the early Republic, slavery, women’s history, military history, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Indian Wars, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Gilded Age. Basically, if an event was important to US history and happened between 1754 and 1908, I’ve covered it.

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8.      Of which, how many have dealt with American infrastructure and of course, historic bridges?

The obvious answers are the Brooklyn Bridge and Transcontinental Railroad episodes but frankly,  I engage with infrastructure all the time! Infrastructure might not be sexy or glamorous enough for people to think about it (when they aren’t involved in it), but nations have to deal with at all times. Going all the way back to episode one, poor infrastructure (having to cut roads) is part of why George Washington lost to the french as a 22-year-old lieutenant colonel! Poor roads delayed the Constitutional Convention. The Industrial Revolution required and brought about more infrastructure. It’s littered throughout most if not all episodes.

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In tomorrow’s article we will take an in depth look at his masterpiece on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and with that, the life of the Roebling Family and how they turned a dream of a crossing in New York into more of a reality- a landmark that has become one of America’s prized treasures.

Interview with Sue Threader and Kate Castle of Rochester Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    a. Why was the restoration needed?  

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

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

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

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

A new roof was installed on the Service Bridge.

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

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    c. How was the bridge restored?

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

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    d. How was traffic impacted by the restoration project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    b. Sue Threader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    b. Sue Threader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That also.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sheepford Road Bridge in Pennsylvania to be Restored for Pedestrian Traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singing Bridge in Frankfort, Kentucky.

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2021 Bridgehunter Awards

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

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

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

Photo by Miquel Rossellu00f3 Calafell on Pexels.com

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

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The categories for this year’s Bridgehunter Awards include:

Jet Lowe’s Best Bridge Photo

Othmar H. Ammann’s Bridge Tour Guide

Mystery Bridge

Ralph Modjeski’s Lifetime Achievement

Eric DeLony’s Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge

And lastly, Bridge of the Year.

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

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

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

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New to the list of category include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2020 Bridgehunter Awards Part 4: Bridge of the Year, Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge

Photo by Math on Pexels.com

Before going to the fourth and final part, let’s have a look at the first three parts so you have a chance to vote in all them:

Part 1: Best Bridge Photo: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/12/06/2020-bridgehunter-awards-best-bridge-photo/

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

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

And now the fourth and final ballot of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, which features the categories Bridge of the Year, Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge(s).

Before voting you can have a look at the stories behind these candidates that are up for this award:

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

Photo by Royce and Bobette Haley

Meadows Road Bridge/ Northampton County Bridge 15 IN Northhampton County, Pennsylvania: This 162-year old stone arch bridge is the focus of preservation efforts because of its unique arches. It’s been listed as one of the state’s most endangered. More here: http://bridgehunter.com/pa/northampton/meadows-road/

Photo by James Baughn

Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge in Mankato, MN:  The longest bridge of its kind in the US and second longest in the world became a subject of rescue efforts as it was removed and dismantled this year. Now it will have a new home but in the same town.  More here: https://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/local_news/city-county-endorse-mankatos-kern-bridge-bid/article_dff6378a-2ea6-11eb-9c6d-cfb697a3dc5e.html & https://bridgehunter.com/mn/blue-earth/bh36213/

Photo by James McCray

Edmund Pettis / John Lewis Bridge in Selma, Alabama: The 80-year old, steel through arch bridge was a center of controversy throughout the entire year, as black rights activists have vied to have the name changed in honor and memory of Mr. Lewis, who died in July 2020: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/18/john-lewis-dies-renaming-selma-al-bridge-picking-up-speed-despite-opposition/

The Okoboji Bridge at Parks Marina in Okoboji, Iowa: Long abandoned for two decades, the bridge was feared doomed after floodwaters knocked the Thacher pony truss off its foundations in 2011. The bridge was saved and is now at Parks Marina- in Okoboji! Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/the-okoboji-bridge-at-parks-marina/

