This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to a familiar bridge but whose setting taken by the photographer raises some eyebrows among pontists and photographers, especially those who are experts in night-time photography. This photo, taken by Danny Crelling, features the twin spans of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, just after the sun left the horizon and dusk was settling in. Unique about the suspension bridges here is the lighting. The bridges are illuminated with yellow lighting that reflects off Pudget Sound, something we don’t see much of these days. The reason: The high-pressure sodium lighting is being phased out in favor of LED lighting and its neutral white color.
When we look at the history of lighting, we can see not only the development with the use of materials needed to illuminate the lighting, but also the color the lighting illuminates. Incandescent lighting had a light brown to beige color. Mercury Vapor had a emerald green to light blue color. Magnesium had a light pink color. But high pressure sodium had a color of yellow to orange illuminating on the streets. Invented in 1956, it was introduced on the streets in 1970 and by 1990, all the towns in America were illuminating in bright yellow. It had a warm appeal for some, but for others, especially if they are utilized in industrial settings, it had a dystopian appeal which reminds me of the film released in 2011 entitled In Time, with Justin Timberlake. A trailer can be found here and it is highly recommended.
This twin suspension span will have its sodium lighting replaced with LED in the near future, as they have several advantages. First and foremost, LEDs produces less energy than its predecessors. They are brighter thus providing more security for homes and businesses as well as safety for motorists. And lastly, the colors can be adjusted either for a special occasion or to please the residents who prefer to have a good night sleep with a low light setting.
Aside from the brightness issue, the colors can be depressing, even when some communities have adjusted the color to having a purple or dark yellow setting. And the new fixtures are not being accepted warmly by many who, like me, have taken a liking to the fixtures that were produced by GE, Nemo and Westinghouse and are sure that these LED lights could actually be fitted into these fixtures. A pair of videos will show you some examples.
Nevertheless, the photo of the bridge here represents a good example of how colorful our night settings have become- nothing all yellow and dystopian but one where we can see the many different lighting in action. Whether this will continue to be the case in 10 years’ time when the last of the sodium bulbs are phased out completely depends on how communities and highway agencies will operate the LEDs and whether the people will accept them. One variable that will remain constant though, the history and unique design of the suspension bridges, especially as they were built as successors to Galloping Gertie and were the focus of a documentary which came in second in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge Media and Genre. For more on that, click here. Gertie’s successors, built in 1950 and 2007 respectively, continue to serve traffic to this day and like its history, these two bridges will be around for years to come.
The Flensburg Files has an English activity that ties in the history of street lighting and grammar. Enjoy the history and the exercises when you click here.
In our last installment in the series paying tribute to the winners of the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge Media and Genre, we look at the Great Bridge, the novel itself, by David McCullough. In June 2021, Essy Shapiro Dean wrote an extensive book review on this 500-page work of art, focusing on the bridge and serving as the springboard to the podcast that would be produced by Greg Jackson in October the same year. It was one of the series she wrote about the Brooklyn Bridge, as this structure has been part of her life.
I had a chance to interview her about the book review to learn more about the book and her connection with the bridge. Some of the answers will surprise you as the reader. Before you proceed with reading the interview, check out the two book reviews she did on the Brooklyn Bridge: The one by McCullough (click here) and the one by Tracey Wood called The Engineer’s Wife (click here). If you are still not so sure about the review, let alone the interview questions, I would read the books themselves. You will be amazed at the hidden treasures each book presents to the reader.
Enjoy the reviews and the interview that is presented:
1. What is your personal connection with the Brooklyn Bridge? Have you visited the bridge and if so when?
My grandmother first took me on the bridge when I was about five. I’ve walked across it several times and I never get tired of it. I’m looking forward to doing it again in 2022. Now, the East River has always been one of my favorite walking spots, and I always spend time looking at the bridge and how it was built. Emily Warren Roebling has also become one of my favorite historical women in recent years.
2. There are dozens of materials about the Brooklyn Bridge, but you decided on the book by David McCullough. Why did you choose this book?
I had wanted to read The Great Bridge for a while. It first piqued my interest when I had to read another David McCullough book, 1776, for school. At the time I was fifteen and the minutia detail McCullough included bored me, so I didn’t read it. Then last year, for the anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge on 24 May I decided to make it a whole Brooklyn Bridge weekend on my blog, and this book was a part of that. I also wanted to read a nonfiction about the building of the bridge, which I haven’t done since I was a child.
3. Have you met Mr. McCullough in person?
No, I’ve never met David McCullough.
