Mystery Bridge Nr. 178  : Trinity Street Bridge in Hartford, Connecticut

Source: Google

When visiting Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, one will be amazed at the architecture that the city of 123,000 inhabitants has to offer. Apart from the Wadsworth Athenium, Hartford has several historic buildings that date back to the 1700s, such as historic public library, the Old State House, the Travelers Tower and the campus of the University of Connecticut, which is the powerhouse of women’s college basketball. Apart from the history centers that are devoted to Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain, one of the places that is worth visiting is the historic State Capitol Building. Located Bushnell Park, the Capitol is accompanied with various historic sites, including this one in the picture above, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch.  Located on Trinity Street in the park, the arch was built by George Keller in 1886 and was the first memorial arch of its kind in the United States. It was dedicated to honor over 4000 soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Source: Wikimedia

Little do the people realize, there was once a bridge that was attached to the arch. The bridge was brought to the attention of the pontist community recently because of its unique design. The bridge features a five-span stone arch bridge with a total length of between 160 and 200 feet. When looking at the photos and postcards of the bridge in bridgehunter.com, the first two historic bridges in Europe came to mind: The Alte Brücke in Heidelberg, Germany and the Charles Bridge in Prague in Czechia. Unlike the two, this bridge in Hartford was dated back to the 1700s, but we don’t know when it was built exactly. One postcard pinpointed the build date to 1757, but it is unknown whether this date is accurate. The other is we don’t know who built the stone arch bridge.  If the memorial arch was constructed in 1886, it could be that Keller may have built the stone arch bridge itself, which means the bridge is younger than what was on the postcard.  In other words, the question we have about the stone arch bridge is when exactly was it built and by whom?

Source: bridgehunter.com

Sadly though, as part of the modernization of the city in the face of increasing population and traffic, the stone arch bridge and the Park River itself were both buried with the river now running underground enroute to the Connecticut River.  The memorial arch itself still stands, and cars can travel through it going one way towards the Capitol. An additional street was built that goes past the arch, carrying traffic to the City Center and XL Arena. Hartford itself has been dealing with poverty issues and population loss itself. Once touted as the richest city in the USA, in the past three decades, Hartford has been one of the poorest cities in the country with 30% of the population living below the poverty line and the city being beset by social inequalities and crime.

Hartford however has a lot to offer and it’s a question of civic leaders and city officials to find ways of making the city attractive again. It doesn’t necessarily mean trying to bring in professional teams as they did in the past for hockey, basketball and football. The last professional hockey team, the Hartford Whalers, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. Hartford is loaded with a lot of history and architecture it should pride itself on and should build off on. The Memorial Arch is one of them, as with the now buried Mystery Bridge. It’s a question of how to turn the city around and exploit the city’s strength. From there, it’s all uphill from there.

If you have any information on the Mystery Bridge, feel free to use the Contact Details or comment in the section below.  Happy Bridgehunting, folks. 🙂

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 177: The Devil’s Bridge (Teufelsbrücke) in Flensburg

Our tour around Flensburg, Germany this summer uncovered several unknown artefacts that we had not seen during our previous trips. One of the areas that is considered a diamond in the rough is the valley of the Lautrupsbach. This creek is found in the eastern part of the city and flows along Nordstrasse until it empties into the Flensburg Fjord at the junction with Ballastbrücke, where four multiple-story modern buildings are located.  There are at least six bridges along this creek plus a high waterfall where the creek makes a 20+ meter drop before it crosses the aforementioned main streets.

While the waterfall will be mentioned later on in The Flensburg Files, this mystery bridge article is about the Devil’s Bridge. It crosses Nordstrasse and Lautrupsbach, carrying Bismarckstrasse near the School of Theater (Theaterschule Flensburg). When driving on Nordstrasse, one could perceive it is a modern bridge with little or no value.

