BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 196

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to a familiar bridge but whose setting taken by the photographer raises some eyebrows among pontists and photographers, especially those who are experts in night-time photography. This photo, taken by Danny Crelling, features the twin spans of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, just after the sun left the horizon and dusk was settling in. Unique about the suspension bridges here is the lighting. The bridges are illuminated with yellow lighting that reflects off Pudget Sound, something we don’t see much of these days. The reason: The high-pressure sodium lighting is being phased out in favor of LED lighting and its neutral white color.

When we look at the history of lighting, we can see not only the development with the use of materials needed to illuminate the lighting, but also the color the lighting illuminates. Incandescent lighting had a light brown to beige color. Mercury Vapor had a emerald green to light blue color. Magnesium had a light pink color. But high pressure sodium had a color of yellow to orange illuminating on the streets. Invented in 1956, it was introduced on the streets in 1970 and by 1990, all the towns in America were illuminating in bright yellow. It had a warm appeal for some, but for others, especially if they are utilized in industrial settings, it had a dystopian appeal which reminds me of the film released in 2011 entitled In Time, with Justin Timberlake. A trailer can be found here and it is highly recommended.

This twin suspension span will have its sodium lighting replaced with LED in the near future, as they have several advantages. First and foremost, LEDs produces less energy than its predecessors. They are brighter thus providing more security for homes and businesses as well as safety for motorists. And lastly, the colors can be adjusted either for a special occasion or to please the residents who prefer to have a good night sleep with a low light setting.

Aside from the brightness issue, the colors can be depressing, even when some communities have adjusted the color to having a purple or dark yellow setting. And the new fixtures are not being accepted warmly by many who, like me, have taken a liking to the fixtures that were produced by GE, Nemo and Westinghouse and are sure that these LED lights could actually be fitted into these fixtures. A pair of videos will show you some examples.

Nevertheless, the photo of the bridge here represents a good example of how colorful our night settings have become- nothing all yellow and dystopian but one where we can see the many different lighting in action. Whether this will continue to be the case in 10 years’ time when the last of the sodium bulbs are phased out completely depends on how communities and highway agencies will operate the LEDs and whether the people will accept them.  One variable that will remain constant though, the history and unique design of the suspension bridges, especially as they were built as successors to Galloping Gertie and were the focus of a documentary which came in second in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge Media and Genre. For more on that, click here. Gertie’s successors, built in 1950 and 2007 respectively, continue to serve traffic to this day and like its history, these two bridges will be around for years to come.

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The Flensburg Files has an English activity that ties in the history of street lighting and grammar. Enjoy the history and the exercises when you click here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 194

Photo by Quinn Phelan

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This week’s Pic of the Week provides us with a rare example of a historic bridge that is homemade- built by bridge companies that are local with a local engineer overseeing the design and construction. This bridge is located in Linn County, spanning the Iowa River. The Greencastle Avenue Bridge is located NW of Cedar Rapids in the Hawkeye Wildlife Area. It features a pin-connected Pratt pony truss span and a riveted Pratt through truss span with A-frame portals. Originally built as a three-span bridge in 1922, one of the spans was destroyed in the flooding in 1949 and was replaced with a temporary span in 1950. That span was then removed and filled in, reducing the crossing to only two spans. The bridge has been abandoned since 1992 though one can access the bridge by car from the north side but going down a steep hill. At the entrance to the bridge on the north side, it is all for pedestrians.

The bridge is unique as it was built and rebuilt by four different bridge builders, all of which were located in Iowa. Two of them came from the same county as where this bridge is located- Linn County. The pony truss span was built by the Iowa Bridge Company of Des Moines; the through truss span was a standardized bridge built by the Iowa State Highway Commission of Ames. For the reconstruction of the bridge after the flood of 1949, there were two local bridge engineers responsible: Ned L. Ashton of Iowa City and A.P. Munson of Marion. Ashton was well known for bridges during his time, for each of the Cedar River crossings in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City that exist today were either built by him or whose predecessor spans had been built by him but were replaced in the end. The crossing is the second one in its present location as a previous structure, a through truss span, was built by another Iowa bridge firm, J.E. Jayne and Sons, located in Iowa City. That bridge, known by locals as the Dupont Mill Bridge, was built in 1908 and replaced in 1922. All in all, there were five different bridge builders all in this location, three of which in Linn County! Amazing how such a bridge could have the markings left by locals.