4. If you were to make a summary about the book, how would you describe it?
It’s the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge with lots of minute detail that I now revel in.
5. What points in the book should the reader pay attention to?
The actual building, the problem-solving that had to happen, how much of a force Emily Warren Roebling was after her husband, and the chief engineer of the project, Washington Roebling, was unable to come to the building site.
6. What points in the book did you find interesting?
The points that I found interesting are the same as what I’d want future readers of the book to pay attention to.
7. What points can you mention that were quite difficult to read? Why is that?
I don’t think any of it was particularly complicated to read. The hardest bits were probably the nitty-gritty of spinning the wire for the cables, and trying to visualize various engineering processes, some of which I definitely got lost in.
8. On the scale of 1 to 10 (one being the best), how would you rate the book and why?
I usually rate my books on a 5-point scale (five is best), so a bit of conversion is needed here. I also have a hard time rating nonfiction. Probably somewhere between a three and four, maybe three and a half. I really liked it, but the book as a whole wasn’t something I loved. I love the things Emily Roebling stood for and that she took on so many of the tasks Roebling could no longer do.
9. Who would you recommend the book to?
Those who like nonfiction, New York City history, American history, building or want a good story.
10. If a person starts reading the book, what advice would you give to him/her?
Try not to get too bogged down by the minutia details, it’s McCullough’s writing style. The actual story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge is one of family, women taking a place in a man’s world, happiness, anger, struggle and success and is the type of story that can create great nonfiction.
11. Any future book reviews, especially on bridges, that we should look forward to?
There are book reviews going up on my main blog two to three times a month. I’m not sure about future reviews, that have to do with bridges, but during the anniversary weekend of the Brooklyn Bridge opening in 2021 I reviewed a historical fiction book about Emily Warren Roebling called The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood.
Thank you for answering the questions and also congratulations! 🙂
To summarize, we have six people that deserve recognition for winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Bridge Media and Genre. We have David McCullough for writing the 500-page biography The Great Bridge, Tracey Wood for writing about Emily Roebling in The Engineer’s Wife, Essy Dean for reviewing both and writing extensively on the Brooklyn Bridge in her column, Greg Jackson of History That Doesn’t Suck for the extensive research on the Roebling family and creating a very interesting podcast and lastly Dave Arnold and Kristen Bennett of Infrastructure Junkies for interviewing Jackson in a two-part series. Both can be found in an article and podcast here. Sometimes it takes a team to go into detail on how a structural wonder, like the Brooklyn Bridge and make it a work of art. The bridge is interesting not just as a civil engineer or historian, but also for everyone who wants to know how America was developing as a country during the Guilded Ages and how it has developed in terms of the country’s infrastructure, bridge building and American culture in general. The Brooklyn Bridge symbolizes America in a way that when you think it, when you design it and when you have the stamina to build it, you can make it a work of art for others to use and to take pride. When I cross the bridge next time when visiting New York, I will think of not only the Roeblings for actually building the bridge but the winners of the 2021 Awards for bringing the history to light, right down to the wire cable. 🙂
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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! 🙂
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OZARK, MISSOURI- When I first became involved with Christian County’s historic bridges back in late 2010, we were at the beginning of a renaissance- a renaissance where our country was becoming more aware of the importance of historic bridges, and there were numerous exchanges of ideas and success stories on historic bridge preservation. The public was beginning to wake up and whenever they heard about a historic bridge that was targeted for demolition and replacement, they stepped forward to halt the plans and worked together to save these precious structures, those that played key roles in the development of America’s infrastructure and with it, bridge engineering. Myself, together with fellow pontists Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth, Bill Hart and the late James Baughn worked together with Kris Dyer and the organization to save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, first restoring it onsite in 2012 and then after flooding caused damage two years later, relocating the bridge and restoring it at its new home at Finley Farms in 2020. The preservation movement gained a lot of support among the community and the county that they never forgot how important the Riverside Bridge really was to them- and still is today.
After a double-success story which garnered a two gold medals in the 2012 Ammann Awards and three silver medals in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards, plus several other awards, there is hope that the Riverside Bridge story could be spread to three other bridges in Christian County. As mentioned in last week’s BHC Newsflyer podcast, three historic bridges are slated for replacement, though it is unknown how the county will fund these projects, let alone when they will be replaced remains open.
