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.

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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! 🙂

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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! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 148: The Lima Bridge in Iowa

LIMA, IOWA- If there is one county that has a wide selection of through truss bridges that have been left in their places with concrete bridges serving as functional crossings- and observation points for passers-by, it is Fayette County, in northeastern Iowa. At least 10 unique crossings can be found in the county, each with its unique history behind its bridge builder, let alone the local history associated with it. Some are well documented, while others are not but their value is worth researching.

The Lima Bridge is one of those that belongs to the latter. The bridge spans Volga River on Heron Road at the state recreational area between the villages of Albany and Wadena. The structure features a pin-connected, seven-panel, Pratt through truss span with M-frame portal bracings and V-laced struts supported by heel bracings. The bridge is clearly visible from the concrete bridge which has been in service since 1979, yet when accessing the bridge, one has to be aware of brushes and other vegetation. In fact given the vegetational overgrowth on the bridge during my visit in 2011, the bridge’s structural integrity is stable and there’s no doubt the relict will remain there for years to come.

There is little history about this bridge in general, except to say that if we count the current concrete structure, this is the fourth crossing at this location. According to history, the first bridge was a bowstring arch span, built in 1865, though there was no mentioning of the builder of the bridge. Judging by the outriggers and the H-beams, this bridge may have been built by the King Bridge Company, as it had been established in 1858 by Zenas King, seven years before the first crossing was built.

Source: http://www.angelfire.com/ia/z/limastore.htm !: For the following two pictures

The crossing was subsequentially washed away by floodwaters in 1875 and was replaced with another crossing. This is one where the debate comes in. Sources have pinned the current through truss span as its replacement crossings. However, its portal bracings show that the truss span was built much later, between 1890 and 1910. During the 1870s and 80s, portal bracings were characterized by its Town Lattice features, supported with ornamental shapes that were sometimes curvy. Beginning in the 1890s the portal bracings based on alphabets were introduced, which featured frames resembling the letters A, M, V, W, VW, MA, and X. Howe lattice portals that feature rhombus shapes were also introduced at the same time and they became common for use through the first three decades of the 20th Century. Today’s letter-style portal bracings are predominantly A-frame but M-frames and Howe lattice are also commonly used as well.

This leads us to the following questions to be settled regarding this bridge:

  1. Was the bowstring arch bridge built as the first or second crossing?
  2. If it was the second crossing, what did the original crossing look like?
  3. If it was the original crossing, what did the second crossing look like, when was it built and by whom?
  4. When was the through truss truss bridge built? In the second black and white picture there was a builder’s plaque which has since disappeared.

In theory, there were four crossings that have served this location since 1865. The only argument that would justify three crossings built would be if repairs were made to the through truss span, such as replacing the portal bracings. This was practiced with some of the through truss spans during the introduction of the letter-based portal bracings in 1890 and two examples can be found in Washington County, at Bunker Mill near Kalona and Hickory Avenue Bridge over the English River, the latter has since been abandoned in place.

Another theory was that a flood in 1947 knocked the bridge off its abutments but was later put back into place and continued to serve traffic until 1979 but that would mean finding out how the bridge was washed away and how this truss structure came about.

We do know that the Lima Bridge is one of three relicts that is left from the town of Lima. It was founded by the Light (Erastus and Harvey) Brothers in 1849, when they constructed a saw mill along the river. In addition to over a dozen houses, a church, lumber yard and general store were later added, though the general store itself survived through the 1960s when it was torn down as part of the conservation project. A railroad line also went past Lima but had only provided service until 1938. The church on Heron Road north of the bridge and an adjacent cemetary on Fox Road are the other two structures left of the community that once had over 200 people during its heyday. More information on Lima’s history can be found in the links at the end of this article. Ironically, Lima is located just three bird miles east of another village, Albany, which also boasts a through truss bridge spanning the same river. The town is now a campground area, while the bridge, which is on Hill Road is only open to pedestrians.

While there is a lot written on Lima’s history, the history of the bridge itself has many questions that have yet to be answered. We know that the through truss span still exists and serves as part of the town’s history. We know that its predecessor was a bowstring arch bridge. Yet what we don’t know at all is how many crossings have existed on Heron Road since its first one in 1865?

And for that, it’s now your turn to discuss this.

You can find more about the bridge by clicking here. This includes its predecessor (here). For more on the history of Lima, Iowa, click here.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 147: Unusual Kingpost Truss Bridge in the Midwest

Our 147th Mystery Bridge gives us this game show question: Name this Bridge Type!

Nick Schmiedeler presented this pic on the bridgehunter.com website a couple weeks ago and features one of the most unusual truss bridges ever built in the US. It’s a kingpost through truss bridge, whose portal bracings seem to be held together by wooden beams. In fact, the entire structure appears to have been built using wood from a nearby forest.  The decking appears to have a Queenpost design, when looking at the picture more closely.

