Ultimate Restorations Documentary: The Story of Workin Bridges and the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge.

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Jim Schiffer of Schiffer Group Engineering (left), Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges (middle) and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel (right)

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HOLT, MICHIGAN/ GRINELL, IOWA-  The long-awaited documentary by Ultimate Restorations on historic truss bridge restoration is now available for viewing at www.ultimaterestorations.com or Amazon Prime. Featuring the 1874 Springfield Des-Arc Bridge, an historic King Iron Bridge Co. bowstring truss in Conway, Faulkner County, Arkansas, the two episodes document how an engineer, craftsmen, two nonprofits, a city, county and state worked together to save a rare historic bridge in the USA. Local screening are also being scheduled.

Bach Steel of Holt and St. Johns, Michigan provided the iron restoration expertise. The craftsmen, Nels Raynor, Derek Pung, Brock Raynor and Lee Pung put their backs into this project from riveting to pack rust removal, repairing splice plates, lifting and resetting old iron. Jim Schiffer, PE of Schiffer Group Engineering, Traverse City, Michigan. (SGI) worked with Bach Steel to detail the repairs. SGI also engineered the caissons by request from Julie Bowers at Workin’ Bridges who just didn’t want to see another concrete abutment for the historic truss. “These are the kinds of projects we relish. The reuse and preservation of durable cast and wrought iron and steel, that are still serviceable with a little coaxing, to recreate elegant functional forms that the communities can enjoy is really fun. These are the projects that we enjoy applying our technical experience and training to bring to successful completion.” stated Jim Schiffer after viewing the video. Though you don’t see him in the site work, without his engineering neither Workin’ Bridges nor Bach Steel would be able to act on these jobs.

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Working with the City of Conway and Faulkner County, the planning and iron work for the restoration of this bowstring took well over a year after lifting it from the North Fork of the Cadron River. The bridge was restored and reset at Lake Beaverfork in August of 2016. The project began, however, with a site visit in 2010 to discuss the potential of the oldest road bridge in Arkansas, also a King Iron bridge. The project required the aid of the Prof. Kenneth Barnes, then a director of the Faulkner County Historic Society to continue raising the awareness that this vintage bridge needed help. Many of these stories can be seen on the video.

Bach Steel has worked on over 40 historic bridge projects across the country, winning awards for their work in Texas, Michigan and Arkansas since the 1990s. “The Springfield Bridge tells a story of one of the projects that we started with Workin’ Bridges in 2010 and it took years to fund it. There are so many bridges across the country that can be restored but it takes political will, our engineer, money and us to get it done….and big cranes!” stated Nels Raynor at the shop in St. Johns.

Ultimate Restorations produced the shows out of the bay area. Producer Terry Strauss along with Executive Producers Bill Hersey, Loren Lovgren, and Bob McNeil have documented the restoration of some of America’s beloved treasures. “The story of this bridge is what Ultimate Restorations is all about. The vision to save the iconic pieces of our history that would otherwise be lost, plus the skills, passion and talent to bring them back to life. Walking over that bridge, is like being told a story, reminding us of who we are and where we’ve been.” said Terry Strauss, who directed the film in Arkansas. More info at www.ultimaterestorations.com. You can view the Ultimate Restorations episodes on our bridge restoration as well as the full Season 2 of Ultimate Restorations on Amazon Prime with 1874 Des-Arc Springfield Bridge Part 1: Moving Day and Part 2: Another Hundred Years at https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07ZZZJ8D5/ref=atv_dp

Photo by Wayne Kizzar

One of the red-carpet premieres of Springfield Bridge documentary will be at 2 pm on Sunday, November 24, 2019 in Burlington, Iowa at the restored Capital Theater. Community screening dates are also being pursued in Conway, Arkansas, Lansing / Traverse City, Michigan and Grinnell, Iowa and will be announced soon.

Questions and screening requests can be addressed to Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262 –  jbowerz1@gmail.com. You can access more information on the web at www.workinbridges.org and on Facebook at Workin’ Bridges,  www.bachsteel.com and on Facebook at Bach Steel and www.schiffergroup.com. Restoration photos can be seen at Springfield Bridge on Facebook where the process was also documented.