Which of these bridges are targeted for replacement? Three remaining “wild” truss bridges- bridges that are either open to traffic still or have been abandoned for only a few years, waiting for repairs or replacement so that the crossing is used again. The only common variable: Like the Riverside Bridge, these three were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio. Specifically they are as follows:
Location: Finley Creek on Smyrna Rd. NE of Ozark
Bridge Type: Pin-connected Pratt through truss with A-frame portal bracings
Dimensions: 281 feet long (main span: 119 feet), 11.8 feet wide, vertical clearance: 14.8 feet high
Date of construction: 1912; rehabilitated in 2004 & 2017
The Green Bridge is one of only three through truss bridges left in the county and also the last of the single span truss bridge. Like the Riverside Bridge, its portals feature the typical markings and the bridge builder plates with the name Canton on there. It’s one of the tallest in the county and one where even a train could cross it. It’s narrow enough that only one truck and one person could be on the bridge at the same time. This was my personal experience visiting the bridge with Ms. Dyer and a friend (and former high school classmate) of mine and his family. The bridge is situated in a natural habitat surrounded by forests on both sides of Finley Creek. A beautiful place for a picnic or a photo opportunity.
The Hawkins Ford Bridge is one of those mystery bridges, whose case needs to be solved before its ending as a vehicular crossing. It was relocated here in 1966 but no record mentions where its origin was. We just know that Canton built the structure in 1915 and that’s it. The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and even though there are claims that justify its end of life, the bridge still has a chance at a new life for because of its bridge type, there are many ways to save it. The bridge is quite popular among locals, as you can see in the photos in bridgehunter.com.
Location: Bull Creek on Red Bridge Road south of Ozark
Bridge Type: Three-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections
Dimensions: 255 feet long in total (longest span 85.8 feet), 11.5 feet wide
Date of Construction: 1915; Repaired in 2005
The Red Bridge was built at the same time as Hawkins Mill but like the Green Bridge, it is located in a heavily forested setting and is a very narrow crossing- narrow enough that only one car and one person could fit, side by side. If there is one bridge that would need to be completely rebuilt, it is this one because of the piers that have been crumbling since my visit in 2011.
All three bridges are considered elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but given Canton Bridge Company’s good track record with the county, let alone the company’s agent, these three structures should be on the National Register. In fact, given the fact that also the Riverside Bridge and Ozark Mill Bridge, now standing side by side at Finley Farms, have not been listed yet, there should be a historic bridge designation with the purpose of not only protecting them but also making them a tourist attraction, as it is being done with the covered bridges in Lyndon, Vermont (as mentioned in the most recent podcast).
The bridges at hand here are no longer suitable for modern-day traffic and according to Christian County Highway Commissioner Miranda Beadles, the new structures would be two-lane to allow for all traffic to use them, especially emergency crews, school buses and utilities. But the county has expressed interest in saving the structures and is open to all options, including giving them to a third party. The question is what options are available? Here are a few worth considering:
Leaving them in place
This option has been practiced where historic bridges could be in place alongside the old one. For the three bridges, there is the option of making a park/rest area on the bridge, integrating them into a bike trail crossing, converting them into a fishing pier or leaving it as is. Advantage is that the relocation costs would be subtracted and the cost would only be allocated for repurposing them onsite, including the cost for the parking area and possible lighting. Plus it would allow for easier and quicker listing on the National Register. The drawback is the costs for ensuring that the bridge is not a liable risk. That means repairs to the structure, esp. with the Red Bridge, plus security and flood protection would be needed. But for this option, it is the most popular avenue for historic bridge preservation.
This was done with the Riverside Bridge already as Finley Farms purchased the structure and financed the restoration project. Normally relocating a bridge takes a lot of money, not only for the cost of disassembly and reassembly, but also the transport and the construction of the abutment and decking. In the case of the three bridges, there is the question of where to place them, though Ozark would be the best spot for these structures, be it as a city-wide bike trail network where these bridges would be showcased, or a bridge museum and/or park near the Finley Farm complex, or an open space where the bridges could be displayed and a new park would be created. That option would depend on the availability of space in town but most importantly, the interest in the community in this endeavor.
Integrating the historic bridges into the new structure
This practice is being done with several historic bridges, including the Route 66 Bridge at Bridgeport, Oklahoma, which will be considered the largest ever. And even though all three bridges would benefit from this “reconstruction,” including the National Register listing, the county has made it clear that the new structures would be two lanes, thus making Hawkins Ford and Red Bridges eligible, and the Green Bridge would be left out, its future unknown.
