Best Kept Secret: A School Bus Bridge in Kentucky

PRESTONSBURG, KENTUCKY- When traveling through the state of Kentucky, one will be awed by the state’s hilly landscapes, several memorial sites and in some cases, perhaps some historic bridges that are worth a visit. One place a tourist should plan to visit is Floyd County- specifically in the area of Prestonsburg, where history and landscapes come into one. Most recently, a 8.6 mile trail running along Middle Creek Levisa Fork opened to cyclists and pedestrians, connecting Prestonsburg with a small, former mining village of David. All of the trail runs along KY Hwy. 404 and along the way, one will have a chance to see some historic sites, most notably the Middle Creek National Battlefield. Six historic bridges along the route have been restored for reuse.

Yet there is a unique bridge, located near Archer Park, that has gathered a lot of attention since the trail’s opening in August of last year. It’s a school bus that was converted into a steel through bridge. The motive behind this idea was reusing a school bus that was no longer in service, which was the case for a 40+ year old school bus that operated under the Nr. 404 by using the top half and integrating it into the wooden deck beam bridge. 

End result is instead of sitting down on the school bus, because we were told to do so by our school bus drivers when we were growing up, we are basically running through the school bus with both sides open. Some of us had tried to run up and down the school bus until the driver stopped the bus and put an end to the nonsense. From a personal point of view, we even played Simon Says and harassed the bus driver one time, only to get a call from the principal and some of us being punished for it.  For this bridge, it’s perfect to reenact that and then some. But horseplay is not the only thing you can do on the school bus bridge; one can enjoy getting photos of this unique structure, especially as it is tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, laden with luscious trees.

But there is an underlying meaning behind the school bus bridge and it dates back to over 65 years ago. On February 28, 1958, a school bus numbered 27 carrying 48 children collided with a truck along US Hwy. 23. The bus then fell off an embankment into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, where it was swept downstream by the violent waters before it was submerged. 22 children managed to escape, yet 26 others plus the bus driver drowned. The bus and the bodies were discovered two days later, and to this day, it is the third worst disaster involving a school bus in US history. Two songs and two movies were later released, paying tribute to the victims of Bus 27.  The school bus bridge not only pays tribute to these victims, but it sends a direct message to the public, which is to pay attention to the school bus, the signals and crossing guards, and the children who board the bus but also ride it to and from school. If there is a statement, it would be this: Be aware and respect the bus- red means stop.

There have been many ways to recycle materials and use them for bridges. Some have used roofs made of metal. Others use rail boxcars. But the use of the school bus is the latest example of creative ways to build a bridge and make it not only inexpensive but also fancy for people to see. The School Bus Bridge along the Prestonsburg-David/ Levisa Fork Trail is one of the most attractive sites along the trail, let alone in the region. It reuses a bus but pays tribute to not only the tragedy of 1958, but also to all the school bus drivers who devote their time and effort to escort children to and from school safely.  I’m not sure if my bus drivers of my childhood will have a chance to see this unique artwork, but if you don’t have it on your bucket list, add it and go there. You will not regret it. 😉

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Special thanks to David Kravetz for allowing me to use his photos and for point this out in the fb page The American Two-Lane.

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Endangered TRUSS: W Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa

This bridge is part of a series dedicated to the works of the late James Cooper and J.R. Manning. All photos here are courtesy of the latter, who visited the bridge in 2013.

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Eagle Center, Iowa- All it takes is a quick turn onto a gravel road and it all goes down hill from there. All the way to the end and you will find this hidden gem. You cannot drive your car over it because it is too fragil. Hence the barriers and signs saying road closed. Yet you can walk or even bike across if you are careful. The bridge is a through truss, with typical truss design and portals- Pratt and Lattice with heels. You don’t know about this bridge except for its metalic beauty, yet the construction of the bridge corresponds to the history of bridge building during the Gilded Ages- 1870 to 1910. You wonder what can be done to keep the bridge in tact because the structure appears stable and look into ideas on how to keep it in place, even though the road is less traveled and it is hidden in areas often ignored by motorists passing by.