 

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Feature Video: The Bridges of Venice

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By Livioandronico2013 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Back in January 2018, I posted a guest column on the bridges of Venice, Italy, taken by a travel blogger, who discovered the many hidden sites of Venice that are worth seeing, as a person visits the bridges along the Grand Canal and other waterways that make the city famous. A video was posted recently on the same subject, yet the focus was on the bridges themselves, filmed from all angles including the surroundings.

To give you a better idea of what to expect from the bridges of Venice, here’s the nine-minute video which will give you more than enough reasons to go to Venice. Enjoy! 🙂

 

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Spectacular Bridge Falls- The Top 10 and Film

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In connection with the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, a couple of videos came to mind that I came across recently. Prior to the disaster, there has been a debate as to determining which bridge disasters should be in the top 10, for there are several sources that have their own set- be it in terms of history, natural disasters or even structural failures. Here are a couple examples of bridge disasters that feature the top 10 prior to the Genoa disaster. The first one focuses on disasters in terms of structural failure combined with history.

 

This video focuses on natural disasters and bridge failures, originating from Russia…..

Now here is the homework assignment for you: How would you rank your top 10 bridge disasters? What criteria would you set before finding your ten best examples? Would your focus be on the international stage or would you prefer local examples? And would you agree that your top 10 would be based on natural disasters, structural failures, both or neither of them?

Have a look at the videos and then look for your top ten bridge collapses. You may comment here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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Bunker Mill Bridge (almost) Completed

The Bunker Mill Bridge at the end of its completed restoration project. Photo courtesy of Scott Allen
The Bunker Mill Bridge at its Endspurt of the restoration project. Photo courtesy of Scott Allen

With New Decking installed, Bridge can be crossed again- Final Phase of work to begin; More financial help needed to complete the final touches.

KALONA, IOWA-  On 13 August, 2013, the same weekend as the Historic Bridge Weekend, a group of people set fire to a unique historic truss bridge spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, a product of the King Bridge and Iron Company. When Julie Bowers and members of the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge purchased the structure from the county, the bridge was a mere steel skeleton with no where to cross. Fast forward to March of this year, the new decking has been added to the bridge and one can cross it once again for the first time in a nearly three year absence. A pair of videos by Julie Bowers shows you how the bridge has come a long way from almost being condemned to the wrecking ball to one that will soon become part of a bigger recreational project, including all the fine print involving owning such a historic landmark:

Despite the decking being added, there is still work left to be done with the bridge. A press release by the group shows you the details of the progress, what is next with the project, how much money is needed to complete the last phases and how you can help put the final touches on the project. The press release includes some photos and a cool video provided by Nels Raynor of BACH Steel showing how the new decking is being added. Here’s the release as of 4 April 2016:

Photo by Scott Allen
Photo by Scott Allen

In a stunning development, the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge® newly appointed officers decided on April 1, 2016 to leave the group managed and funded by NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges. Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA, was informed of their decision on Saturday at Bunker Mill Bridge by Henry Swantz. While we applaud their efforts to start a new non profit company to work with the bridge, under advise of counsel, until they are recognized as such, with the solid financial and insurance backing that they need, their efforts with the bridge ownership are over, and the representatives to our board from FBMB – Doris Park and Scott Allen gave up their rights as board members”, stated Julie Bowers. “I’m not sure they realized what they were doing when they decided to leave but we’ve seen this before when people that are working together get a title. However, the executive director needed more official help and it seemed to be a good time for that change. The new officers appointed were Travis Yeggy, President and Scott Allen, Executive Director, Mike Riddle, VP, Doris Park, Secretary and Irma Altenhofen, Treasurer. With the consent of the core group they decided to go rogue. They didn’t want to stand behind the binding legal agreements and promises held by NSRGA and FBMB. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges (W’B) is the legal owner and contractor for the project and will continue to work the bridge project as money and scheduling permit.

We are hopeful that the new non profit will work to find collaborators within the county and region to build a bigger and better park for northern Washington County. NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges will donate $1000 to help get them started. We will not use any of the $1680 in donations that recently came in for bridge construction for that. W’B is really geared to be interim owners of bridges, and our insurance is realized because of the experts that we use to engineer and restore our bridges. This bridge was to be the first to become one of our bridge parks. Once the Bunker Mill Project is complete, we hope to have many conversations on it’s future. We’ve found, especially with this project, that we need to keep construction separate from the friends groups and local politics. Most friends groups don’t have the expertise to pull off such large and expensive projects, that is why the county allowed us to take on what they didn’t want, because we had those credentials. This is our mission, to preserve historic bridges and greenbelts, and with our growth we are pleased to be able to help an Iowa bridge.

