Mystery Bridge Nr. 159: The Stone Arch Bridge in Nineveh, Indiana:

Photo by Mike Daffron

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Following up on Sunday’s article on the Stone Arch Road Bridge is the mystery bridge located only 700 feet from the truss bridge. It’s a single span stone arch bridge spanning a branch of Nineveh Creek at the T-junction with County Highway 775 near the Atterbury Nature Preserves in Nineveh in Johnson County, Indiana. The bridge is no more than 40 feet and it had been rehabilitated just a few years ago.

The question behind this structure is when it was built and whether it was the same stone mason who built the stone abutments for the truss bridge. According to Satolli Glassmeyer, the stone abutments were constructed by James H. Pudney in 1885, Massilon Bridge Company later added the truss span in 1886. 

It is logical that Pudney may have also built the arch span at the same time, yet no records indicate this is true. This leads to the question of whether he built this stone arch bridge at the same time as the truss span or if someone else had the stone masonary experience to build the arch span and if so, when?

And with that, the question to the forum……..  Happy bridgehunting, folks!

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 157: The Oldest (and Unusual) Bridge in Husum, Germany

In Schleswig-Holstein, the oldest known bridge in the state can be found in the town of Schmalfeld in the district of Segeberg, located in the eastern part of the state. It was built in 1785 and was in service for 198 years before it was bypassed and converted into a bike trail crossing. It is one of only a handful of arch bridges that are known to exist in the northernmost state in Germany.

Source: Holger.Ellgaard, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Many arch bridges have gone unnoticed during the surveys of historic bridges in the last half decade, some of which deserve some sort of recognition.

The Schiffsbrücke in Husum is one of them. The bridge spans the Mühlenau at Zingeldamm near the Schiffsfahrtsmuseum (Museum of Shipping) and is the last crossing before the river empties into the harbor- right after the crossing. There’s next to no information on the bridge except for a couple dates to pass along to it. The first is in the picture above, which has a date of 1858 with the letter F on it.

Husum was part of the kingdom of Frisia, a region which stretched from southern Denmark, all the way to northeastern Netherlands, all along the North Sea coast and includes the islands in the Halligen region. The first known existence came in during the Roman Empire and it was once a regional powerhouse until the 16th Century, when it was split up. The German portion of Frisia, including Husum, became Uthlande, which later became part of Denmark until after the War of 1864, which resulted in German annexation. It is possible that given the Danish crown on the insignia, that Denmark had recognized Husum as Frisian, thus allowing for the language and culture to continue thriving. Yet we need more information to confirm these facts and to answer the question of why we have this insignia.

While the insignia states it was built in 1858, the informational board located on Zingeldamm stated otherwise, as it claimed that the bridge was built in 1871. Where the information came from is unknown but as original insignias on bridges are known to be the most reliable source of information to determine its construction date, there are two possibilities behind these two conflicting dates:

  1. The information is proven false because of a lack of records and thus historians may have assumed the date without taking a closer look at the bridge.
  2. The bridge may have been rebuilt after it was destroyed but the original brick railings, arch and insignia were retained and restored to provide a historic taste and conformity to Husum’s thriving city center and adjacent harbor.

Much of Husum survived unscathed during World War II as it used to serve as a naval port for the Nazis until its relocation to Flensburg in the district of Mürwik in 1943. Its only scar was a concentration camp near the town of Schwesing, where prisoners were used to build a wall to keep the waters of the North Sea out. The camp only existed for a few months in 1944, yet atrocities committed there could not be ignored and even an investigation into the camp took place in the 1960s. The city center, with its historic brick buildings dating back to the 17th century, has mainly remained in tact with only a couple minor alterations over the past 75 years, which means Husum has retained its historic architecture making it an attractive place to visit. The Schiffsbrücke represents that historic character that belongs to Husum’s past.