Hiking up the trail, we found that we were dead wrong.  Going up the trail, find that an arch bridge exists at Bismarckstrasse, crossing the trail and the creek right next to it. And while it is difficult to see it because of the covering of trees and other vegetation, the arch is quite decorated.  I bought a couple books at a bookstore in Kappeln, which talked about the rail service in Flensburg and the surrounding area, and found that it was one long bridge crossing more than just a creek, as you can see in my rough sketch of the bridge:

Many of you are wondering how this came to be. As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: “Nicht leichter als das.” (Not easier than this in German):

.

The History of the Railroads in Flensburg in Short and Simple Terms:

To understand this bridge, we have to understand Flensburg’s railroad system, which is best compared to a bowl of spaghetti- well-networked but sometimes quite chaotic!

Flensburg is a border-city, located just south of Denmark and therefore all trains from Germany and the east (Holstein and Angeln) and all trains from Denmark and the North Sea region meet in Flensburg. But when the railroad was introduced in 1854, there were two termini but in one specific location: The Hafenspitze at Flensburg Fjord.  Specifically, from 1854 until the present-day international railway station was built in 1927, Flensburg had two railway stations- one on each side of the Fjord. On the western side where the historic old town was located, there was the terminus for all trains heading to the north and west-specifically to Husum and  Niebüll on the German side as well as Tonder, Fredericia and Kolding on the Danish side. It started with the English Bridge, a wooden bridge that connected the old town with the loading dock in the harbor that was built in 1854. It was short-lived for salt water undermined the piers and pilings and it was therefore removed in 1881. While a make-shift train stop built at that time served as a stop-gap, a real train station, with Victorian-style architecture opened to service in 1883. Johannes Otzen was the designer.

On the eastern end of the Fjord was another train station, and it was the terminus for a regular train route to Kiel as well as two narrow-gauge train routes- one to Satrup and Hörup and another to Glücksburg and Kappeln. When the present-day railroad station at Mühlendamm and Schleswiger Strasse opened in 1927, services started to cease operations for passenger services, beginning with the regular train services to Kiel, the North Sea region and Denmark. The narrow gauge routes were phased out so that by 1953, there were no more trains running these routes. At the same time, the two stations on each side of the Hafenspitze were removed and the railroad tracks were for the most part abandoned.  The Devil’s Bridge crossed these tracks coming from the eastern station along the Fjord.

The History of the Devil’s Bridge:

After introducing the history of the railroads in Flensburg, we will come back to this bridge. The Devil’s Bridge features not only one but two crossings, as you can see in the diagram above. The arch section crossed the Kiel railroad line until it was removed in 1928. Now it’s a trail that runs along the Lautrupsbach. The arch section is closed spandrel and its portals are decorated. It looks like a tunnel because it is partially buried with soil and vegetation. Therefore one can technically call it a tunnel.  It was used as a shelter during the air raids in World War II, although Flensburg escaped with only minor damage.

Close-up of one of the ornamental pegs on the arch portion of the bridge.

 The other section of the bridge was a two-span concrete beam bridge that spanned the two narrow-gauge raillines to Kappeln and Satrup.  The bridge was known to be haunted because of its spooky setting, especially at night. Even the horses would not dare pass through the bridge.  The entire structure was built in 1912 and it was for the purpose of connecting Flensburg with its suburb of Mürwik and further on to Glücksburg. Due to the expansion of housing and with that, the increase in the volume of traffic, the section of the bridge where the two narrow-gauge trains had existed was torn down and replaced with a modern, one-span beam structure, which was higher than the previous span. This happened in 1960.  Seven years before that, the tracks involved were removed and replaced with the present-day Nordstrasse which connects the harbor with the Osttangente, the bypass that runs east and south of Flensburg. There is no information on who designed and built the Devil’s Bridge, especially the original design of 1912.  Yet another mystery behind the bridge has to do with another crossing that is up the hill behind the Devil’s Bridge.

The arch-like abutment from the Kappeln-crossing

.