The question is what kind of truss is this? If this was an attempt to build a covered kingpost truss bridge, it was an epic fail because it was never completed. It’s definitely not a Waddel truss because of diagonal beams are non-existant, although maybe this was being applied after the photo was taken. It could also be that the bridge was being built at the time of the photos, but given the lack of people plus a road sign on the portal, it’s very likely the bridge was completed at the time of the photo.

According to Nick, this bridge was located in the Midwestern part of the country. The question is where?  The photo was black and white with nothing but hills and trees. The question is when was this pic taken, let alone when was this bridge built?  And lastly, who was the mastermind behind this build?

You can leave your comments here or on bridgehunter.com under the name „Help with bridge ID.“

Best of luck with this search for info.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 144: A Small Unusual Bridge in the Ruins of a Large Military Complex

The best discoveries are found in your backyard. This mystery bridge fits the historian stereotype like a glove and can be found in the southeastern part of Glauchau in the area now designated as a natural reserve, behind the Rudolph Virchow Hospital and adjacent Agricola High School.  We found this bridge as pure coincidence, while we were hiking and taking pictures on a Sunday afternoon. The structure is a two-span deck arch bridge all made with metal, and the connections are welded. The bridge has a total length of 25 meters and it appeared that it used to span a body of water which has since shrunk in size, leaving the area the bridge crosses to be nothing more but a dry ravine to be forded because much of the decking on the bridge is in critical condition with missing or cracked flooring. The bridge used to carry an abandoned road, which we later found that it led to the hospital grounds and given its width, it was probably used only for cars and pedestrians only.

The bridge has a unique feature that is rare to find for bridges built during its time. One side of the bridge exposes the arch section where only a couple vertical beams support the arches. Both the arches as well as the center piers are tubular and are welded together. On the opposite end, the arches are covered with paneling resembling an appearance of a faux pas arch span: a beam bridge that is decorated with only the outer arches, whose spandrels are covered with paneling, thus making the bridge look like a real arch bridge but it’s merely a beam bridge that functions as the crossing supporting traffic.

It is unknown when the bridge was built, let alone who built it, but the area where the bridge was discovered by accident belongs to a natural area known as the Rümpfwald, an area that is the size of 10 football pitches that extends from the hospital, along the cemetary and past Bismarck Tower going south and east towards Rottenbach Creek and the adjacent forest near Niederlungwitz and St. Egidien, located six kilometers southeast of Glauchau’s Railway station. A map featuring both the forest and the bridge shows you the size of the natural area.

Before the habitat was created, it was once a military complex with a long history, most of which still hangs a dark cloud over Glauchau to this day.  In 1914, a military complex was established under the name Friedrich August Kaserne, which covered an area including the hospital, and the western half of Rümpfwald. Originally used for the German army, it was made irrelevant when Germany was forced to reduce its military to a quarter of ist size through the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Nevertheless, when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the military base was reactivated and used as a concentration camp for political prisoners. By 1936, it became a base for the Wehrmacht- the Nazi army. By 1945, the Soviet troops took over the eastern half of Germany and with that, the military base in Glauchau, which would later be expanded to include the production of weaponry and tanks as well as a practice area. The Soviets occupied the base until 1993, when the last Russian troops left the base. Afterwards, the entire complex was razed to the ground and the area was converted to a natural area, yet some of the relicts from the past still exist today….

….including this bridge. Given its current, deteriorating state, the bridge will most likely succumb to nature as the arches and the superstructure have corroded to a point where a full rehabilitation would be deemed impossible. Yet given the fact that this bridge is one of the most neglected of all of Glauchau’s bridges, it would be a shame to see it disappear without knowing about its history. While only a small portion of the military base has been preserved as a mini-library, perhaps there is a place for this unique bridge, even if the dark past of the military days in Glauchau have long since disappeared…..

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  The Watchman’s post and the Historic Gate to the military base at Wolffersdorfstrasse and the north entrance to the hospital were preserved, restored and converted to a library. The smallest library in Germany was completed in 2009 and received the 2011 Pegasus Award, the most important award of the EU devoted to preserving places of historic interest. More information on the project can be found here.  Ironically, book booth, a phone booth is located on the opposite end of the street at Virchowstrasse. There, you can donate your books and take one from the booth with. It’s next to a panel of what was part of the Berlin Wall.

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Plans are in the making to expand the Virchow Hospital further into the forest and former military compound, which includes rehabilitation areas and a health care sector. When the work starts remains open.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 143

Our first Mystery Bridge of 2021 takes us to California, to the town of Brookdale. It’s located in Santa Cruz County towards the Pacific Coastal area, and the San Lorenzo River snakes through the community with almost 2000 inhabitants in the heavily forested hills located southwest of San Jose along Highway 9.