Unique feature of Schiffsbrücke is its wall. Husum lies on the North Sea coast and has its Flut and Ebbe (high and low tide). To keep the waters of the North Sea out of the Mühlenau, the wall is hoisted up to the keystone of the arch span. Because the Mühlenau is a “sweet water” river, this is done to protect the flora and fauna that exists in the river and are reliant on fresh water. Other than that feature, the bridge and its unique brick railings and insignia is one of the most unique and ornamental arch bridges in the state. Yet its mystery behind the construction date and the engineer behind the bridge and wall system makes it a bridge that one should research more on to find out its history.

And with that, it is your turn. What do you known about the Schiffsbrücke regarding its history, and which date would you lean towards- 1858 or 1871?

Feel free to place your comments on the Chronicles, either directly or via social media.

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Author’s Note:

This bridge article is in connection with a book project on the Bridges of Schleswig-Holstein that has restarted since the author’s return. Click here to look at the details and feel free to contribute some information on the project. Happy bridgehunting, folks. 🙂 ❤

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 156: A Pair of Twins in the former District of Schleswig

All photos taken in August 2021

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After a three-week absence due to vacation, I’m back online in the Chronicles, playing catch-up due to some bridge-related events that happened while I was away. But I thought I would show you some of the bridges I visited during my vacation, namely the former district of Schleswig.

This district featured a region where the northern half now belongs to Denmark; the southern half to the German state of Schleswig-Holstein and it extended as far south as the Baltic-North Sea Canal and as far north as the area between Kolding and Esbjerg and includes towns like Schleswig, Flensburg, Dagebüll, Husum and Kappeln on the German side, as well as Sonderburg, Hoyer, Abernaa, Haderslev and Ribe on the Danish side. The region was a focus of two military conflicts in 1851 and again in 1864, plus German conquest under Hitler from 1940 on, when the army invaded and occupied all of Denmark. The country was reestablished in 1945 when the war end. The region of Schleswig was cut in half thanks to a referendum in 1920, and the German-Danish border today is based on that historic vote, although minorities exist on both sides of the border. Flensburg is considered a border town with 30% of the Danish population living there- the highest for a community in Germany- even though it’s technically located in Germany.

And this takes us to this mystery bridge, which features not only one bridge, but two very identical structures located on the road connecting Aventoft in Germany and Tonder on the Danish side- only five kilometers apart. The bridges themselves span the River Vida- only a kilometer apart from each other!

The bridges themselves feature a cross between a Schwedler and a Parker pony truss span because of their polygonal upper chords. The connections are welded, which places the construction date to sometime between 1890 and 1920. There are no inscriptions in the metal of the bridge. They are between 25 and 30 meters long and have a width of 3.5 meters each.

What is unique about the bridges are its outriggers. These diagonal beams that are formed at a 70° angle and found on the outer portions of a truss bridge to support the panels and lower chords of the structure. The outriggers of this bridge is found at an 80° angle, but pointed towards the inner portion of the bridge. Furthermore these outriggers are filled in, thus making it one of the most unique truss bridges I’ve ever seen.

There is no information on the bridge’s history through any of the websites devoted to even architecture and infrastructure, nor are there any local records of the bridge’s history, even in Danish. The only websites that had a photo of the bridge was a Komoot website focusing on a tour along the German-Danish border and a fishing website looking at places where to fish in Denmark.

This is why the search for the bridges’ history falls to the locals on either side of the border. What we would like to know is the following:

  1. When were the bridges built?
  2. Who designed and built the two structures?
  3. What are the exact dimensions of the bridge
  4. Are there any stories behind the bridges? Since they are located right at the border, they played a key role in border controls and the like.

Do you have any stories, history and facts behind them? Then provide a comment below or send them to me, using the contact details provided here.