The bridge is not on the National Register but should because of its history, including what was mentioned already. The structure is still in place but is in need of a full restoration in order for it to continue its life as a pedestrian crossing. Given its location and setting, it would be perfect except to say, one could make a picnic area out of it, with info boards on its history and that of the adjacent Dupont Mill. Whether it will happen depends on the interest and there seems to be a lot of interest in keeping the bridge and reusing it. The question is whether Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Linn County would agree. But given the county’s high number of historic bridges and the way they have been maintained, there is a chance that the officials will listen and make the proper maintenance of and repairs to ensure the bridge will continue its use for years to come.

Iowa is celebrating 175 years this year and if there is a piece of history that should be considered, it’s this bridge. While the state has seen the likes of King, Jensen, Thacher, Wickes, and Jayne in several of the bridges, there are some that deserve recognition for their work, like Ashton and Munson. And this bridge represents such a structural work that deserves attention from these people.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 190

I was digging out some photos that the new owners of Niland’s Cafe in Colo, Iowa needed as they were preparing to reopen the restaurant and business after a three months absence when I came across this photo, taken in 2013. The photo was shot just after we were finished with the Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa and we decided to get a few shots of the bridges in and around Des Moines before visiting family in Minnesota. It’s a well-known bridge but its design makes it a very attractive place to visit, even at night when the LEDs are lit. I just had to make some changes to make it what it is here.

It’s the Madrid Railroad Viaduct. The bridge was built in 2010 using the piers of a previous railroad viaduct that used to be a deck plate girder made of steel and was used by the Milwaukee Railroad before it went bankrupt in 1980. Chicago and Northwestern then used the line until it was abandoned in 2002 and the bridge spans were removed. The line was then converted into a rails-to-trails and a new bridge with this unique desgn was put into place. You can see more photos and information on the structure by clicking here.

The bridge spans the Des Moines River between Madrid and Woodward, NW of Des Moines. If you are travelling through the area, I would recommend this stop for some photos and a break as there is a picnic area nearby. If there was ever a book on the Bridges of the Des Moines River in the future, this bridge would be in it, perhaps as a cover page. But it’s up to the author to decide. 🙂

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 189

Source: Snap by Matt via Instagram

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Our next pic of the week features a huge eye watching you- the truest meaning of Big Brother. 😉 Marrius at Snap by Matt took this unique photo of the stone arch bridge, spanning one of the canals in the city park in the city of Riga, the capital of Latvia. Riga has a lot of unique bridges both spanning the River Daugava and crossing the canals that serve the city of 630,400 inhabitants. There are several tour guides to show you the bridges the city has to offer; one of which can be found here and also here.

This bridge, however, is unique because of its setting, combined with the perfect motif for photography at night, as you can see here. When visiting Riga, one should try this shot: a bridge with an exact mirror reflection on the water. Its blue lighting on the arch, combined with the arch itself- lighted in white LED- makes it look like an eye is arising out of the water. One film that has a similar feature to this one is a fantasy film entitled Krull, released in 1983 and marked the high point for American film actor Ken Marshall, who played the character Colwyn who, together with an army of bandits, sought to free his love, Lyssa, from the grapples of the Beast, who had kidnapped her during a raid at the beginning of the film and imprisoned her in the eye of the teleporting castle. The eye had a pupil that served as a gate but also as a screen that showed what was happening as the army marched towards the castle to rescue her. The blue presented was for the frame. While it received bad reviews at first, it has become a cult since then.