The current status is as follows: the three bridges are scheduled for replacement but the county has not given up on them just yet. They are looking for ideas on how to reuse them. The interest is still there to save them. The question is how. The Riverside Bridge has shown us that when there is the interest and the way to preserve a historic bridge, nothing will stop it from making it happen. While the Missouri Department of Transportation has been literally busy working on replacing every single historic bridge on the map, competing with Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin for the title of the first truss-bridge-less state in the country, there are some counties in the state and those along the Route 66 Corridor that do not subscribe to MoDOT’s point of view. The end of a bridge’s structural life does not mean the bridge must be torn down and replaced. And newer structures designed to last 100 years have turned out to have lasted a quarter of that time. With global warming and its disastrous implications on our environment, we have to rethink the way we preserve and replace bridges. We have to appreciate how bridges are built and make use of what history offers us by preserving what is left and using the playbook to build those that are adaptable to change and conform to the environment surrounding it. Truss bridges have played a pivotal role in doing both- as a bridge type that fits with nature and a bridge type that withstands floods and other natural disasters.
And this is where we return to the three bridges of Christian County and their futures. How should they be preserved? If you have any ideas, here are the contact details of people with whom you can share your ideas and ask more about them.
Then you have the following contact details of the Christian County officials:
Highway Administrator – Miranda Beadles firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian County Commission
100 West Church St., Room 100
Ozark, MO 65721
The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the three bridges and their futures, which are currently up in the air. Will they be saved and if so, how and which ones will benefit? All options are open at this point.
Located on the River Mulde between Leipzig and Dresden is the city of Grimma. With a population of 28,700 inhabitants, Grimma is geographically located at the junction of the flat lands to the north and the hills and lakes region to the south. The name is of Sorbian origin and means a region that is at or below sea level, surrounded by water. The city has had its share of flooding in its 1000+ year history, but for each disaster it faces, it emerges bigger and better than before. It has survived six floods plus the bombings of the second World War only to become a more attractive community for people to live. Much of Grimma’s architecture today either originates from the Baroque period or mimick’s that because the original was destroyed. Grimma’s city center has many small shops in historic buildings that are over two centuries old. The historic city hall is one of them. The largest building in the city is the St. Augustin, a combination of high school and chuch located along the Mulde. To the south of the city near the dam is the castle, where the Margraves of Meissen and the Electors of Saxony once resided. Grimma is the largest city along the River Mulde in Saxony and is a major stop for cyclists riding along the Mulde. In terms of land size, it’s the fourth largest in the state of Saxony. And when it comes to bridges, Grimma has a storied history behind two of the city’s most popular attractions.
Eight bridges within a radius of 10 kilometers can be found in Grimma, including the Motorway 14 Bridge and a bridge south of Grimma at Grossboden, all but two spans the River Mulde. Yet the most important of the city’s bridges are the Grimma Suspension Bridge and the Poppelmann Arch Bridge because of its history of being rebuilt after each disaster and also because of their unique designs. These two bridges, plus an arch bridge along a former railroad line, the arch bridge at Grossboden and the Mill Run Bridge will be featured in the Top Five Bridge Pics when visiting Grimma. The other bridges will be mentioned in one way or another in reference to the bridges profiled here in this tour guide.
So without further ado, let’s have a look at the bridges in Grimma and find five bridge reasons to convince you to visit this fine community.
Poppelmann Arch Bridge
Location: Mulde River at Volkhausplatz and Muldenufer
Type: Stone arch bridge with tubular steel arch main span. Five arch spans exist.
Built: 1719 replacing earlier spans dating back to 1292. Rebuilt seven times, the last being in 2012
Length: 143 meters, 7.3 meters wide
The Poppelmann Bridge has perhaps one of the most storied histories of bridge building not only in Saxony, but on the international front. Its first crossing dates back to the 13th Century. Counting the reconstruction in 2021, it has been rebuilt at least ten times in over 900 years of its existence. It was built and rebuilt using at least five different bridge types: arch bridge, covered bridge, metal truss bridge, suspension bridge and modern beam bridge. It is also considered one of the most ornamental bridges in Saxony, as today’s bridge is covered with ornamental lighting, and has a Baroque-style shield representing Saxony. To go into detail about the bridge would require a separate article but there is a book that was written about this bridge that was published in 2017. But to give you some facts about this bridge:
The bridge in its current form was constructed in 1719 by Mathias Poppelmann. It was the fourth crossing at this location as the previous ones were destroyed either during warfare or flooding. For almost a Centruy before Poppelmann built this bridge, there was no crossing and attempts to garner support had failed. Mr. Poppelmann had left his signature in bridge building in Saxony, which included not only the construction of the Augustus Bridge in Dresden, but also the Poppelmann design, where the covered bridge is the main span and the approach spans are made of red stone arch. Dozens were built in Saxony during his time as bridge engineer, yet sans covered bridge, only two of his examples exist today, here and in Waldheim. The Poppelmann Bridge in his current form had existed for over 170 years with the covered bridge having been rebuilt in 1816, three years after it was destroyed during the war with Napoleon.