I’ve restarted my project to write about the bridges of Schleswig-Holstein and would like to add the bridges to the list of others that will be highlighted. If you are interested in contributing, feel free to do so. Details on my project can be found here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 150 Tribute to James Baughn

The 150th Pic of the Week is a bit fitting given the fact that it falls into the series paying tribute to James Baughn, let alone the time where we start saying our good-byes in one way or another. James’ memorial service was this past Sunday at Burfordville Mill and Covered Bridge in Missouri, with up to 175 people in attendance- family, friends, colleagues in the field of historic preservation and pontists. And those who couldn’t make it for various reasons, we had our minds focused on him and what he did for the community as we shared some memories of the event. Already plans for memorial bridgehunting tours in person are being considered, whereas the Chronicles has one of its own in the social media spectrum. If you are interested, click here to learn how.

James provided us with some very unique angles in bridge photography and this one is no exception. It’s a portal view of a through truss bridge with a steep cliff as a backdrop. This serves as a reminder of the McCaffrey Bridge in Winneshiek County in northeastern Iowa, yet there are three distinct differences:

  1. The portals of this bridge are different in contrast to the aforementioned structure
  2. The truss design is also different.
  3. This bridge no longer exist, whereas the Iowa structure still stands.

Nevertheless, such locations were useful in a way that it served as a notice to slow down while driving across, otherwise, something like this happens. Yet with the advancement of sleekness and speed, many of these bridges have given way to newer, more modern and straighter structures, where they are supposed to be safer, yet they are anything but that because of they encourage drivers to race across the bridge and they are ill-effective against floods. Even a 20-year old piece of concrete slab can be wiped out by floodwaters within a matter of minutes!

So with that in mind, our Guessing Quiz question is: Where is this bridge located? Any ideas? Feel free to submit your answers here or on the Chronicles’ facebook pages.

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And by the way, to answer the Guessing Quiz Question to last week’s pic taken by James Baughn, the answer is Madison County Iowa, near the Roseman Bridge. Info on that bridge can be found here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 146: Tribute to James Baughn

Photo taken by James Baughn
This is our 151st Mystery Bridge as well!

This week’s Pic of the Week James Baughn series takes us to Osage City and this unusual railroad bridge. The Osage City Railroad Bridge spans the Osage River in the town of Osage City at the site where Water Street is located on the west bank. The bridge features from west to east: one pony plate girder span, one riveted Pratt through truss bridge with vertical endposts and heel portal braces, and five pony plate girders. It is unknown when the bridge was built, yet records indicate that the this span was built reusing parts from a previous bridge. There are two reasons behind it- one that is physically present and one that is theoretical. The practical point falls in line with the through truss span. Judging by the connections between the endpost and the upper chords, it appears this bridge span was imported from another bridge- a rather large one, be it a swing bridge bascule bridge, or a deck truss bridge. The reasons are that the markings indicate that a truss span was cut out of the bridge and imported to this location to serve as high-clearance span and encourage ships to pass under that span. This would have to have been done as the river bed of the Osage River was at its lowest below the water level.

The theoretical standpoint of having a patchwork bridge span may have come by the owner’s pursuit of reusing spans from another bridge in order to cut costs of building a new span. That story takes us to the Booneville Railroad Bridge, which spans the Missouri River and features a vertical lift span. That bridge used to belong to Union Pacific Railroad (UP) which had purchased the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (a.k.a. KATY Lines) in 1988 after it went out of business. Before UP’s purchase of KATY, an agreement was made with the State of Missouri a year earlier to designate the entire line into a state park trail and the Booneville Bridge was part of the incorporation plans. Unfortunately, UP wanted to demolish the vertical lift span and take the five spans to Osage City for use at the crossing. After the plan was announced in 2004, and the Department of Natural Resources ceded ownership of the bridge to UP, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon sued the DNR and later UP for breaching the 1987 agreement. At the same time, a preservation group was formed, and the bridge was ultimately spared demolition. UP backed off from the bridge and decided to pursue another unused bridge for reuse, hence this truss span.

It is obvious that the truss span at the Osage City crossing came from another bridge. The question is when was this patchwork bridge built? And why was it built?