There are several bridges located along the San Lorenzo in and around Brookdale, many of them arch structures. But this bridge, a postcard by John Smeaton, is not on any of the list of bridges in the Santa Cruz section in bridgehunter.com. The bridge is a pony arch with lattice features and judging by the photo, the structure is no longer than 90 feet long. It sits on a high cliff which is 30-40 feet above the San Lorenzo River. There is no information on its consturction, its history, its location and whether it still exists. A couple hints of where it could be is behind Pike Street as well as around Huckleberry Island but even then, there’s no guarantee that it’s there, we just know it was one of the San Lorenzo River crossings that deserves to be recogized and listed.

If you have any information on this bridge please contact Mr. Smeaton using the contact information in the Bridgehunter.com website. You can also provide information here at the Chronicles using the contact information found in the About page.

Many thanks and best of luck in the research. Happy Bridgehunting until we meet again! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 144: An Unusual Through Truss Bridge in New York

This next mystery bridge takes us to New York; specifically, Fort Plain in Montgomery County and to this bridge. The structure spanned Mohawk River at River Street in the business district. The bridge features Phoenix columns and records indicated that the contractors, Dean and Westbrook of New York City as well as the Phoenix Bridge Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania were responsible for building the structure, which was between 130 and 180 feet. Yet it is unknown when the bridge was built. We do know that it was replaced in 1932 with a polygonal Warren through truss bridge with WV-portal bracings and riveted connections.

What is unknown and unusual is the truss design. When it comes to hybrid truss bridges, these bridges are hard to find for they serve traffic for a short period of time before they are demolished. The first bridge that comes to mind is the Philipp’s Mill and Crossing near Rockville, Iowa. It was a combination of Kellogg, Thacher and Warren through truss span that was a product of the Wrought Iron and Bridge Company. It was built in 1878 but replaced in 1958.

For this bridge, it appears to be a combination of Parker, Camelback and Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge, which is unusual for a truss design. Yet others in the bridge community would have a better idea if this inquiry was posted……

….which is why I’m posting it right now. What kind of truss bridge was this bridge and when was the bridge built?

Feel free to comment. Additional information on the bridge’s history is more than welcome, especially as bridgehunter.com has no information nor photos on the truss bridge replacement built in 1932.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 140: The Slope Truss Bridge at Black Cat Road

Screenshot of the Google Street View photo of the bridge.

This next mystery bridge keeps us in Idaho but we go to Ada County and to this bridge, spanning Indian Creek at Black Cat Road. The bridge is a sloped, camelback Parker through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings, supported by heels. The truss bridge has six panels and all the beams are pin connected.

Screenshot of the portal view

Bridgehunter.com has little information on this structure except for its location and the Street View. Unfortunately no other photos or information on the bridge were found. Hence the screenshot to give the readers an idea what the truss bridge is like. This structure is unique for it is one of the last truss bridges in the US, whose upper chord is sloped all the way to the portal bracings. Dozens of these bridges were built until 1910, when standardized trusses were introduced. Which explains why this bridge, which is between 100 & 150 feet long was built between 1890 and 1910.

Screenshot view of the strut bracings

The bridge has been bypassed for a couple decades, still it has historic value which warrants its nomination to the National Register. What’s missing is the information on its history, combined with the dimensions.

This is where you step in. Got any facts about the bridge? Then post them here as well as in the bridgehunter.com website. The more facts, the more likely it will be on the NRHP. And the more likely it will be used in the future as a recreation crossing.

Good luck and happy bridgehunting. 😎

Mystery Bridge Nr. 137: The arch bridge with unique railings

This next mystery bridge takes us to Kansas and this bridge: The Gypsum Creek Arch Bridge. And if there was a true meaning of something being located out in the middle of nowhere, this is it.

The single span, closed spandrel concrete arch bridge is located at least 20 miles away from the nearby towns in each direction. The nearest town is Roxbury, which is an unincorporated community. The bridge is approximately 25-30 miles northeast of the incorporated county seat, McPherson.   It spans a branch of Gypsum Creek on an old alignment of 27th Avenue. There is almost no information about the bridge, yet a pair of photos can be found in the bridgehunter.com website, including a Google Street View shot, presented here.  Judging by the bridge’s appearance, it must’ve been built between 1900 and 1920 but was replaced by a culvert on a new alignment at least 20 years ago, by which the bridge has long since been claimed by nature. The bridge is located in the vicinity of the Maxwell Natural Preserve.

Judging by the bridge’s appearance, the structure is a real diamond in the rough for not only is the structure an arch span, but also the railings reveal a series of arches with ornamental features on the top rails- something that is rare for an arch span, pre-rehab. Most arch bridges have vase-style ballustrade railings, especially for longer spans. Yet the bridge builder who designed this structure wanted to break away from that tradition and leave a mark for himself.

Yet who was he to be this creative and when did he leave his mark? And what other bridges did he build using such a fancy design?  This is the question we are trying to find out.

If you have any information about the bridge or its builder, please feel free to leave your comments here or in the bridgehunter.com website.  If we have enough data, the next step is to nominate the bridge fort he National Register, while at the same time, work to restore the structure for future use.  Such a diamond is worth a save to get a better understanding on its history.