In 1894, in response to the increase in traffic, the bridge was rebuilt. The covered bridge was replaced with a Schwedler pony truss span while the arches were strengthened. It was in service until the span was imploded by the fleeing Nazi troops on 15 April, 1945. It was rebuilt with an improvised suspension bridge right after the war, but was replaced with a deck truss bridge two years later. The bridge was extensively rehabbed in 1972 which included a permanent deck truss span. It remained in service until 1996 when the bridge was rehabbed again, this time with a concrete deck arch center span. At the same time, a taller span was constructed, located 100 meters north of the structure, which has been serving traffic ever since. The historic bridge was reopened in 1999 but little did the City of Grimma realize that a flood of biblical proportions would cause massive destruction to much of the city and this bridge.
On August 13, 2002, massive floodwaters caused extensive damage to the bridge. The newly built center span was dislodged from the bridge and was washed away. The two arches that had supported the main span was damaged to the point that they were not salvageable. The bridge was rebuilt from the bottom up, rebuilding the arches that could be saved and removing the ones that were not. A new center span, featuring a tubular arch design, was chosen as its replacement. On August 12, 2012, after a three-year project, the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and cyclists. It survived the 2013 floods unscathed, while other areas to the north of Grimma was affected the worst.
Today’s Poppelmann Arch Bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists and is conveniently located next to the parking lot that accommodates visitors to the shopping center and sports complex. The Poppelmann Bridge is the best accessory to Grimma’s city center as it presents a backdrop to the historic buildings that exist on the western side of the river, including the St. Augustin and the historic City Hall.
Location: Mulde River at Colditzer Weg and Bärenburg Castle
Type: All-steel wire suspension bridge
Built: 1924, rebuilt in 1949 and again in 2004
Length: 80 meters
The Grimma Suspension Bridge can be easily accessed by both car as well as through the Mulde Bike Trail as both run along the river. The bridge itself is the longest suspension bridge in Saxony and is one of six suspension bridges along the Mulde/ Zwickau Mulde. The suspension bridge is a photographer’s paradise as it presents a beautiful backdrop from both sides of the river. On the west side of the river is Bärenburg Castle located on the hill. Two eateries and a hotel are located nearby. On the east end is nothing but nature as the city park and forest cover much of the eastern side of the Mulde. The bridge is located 30 meters from the dam and one could find a perfect side view from that area, with or without the dam. The bridge is unique as the entire structure is all built using steel. The roadway is supported by Warren trusses which even curves around the western entrance. The cables and suspenders are all wired and pin-connected. The towers have three different portals with a V-laced bracing at the top, followed by vertical beams and lastly an A-frame portal bracing whose bottom endpost extends to the bridge deck. It’s one of the most ornamental of bridges in Saxony, competing with the likes of neighboring Poppelmann Bridge, the Blue Miracle Bridge in Dresden and the Paradiesbrücke upstream in Zwickau.
The bridge has survived a bombing attack before the end of World War II as well as several flooding events, among others, in 1954, 2002 and 2013. It has been rebuilt twice: in 1949 and again after the flood disaster in 2004. Repairs were made in response to the flood damage two years earlier and the bridge reopened again in 2015. Located near the dam, a memorial was erected in 2006 that was dedicated to the Great Flood in 2002 with people who risked their lives to save many others, some of which were profiled in newspapers and magazines.
Rabenstein Railroad Bridge (now extant)
Location: River Mulde south of the Grimma Suspension Bridge at the Rabenstein Observation Point
Type: Metal Through Truss Bridge
Built: 1876 (first crossing); replaced in 1931; destroyed in 1945; removed afterwards
When biking south along the Mulde bike trail, one will find piers and abutments of a bridge that once existed. The Rabenstein Bridge was built as part of the construction of a rail line that connected Grimma with Grossboden. The original railroad station was located adjacent to the market square. The original span, built in 1876, featured a two-span Schwedler through truss with skewed portal bracings. How the portals looked like remains unclear, but post card photos reveal how the end posts are skewed at the piers.