The irony behind the Osage City Bridge is that UP did build a brand new bridge alongside the truss span and the line is now two-tracked, meaning this patchwork bridge now has one way traffic. This happened in 2014. As UP was working to expand its network and cutomers, the modernization and widening of the tracks were a necessity to compete with the likes of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Norfolk & Southern, Canadian Pacific and Southern Pacific, though I would give UP credit for its attempts of reusing the truss bridges for cost-cutting purposes. Not every bridge that is over a century old means it’s the end of the road and it must be demolished.  This is something that the likes of BNSF should consider, especially as they’re pursuing the demolition of a prized piece of historic artwork in Bismarck, North Dakota.

I bet Ralph Mojeski is turning over multiple times in his grave for that.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 149: An Inundated Bridge in Czechia with Possible Links to Melan and von Emperger

Photos taken by Lara Vajrychová

Our next mystery bridge returns us to Czechia, but this time to the far western part of the country, along the Odrava (CZ: Ohri/ D: Eger). The River Odrava starts in eastern Bavaria and snakes away along the foot of the Ore Mountains past Cheb and Carlsbad (Karoly Vary) before emptying into the River Elbe at Litomerice, south of Usti nad Labem (Aussig). The river is laden with dozens of historic bridges dating back to the early 1900s, many of which can even be seen via satillite in a geo-app, like Google Maps.

This bridge is one of them. The structure is located in the middle of Lake Jesenice, located east of the nearest city of Cheb. The structure features a through arch span made of concrete, yet the characteristics resemble the rainbow arch bridge that was invented and patented by James B. Marsh around 1909. While his patented rainbow arch bridges were built solely in the United States, his design was based on another bridge design that was patented by Austrian engineer, Josef Melan. Melan patented his arch design in 1890 and under the direction of another Austrian,  Frederick von Emperger, built the first arch bridge 1894 in Rock Rapids, Iowa. That bridge, now located at Emma Sater Park, was the first of its kind to use reinforced concrete arch in an elliptical fashion.

Melan Bridge at Emma Sater Park in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Photo taken in 2009

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The Melan System, which links steel and concrete construction, won significant market-shares in European and American bridge-building as early as the 1890s and was awarded a gold medal at the World Exposition in Paris in 1900. Melan had published his work on concrete arches in conjunction with iron arches in 1893. Many Melan arch spans followed after the construction in Rock Rapids, including a multiple span arch bridge in Steyr in 1898 and the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana.  While he left a mark in terms of bridges and buildings especially in the New York and Boston areas, von Emperger’s stay in the US was short-lived and therefore, only this example of the Melan Arch Bridge still exists. He returned to Vienna in 1898, where he was active both as a bridge builder as well as in politics until his death in 1942, one year after Melan’s and six years after Marsh’s.

When looking at the crossing at Lake Jesenice, the structure has a rainbow arch feature, yet unlike the Marsh arch, where the arches are anchored in the wingwall above the water level, the arches here start at the abutment on deck level. Nevertheless, as the region was once part of the Habsburg Kingdom (Austrian-Hungarian Empire) until their defeat after World War I in 1918, the possibility of either Melan or von Emperger having built this bridge exists, yet the question is solely, when was the bridge built. Judging by its appearance, the bridge is well over a century old, which falls into the era when the Marsh Arch bridges were being built by the dozens in the USA. It would be a possibility that Marsh’s design was modified in order for it to stand out in comparison with the original. Yet records revealed that Marsh had abandoned  the Melan arches and had developed his signature arch in order to avoid paying Melan royalties. The bridge at Lake Jenesice was most likely built between 1898 and 1912 using the Austrian design.

As for the history of Lake Jesenice , this is an artificial lake that was created through a dam project which ran from 1957 to its completion in 1961. The bridge used to carry a road between Velká Všeboř and Cheb. It used to span the Wondreb which was a tributary of the Odrava. When the dam was completed, the Wondreb and other smaller tributaries became part of the lake and the bridge was left to inundate. The towns of Jesenice and Dřenice also disappeared because of the creation of the lake.  At high levels one can only see the arch stick out, yet during the drough in recent years in Europe, the bridge has become fully accessible by foot.  The Lake has become a recreational point for campers and tourists wishing to explore the region along the Odrava, as the area has campgrounds and other natural parks. In the past, this lake as well as neighboring city Carlsbad were health resort regions where children and their families could recover from the illnesses caused by emissions of coal and other pollutants in the nearby Black Triangle Region, where the former Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany met. Yet with new forests being grown since the Revolution of 1989 and the subsequent Reunification of Germany in 1990, the area where Czechia, Poland and Germany meet today is becoming as equally important as the area around Lake Jenesice.

