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:
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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…… =>
Calls are being given to all drivers to obey weight and height limits on bridges after historic bridge collapses in Nova Scotia, Canada
CANSO (NOVA SCOTIA), CANADA/ REDWOOD FALLS (MINNESOTA), USA- Government officials on local, state and national levels are urgently calling on truck drivers to beware of weight and height restrictions on bridges before crossing. This includes crossing bridges with overhead coverings, such as through truss bridges and covered bridges, but also light weight bridges and underpasses.
This is in response to an incident that happened yesterday in the town of Canso, in the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia. There, a semi truck tried to cross the Canso Truss Bridge, a riveted Pratt through truss bridge connecting Durell’s Island with the main land. The truck made it halfway across the structure when the decking gave out and the trusses folded like a deck of cards, sending the truck and the driver 7 meters into the water. The driver was taken to the hospital for injuries. Another person who guided the truck onto the bridge got off before the collapse happened. A video and a link to the article about the incident is below.
The bridge, which was the main link to the island was scheduled to be replaced because of its age and structural obsoleteness. Workers had been doing some prep work for a new bridge built alongside the nearly century old structure. A temporary crossing is in the works, yet ferry service has been made available for the island’s residents.
The incident came as officials in Redwood and Renville Counties in Minnesota recently installed “headache” bars at another historic bridge. The Gold Mine Bridge is a Parker through truss bridge spanning the Minnesota River at county highway 17 near the village of Delhi. It was one of two known surviving works of German engineer- later politician, Lawrence H. Johnson, who built the structure in 1903. Truck drivers have reported to have crossed the bridge despite it having a five ton weight limit. Currently, nearby bridges at county highways 6 and 101 are being rebuilt. A bar with the height of 8.5 feet (2 meters) has been erected at both ends of the bridge and a speed limit of 10 mph has been enforced.Truckers needing to cross the Minnesota River are urged to use the Hwy. 71 and 19 Bridges at Morton.
Bridge collapses as a result of disregarding weight and height restrictions are nothing new, for an average of 25-30 bridges worldwide have either been severely damaged or totally destroyed- a third of which come from the United States and Canada. Truckers have complained of being dependent on the GPS system and finding short cuts, yet part of the problem stems from the lack of education, in particular math and sciences, that has become important for all businesses in general. Truckers need it to understand weight and gravity, but also to calculate the difference between convenience versus safety. Other factors like working conditions with poor pay must also be taken into account. While many are annoyed that these bridges have restrictions and signs are needed to inform them, as one engineer stated in response to a collapse of another historic bridge in Iowa in 2017: Signs are there to save lives.
Tips on how to avoid areas, including bridges, that are restricted can be found in an interview done in 2015, which you can click here.
Author’s note:This is the first podcast since the move and features all the events that happened over the past 2-3 weeks. The most current version of Newsflyer (for the week of August 5th, 2019) will follow.
This 108th mystery bridge provides us with what is left of a historic bridge that should never have been destroyed. As of 30 January, 2019, this bridge is no more. During the night, a truck driver was using his GPS device which took him to this bridge: The Dale Bend Bridge.
What do we know about this bridge?
It spanned the Petit Jean River on the same road bearing the bridge’s name, approximately 12 miles north of the nearest town of Ola, in Yell County, Arkansas. The bridge was a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and V-laced vertical beams. According to the records, the 120-foot long structure was built in 1930 by the Vincennes Bridge Company in Indiana. Yet the date of 1930 seems to be a common number used to describe the bridge date, when in all reality, the structure is much older. Research has proven that pin-connected trusses, characterized by its beams being fastened by bolts, were phased out in favor of riveted or even welded truss bridges by 1915, for reasons that all state transportation departments created standardized truss designs, which were supposed to be sturdier and better able to carry increasing traffic in numbers, size and volumes. That means, truss designs with pinned connections were considered obsolete for reasons that they would no longer able to fulfilled the aforementioned standards. Yet during the 1930s, existing pinned connected truss bridges that used to serve main highways but still had some use left were relocated to secondary roads which were less traveled. There, they would serve a “second” life until they were considered obsolete and were either replaced or converted into recreational trails.
The Vincennes Bridge Company existed from 1898 until its reorganization in 1932, when the name was changed to Vincennes Steel. It continued to operate until it was folded into the Wabash Steel Corporation in 2006. The plaque on the bridge’s endpost had the following inscription: Built by the Vicennes Bridge Company, Vicennes, Ind.
That means between 1898 and 1915, the Dale Bend Bridge was built, originally. The question is where? And when was this truss bridge relocated to its current spot?
While we won’t know now because of the destruction of the bridge, it would be a benefit to provide a closure to the fallen structure so that a memorial plaque is constructed at the site where a new bridge will soon be built.
Note:The Dale Bend Bridge collapsed on the night of 30 January, 2019 at around 8:00pm. A truck driver drove his semi-truck across the bridge until the trailer was lodged into the truss span itself and the structure collapsed completely. He escaped unhurt but was later cited for reckless driving and destruction of property. Both the truck and the bridge were considered a total loss. The bridge had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for eight years prior to the tragedy.