Crossing Bridges

About 150 meters away from the Devil’s Bridge are the abutments of yet another bridge or two. On both sides of the Lautrupsbach, one can see the arch-like abutments that stick out of the ground, thus confirming that a bridge existed. Even the maps and sources confirm this as the narrow-gauge line crosses both the creek as well as the Kiel rail line, enroute to Kappeln. When the line was abandoned by 1953, both the tracks as well as the bridge were removed in their entirety as they were rendered useless and a hazard for hikers. There is no information nor photos of what the structure looked like, let alone when the structure was built and by whom. But judging by the fact that the abutments are diagonal from one another, one has to confirm that the bridge had a skewed setting, thus leading to three types that can be built with skewed portal entrances: stone arch (rare to find but possible), steel girder (likely after 1900) and truss (very likely regardless of whether the trusses are deck, pony or through). Because the railroad opened in 1881 and steel was becoming a popular and cheap commodity, my hunches are that the truss bridge was built at that spot and the arches were used as abutments to support the span.

The arched portion of the abutment opposite the Lautrupsbach and trail but ca. 30-40 meters away from the abutment on the trail side.

.

Fazit- What are we looking for?

To summarize, the Devil’s Bridge features two bridges crossing three rail lines and Lautrupsbach, carrying Bismarckstrasse. The rail lines have since been replaced with a trail and Nordstrasse. Only one half of the 1912 bridge (the tunnel) still exists; the other half was replaced in 1960. We’re looking for the builders behind this complex, monstrous structure that has since been buried in time by cars and vegetation. Behind the Devil’s Bridge are the remains of a railroad bridge that once crossed the Kiel line, which ran through the tunnel portion of the Devil’s Bridge. We have no information on the bridge’s appearance, let alone who built the bridge and when it was built. Had it been built in 1881, it’s a truss bridge. If it’s 1900, then a girder. 

As I would like to add both in the book on Schleswig-Holstein’s bridges, if you have any information that may be useful, photos included, feel free to contact me, using the contract details enclosed here. Information on the book project can also be found in the Chronicles. Click here for details and feel free to contribute. Your help would be much appreciated. Spread the word.

And with that, we have another bridge along the Lautrupsbach that needs our attention. With that we move on to the next page. Until then, happy bridgehunting, folks. 🙂

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 175: The Iron Road Bridge in Jackson County, Iowa

Photos taken by Troy Knox of Bridging the Driftless

.

The next bridge in the Mystery Bridge series is the second of two installments of the bridges in Jackson County, in eastern Iowa. Yet one can look at it as two bridges, because each one has the same problem: looking for the bridge builder. And judging by the identical length these structures have, it may appear that they came from a multiple span structure that had been cut up into spans before shipping them.

After looking at the now extant Caven Bridge, we have this bridge at Iron Bridge Road. It spans the Maquoketa River on the road bearing the bridge’s name, approximately 8-10 miles NW of Spragueville. It’s at the junction of Miller Access Road. The bridge is a Pennsylvania through truss bridge with riveted connections, I-beams and M-frame portal bracings. It has a total length of 420 feet but the truss bridge’s length is 250 feet, thus making it the longest single-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge built in the state. It’s even longer than the Traer Street Bridge in Greene (in Butler County), which was replaced in 1981 after 79 years in service.

According to records in bridgehunter.com, the bridge was built by the Iowa State Highway Commission, which today is the Iowa Department of Transportation. It was established in 1904 and was one of the first highway institutions to have made firsts in the field of transportation, which included traffic signs, like the No Passing Zone sign, as well as paved highways made of tar and later concrete, and finally bridge designs. Yet despite the claims that the State Highway Commission was responsible for building the bridge, it can only be credited for making the design of the standardized truss bridges, which were introduced from 1910 on. What is missing is having the bridge builder who is in charge of constructing the bridge as well as the company that fabricated and transported the steel from the steel mills. It is a foregone conclusion that a highway agency would not have a bridge building firm with steel mills on their lots unless the agency had vast amounts of land to build the steel mills. That would have taken up half of Ames, where the highway agency is still located today.