Close-up of the railings and its deteriorating state

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The days of the arch bridge at Lake Jesenice may be numbered, sadly. According to bridgehunter, Lara Vajrychová, there have been talks of tearing down the arch bridge for safety reasons. Whether or not that will happen remains open. Still it would be a sad loss to see a piece of architectural work that had once belonged to one of the villages that was inundated by the dam project disappear, especially one that may have been built by the founding fathers of the Melan arch whose design was picked up by James Marsh for his design. Nevertheless, before its final demise, one needs to find out more about the bridge in terms of the date of construction and the bridge contractor to answer the questions that were made with regard to its possible connection with either Melan or von Emperger.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 146: An Abandoned Railroad Bridge at a Once Important Airbase in Czechia

Our next mystery bridge takes us into the mountains, but this time to the area between Ustí nad Labem (Aussig) and Liberec in northern Czechia in the region of Bohemia. The Hradčany Airport is a former military airbase located near the town of Ralsko. It’s situated in the area of confluence between the Ralsko and Ploučnice Rivers.  Originally, the area was used for military combat training during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as after the establishment of Czechoslovakia. When Nazi Germany occupied the country in 1938, the area was converted to a military airbase by the Wehrmacht, which included new runways and hangers for their fighter jets. It was one of the most important bases fort he eastern front during World War II. 

As part of the measure to expel German residents out of their country, Czechoslovakia reclaimed the airbase but only for a short time, as it later became part of Soviet Army when it became a socialist republic. Again, the airbase became an important point of axis for the Soviet Union, especially during the Prague Spring of 1968, when troops entered the city and ended the revolution with military force. For 30 years, the  Hradčany Airbase was an important military base for the Soviets to ensure that none of the communist states were influenced by the capitalist West.

After the fall of the communist party from power in 1989, withdrawal of Soviet troops was negotiated in February 1990. The last soldier left the district in May 1991. The district lost its military status in the same year. On January 1, 1992 the village of Ralsko was established by joining of nine villages together. Between 1993 and 2004 the area was extensively cleaned up from chemical contamination and searched for unexploded ammunition. To this day, all that remains are ruins of the airport that are beset by vandals. The area has been also used for drag racing and dance parties, yet there have been plans to convert the former base into a recreational area.

And this takes us to this bridge, the Stary zeleznicni most, a former railroad bridge located north of the former airbase. This was discovered by Czech bridgehunter Lara Vajrychová during a recent trip to the area. The structure is approximately 200 meters long and features a combination Lattice and Bailey truss design. The portal bracings are I-beam with bedstead endposts. The connections are for the most part pinned, based on Bailey truss building techniques, yet the top and bottom chords have riveted connections.

It is unknown when the structure was built but we do know that the railroad line served as an important link to the airbase from the north. It could be that the Germans had built this prior to the start of World War II as soon as Czechoslovakia was taken over in 1938. Should this argument be true, then the bridge survived the bombings unscathed, which enabled Soviet and American troops to use the bridge and the rail line to march into Germany in 1945.  By the same token, if the crossing was damaged, it was likely that the Soviets rebuilt the bridge and used it to provide materials and artillery to quash any uprisings, yet that would have happened between the time the country became a communist state in 1948 and the time before the Prague Spring, 20 years later.

And this is where your help is needed here: In your opinion, were the Germans or the Russians responsible for this important crossing that made the now former airbase a key axis point (Stützpunkt) until 1990.  What kind of truss design is this and who was behind ist construction? 

And for that, the forum is open.