Because of the increase in rail traffic and the structural weakness of the bridge, the spans were replaced by multiple-span Warren through truss bridges in 1931, built with riveted connections and with I-beam portal bracings supported by heels. All but the easternmost span were imploded in April 1945 by the Nazis in an attempt to slow the advancement of Russian and American troops from the east. Grimma came under Soviet control and eventually became part of East Germany by 1949. Because of chronic material shortage, rail lines and bridges deemed expendable were removed with the steel recycled and reused for other purposes. That was the case with the rail line as it was relocated to the western side of the Mulde and up the hill making the original line useless. A new station at Leipziger Strasse near the city center was constructed which still operates to this day. The tracks of the old line and the remaining span were both removed in the 1960s, though when exactly it happened is unknown. The Mulde Bike Trail now uses the track remains along the eastern side of the river.
Mulde Bike Trail Arch Bridge
Location: Small hiking path near the Grimma Dam and Suspension Bridge
Type: Stone Arch Bridge
This bridge is hard to find, unless you happen to hike the trails in the city forest on the eastern side of the River Mulde. It is unknown who was behind the design and construction of this short crossing, which is no longer than 10 meters long and 3 meters high, but it was once part of the railroad line that had passed through Grimma until 1945. It’s now a rail-to-trail that is part of the Mulde Bike Trail. When going under the bridge towards the dam, one must pay attention to the mud that exists, partially because of the water run off from the hills into the river, 30 meters away.
Location: Mulde River near Grossboden
Bridge Type: Eight-span stone arch bridge
Dimensions: 142.5 meters long, 22.5 meters wide
As a bonus, one should drive 6 kilometers south along the Mulde to this bridge. This bridge is easy to photograph as there is plenty of grass land on the eastern side of the river which makes it perfect for a photo with a heavily-forested background. The bridge is located only two kilometers from the train station in Grossboden, which serves train traffic to this day between Leipzig and Freiberg via Grimma and Wurzen. The bridge is the first roadway crossing over the Mulde north of the confluence between the Zwickau and Freiberg Mulde at Sermuth. Not far from the bridge is an abandoned railroad bridge made of girder spans.
Grimma is a quick stop for a visit, with many possibilities to satisfy travelers for a good hour or so. If you are a pontist, the city has two historic bridges with a storied history in the Suspension and Poppelmann Bridges and three more bridges whose history belongs in the books and are worth a visit. It’s a junction between a well-traveled bike trail and some well-travelled highways. Speaking from experience of spending a couple hours there with my family, Grimma is worth the stop no matter where you go. 🙂
Author’s Note: A Biography on Mathias Poppelmann will appear in the next year as the author is currently collecting some bridge examples that were built by the engineer, namely the Poppelmann Bridges with the combination covered bridge with stone arch approaches. If you know of some postcards, photos and other information on these bridges, feel free to use my contact form (here) and send it over. Thank you for your help in this matter. 🙂
News has been going around about the demolition of the Prince Alfred Bridge in Gundagai, Australia, for 40 years of abandonment has led to deterioration to a point where rehabilitation is impossible and the structure is hazardous. Little do we realize that Gundagai had not only one viaduct, but three!
To summarize, after the construction of the original wooden viaduct to accommodate the Hume Highway in 1867, another wooden trestle was built by the American Bridge Company in 1902. The trestle, which accommodated railroad traffic for many decades featured Howe lattice deck truss spans, and over the Murrumbidgee River, a combination of a Parker through truss main span and steel girder approach spans. The railroad trestle curved under the Prince Alfred Viaduct before crossing the main river. These two bridges ran parallel until the Sheahan Viaduct was constructed in 1977 and traffic was shifted from the Prince Alfred onto this bridge.
To get a better idea what these bridges looked like, I’ve enclosed two videos that show the tour of all three in Gundagai. Each one contains some information and photos about the bridges and why they were constructed. It serves as a memorial for the Prince Alfred which is being torn down at the time of this release. The project is expected to be completed by December. Yet it also honors the other two in hopes that some day, they will become a monument that will depict the toil and tears needed to build something this long and this high over an area that is prone to flooding.
So without further ado, sit back and enjoy the two films. 🙂
These bridges are in the running for the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards under the categories Endangered TRUSS and Bridge Tour Guide International. 🙂
This next Mystery Bridge takes us back over the border to Czechia and to this forest, located near the village of Misto. Lara Vajrychová found this bridge while hiking. It spans Prunéřov Creek deep in the Ore Mountains, located six kilometers southeast of the German-Czech border near the city of Chomutov. The bridge is a stone arch span, but the way it was constructed puts its date way back- at least 200 years. Vajrychová mentioned that it could have been built in the Middle Ages, which means at least 500 years ago! There’s no archeological work that was done on it, and even if so, it was probably long since forgotten. Had the bridge been used as a horse-and-carriage path, it was bypassed by bigger roads to accommodate other vehicles a century ago.