This leads us to this question: If the highway designed the truss bridge, like the one on Iron Road, where did the steel come from, and who oversaw the construction of the bridge?

These are the two key questions not only for the Iron Bridge here but also its twin bridge, the Damon Bridge, spanning the same river but on 435th Avenue (County Hwy. Z 34), six miles north of Preston. The bridge has the exact same form as the Iron Bridge but was built six years later, in 1956. If you have any information on the two bridges and their predecessors, feel free to comment in the Chronicles directly online, but also in bridgehunter.com under their respective pages.

Your bridge matters! Best of luck in the research. 🙂

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 166: A Concrete Bridge near the Native American Reservation in South Dakota

Photo taken in 1998

.

One of the bridges that is in the headlines lately happens to be the one where I visited while bridgehunting in South Dakota. But that was almost a quarter century ago. The Crescent Street Bridge is located in Flandreau in Moody County, between Sioux Falls and Brookings. It spans the Big Sioux River and features a three-span concrete bridge with ornamental railings. It was built in 1935 and was part of the Works Progress Administration project that was initiated by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the goal of getting millions of Americans back into the workforce, as the USA was in the midst of a Great Depression. It was considered elgible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria C because of its association with the WPA and bridge construction during that period.

According to news stories, the bridge is scheduled to be removed during the course of 2022. The bridge has been closed for some time and since there are two other crossings in Flandreau- one of which is only a half mile to the east, chances are unlikely that this bridge will be replaced. Because the bridge is located at the entrance to the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation, work has been ongoing between local government officials, Moody County and the Reservation to determine whether a new bridge is necessary and if so, when it will be built. At the time of this post, no agreements have been made as far as the bridge’s future is concerned. Unlike the Green Bridge in Waverly, Iowa, which was removed completely last November at the dismay of many residents living in the area, this bridge project is a delicate one because it involves more than two government agencies- namely the local government and the State Historic Preservation Office, which is part of the umbrella of the state department of transportation . This one involves a Native American Reservation which is a government of its own and therefore has as much say as the state. It will be interesting to see how things develop, even after the bridge is gone.

Before it goes, we would like to know about the bridge’s history- namely who built it and what predecessor existed before 1935. Do you know about it? Then write to us using the contact information here.

.

And if you are interested in donating to help Ukraine, click here for information.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 161: A Fairy Tale Bridge with a Beautiful Forest Setting

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.

.

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 160: The Bridge at Caminito Del Rey in Spain

All photos courtesy of Rafa at puentesyestructuras via Instagram

.

Our 160th Pic of the Week gives you a little refresher on the term queen post truss. A queen post is a tension member in a truss that can span longer openings than a king post truss. A king post uses one central supporting post, whereas the queen post truss uses two. In simpler terms, a queen post has an upper chord between two diagonal endposts that runs parallel to the deck.  Queen posts were common for covered bridges, whereas for metal pony truss spans, one can find them for shorter spans going up to no more than 60 feet (23 meters).

Okabena Creek Bridge in Jackson County, MN. Photo taken in 2009.
Montgomery Covered Bridge in Vermont. Example of a covered bridge using queen post trusses. Photo taken by Richard Doody in 1990.

.

And with that knowledge in mind, we go to our 160th mystery bridge, which takes us to Spain. Specifically, the state of Malaga and the el Caminito Del Rey. Known as the King’s Little Path, the El Caminito del Rey is a walkway, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Ardales in the province of Málaga, Spain. The name derives from the original name of Camino del Rey (King’s Pathway), abbreviated locally to el caminito. It is known as one of the most dangerous walkways in the world as it is known for its narrowness and dangerously high altitudes. The walkway was built in 1905 and has a length of eight kilometers and several high bridges. Yet the views of the cliffs and the waterfalls below are splendid! It was rehabilitated in 2015.