And this is the story behind the W-Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa. Tama County has a diverse collection of truss bridges like this one, most of which can be found along Wolf Creek. Yet this one sticks out as a bridge that has a potential for reuse, even in its current location. There is not much to talk about the structure. The bridge is a typical Pratt through truss with pinned connections built after the turn of the century. It was built in 1903 by George E. King, son of Zenas King who operated his business in Cleveland, Ohio, yet the younger King had established his business in Des Moines and populated the state with bridges with his own signature portal bracings (Howe lattice with subdivided heels). The bridge had a simple life, serving local residents and farmers………

…….until its closure in 2011.

We don’t know the underlying reason behind the bridge suddenly being closed to traffic except for some inspection reports from bridge firms specialized in modern bridges, like Schuck and Britson with its lopsided report on the Cascade Bridge in Burlington, which led to its closure in 2008. Such biased reports and scare tactics are common but following them like lambs to the slaughter house makes structures like this one be dangerous, when in all reality, the bridge is simply fine. Just a few minor repairs and extra special care and the structure would have remained open today.

Or is it closed?

During his visit in 2013, J.R. Manning took a chance to visit the bridge and saw that even though the bridge was out, according to the sign, it was anything but that with missing boulders, signs knocked over and the like. Some of his observations showed that the bridge was in relatively good shape and one could just have simply put a weight limit on the bridge to keep the trucks off of it. The decking was covered in asphalt and there was no real structural issues that would have justified its closure. In other words, the bridge could have taken a few more years of traffic, assuming that cars cross this location which were rare on this stretch of quiet road

Three years later, new barriers were put into place, but one can walk across it, take some pictures and enjoy the scenery that surrounds the bridge, given the fact that it’s tucked away in the valley. Today, the road to the bridge is all covered in grass but the bridge is safe and sound, hidden away and unused except by the local farm nearby. It makes a person wonder whether the bridge will remain as is given its condition or if it will be reused elsewhere. In any case if it remains where it is, it will make for a good bike trail crossing or park. It’s a matter of sprucing it up and making it safe for use. But given its location, it should not be a problem to spend a few thousand for that.

Whether the people will use it or not depends on the will to spend some time down there. The bridge may be out but it’s still in use for those who want to spend time in the nature, along a quiet creek like Wolf Creek…

…. and think about things in peace. ❤

Best Kept Secret: Landfalloybrua in Drammen, Norway

When we think of Norway, we think of large fjordes flanked by mountains, surrounded by wooden houses overlooking the seas. We think of long crossings that connect communities and attract tourists. We don’t think much about the country’s historic bridges as we are used to fancy but unique modern ones that cover the landscape.

That is unless you are Monika Pettersen, a photographer who finds some of the most unique and historic bridges in corners that are unknown to all but the locals. 🙂

This bridge caught the eyes of hundreds who have seen it on her Instagram page and is a best kept secret. The structure is a double-leaf bascule bridge spanning the river that also carries the name where the structure is located- Drammen. According to information I collected- it was built in 1867 based on the designs of Halvor Heyerdahl. It was 158 meters long and 2.9 meters wide. The spans were hoisted to allow for ships to pass. After World War II, local officials addressed the need for a taller structure to ship goods into and out of Drammen. Therefore a new bridge was built on alignment next to the drawbridge span and opened to traffic in 1967. Afterwards, this span was left in place and today, it serves as a pier and a monument, dedicated to its history and its association with the city.

This photo was taken at sundown and shows the reflections of the bridge, covered by collection of clouds. Its tranquil setting makes it a place where one could go for serenity. Normally, old bridges and natural settings make it a perfect place to listen to nothing but the nature. This one goes well beyond it as one can enjoy a little bit of history and awe at its structural appearance along the way. A perfect shot for a perfect bridge. ❤

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Many thanks to Monika Pettersen for allowing me to use her picture. You can see more of her stunning photos by visiting her Instagram page (click here).

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HYB: Able Mitchell Bridge in Parke County, Indiana

Photo taken by James MacCray

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Between now and the end of this year, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be paying tribute to J.R. Manning and Dr. James Cooper through a series of photos and films to be posted on Sundays, as a way of giving thanks for their years of work reporting on and spearheading efforts in saving historic bridges in their regions.