The Castlewood Bridge at Threshing Grounds in South Dakota: The Thacher through truss had once spanned the Big Sioux River until it disappeared- only to be discovered at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Rivers. Story here: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/castlewood-bridge-in-a-new-home-on-the-threshing-grounds/

Frank J. Wood Bridge in Maine: The three-span through truss bridge has been a center of controversy between those who want to keep the bridge (the residents) and those who want to tear it down (Maine DOT). Already the case is going through the federal courts. Missing is of course Judge Marilyn Milian.  https://www.facebook.com/FrankJWoodBridge/

Photo by Eugene Birchall

Bailey Truss Bridges: Designed using spare parts by an unknown civil engineer, Donald Bailey left a legacy in the remaining crossings that had once played a key role in ending World War II: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/10/16/wartime-bridge-the-legacy-of-the-bailey-truss/

Photo by Richard Doody

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona: 50 years ago, a millionaire bought a 700 year old arch bridge and relocated it across the ocean: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/07/why-an-american-bought-the-london-bridge/

Photo by Andrew Raker

DuSable Bridge in Chicago: One of the first drawbridges in the city, this bridge turned 100 years old in 2020. https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/05/21/dusable-bridge-chicagos-most-famous-turns-100-thursday-block-club-chicago/

Photo taken by S. Moeller. Public domain through wikipedia

Fehmarn Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany: The World’s first basket-weave through arch bridge got spared demolition after residents fought to save the structure for local traffic to Fehmarn Island, while a Belt Tunnel, carrying a motorway and railroad route is expected to be built  https://www.railwaygazette.com/infrastructure/immersed-tunnel-to-relieve-fehmarnsund-bridge/55939.article

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The next category to vote is the Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge. We have a wide variety of historic bridges from around the world that have been restored to their original glory. A link to an article for each bridge candidate is available for you to read before voting:

BEST EXAMPLE OF RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:

Photo by Ben Tate

Stillwater Lift Bridge in MN/WI: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/MNDOT/bulletins/28de42b

Photo by Roger Deschner

Rainbow Arch Bridge in Fort Morgan, CO: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/fort-morgan-historic-rainbow-arch-bridge-journeys-with-johnbo/

Photo by Patrick Gurwell

Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey: https://www.worldhighways.com/wh10/news/award-bayonne-bridge-project-us

Phtot by Daniel Hopkins

New Freedom Truss Bridge in York, Pennsylvania: https://eu.ydr.com/story/news/2020/06/26/historic-bridge-truss-restored-set-back-into-place-new-freedom-over-york-county-rail-trail/3263481001/

Photo by Alexander Kapp

Stone Arch Bridge at Yorkshire Dales, UK: https://www.cumbriacrack.com/2020/07/07/historic-bridge-is-restored-to-former-glory/

PLAKA
Source: Greek City Times

Plaka Bridge in Greece: https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/02/19/historic-plaka-bridge-is-fully-restored-after-extensive-repairs/

Phtot by Matthew Hemmer

King Bowstring Arch Bridge in Sidney, Ohio: https://www.sidneydailynews.com/news/187638/historic-bridge-dedicated?fbclid=IwAR3WfOy5PeXMo21Qi0OCHd_wlm4gpyolJvUTtGSs2vmQYqfuHdrO0vZ9pYY

No photo description available.
Photo by BACH Steel

Clover Ford Bridge in Shelbyville, Indiana: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=bachsteel&set=a.1958505750874080

Historic Skarfou bridge in Phaphos, Greece: https://in-cyprus.philenews.com/paphos-historic-skarfou-bridge-restored/

Caracau Viaduct in Romania: https://allgemeinebauzeitung.de/abz/hilfe-bei-instandsetzungsarbeiten-caracau-bruecke-in-rumaenien-saniert-40568.html

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And lastly, we have the category Best Kept Secret for an Individual Bridge. Although the candidates from America and Europe have been meshed together, the winners will be announced in separate categories- American and International. Here are the candidates:

BEST KEPT SECRET:

Sarto Swing Bridge in Louisiana: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/01/22/sarto-iron-bridge-in-louisiana-dave-trips-documentary/