Judging by the appearance of the bridge, it has maintained its structural integrity , although some erosion is noticeableon one end. Unlike some bridges that were built using this limestone, in particular the Eger Bridge, which is currently the center of controversy between demolition and restoration, this one has remained stable with only vegetation growing on it. It is doubtful the bridge will be removed for any reasons except for collapse. And even then, it is quite easy to rebuild if one knows how to do that.
Given its natural setting, the bridge is a perfect scene for a fairy tale, something that has made Czechia famous after having produced numerous fairy tales for the past 50 years, including Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, produced in 1973. Nevertheless, the bridge has absolutely no history behind it, let alone the information on its design and dimensions. Regardless of that, it should be preserved for years to come.
If you know more about this bridge and would like to share it, feel free to do so. The forum is open to comment. The author would like to thank Lara Vajrychová for allowing use of the photos and hopefully there will be some people wishing to share their stories behind this bridge.
Sister column The Flensburg Files has a tribute to the actress who played Cinderella (Aschenbrödel), who died in June of this year. Read the tribute and if possible, watch the film. It’s perfect for the holiday season. ❤ Click here.
On November 7th, 1940, a suspension bridge spanning the Narrows in Tacoma, Washington, collapsed into the water. The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge had opened to traffic four months earlier and right away, it was nicknamed Galloping Gertie because of the roadway easily swaying by the high winds. It would not be until 1950 when the second Tacoma Narrows crossing was built connecting the island with the city. While the first crossing was later dismantled, much of the bridge remains were left in the water, only to be left alone……
A crew of divers took a trip to the Tacoma Narrows to see what was left of Galloping Gertie, now part of the natural habitat, and producers at Vester Media and Our World Films have released a documentary, looking at the suspension bridge then and right now.
700 Feet Down was released on July 27th, 2021 and can be available via online TV channels such as Amazon Prime or AppleTV. Its primary focus goes beyond the mistakes made by building a bridge laden with structural flaws; it looks at the bridge remains that have become part of a larger natural habitat and addresses environmental themes that surround the area. The 45-minute documentary looks at the bridge in the past, the tragedy, and why much of the bridge remained in the water. It features some of the forms of flora and fauna that have made the remains of Gertie home for many years. While Gertie is talked about a lot in physics and engineering classes, this documentary features another side of Gertie that should be discussed in environmental studies class, as some of the effects of global warming and overfishing/ hunting have already left its effects in the area. The documentary brings together all the elements that will have viewers talking about it, and hopefully take action.
There are links to the film for you to look at. They include the following:
Located along the River Rhine northwest of Duisburg in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the town of Wesel, with a population of 60,200 inhabitants, is one of the towns in Germany that had been scarred by the history of conquest. It had been captured by the Spanish in 1590, then was the focal point of a tug-a-war between the Spaniards and the Dutch until the French captured it in 1672. The Prussians entered the picture in the 17th Century only to fight with the French over the city for the next century. After the Battle of Waterloo and the subsequent fall of Napoleon in 1813, Wesel became part of Prussia, which later became Germany with the unification of several small states and kingdoms and the ratification of the treaty in 1871. The town was a strategic point for weaponry during World War II, which made it an easy target for attack by the Allied Troops. After three different bombing attacks on February and March of 1945, the city was reduced to rubble; the population was reduced from 25,000 inhabitants in 1939 to only 1,900 by the end of World War II in May 1945.
Despite some of the architecture that withstood the test of time, much of Wesel has been reconstructed to its former glory since the end of World War II, with a newly rebuilt market square and cathedral, as well as Berlin Gate. Yet one can find some ruins of the city that had once been fortified but was one of the key industrial ports along the lower portion of the Rhine River.
This includes a pair of bridges that spanned the river. Both spans had been built before 1900, yet their fate landed in the hands of German dictator Adolf Hitler, who ordered every single bridge along the Rhine and its tributaries to be blown up after Wesel was sacked by bombs on February 19th. The railroad bridge that had existed north of Wesel was the last crossing over the Rhine before it was detonated. The bridge remains are still visible to see. The roadway bridge was rebuilt using a prefabricated truss design, and it lasted for over 60 years until it was replaced in 2009. The history of the two bridges and their fates will be summarized here. It includes video of the two bridges to give you an insight on what they had looked like prior to and after1945.