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Photos:

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Czechoslovakia was split into Czech Republic and Slovakia through a Velvet Divorce, which happened on January 1, 1993. On January 1, 2021, the Czech Republic was renamed Czechia.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 142: Tribute to James Baughn

Shortly after taking office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went to work to provide help to over a third of the population in the USA who were beset by unemployment caused by the Great Crash on October 29, 1929 which later ushered in the Great Depression. Two of the programs that were introduced were the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which started on March 21, 1933, and the Works Progress Administration, which was founded on May 6, 1935. Both organizations had a general purpose: to provide employment to people who needed, whereas the CCC was mainly for those between the ages of 18 and 25. Much of the projects that were undertaken during the time of the two programs were outdoors, which included erosion control, planting trees, renaturalizing areas near bodies of water and building infrastructure to accomodate waterways and vehicular traffic, including dams and bridges.

And this is where this Pic of the Week, which is also our 145th Mystery Bridge comes into being. James Baughn photographed this unique bridge, which goes by the local name, Geode Bridge. The structure spans Saunder’s Creek at the park which also bears the stream’s name in Mount Pleasant, located in Henry County in southeastern Iowa.  The build date of this very unique stone bridge goes back to 1933, which would mean that the CCC would have constructed the bridge. The bridge is no more than 40 feet long and is relativey short- between 10 and 15 feet. The bridge design is a pony girder with triangular pointed vertical posts at the end, resembling high heels. The railings are art deco.

There are some questions that surround this story about the bridge. The first one is who was behind the design of the bridge, for it is one of the most unique bridges- a rare structure that is one of a kind in Iowa.  The second question is where the stones used were quarried and hauled to the site while the last one is the most important: How was it built and how long did it take to build it?  For the third question, it is important to note that modern techniques in today’s standards would have this bridge completed between 3-6 months. But if we go back tot he Depression Era, where vehicles are smaller and slower, the building techniques are more hands-on, the machinery was sometimes old and outdated and the fuel needed was rationed due tot he lack of supply, the time to build a structure like the Geode Bridge was probably much longer than six months; presumably it was in the range of 12 months.  More research into the bridge’s history, including interviews and like, would be needed to answer the aforementioned questions.

Saunders Park features this bridge as one of its masterpieces, together with a historic log house and a pair of gazeebos along with some shelter houses, playground and some forest, thus making it one of the most attractive places in the city. It showcases some natural scenery to those working or being treated for injuries/ illnesses at the nearby hospital as well as school children, who attend Manning School only a couple blocks away. It’s a stop that is worth a couple hours, especially if you travel long distances or are visiting friends and relatives in Mt. Pleasant.

James photographed this unique structure in 2013 during the Historic Bridge Weekend, tying it in with the visit to the Oakland Mills Bridge. While the bridge may be small, it’s worth a photo session, regardless of how it is done- wedding, graduation or for a simple calendar. While there has never been a calendar on Iowa’s historic bridges, should there be one, this bridge should be one of them that should be added, regardless of who took the shot.

Author’s Note: If you have any information about the bridge’s history, feel free to add this in the Comment section below. You can also include the info in the BHC’s facebook pages or that of Historic Bridges of Iowa as well as Iowa Bridges Past and Today.

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Endangered TRUSS: The Jefferson Highway Bridge at Okay, Oklahoma

All photos courtesy of Mark W. Brown

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

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

Westernmost pony truss approach span

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 148: Red Arrow Road Bridge (HYB)

Photo by Greg Saurbier

Our first Mystery Bridge of 2021 and the 148th in the series takes us to Michigan and the Red Arrow Highway Bridge. The bridge is 28 feet long and is located near Benton Heights, spanning Blue Creek. The bridge has been out of use for well over 110 years and is currently privately owned. Yet the bridge has a lot of ornamental features that makes visiting it a must. Satolli Glassmeyer from History in Your Own Backyard produced a film about this phantom bridge, the historic Red Arrow Highway and the history that we know to date. What we don’t know is who built it and who designed the rail piers?

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