Our first bridge in the tribute series takes us to the Able Mitchell Bridge, spanning Big Raccoon Creek northeast of Bridgeton. It is the last through truss bridge in the county that features a unique portal bracing, as seen in the picture. Yet even though efforts were undertaken to profile this bridge and its association with its builder, Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, OH, the bridge has been sitting idle for three decades in hopes that the structure will get a good facelift and a repurposement in hopes it can be used as a bike trail crossing or a park someday. Satolli Glassmeyer of History in your own Backyard will give you the rest of the story in the video below…….

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More information on the bridge can be found here.

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Rader Hochbrücke (aka Europabrücke) in Rendsburg to be replaced

Oblique view of Europebruecke near Rendsburg. Photo taken in May 2011

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The days of the tallest and longest bridge in Schleswig-Holstein are about to be numbered. The Rader Hochbrücke is a multiple span cantilever deck plate girder viaduct that spans the Baltic-North Sea Canal, carrying the Motorway 7 between Flensburg and Kiel. It’s also known as the Europabrücke because the motorway, which is the longest in Germany, connects Denmark (and subsequentially, Scandanavia) with Austria (and other parts of southern and eastern Europe) and also is one of the most heavily-travelled bridges in the state. The 1491-meter long bridge is so heavily travelled that cracks, rust and other ailments are showing on the almost half-century old viaduct, which has a main span of 271 meters and a height of nearly 60 meters. The viaduct has only four lanes of traffic, which makes it functionally obsolete due to high traffic congestion on the bridge. Smoke and other ailments from the ships passing underneath have added to the misery to the bridge.

Therefore, planning is underway to replace the entire viaduct with a brand new one. Beginning in 2022, crews will construct one half of the bridge which will be used temporarily for motorway traffic upon ist completion. Once traffic is diverted onto that span, the old viaduct will be demolished and in its place, the second half of the new bridge will be built. When the new bridge is completed by 2027, the structure will carry six lanes of traffic in total- three in each direction.

Unique about the new bridge, as you will see in the illustration below, is that the piers will be V-shaped and the cantilever design will be similar to that of the 1972 structure. In other words, the newer bridge will be fancier than the structure at present. It’s a win-win situation for the region of Rendsburg, which prides itself of its beloved High Bridge and Rail Loop, for two reasons:

  1. There will be relief in terms of traffic in and around the city, reducing congestion and diverting unnecessary travel away from the city and
  2. The city will be greeted with a unique bridge that will be appealing to tourists and bridgehunters alike. It will be not only modern but also unique.

And with that, a film on this project, courtesy of DEGES:

TIP:

Even though the Motorway will remain open to traffic, construction will hinder traffic due to the machinery at the site. As a shortcut, you can take the Motorway 215 to Kiel, then follow Highway B76 to Schleswig via Eckernförde, crossing the Prince Heinrich Bridge that spans the Canal. Another alternative would feature taking the Motorway 23 along the North Sea coast from Hamburg. This changes to Highway B 5 after Heide. At Husum, follow Highway B 200 to Flensburg.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this project.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 147: Tribute to James Baughn

As summer vacation is approaching, we would like to take you to a man-made lake and this unique duo crossing, located in Taney County, Missouri. The Shadow Rock Bridge spans Swan Creek at the site where US 160 once crossed near the town of Forsyth. The crossing features two different bridges, located next to each other but having different types and even heights. The lower bridge features an open-spandrel deck arch with concrete deck cantilever approach spans. That span was built in 1932 by M.E. Gillioz and replaced the first crossing, a two-span Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings. The higher bridge succeeded the arch span 20 years later. The two-span Parker through truss bridge with riveted connections and WV portal bracings was built by Porter and DeWitt in 1952. Both bridges are still being used to this day, with the arch bridge serving as direct access to Shadow Rock Park and statue. The truss spans carries through traffic but is in need of new paint and some rehab work, though the picture taken by Mr. Baughn doesn’t show the rust but the silver coloring.

Duo bridges of this kind are rare to find these as they are either being replaced with modern structures or removed in their entirety. This was noticeable with a bridge couple in Floyd County, Iowa at Nora Springs. We had a two-span arch bridge at First Street that was built in 1916 and a taller Viaduct at Congress Street built only 300 feet away in 1955. It was a pleasant site to see them side-by-side during my visit there in 1998. Sadly both are gone now- the viaduct was replaced in 2008, the arch bridge was removed in December last year. 