Wesel Railroad Bridge:
On 1 MArch, 1874, the Wesel Railroad Bridge was opened to traffic. It was built by the Cologne Railroad Company and was part of the railroad line that had connected Paris with Hamburg, via Münster and Bremen. It is unknown who designed the bridge, but it was one of a few bridges that were put on display at the World Exhibition in Vienna in 1873 and received accolades for their architectural work. It is known that the railroad bridge was the longest Rhine crossing in Germany and was last crossing standing when it was destroyed in March 1945. The bridge had a total length of almost 2km (1,950 meters) and featured four main spans, each of a curved Whipple through truss, six additional truss spans, plus 97 stone arch approach spans- 65 on the west side of the Rhine and 32 on the east side where Wesel is located. The truss beams had welded connections, which were typical for European truss bridges built during the last three decades of the 19th Century.
The fate of the railroad bridge coincited with the fate of the rail line that passed through Wesel. Despite its length, the bridge was imploded on March 10th, 1945 under the direction of General Alfred Schlemm. The troops and much of Wesel were under attack during the last month, including the bombings that started February 12th and ended on the 19th, destroying much of the city. As American, Canadian and British troops advanced towards the town under the operation “Varsity”, Schlemm and his troops set the bombs on the main spans and during the morning hours of the 10th, the bridge was detonated. Hours later, the Allied Troops took the town without much resistance with only 80+ casualties. The Wesel Railroad Bridge outlived the Ludendorff in Remagen (southeast of Bonn) by three days.
Plans to rebuild the railroad was abandoned and the Hamburg-Paris rail line was later rerouted through Duisburg and later Düsseldorf. The truss bridge piers were later removed in 1968 to allow for ships along the Rhine to pass. What is left of the old railroad bridge are the approach spans, which you can see in the videos and picture below. The railroad bridge has since been considered a historic landmark because of its design and association with German industrial history.
Wesel Highway Bridge:
Unlike the railroad bridge spanning the Rhine, the highway bridge was rebuilt towards the end of World War II. Since 1945, the bridge has been rebuilt twice. The Wesel Highway Bridge was first built in 1917 and featured a continuous cantilever through truss bridge with Warren truss design. Like the railroad bridge, the highway bridge was detonated by the fleeing Nazi soldiers in an attempt to slow the advencement of Allied troops. Little did they realize, they found a creative way to re-erect a crossing, using the technology that was based on an invention in Great Britain: The Bailey Truss.
As soon as the troops captured Wesel, they constructed a temporary bridge, made of pontoons, to enable the passage of troops and equipment and to speed up the process of ending the war, which was successful with the capitulation of Germany on May 7, 1945. With the war over, came the reconstruction of Germany and that included important crossings like this one. In October 1945, English troops constructed a multiple-span Bailey Truss bridge over the Rhine, featuring two bridges, each carrying one lane of traffic and with a speed limit of 25 km/h (15 mph). The Montgomery Bridge, named after Bernard Law Montgomery, who led troops through North Africa, Italy and the Normandy, was the second longest Bailey crossing behind a crossing at Rees. Nicknamed the Gummibrücke, this bridge was in service until a newer, more stable crossing could be put into place.
As you can see in the video here, the bridge in the foreground was the successor to the Bailey Truss . It was a continuous through truss span using the simple Warren design with riveted connections. It was built in 1953 by a consortium of three companies and served traffic until 2009. Because of its narrowness, it was considered structurally obsolete, resulting in the construction of the new, but present structure, as you can see in the background.
The present structure took four years to build but in the end, the bridge was opened to traffic on 30 November, 2009 and right after that, the truss bridge was dismantled. Some parts can still be seen near the present day structure. The bridge features a bottle-shaped A-frame tower with stayed cables. At 772 meters in length, it’s 200 meters longer than the truss bridge. Thanks to a width of 27.5 meters, the bridge can carry four lanes of traffic along the Highway 58.
The bridges of Wesel once provided a main artery over the Rhine and services for the residents. Because of the war, much of the city was destroyed and relicts from the war can be seen today, especially with the railroad bridge that once was part of Wesel. Yet the destruction of both bridges showed that through the use of technology, combined with the resiliency of locals to have a crossing open, that newer bridges can be built that are sturdier and can carry more than their predecessors. They helped with the rebuilding efforts of Wesel and to this day, made the town a stronger and more intact community than during the war. Still the scars will forever remain on the landscape and they must not be forgotten when talking about war in the classroom and its impact on society. World War II presents an example of a war that must never happen again, and that speaking from experience of those who witnessed it first hand and afterwards…..