The bridge may not be as popular as the the ones along the Daugava, but it serves as a hidden gem for tourists and photographers alike. It should be added to the list of places to visit while in Riga. The city is famous for its wooden and art noveau architecture as well as its Medieval historic old town. But it has a lot of bridges that deserve a visit and a shot with the lens.

Apart from the Railroad Arch Bridge, this stone arch bridge, dating back to over a century ago, deserves a visit, too. 🙂 ❤

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 184

Source: Sam Webb via Instagram

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to London and to one of the newest bridges spanning the River Thames. The Millenium Bridge is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames in London, linking Bankside with the City of London. It is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. Construction began in 1998, and it initially opened on 10 June 2000. Arup Engineering was the mastermind behind the design and Sir Robert McAlpine as well as Monberg and Thorsen were responsible for constructing the bridge. It had earned the nickname Wobbly Bridge because the bridge swayed in the wind, yet repair work in 2001-02 solved that problem. The bridge has a unique background with the St. Paul’s Cathedral located just 100 meters from the bridge in the City District, thus providing a great photo opportunity.

And this was the case, as amateur photographer Sam Webb captured this unusual shot of the bridge. This was taken at sundown but the river was doctored to make it look like the River Thames is covered in fog. London is known for its lousy weather with rain and fog and this shot makes it look like that London is living up to this stereotype. But admittedly, it’s one shot that deserves international recognition because it’s unique in itself- one that will surely win accolades if entered in photo contests. And if the photographer asked me if it’s worth it, my answer would be:

Just do it! 🙂

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 178

Photo courtesy of Josh Driver via Instagram. Link: https://www.instagram.com/joshdriver_photography/

How many of you have visited a winter carnival? What were some of your impressions? At this time of year, we have winter carnevals, featuring ice sculptures, sculpting competitions, lots of entertainment, but most importantly, lots of ice architecture, including the ice palace. In the Twin Cities in Minnesota, we have winter carnevals every two years, pending on the weather. The biggest event is on the Minneapolis side at Lake Harriet, yet there are smaller winter events throughout the metropolitan area.

This includes Stillwater, where this photo was taken. The Stillwater Lift Bridge was built in 1931 by J.A.L. Waddell and John Lyle Harrington and features a ten-span through truss bridge, one of the spans is a vertical life, allowing ships along the St. Croix River to pass through. It had served traffic, highway 36 until 2017 when the highway was rerouted to the cable-stayed bridge to the south. Afterwards, the bridge underwent an extensive, three-year project to restore the bridge to its original glory and repurpose it as an interstate bike trail between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It reopened last year and is now a loop trail that connects this historic bridge with its successor.

A lot has changed with the lift bridge, as there are no more cars waiting at the bridge and much of the traffic is now to the south. At the same time, Stillwater has become a bigger tourist attraction with more pedestrians and cyclists who would like to store-shop along the historic river front, containing many buildings that are at least 150 years old. And for pontists and bridge-lovers, as well as photographers, like Josh Driver, it provides some extended time to photograph the bridge from whatever angle best suits the person. This was taken at the time of the Stillwater winter festival shortly after the snow storm, showing the newly restored historic bridge with its glamorous lighting and beautiful coat of forest green paint. A perfect example of why a person should visit Stillwater- shop for the day, but stay for the bridge. 🙂

Your Bridge Matters!

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 167 Tribute to James Baughn

The 167th Pic of the Week has a perfect fall setting that was photographed by James Baughn in 2017. The bridge in the foreground however, as easy as you can access it, may be in danger of collapse.  This crossing is located across Blackwater River at McAllister Springs Access and features a Parker through truss span with Howe lattice portal bracings supported by curved heels. It’s near the village of Hustonia in Saline County, Missouri. The bridge has eight panels and has a length of between 160 and 190 feet. While there is no information on the date of construction, the pinned connections and the portals indicate a build date between 1890 and 1910.