But aside from the Shadow Rock Bridges where two bridges are side-by-side and at least 65 years old, which other examples do you know? Feel free to comment. Who knows, it might give bridgehunters a chance to visit them this summer, especially as we’re slowly but surely returning to normal after a year in standstill because of the Corona epidemic and chaos caused by…… You know who I’m referring to, right? 😉

Happy Bridgehunting, folks! 🙂

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The Bridges of Nagasaki — @chadkoh

In northwest Kyushu, on a peninsula of a peninsula of a peninsula, like a fractal made from prehistoric solidified lava, lies the vibrant city of Nagasaki. Nagasaki City lies on a branch of three interconnected peninsulas. Two volcanoes can be seen, Unzen to the east, and Taradake to the northeast. Nestled amongst rugged volcanic hills, […]

The Bridges of Nagasaki — @chadkoh

While Nagasaki was one of two cities in Japan that was destroyed by a nuclear bomb in 1945. On August 9th of that year, much of the city was reduced to a pile of rubble within a matter of seconds when a US plane dropped the bomb onto the city which had 260,000 inhabitants. The city has since recovered from the tragedy and the population has even doubled. While much of Nagasaki’s architecture is of post-World War-based modernity, some relicts from the past- the time before the incident- can be found in the city. Among those are historic bridges. In this guest post tour guide, the author takes you on a tour through the city and its unique bridges, past and present. Click on the link above and enjoy! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Bridges of Youngstown, Ohio

After having read the guest posts that were written about the bridges of Youngstown with a profile of three of the bridges, this last installment looks at the tour guide of the bridges that a person should see while visiting Youngstown. With a population of 65,300 inhabitants, Youngstown was once a main port for the production and transportation of steel until the great collapse in the 1970s and 80s which resulted in the steel mills being shut down, and with that, the abandonment of much of the city’s infrastructure, including railroads, bridges and highways. The city is currently rebuilding, piece by piece, by reinventing itself and focusing on its history, entertainment and local culture, looking back at what the city is famous for and looking ahead as it becomes a tourist magnet and a day-trip stopping port for tourists. What is unknown is that Warner Brothers Studios was founded by the brothers themselves- Harry, Jack, Sam and Albert, who were born and raised in Youngstown. At least 10 steel and bridge manufacturers had once dominated Youngstown landscape, including the Youngstown Bridge Company, which built the Mill Park Suspension Bridge, also known by locals as the Cinderella Bridge. And even though the steel and railroad industries have dimminished, Youngstown is the center point between Chicago and New York City as well as between Lake Erie and Pittsburgh. And with that, the city will be that stopping point for visitors and commerce alike as it moves on from its 200+ years of steel and become a major entertainment attraction, and with it the historic bridges that are numerous in and around the city center and along the Mahoning River.

Hence the tour guide on the bridges in and around Youngstown. The guide is based on my visit in 2010, driving to Minnesota from the Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh, yet not all of the bridges I was able to visit. There are some examples of structures that are worth visiting that were courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society as well as the crew from History in Your Own Backyard. They have been included as well. So without further ado, here’s a look at what you will see for bridges while visiting Youngstown:

Mill Creek Park Suspension Bridge

The Mill Creek Park Bridge is the most ornamental of Youngstown’s bridges and represents a fine example of a historic bridge that was built locally. The suspension bridge was built in 1895 by the Youngstown Bridge Company and features an eyebar suspension design, whose center span is laced with V-laced trusses supporting the cable. The entire structure, towers, railings and even the outriggers that support the towers are laced with steel trusses. The towers have finials and ornamental features on the lattice truss that forms the steel towers. The bridge is 90 feet long with the center span being 42 feet. It was rehabilitated in 2007. Currently open to traffic crossing Mill Creek at W. Valley Dr., the bridge is a perfect stop for a photo-op for parking is available at both ends of the bridge. With its natural backdrop consisting of trees and other vegetation, one can get many views of the bridge, regardless of which time of season, and still come away satisfied with the visit. If you visit Youngstown, you have to visit this bridge and spend a lot of time there. As there are picnic tables nearby, it makes for perfect picnic outing. Locals call this bridge the Cinderella Bridge because it’s the jewel that is hidden within a mixture of nature and rusted steel.