This bridge is one of the high crossings you will find on the Caminito. It’s one that can be seen as a steel beam bridge in the distance. Yet up close, it is clearly a queen post deck truss bridge, but built in a very unusual style. The beams support a set of wire beams connected with eyebars. Turnbuckles are found on the bottom chord underneath the bridge decking. Given its unusual design it is easy to debate whether this bridge is indeed a queen post deck truss bridge or simply a steel beam truss supported by wires. This question I will leave up to you as a reader to decide and debate about with your fellow colleagues.

Given its age and appearance, plus the fact that pin-connecting truss bridges were commonly built during that time, this bridge was probably built at the same time as the walkway itself. If it had not existed after 1905, then the cut-off date for bridge building was most likely 1915, when truss bridges with riveted connections were being introduced for crossings. Yet European truss bridges had relied more on welded trusses- truss with beams welded in with bolts- than these pin-connected truss bridges, which makes this bridge a rarity in itself. In fact, not more than 10% of all truss bridges built before 1910 were pin-connected. The rest were those with welded connections, though riveted truss bridges debuted before 1880, but didn’t dominate the bridge building scene until after 1900.

According to Rafa at puentesyestructuras, who allowed me to use his photos for this article, the bridge is closed to traffic due to structural deterioration. And as you can see in the photos, the railings only consist of a piece of wire going across. Given its location over a steep cliff, replacing the structure would be considered almost impossible unless the new bridge was constructed off-site and then hoisted down with a helicopter. Most likely, repairs and rehabilitation will be the best choice to ensure the historic structure remains in tact and in use again.

Source: User Gabirulo on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

.

.

The bridge has one key advantage: Since its reopening in 2015, the Caminito Del Rey can only be visited if and only if you reserve ahead of time. Sometimes three months are needed to take the 8km challenge in the high cliffs. Those trespassing without a permit face fines in the tens of thousands of Euros.  This restriction in the number of tourists is useful not only to preserve the integrity of the walkway and the bridges, like this one, but also for safety reasons. Nevertheless, those with a fear of heights should avoid taking this route and rather get some gorgeous photos from down below or with a drone.

After all, photographing bridges at such high altitudes is only fun when you have nerves of steel and a heart of stone. Therefore, as a word of advice, if there is a more creative way of photographing bridges like this one, try from the ground first, for they are the best ones. Cameras can be replaced, lives cannot.

.

.

Author’s note:

Many thanks to Rafa for allowing me to use his pictures for this article. If you have some information on the bridge’s construction history, feel free to state your peace in the comment section below or through the BHC on its social media pages. When debating over the type of bridge it is, keep it clean and be nice. Thank you.

.

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 158: The Missing Bridge at Hemenswarft

Approximately one kilometer east of Südwesthörn along the North Sea Coast in Schleswig-Holstein is a missing bridge. The bridge is located behind the vacation home complex , Haus Hemenswarft, a combination of vacation home complex with amneties, including playground. One can see the missing piers on both sides of the stream Alte Sielzug, a waterway that empties into the North Sea but is regulated by a nearby dam at Südwesthörn. Even from the bike trail Am Seedeich, one can see the piers.

I tried to focus in on one of the piers with my Canon EOS250 camera, and it reveals that both piers were narrow, which means the bridge was probably used for pedestrians and cyclists. The width of the bridge is most likely between two and three meters. This means the most likely bet is that a beam bridge had existed because this bridge type fulfills the criteria of accommodating peds and bikers while maintaining the maximum width of the bridge. It is unlikely that other bridge types, such as arch, truss or even a covered bridge would fit over the pier unless there were additional angle supports supporting the (extended) deck. A suspension bridge or even a cable-stayed bridge would be pushing the limit for one could construct a tower and support the decking with cables, but these towers would have to be narrow but not in the way that a person cannot cross the bridge. Furthermore, it would have to accommodate the high winds and the rising and lowering tides- both are typical of the North Sea.