Humpback Covered Bridge in Virginia: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/02/26/hyb-humpback-covered-bridge/

The Bridge at Skinkatteberg, Sweden: https://instaology.com/2020/02/04/under-a-bridge-in-skinnskatteberg/

The Bridge at Oakwood Cemetary in Syracuse, NY: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/15/oakwood-cemetery/

Singing Bridge in Frankfort, Kentucky: http://bridgehunter.com/ky/franklin/37B00065N/

Finland Railway Bridge in St. Petersburg, Russia: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/08/finland-railway-bridge-in-st-petersburg-tales-from-the-braziers-grotto/

Dömitz Railroad Bridge in Germany: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/domitz-railroad-bridge/

Jastrowie Bridge in Poland: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/05/26/jastrowie-rail-bridge-in-poland/

Stańczyki Viaducts in Poland: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/stanczyki-viaducts-this-two-abandoned-overpasses-are-among-the-largest-bridges-in-poland/

Simon Kenton Bridge in Kentucky and Ohio: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/29/what-a-day-it-was-the-inauguration-of-a-bridge-between-kentucky-and-ohio-transportation-history/

Sweetland Bedstead Truss Bridge in Iowa: https://bridgehunter.com/ia/muscatine/old-sweetland-creek/?fbclid=IwAR1_CXTCgwgSUM7WcCdPXoIJX2U6kyD3ifQrPEVlN4T4Wy3aSgZW6vKA3ls

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The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to apologize for the delay in getting the ballots out there for people to vote on. We learned that one of our fellow pontists, James Baughn, died unexpectedly on Sunday the 6th while he was hiking. He was only three weeks shy of being 40. Mr. Baughn was the webmaster of bridgehunter.com for almost two decades, having compiled tens of thousands of bridges in the form of photos, information and history, thus making it the largest web database in the United States and second largest in the world behind structurae.net, based in Düsseldorf. A tribute has been written in his memory, which can be seen here. It includes the interview I did prior to his death.

A memorial is being created to honor James for his work with bridgehunter.com. This includes plans to continue with the website to ensure that people can contribute photos, stories and other information on bridges in the US. For more information on how to contribute to the fund, click here for details.

Therefore, to make the voting process fair, the voting will end on January 22nd at 11:59pm your local time. The winners will be announced a day later. In his memory and to honor him, there will be some upcoming name changes for the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards, which includes a new category. The announcement will be made once the winners are announced in January.

And now, without further ado, let’s make Mr. Baughn happy. Go out there and vote! 🙂 ❤

Update on 2020 Bridgehunter Awards

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Taking you Back 10 Years

Ten years and counting. 🙂 Tomorrow will be ten years ago that the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles was launched. To mark the occasion, the Chronicles will be providing you with the top 10 articles that were posted from 2010 to date. Between October 11th and January 31st, 2021, the Chronicles will feature the Top 10 in the categories of Bridge Tours (both US and International), Mystery Bridge, Bridge Photos courtesy of the Author, Bridge Photos taken by other pontists, Individual Bridge Stories and other cool bridge facts that were discovered during the Chronicles’ first decade of existence. Most of the past published articles will accompany the new posts, so that readers have double the fun reading up on the bridge stories from both the past and the present. They will appear both here as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook and twitter pages.

The 2020 Bridgehunter Awards:

Reminder to all that are interested, entries are still being taken for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. Between now and December 1st, you can submit your bridge photos, people who have dedicated their work towards restoring historic bridges, and bridges that were either restored and/or deserve international recognition. Information regarding the categories can be found here. Please submit your entries by clicking here. Photos can be sent to: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Voting will commence afterwards with the winners being announced in January. It will use the same online platform as in the previous years with Poll Daddy/ Crowd Signal.

Because of the Corona Virus and the resulting restrictions of movement and activity, entries are open for not only candidates from this year but also in the previous years. That means for example, if you had a bridge photo that was taken in 2017 and not this year, feel free to enter it in this year’s competition. If you have any questions, etc., please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles.