Workin’ Bridges, in an effort to move the project forward in January, encouraged the group to reach out for donors. W’B invested $21,000 in materials and roughly $20,000 in labor for BACH Steel to bring the bridge this far, after their donated time installing stringers. Bowers wants people to understand that while we have come a very long way towards our goal of “Crossing the English”, we are not there yet. Another $30,000 will be required for repair of rail on the approach and the new railing system on the bridge. A wing wall for the south approach is being designed and engineered, and once ready we will bid that work. The north approach, while it held the weight of the JCB, has more spongy planks now. Funding will drive the schedule for completion. Portal gates will be installed on the bridge in order to keep those interested in the project safe until it is finished. We don’t want anyone falling off the bridge in their excitement. The bridge was engineered for recreational use, a maintenance truck, horses and buggies and people for the future, but it is limited in what it can do. The easements were acquired for the preservation and protection of the bridge only.

Each of the easements, Miller, Ehrenfeldt and Stumpf have different requirements. The Millers wanted nothing on their side, the Ehrenfeldt’s wanted no trespassing signs posted but no fence to keep folks out of their land. In the Stumpf easement, the area was vacated by the county in 2013 to Mr. Stumpf in order to grant us that last easement. At the time and in a meeting, the area was staked out and none of our easement touched Nutmeg Avenue. He has asked us to limit the access of folks coming from the north directly onto his property. Just yesterday someone came out at 5 am to try to walk over the bridge and that made us realize that the bridge park must be controlled more, and that was one of the areas that FBMB was to be working on before they voted to leave the services that we have provided behind. Stumpf has put an offer on the table for a purchase the “Catholic 40” as it is commonly known. Our binding agreement with Stumpf allows for a gated fence that will help us define the park boundaries on the south side. He would also allow the gates open for our regular Tuesday events (that won’t take place this summer) and for special events or visiting Sundays for the Amish. There is no further road vacation needed which only came out on discussions with Stumpf that should have happened years ago. Our south side friends that have enjoyed the bridge and the road will be able to continue to do so. We hope to see them in the middle soon, but in the meantime we have to go back to work to make more money to finish the job. Donations made to FBMB will continue to be tax deductible and if they flood in the schedule will move up. NSRGA has reached out to the Natural Heritage Foundation of Iowa, part of the Land Trust Alliance to help us define what a park would look like and what signage and posted hours need to be. Other groups would also be interested in a collaboration and if partners can be found for a REAP grant, the area could be managed the state DNR as we know the County Conservation Board is not interested in managing a park near Kalona.

Questions can be directed to Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges at jbowerz1@gmail.com or 641.260.1262.

And when the Sixth Day was completed, came the Seventh Day, the Day of Rest. And Life was good and the People were happy. Photo by Scott Allen
And when the Sixth Day was completed, came the Seventh Day, the Day of Rest. And Life was good and the People were happy. Photo by Scott Allen

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Hulton Bridge Brought Down by Explosives

Hulton Bridge Brought Down by Explosives

Oakmont loses historic icon via implosion amid protests.

PITTSBURGH/ OAKMONT- There are demolitions of historic buildings and bridges that are justified because of their derilect state and safety concerns. While options of rebuilding are viable, the removal of safety hazards with no options left are logical.  Then there are demolitions of these historic structures that defy logic and break barriers of resistance of locals and agencies wanting to save them because of their potential reuse.

For the Hulton Bridge, named after Jonathan Hulton, one of the first settlers of Oakmont, the demolition of the 1909 historic bridge not only defied logic, but also challenged Chuck Yeager’s sound barrier record in terms of opposition by locals, historians and preservationists.

The bridge was imploded today, dropping all but one of the five pinned connected through truss spans into the Allegheny River. This happened just three months after the opening of its replacement span to the north. Workers wasted no time removing the decking and setting the bridge up for the planned implosion, ignoring last minute pleas to save the bridge.

The plan to replace and then remove the historic bridge was a quick and systematic process, where despite its unique design and construction history, both the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the State Historic Preservation Office agreed to declare this bridge non-historic.