Nevertheless, the type of bridge is the first of the questions we have about this crossing. Even though the piers appear to be 40-50 years old, judging by their modern shapes and the material of concrete used, the question focuses on when exactly was the bridge built and by whom. And last but not least, why was the bridge removed? Because the waters of the Alte Sielzug, like the North Sea, is really salty, there is a chance that the salt ate away at the materials used for the bridge, thus making the bridge too dangerous to use because of its potential of structural failure, resulting in its removal. The road leading to the bridge has been abandoned for some time, primarily because of this route that is now being used.

To sum up:

  1. Which type of bridge was this built?
  2. When was the bridge built and by whom?
  3. What were the dimensions of the bridge?
  4. When and why way the bridge removed.

And for that, you now have the podium and know what to do in case you know more about this bridge. 🙂 Good luck and happy bridgehunting, folks.

.

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 155- An Unusual Vierendeel Bridge in Missouri

Our 155th Mystery Bridge takes us to Vulcan, in Missouri and this unusual bridge. The bridge was built by Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1949 and spans not only Highway BB but also a small stream running alongside it. The bridge was built using concrete and features a rather unusual style that is similar to a rare truss design, the Vierendeel.

Arthur Vierendeel patented the design and it consists of trusses where only the vertical beam supports the upper and lower chords of the truss. Normally, truss bridges use triangular beams, consisting of a combination of vertical and diagonal beams needed to support the span. Because of the lack of diagonal members, Vierendeel trusses employ moment joints to resist substantial bending forces.. Vierendeel trusses are more common in Europe, with most of the trusses being located in Belgium. This includes the first truss built in 1902 at AvelgemBelgium. Most of the spans can be found in and around the metropolitan areas of Brussels and Antwerp. While Vierendeels are seldom to be found in the United States, the city of Glendale, California has three Vierendeel truss bridges: the Geneva Street, Kenilworth Avenue, and Glenoaks Boulevard bridges, all two-lane bridges spanning 95 feet. They were built in 1937 as part of the Verdugo Flood Control Project, the first project of the United States Army Corps of Engineers after passage of the Flood Control Act of 1936.

While steel Vierendeels were common for bridge construction, it was not unusual to find them made of concrete, which takes us back to this bridge in Vulcan. One can see clearly that the spans are Vierendeel using heel supports to ensure that the bridge maintains its stability. Originally the bridge was built as part of the project to introduce fast moving trains between Missouri and Texas. The structure is still being used by Union Pacific Railroad to this day. The question is who was behind the design of this bridge and what were his/her motives for using the Vierendeel?

This is one for the historians and pontists to find out. 😉 Happy Bridgehunting, folks.

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 152: The Jay Bridge in Maine- The Oldest Cable-Stayed Bridge Ever Built?

This next mystery bridge article presents a riddle to be solved. It has to do with the suspension bridge versus the cable-stayed bridge. Before we start with this article, a question for the forum:

Which bridge type came first- the cable-stayed or the suspension bridge?

 Both types first appeared in the 15th century, but the oldest suspension bridge in the world to exist can be found in Tweed in Scotland with the Union Chain Bridge, built 201 years ago. In the US, it’s the Cincinnati-Covington Ohio River Bridge, which was built in 1869 by John Roebling, 14 years before his masterpiece, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.  And while the first oldest cable-stayed bridge going by modern standards was built in 1817 in the UK, the oldest existing bridge in the world can be found in Texas, with the Bluff Dale Bridge, built in 1890.

This leads to the question of when the first cable-stayed bridge was built in the United States. We know that the first suspension bridge in the country was built in 1855 at Niagara Falls– built by the same engineer, Roebling. However this post card of a bridge in Maine may not only be the first cable-stayed bridge in the States, but the first bridge on the North American continent, whose roadway was supported by cables hung on towers.