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Spring Common Overpass

Featuring a closed-spandrel arch bridge spanning Mahoning Avenue, the Spring Common Overpass is part of the quartet of viaducts and crossings that belong to the Lake Erie and Eastern Railroad. They also include the Youngstown Interchange Viaduct, the Division Street and Mahoning River Viaduct (DSMV), and the Mahoning and NSR Junction Viaduct. Built in 1875, the line connected Youngstown with Pittsburgh and was the main transportation line during the days of steel mills. The arch bridge, like the other bridges, dated back to the turn into the 20th Century. The line was discontinued by 1992 as the steel mills in both Pittsburgh and Youngstown were shut down. Since then, the bridges have been sitting idle, their futures unknown. Sections of the DSMV near the West Avenue Bridge have already been removed. The arch bridge at Spring Common reflects its abandonment vegetation growing out of it and salt and calcium leaking out of the spandrels, which are visible from a far distance as seen in this pic.

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Canfield Arch Bridge

There are several arch bridges that span Mill Creek in Youngstown. The Canfield Arch Bridge, which is located at Lanterman’s Mill Historic Complex, is the tallest and the longest of the arch bridges in this area. The bridge features a open spandrel arch bridge that crosses Mill Creek and has a span of 163 feet. The total length is 231 feet counting the approach spans. The structure was built in 1920 by N.R. Porterfield Inc. and carries US Hwy. 62 and Ohio Hwy. 625, which leads directly into the business district. The bridge was last rehabbed in 1990. Access to the bridge was difficult for you need to park at the Lanterman’s Mill lot approximately 700 feet away before you can walk to the bridge. Given its location in a deep valley filled with trees, vegetation, photographing the bridge was difficult during the visit. While one could experiment with a mirror-reflex digital camera with zoom-in lens, the best time to get a crystal-clear picture would be in the winter time, as the leaves are gone and there is enough white snow that would make for great pictures. Just a little word of advice from this bridge photographer. 😉

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Marshall Street Overpass

Spanning Marshall Street and Oak Hill Avenue, the Marshall Overpass is one of the oldest and most active of railroad bridges in Youngstown. The bridge was once part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which operated from 1830 until ist dissolution in 1940. The structure dates back to the time between 1910 and 1920, for the spans feature two steel pony girder bridges, anchored by art deco arch piers and abutments. The bridge is one of the busiest of railroad crossings for it serves three different rail lines, including the passenger line Amtrak, which connects Chicago with Washington, DC via Pittsburgh. Ironically, the nearest Amtrak station is in Alliance, 27 miles southwest of Youngstown.

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Photo by David Case

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Lowellville Veterans Memorial Bridge

The Lowellville Bridge is the last crossing over the Mahoning River before reaching Pennsylvania. It is also one of the last bridges that features a portal bracing that is supported by heel bracings. It is also one of a handful of arch bridges that is skewed. The bridge is 297 feet long; the main span is 240. The structure was built in 1966 and features a steel through arch with lattice portal and strut bracings. The bridge was built to honor the local veterans who fought in the two World Wars and the Korean War.

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Spring Common Bridge

Spanning the Mahoning River at Fifth Avenue at the junction with Federal Street, the Spring Commons Bridge is the third crossing at this location, having been built in 1949 replacing a Warren deck truss bridge that had been built in 1911 by the Fort Pitt Bridge Works in Pittsburgh and a Warren through truss bridge that had been built by the Youngstown Bridge Company in 1897. Unless the two previous spans, this bridge, which features a double-barrel through arch bridge made of steel, has outlived the two structures combined, having been in service for more than 70 years. The locals pen the structure the Mr. Peanut Bridge because of its dark brown color, yet it has nothing to do with Mr. Peanut from the Planters Peanut products. That company is located in Wilks-Barre, Pennsylvania.