At the time of the photo, the bridge was in a balancing act with the brick abutments cracking and spalling thanks to a tree that grew through it. Furthermore, the decking has rotted away to a point where the lower chords have been exposed. Some of lower beams have been shifted or are missing. Trees have landed on the bridge with branches found on the top chord and on the stringers. And lastly, the approach spans have disappeared with only V-laced columns dangling from the abutments. Another flood or two will seal the deal and put the bridge into the water. If that doesn’t happen, then most likely the bridge may collapse under its own weight. This happened with the Schell City Bridge in 2012 after years of abandonment, even though the decking was all but intact. Further photos taken this year shows a worsening state of the bridge. Click here to view.

The only way this bridge could be saved is if it is dismantled and restored in parts and built on new abutments as the old ones cannot be salvaged. Furthermore, it would have to be relocated to a better site where people can access the bridge. If and whether it is possible depends on the funding available but also the interest. Even if it was put into storage, it would be better than to just simply remove it.

The McAllister Truss Bridge is a bridge full of surprises, with history to be found on it and ways to preserve it. Yet it is a bridge in need of help and it hoped that someone will come to its rescue before Mother Nature finishes it with the next flood.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 166  Tribute to James Baughn

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This week’s Pic of the Week is also an Endangered TRUSS Award candidate and it focuses on a bridge that has been neglected for such long time, and if there is a possibility, it needs a new home. The Bolivia Road Bridge, known by locals as the Lanesville Truss Bridge, is a multiple-span truss bridge, spanning the Sangamon River at the border of Christian and Sangamon Counties. The 620-foot long bridge features a 180-foot pinned connected Parker through truss span, which has ornamental Lattice portal bracings with curved heels; the struts are also lattice. The remaining spans feature a half-hip pony truss span, 19-spans of trestle approaches on the north end and a stringer approach on the south end. The 120-year old bridge, built by J.T. Garrett of St. Louis, has been listed on the National Register since 2004.

Despite the listing on the NRHP, the Bolivia Road Bridge is considered one of the most neglected historic bridges in the country- a “step child” that neither county cares to have on their road system. The bridge has been closed for over a decade and plans had been in place at the same time for a new concrete span, whose expected lifespan is over a century- with no maintenance.  Furthermore, news stories on the bridge’s history has been distorted in newspapers, numerous times, resulting in criticism from the historic bridge community because the story is biased and written from someone who did no research and wrote for the money provided in the coffins of rich people wanting a new bridge at any cost.

Despite all the talk of demolition of the bridge, the structure is still standing. Even after James Baughn took this in 2016, most recent photos have indicated that the bridge is still standing strong- the decking covered in grass- but still standing in tact. The question though is for how long? While the window of opportunity is still open, we need a plan that will include saving and most likely relocating the Bolivia Bridge, getting our hands on the structure before the wrecking crew does. While the bridge is protected by the National Register, it is unknown for how long for pressure is mounting to have it delisted to allow for the demolition to take place. Therefore one needs to find it a new home and soon, be it in state or out of state, as long as the window of opportunity remains open.

If there is a way to find a new home for it or to restore it, feel free to comment, but also address the issue with the local officials and other agencies.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 165 Tribute to James Baughn

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to Clay County, Illinois and to this bridge. When bridgehunting, one will find an abandoned structure out in the open and hard to reach. In the case of this bridge, it’s the exact opposite. The Parker through truss may be in tact, as one can see in this picture. But given the thick vegetation that has grown on the structure, it is almost inaccessible. One would have to brave cuts and abrasives as well as spiders and other insects just to get onto this structure. It has a scary resemblance of a bridge in Kansas that was covered in vines, but was sadly removed earlier this year.

Yet this bridge is one of three that can be found along US Highway 50 between Clay City and Noble. All three bridges were built in 1923, when the US Highway system had not been introduced just yet and the road was operated as FR 2114. It was one of the first in the state that was built using concrete. When the highway system was introduced in 1926, this stretch of road was designated as US Hwy. 50, which became a 3073-mile route from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California, but running through Cincinnati, St. Louis and Kansas City. Out west, it received the nickname “Loneliest Road in the Country” as it crossed through hundreds of miles of desert and mountains.