The information dates the Jay Bridge back to 1835. The bridge spanned West Channel Androscoggin River and featured three towers supporting cable-stays that may have been built out of concrete or wood. Looking at the pic more closely and how the roadway was warped, the best bet was that it was a wooden structure. Supporting the deck were pony arches that were attached to the towers. This bridge had served traffic until it was replaced in 1914 by the Pine Island Arch Bridge, a two-span closed spandrel concrete arch bridge that was built by the Cry Brothers. That bridge is still in use. There used to be three bridges connecting the shores on both side of the river with the island. Today, only the Pine Arch Bridge remains, whereas a modern bridge bypasses the island as it crosses the river into the town of Jay.

If the records are proven correct, then the Jay Bridge was the oldest bridge of its kind built in the US. It could be possible that the bridge was built later and the markings were written in by accident. This has to do with the fact that cable-stayed bridges were once built using chain and wire. Concrete was not considered the norm for materials used for bridge construction. Wood was plentiful, yet for someone to design a bridge like that would require an artist who focused on the bridge’s aethetics. The oldest wooden arch bridge known to exist is the Wan’an Bridge in China, built 1000 years ago, yet the arches are more trapezoidal than curved. The technology needed to build arches out of wood came much later in the late 19th Century.

This leads to the question of the validity of the claims that the Jay Bridge was indeed built in 1835. If the information is correct, then who was responsible for designing such a bridge and what materials were used for the bridge construction?

That plus the first question can be discussed in the Comment section below…….

Happy Bridgehunting, Folks! 🙂

.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 150: The Raritan River Bridge at Bound Brook, New Jersey

Source: https://bridgehunterschronicles.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/a2916-1875raritanriverbridge.jpg

Our 150th Mystery Bridge takes us to Mannville, in Somerset County, New Jersey, located west of Edison and even New York City. This bridge came to our attention on bridgehunter.com because of its fancy portal bracings as well as the vertical end posts. Judging by the plaque on the portal bracing, the bridge was built in 1875. Judging by its features and the fact that steel was not as comonly used as it was 15 years later, this bridge was definitely built of either cast or wrought iron. The number of spans, judging by the tunnel view, is between four and six, thus making the length of the entire bridge between 200 and 400 feet long. The structure used to serve a railline connecting the area with Philadelphia and Reading in Pennsylvania. In fact, the bridge was part of the Philadelphia-Reading Railroad consortium, which was established in 1833 and had been in service until 1976. It was one of the oldest railroads in the country.

The bridge was replaced with a two-span Parker through truss though the date is not given, nor is there information in bridgehunter.com. Hence the first question that comes about is when the present-day span was built and this span removed.

It is unknown what type of truss was used for this railroad bridge, though at first hand, it appears to have been a Howe through truss design. Yet at the time of its construction, other truss designs were also used that have Lattice features, such as the Post, Whipple and even Pratt. So looks can be deceiving. So the next question is what type of truss bridge was this crossing.

And lastly, the third question behind this bridge is who built this to begin with and what was the motive behind the portals and end posts, which are not only typical for iron truss bridges during that time, but also one of the most ornamental of the bridges in the area? Although these trusses are rare to find these days, decorative truss bridges show not only the engineer’s signature but also the artwork that was put into the structure, especially when it comes to cast or wrought iron. These were dominant between 1870 and 1895 when steel became the norm for truss bridge construction and with it, sleeker truss designs with letter-shaped portals, such as the common A-frame, as well as W, M, WV, and MA, as well as Howe Lattice.

To to review the questions we need to solve for this research:

  1. When was the truss bridge replaced by the current structure?
  2. What type of truss bridge was this crossing?
  3. Who was behind the design for this railroad crossing?

And with that, best of luck with the research. Feel free to submit your comments here if you find some information on the bridge. Happy Bridgehunting and happy trails! 🙂

.