Yesterday marked an anniversary of a tragedy in the history of bridge building and maintenance. 125 years ago on May 26, 1896, a street car tried to cross the Point Ellice Bridge, which spans the Upper Harbor on present-day Bay Street, connecting Victoria and Victoria West, let alone the island with the mainland. Thousands gathered to celebrate the 76th birthday of Queen Victoria and watch the reenactment of a naval battle at Esquimalt. Unfortunately on this tragic day, one of two spans of the pin-connected Whipple through truss bridge collapsed under the weight of the street car and the people who were traveling on it. An analysis of the disaster and reactions to the tragedy can be found in the video below:
The disaster was considered the worst in Canadian history at that time, still it is being talked about in class today, but on a regonal level. The bridge collapse signaled the beginning of the movement for truss bridges that were to be built to withstand increasing loads of traffic. This included the introduction of standardization of truss designs to be used for bridge construction. This was introduced beginning in 1910 in the United States. Steel was already replacing wood and iron because of their lack of quality- iron was too inflexible and brittle, while wood had a potential to rot due to weather and worms eating away at the material. The latter can be found in the example of the first crossing in Bisbrane, in Australia. And bit by bit, the introduction of a Good Roads Movement was presented, where roads and bridges were to be built using higher quality materials, yet at the same time, they were to be maintained. Even a simple paint job on a truss bridge span could prolong the span’s functional life.
Each bridge disaster presented challenges and ushered in changes to bridge building and maintenance. The Point Ellice Bridge collapse of 1896 is still being talked about to this day because it ushered in the necessary changes needed to improve the infrastructure not only in Canada, but in neighboring USA and even beyond…..
The Point Ellice House and Bridge were built at the same time, honoring Edward Ellice, who left a mark in Canadian history and later in Great Britain. The House has been preserved and designated a historic site. It still hosts events that talk about this tragic event. At the same time, the bridge was rebuilt after the disaster, yet the present-day structure, a concrete cantilever span, was built in 1958 and still serves traffic today. It was renovated last time in 2019.
This story is part of the series on Most Bizarre Bridgehunting Encounters with People and Animals. If you want to submit your stories, click here to find out how to do it. You will also find more stories in the comment section.
The best bridgehunters started out as novices and as a novice, you encounter the common variables that will stick to you as you go from bridge to bridge. This story came from Melissa Brand-Welch as she was just starting her career as a bridgehunter/photographer. Hers dealt with one common variable that all of us have dealt with- especially in the summer: Mosquitos!
These blood-sucking creatures can be found anywhere where there are tall weeds and lots of moisture. Not even the toughest insect repellent will phase them for they will consider it, an attraction. Not even repellent with lavender scent- a mistake I made in one bridgehunting adventure a decade ago. And to the person who is reading this: I still have the repellent and will instead use it on my next date with my wife. 😉
Here’s her story and the bridge where she encountered these pesky things with wings:
In October 2018, 4 days into my bridge hunting adventurers, I took my granddaughter to Sigler Bridge. James Baughn found it and added it to bridgehunter.com. I wanted to add the first photos. We arrived around 7am and as soon as I saw the weeds I knew it was a mistake! We started towards the bridge; it was the longest mile of my life in thick, three foot high weeds. The river bank was swarming with mosquitoes. I took a few photos and we hiked back to the truck. Despite all of that, I was hooked. I went back to the same bridge later in the month after the field was cut and took some great photos.
In connection with the 10th anniversary of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we are starting our first of many initiatives to commemorate 10 years of bridgehunting and preserving historic bridges. Our first one has to do with the topic of bridgehunting and this question:
BRIDGEHUNTING AND THE MOST BIZARRE ENCOUNTERS WITH PEOPLE AND ANIMALS.
Specifically, what was the most bizarre experience that you have ever encountered while photographing or finding bridges?
A pair of stories come to mind while talking about this- both of which happened in 2011, just in two different places.
FLENSBURG, GERMANY- During my stay in April for Easter, I found a tall arch bridge spanning a rail line connecting Flensburg with Kiel- the latter is the capital of Schleswig-Holstein. Known by locals as the Peelewatt Viaduct, the best photos were the ones in an open field near the campus of the European University of Flensburg, as well as right up at the tracks. The only challenge: fighting through bushes of thorns that separated the open field and the main highway passing the university. After minutes of fighting through them, I marched towards the bridge, only to be greeted by two different unpleasantries: a couple having sex next to a tree and their Rotweiler dog making a charge towards me, growling and snarling, as I retreated back into the thorny bushes! Eventually I found another way to the viaduct but not before encountering people who saw me as if Rocky Balboa had just finished a boxing match with Clubber Lang- scratched and bruised. Luckily not bitten by the hound.
FAYETTE COUNTY, IOWA- This happened shortly before the Historic Bridge Weekend in St. Louis and I was looking around for some historic bridges. I find a two-span culvert spanning a creek on Kornhill Road near Wadena. Because of the material used for construction and its unique railings, I stopped for a pair of pics, including one on the side. That didn’t bode well for one nearby property owner who ran half-naked down the hill to confront me, accusing me of being a hunter. When he realized I was photographing a bridge, I was allowed to leave but not before taking this advice: “Ask first before entering.” Since when was a ditch private property?
These are just two examples. The question is what about you, not just as a bridgehunter but also a photographer or someone who just found a diamond for a crossing?
Feel free to add your story by using two options:
You can write yours in the comment section or
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Photos are welcomed. If you want to use a pseudo-name to protect your real identity, it is fully ok. Privacy is just as important as the story itself. Stories will be accepted throughout the year. Give us your best story!