The bridge trio carried US 50 until the 1980s when the highway was realigned and widened and the structures were vacated. Now closed to all traffic, they can be seen while driving along this stretch. However, talks have been ongoing about making the stretch of US 50 an expressway, which means these three bridge may become history unless there is opposition to the project. Given their location in the wildlife area where the Little Wabash, and the branches of Muddy Creek are located, there is enough ammunition to put a stop to the plans with arguments involving the environmental impacts of such a project, let along the historical significance of the bridge trio. The bridges are not on the National Register but should be because of their association with the highway’s history, let alone their design and connection with the builder, whoever was responsible for the structures.

When traveling between Clay City and Noble, check out these structures, then find many ways to make preserving them happen.

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INFORMATION ON THE BRIDGE TRIO OF CLAY COUNTY:

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Big Muddy Creek Bridge:

Location: Bug Muddy Creek west of N. Clay Rd. and Hites Hardware

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 558.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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Little Muddy Creek Bridge

Location: Little Muddy Creek

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 341.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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Litte Wabash River Bridge

Location: Little Wabash River east of Mayflower Road.

Description: Single span Parker through truss bridge with concrete decking, riveted connections, and Howe lattice bracings on the struts and portals

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 170.0 ft.
Total length: 172.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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The photos were taken by James Baughn sometime between 2015 and 2016 but we don’t know the current status as of present. According to Google Maps and Street View, they appear to be extant. We can only hope they remain that way and they can be saved for generations to come.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 164  Tribute to James Baughn

After a couple weeks away from the computer, we return to our weekly Pic of the Week, paying tribute to the late James Baughn. Our next pic, where he visited and photographed is one that is very dear because it is the only one of its kind along the longest river in the state.

We know that the Des Moines River, with a total length of 526 miles (845 kilometers), slices through the state of Iowa, including the state capital of Iowa that bears the same name. Even if the river forks into the east and west branches and starts in southern Minnesota, the river is loaded with unique bridges- both past and present, that bridge builders from as many as ten states have left their marks, six of which come from Iowa, including Iowa Bridge Company, A.H. Austin, Clinton Bridge and Iron Company, George E. King, Marsh Engineering, just to name a few.  The most notable bridges one can find along the river include the Murray and Berkheimer Bridges in Humboldt County, Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, the Kate Shelley Viaduct in Boone County, the arch bridges in Des Moines,…..

…..and this bridge in St. Francisville, in Missouri!

The St. Francisville Bridge spans the river at the Iowa/Missouri border. It’s a Warren-style cantilever through truss bridge with MA-portal bracings. The connections are riveted. It was built in 1937 by Sverdrup and Parcel of St. Louis, with FW Whitehead overseeing the constructon of the bridge. The bridge was formerly a toll bridge until they were eliminated in 2003. It used to serve the Avenue of the Saints and Jefferson Highway (Highway 27) until it was bypassed by an expressway bridge in 2004. It later served as a frontage road crossing until 2016, when the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Since then, the bridge has been sitting usused, awaiting its future. 

The photo was taken by Mr. Baughn in 2013, when the bridge was still open to traffic. Given the bridge’s proximity to the nearby park and boat ramp on the Missouri side, combined with the nearby communities, the structure is a great asset and with some repairs and renovations done with the superstructure, the bridge could continue as a local street crossing, sharing the road with a bike route. What is needed is money to strengthen and renovate the structure to a point where it can be reused again. The bridge is eligible for the National Register, which if listed, could open the door for grants and other amenities that will help with the cause. The bridge would be a perfect rest stop for commuters traveling in both directions and St. Francesville would benefit from a newly restored bridge.

The St. Francisville Bridge is unique because of its design as a cantilever truss bridge, something that has become a rarity these days. It is the only crossing along the Des Moines of this kind and one of a few examples of a bridge built by Sverdrup and Parcel, the same company that contributed to numerous major bridge projects in five states between 1920 and 1960. It is time that the bridge is given the tender loving care it deserves.

The question is are you willing to help with the cause?

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