One more thing:

The 10th Anniversary celebrations will continue into 2021. Aside from the Corona Virus, which has impacted practically every aspect of life, 2021 will mark the 10th Anniversary of the Bridgehunter Awards. The first awards were introduced in November 2011 under the name the Othmar H. Ammann Awards. It has gained international fame ever since. The Author’s Choice Awards were introduced at the same time. The Bridgehunter Awards replaced the Ammann Awards in 2018, yet the categories have remained the same. Some stories and other items involving the Awards will come in the next year.

For more bridge stories, especially as we go through the years, subscribe to the Chronicles both here as well as through twitter, facebook and instagram. There will be many bridges to talk about, not to mention the candidates for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And with that, stay healthy and happy bridgehunting. 🙂

2020 Bridgehunter Awards: Something New

Reading Owl

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- In connection with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ 10th anniversary, there will be special events going on throughout the year, taking a look back at the 10 years of informing the public about the importance of historic and unique bridges, as well as helping groups get the word out on preservation projects, and providing news coverage and tours of historic bridges. One of these is with the upcoming Bridgehunter’s Awards, originally known as the Ammann Awards, which will be hosted in its 10th year.

The first and most important aspect is that entries will be accepted between now and December 1st for the Bridgehunter’s Awards. Normally entries are accepted between October and December, with voting to commence during the holiday season until January, when the winners are announced. As this year marks the 10th anniversary of both, the Chronicles will accept entries early to allow people a chance to submit their bridge(s), bridge photos and/or people actively engaged in saving and restoring historic bridges. The Awards is open to all, both in North America as well as internationally (Europe, Asia and beyond) and the winners are given in the categories of Best Bridge Photo, Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge, Bridge Tour Guide, Mystery Bridge, and Lifetime Achievement. Information on the requirements under each category can be found in the Chronicles’ menu page or you can click here.

Two new categories are being added for this year’s Bridgehunter Awards. The first one is for Best Bridge Genre/Literature. Here, the Award will be given out for any literary work and/or historical book pertaining to bridges. Examples that are acceptable include novels, like The Bridges of Madison County, history and tour guide books, like the book on The Bridges along Route 66. Also acceptable is poetry devoted to bridges. Even one’s own work can be included, although personal reference to the work is required in order to avoid any issues of plagiarism or copyright violations. Some of the works in the running will be profiled prior to the start of voting in December. The first book profiled for this year will come in February of this year.

Another category runs along the same lines as the Tour Guide of Bridges in a City or Region. Also new for the Awards will be the Lost Bridge Tour Guide. In this category, only tour guides of regions where historic bridges had been plentiful before they were replaced but now only a couple to no historic bridges exist. Again, like in the Tour Guide, the candidate will be profiled in the Chronicles before the vote. Photos and small text on each (lost) historic bridge are a must. Existing articles from other sources are acceptable- preferably via wordpress but will accept non-wordpress articles as well.

Please submit all entries for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details below. Get the word out to the (historic) bridges world- the Chronicles turns 10 this year and this year will be a great year. Don’t forget the deadline of December 1st for all entries for the Bridgehunter Awards. Best of luck to all and Happy Bridgehunting until we meet again.

 

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Bridgehunter Awards for Lifetime Legacy Post Humous: John F. Graham

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John F. Graham lecturing at the 2010 HB Conference in Pittsburgh. Photo taken in August 2010

When I first met John Graham at the 2nd annual Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh in 2010, my first impression of him was that he was a conservative, dressed up as white collar worker, but a man of detail and experience.  It was John F. Graham who came up with a concept of augmented reality for structural analysis of bridges.

Augmented reality is a computer term that I had recently collected some general information on through a pair of presentations in an English for IT class at the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany. It basically analyses the inner portion of structures to analyze problems and find solutions. It had been introduced for medicine for identifying tissue damage in humans, making a precise diagnostic and recommendations for improving the body damage where the damage occurred.  Yet could Augmented Reality work for infrastructure, such as bridges?