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Photo taken by Janis Ford in 2016

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White Bridge

While this bridge may be hard to find while passing through Youngstown, the White Bridge is one historic bridge that a person must see, let alone spend some time there. The bowstring arch bridge is one of six of ist kind left in the country that was designed by William Rezner. Built in 1877 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in Canton and the Ohio Bridge Company in Cleveland, the bridge is the oldest structure left in the city. The 126-foot long bridge crosses Yellow Creek and is located between the Methodist-Baptist Church and the Riverside Cemetary in the suburb of Poland, located east of I-680 southwest of Youngstown’s City Center. The bridge was rehabilitated in 2020 and is now open to pedestrians and cyclists. A video on the bridge’s history can be found below:

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Most Endangered Structure

Photo: Ohio State Historical Society Inventory

Fish Creek Bridge

If there is an abandoned structure that definitely deserves a second chance in life as a recreational crossing is this crossing at Fish Creek. This bridge is hard to find as it crosses Fish Creek on an abandoned township road, a half mile north of Lexington Road (County Rd. 24) east of Youngstown, yet it is deep in the forest. The decking is covered with vegetation and the brick abutments are covered in green moss. One will need to look more closely in order to find the Howe truss railings. The construction of the bridge dates back to 1880. The Howe truss features a crossing of a double diagonal beam with a single beam, the rhombus is cut in half by a vertical beam. As the diagonal and vertical beams are round, they are more likely to have been built using iron instead of steel. It is unknown when the bridge was abandoned but judging by the vegetation and the rotting wood, the bridge has been out of service for at least 30-40 years. Yet the historic value warrants a much-needed renovation of the trusses and a relocation to a park to be used as a bike/pedestrian crossing. Whether or not this will happen depends on the interest, let alone which park or owner is willing to take the structure.

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Photo by Bob Harris, taken in 2010

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West Avenue Bridge

The West Avenue Bridge is perhaps one of the most controversials of abandoned bridges in the city, let alone the region. This has to do with the question of ownership over the bridge as well as the right of way- permission to even cross it. The bridge spans the Mahoning River at West Avenue; sandwiched by two railroad lines, one on each side of the river. The Baltimore through truss span, with a measurement of 287 feet, was built in 1929, but has been closed to all traffic since 1997. The bridge is elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Access to the bridge is extremely difficult, speaking from personal experience. On my visit in 2010, I wanted to access the bridge from the north bank only to be intercepted by security personnel who summoned me off the property with post haste. The claim was that the steet and the nearby building were private property and no trespassing was allowed, even though I never found the sign. On the south bank near the remnants of the viaduct is the access difficult but as you can see in a video presented by History in Your Own Backyard (HYB), it’s doable. Since its closure there has been a debate as to who owns the street and the crossing as one side has deferred responsibility and ownership to the other and vice versa. As long as that is not clarified, the bridge will remain as is, yet concerns about the potential of it being a safety hazard will grow over time, threatening the structure with its removal. Being in an obscure location, the only solution to prolong its life and reuse it again would be to relocate it elsewhere. Yet there is not enough money nor interest in this venture, especially at the present time.

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Struthers Union Truss Bridge

Spanning the Mahoning River at Union Street, this three-span through truss bridge was once a railroad bridge before it was converted to vehicle use. While I never visited the bridge, a documentary from HYB will show you its history and photos.

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Mahoning River Skewed Railroad Bridge

This bridge is almost completely off the radar for it never appears on any of the bridge websites in the US. Yet this massive two-span skewed through truss bridge spans the Mahoning River near the suburb of Campbell. The bridge used to be a railroad crossing before it was abandoned. Now it is fenced off. Some more about this bridge can be found through this HYB documentary.

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This sums up the bridge tour of Youngstown. There are a lot of bridges to see while spending a day there, one of the bright sides of the city that had seen its better days. While Youngstown may not be able to fully recover from the collapse of the steel industry oft he 1970s and 80s, the city has some bright sides which, if there is a lot of time and effort put together, it can reinvent itself and become a city devoted to ist history and heritage. The bridges profiled here represent the heritage which we can learn a lot from and if restored to their original glory, they will be profitable for biking, recreation and tourism. As we can see with the Mill Creek Park Suspension Bridge, if that bridge can be called Cinderella, why not nickname Youngstown a Cinderella City? Something for city council members and business leaders to consider.

A complete guide on Youngstown’s bridges can be found here, including those that no longer exist. You can read up more on Youngstown’s history and legacy through a column where a few oft he city’s bridges came from by clicking here.

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