This led to outcries of foul play from locals and preservationists alike, claiming, as Nathan Holth stated in his bridge profile in HistoricBridges.org, the rejection of its national historic status was part of the plan to streamline the process of replacing the bridge.

Photo taken in 2014 by Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Had the Hulton Bridge been declared eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Laws would have been enforced, forcing the state to look at options to keep the bridge intact once the new bridge opened. The 1544 foot (471 meter) long bridge featured four 260 foot long Parker trusses and one 508 foot long Pennsylvania petit through truss span with bedstead portal bracings resembling the letter X.

A similar design was found in the Donora-Webster Bridge, before the bridge was brought down in July of last year.  Despite protests, PennDOT proceeded to initiate the project, even ignoring the proposals to save the bridge- and this despite its rehabilitation done in 2000, where bridge parts were fixed and the entire structure was painted lilac.

With the Hulton Bridge gone, only the C.L. Schmitt Bridge at New Kensington and the West Mifflin-Riverton Bridge are the two remaining multiple-span through truss bridges left spanning the Allegheny River outside Pittsburgh. Yet given PennDOT’s track record of systematically destroying historic bridges despite opposition to the plan, these two bridges may be gone soon as questionable reasons will be found to justify the decision to take the structures down.

There are two ways to stop them: Have local governments or a private party take over the structures and work to maintain them, or protest the draconian policies to tear down the bridges in front of the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg. But that can be done if more people are actively involved in the efforts-

and have a will to learn more about the historic bridges and their role in the development of the transportation system in Pennsylvania and the US. Right now, the interest is more for football and Facebook. When they will take interest remains open.

Here are the clips of the demolition of the Hulton Bridge:

 

 

The Oakmont Historical Society, whose members are currently mourning the loss of their historical icon, produced a documentary of the Hulton Bridge, which includes tours across the bridge. Enjoy this 30+ minute documentary below:

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Film Feature: The Building of the Fehmarn Bridge in Germany

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In the past 5-7 years, we have seen an increase in the number of films and documentaries that were either produced by public TV stations for live viewing, or had been produced years back but were recently discovered and posted on several video platforms, among them, YouTube. Many of them feature structures that are well known on a regional scale but not as well-known on a national or even international scale. Therefore, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will feature a Film Feature looking at the structure, either in terms of construction and/or significance or in some cases, disaster which engineers can learn from. Most of these film features will be placed under the page Literature of the Week under the subcategory Films and Documentaries, although a separate page is being considered, should the Film Feature receive numerous views and other accolades.

FEHMARNSUNDBRÜCKE/ FEHMARN BRIDGE:

While digging up some information on ways to save this bridge, I came across a documentary produced over 50 years ago on this important crossing. The Fehmarn Bridge connects Germany with Fehmarn Island and is part of the Migratory Route connecting Hamburg and Copenhagen. Built in 1963, the bridge was the first one in the world that used a now-very common construction type- the basket handle tied-arch bridge. The bridge is one of two major centerpieces at the center of one of the biggest controversies in Europe, where the German Railways, German Government and the Danish Government are pushing for two tunnels and an expressway through the island of Fehmarn. However, the plan has been met with stiff opposition from politicians, locals, evnironmentalists and even bridge enthusiasts. More on the story can be found by clicking on the links below:

The Fight to Save Fehmarn Island from Progress (Flensburg Files)

Fehmarn Bridge (The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles)

But if there was another reason why such a project should be reconsidered has to do with the motive behind building the Fehmarn Bridge in the first place. The bridge was supposed to provide a key link to the island with the option of including ferry service from the island to Denmark, yet as small and environmentally sensitive as the island is, the roadway was reduced to only two lanes- the railroad line, only one track. It took 5-6 years to construct this important crossing, and this with all the factors involved: weather, wave currents and environmental factors which led to some careful efforts to build a structure that will last, but will little impact on the island. Here’s the 48-minute documentary looking at the construction of the bridge from start to finish. Even though the language of the film is in German, the film and photos speak more volumes than what is mentioned.

Viel Spaß beim Anschauen des Filmes! 🙂

To conclude this film feature, I would like to show you another film of the train trip to Fehmarn Island via Fehmarn Bridge. By even looking ahead towards the bridge and crossing it, it gives vacationers like me another incentive to visit the island. For many, it would be a first time to explore this place of beauty. For those like me, it would be a second at least, loving the island and the bridge more than the first time. 🙂

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