Red Jacket Trestle after its reconstruction. Photo taken in 2012 by John Marvig

Apparently according to Graham, it does. In theory based on trial and error combined with experience, Mr. Graham at the conference showed that augmented reality can identify structural deficiencies inside bridge structures, through the use of special sensors, and make recommendations for fixing them. This latest technology would save money and prolong the life of the bridge, especially after the structure is rehabilitated. Evidence in praxis was shown with the Red Jacket Railroad Trestle south of Mankato, Minnesota later that year, for the Minnesota DOT was in charge of rebuilding the trestle after floodwaters undermined one of the piers, forcing officials to remove the deck plate girders while watching the stone pier collapse. In the other piers, structural weaknesses were identified to a point where the piers were reconstructed to resemble the original. The restoration ended in 2011.  Other rehabilitation projects involved this type of technology which saved costs and opened the doors for reusing historic bridges.

Hot Metal Bridges in Pittsburgh. Photo taken in 2010

Mr. Graham’s presentation based on this concept was one of many aspects that will make him a person who was conservative but reasonable when it came to the decision of rehabilitating bridges that were an asset to the area and replacing those that deteriorated beyond repair. He was a true Pittsburghese, having been born in the Steel City on 2 April, 1936 and studied civil engineering at Carnegie Tech (today known as Carnegie Mellon University. For most of his career, he was Director for Engineering and Construction for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, a position he held until 1989. During his time, he was responsible for the rehabilitation of hundreds of bridges in and around Pittsburgh, including the Sister Bridges, Sixteenth Street and the arch bridges at Fort Pitt and Fort Dusquene, just to name a few. He also had to replace some, like at Sutersville and Coraopolis, according to Todd Wilson, a civil engineer who knew him well during his days at Carnegie Mellon. Mr. Graham in 1978 pushed for and supported legislation that would allow the Federal Highway Administration to allocate the 90:10 funding ratio, whereby state and local governments would only bear 10% of the cost for rehabilitating or replacing the bridge, the former Graham championed and led to the prolongation of the lives of several of Pittsburgh’s bridges. Legislation continued this 90:10 ratio and prioritized rehabilitation until the Minneapolis Bridge collapse in 2007, which resulted in more radical measures to replace bridges. To the end, Mr. Graham continued advocating for identifying and fixing deficiencies in the structures, claiming that they were cost effective and would save on the use of materials needed for new bridges. Indirectly, it was a plus when identifying the historic significance of the bridges.

In 1989, Mr. Graham became the Director of Capital Projects for the City of Pittsburgh, where he oversaw the construction of the Pittsburgh International Airport and other related construction projects, including the Southern Beltway. He later worked for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and later taught engineering classes at Carnegie Mellon. He even operated his own civil engineering firm, where he was responsible for several projects, including the infrastructure for Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team. Much of the work in the greater Pittsburgh area has Mr. Graham’s name on it, and his unique conservative approach to bridge engineering will be remembered, even as people cross several of Pittsburgh’s restored historic bridges, of which he’s left a mark in at least half of them.

John F. Graham died peacefully on 14 March, 2019 with his daughter Wendy and her husband Marc by his side. In the last two years of his life he lived with her and her family in Philadelphia, which included her two sons. He was preceded in death by his wife, Kay.  Mr. Graham was a true Pittsburghese and one who left a mark in Pittsburgh, the US and beyond, especially for his work in the field of civil engineering. Therefore, for his work, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is awarding him and his family Lifetime Legacy Post Humus with a big thanks for his contributions. Because of him, we have found many creative ways to make bridges safe and maintain its integrity instead of replacing them outright, a concept that does more than waste money. It impacts the environment negatively because of materials used that are dwindling and non-renewable.

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2019 Bridgehunter Awards Results- Podcast

Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing, Iowa: Winner of Bridge of the Year. Photo by Roger Deschner

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Detailed recap of the results of the 2019 Bridgehunter and Author’s Choice Awards via podcast. Please click here     to listen.

Results of the 2019 Bridgehunter Awards here.

Results of the 2019 Author’s Choice Awards here.

 

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