Interview with Greg Jackson Part II: The Brooklyn Bridge, the Roebling Family and Everything In Between.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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After talking about the podcast History that Doesn’t Suck (click here if you haven’t read the interview yet), we’re going to move on with the interview with Prof. Jackson about his masterpiece on the Brooklyn Bridge and the family that left their mark on its construction, from the planning to the realization of the historic landmark. Born in Mühlhausen in the German state of Thuringia, John Roebling had already established a reputation for his perfectionism and his inventions. He had already invented the wire suspension bridge and prior to building the bridge in Brooklyn, he had already left his mark with the Cincinnati-Covington Suspension Bridge as the longest of its kind in the world and the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls as the first suspension bridge with double-decking. Little did he realize that designing the Brooklyn Bridge was easy, building it presented more obstacles than necessary and after he died in 1870, the responsibility fell to his son, Washington and his wife Emily, who would complete the job even though the bridge opened in 1883.

This is just a summary. Yet the juiciest details would come in the form of a podcast Jackson created in June of 2021. It was then followed by a two-part interview with Dave Arnold and Kristen Bennett of Infrastructure Junkies in October. Both of these can be found in part 2 of the interview I did with Prof. Jackson. The first will start with the actual podcast which is enclosed below. It will then be followed by my questions and lastly, the two-part series by Infrastructure Junkies.

We hope you enjoy the show and will get an appreciation of how people come together to build a bridge that not only crosses a river but a landmark that helped America be what it is today. 🙂

And so, without further ado, here we go:

After listening to his podcast, here are the questions I had for him and his responses:

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1.      What got you interested in the topic on the bridge and with that, the Roebling family?

Well, the Gilded Age is often thought of as kind of a “downer” in US history. I wanted to tell some stories that highlighted the good in the era too. Among those, in my mind, are the magnificent construction projects undertaken in the time. I’d call the Brooklyn Bridge one of the most outstanding among those.

It also has such a compelling story in terms of its construction. It is Roebling family’s multi-generational work! The blood and tears in that thing (literally) makes it a compelling tale.

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2.      Have you visited any of the Roebling sites, including bridges, historic residences, and even the birthplaces including John’s in Mühlhausen, Germany?

Alas, I’ve only been to the Brooklyn Bridge. But you can bet I walked it, both ways, slowly, admiring every Roebling cable spanning the bridge and running into the anchors. 

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3.      Did you have an opportunity to read the novel by David McCullough on the Brooklyn Bridge or any of the works about the bridge?

I have read David McCullough’s most excellent history of the Bridge. In researching the episode, I also read Roebling biographies, histories of Gilded Age New York, Boss Tweed, looks at maps, plans, etc. Every episode is rigorously researched. It isn’t uncommon for me to have dozens of primary and secondary sources. If you visit my website you can see the sources I used in that episode (HTDSpodcast.com).

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4.       You mentioned a lot about the engineer John Roebling and his character in your podcast. What are two things that you know about him that many of us don’t know about him?

Two things most people probably don’t know about John Roebling: 1) he loved his family. He worked so hard and was such a serious person, I think this is lost sometimes. But under that tough skin was a loving heart, even if he failed to show it as often as he should’ve. 2) John wasn’t just an engineer, he was an inventor. Though I might say a successful engineer is and must be an inventor. I’m slow to speak to what engineers should do when I’m not one, but as a historian who’s studied a lot of engineers and their incredible works, I’ve noted that the greats don’t just build; they build things others said couldn’t be done: like the Brooklyn Bridge. Generations of Americans said it couldn’t be done. John never asked “if” a thing could be done. He just started figuring out the “how” on his own.

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5.    When John died from tetanus as a result of his foot injury, his son Washington took over. If you were to compare him with his father, what are some differences you can find between them in terms of their character, how they handled building the bridge, etc. ?

Both were brilliant men and excellent engineers. John was more stern in his demeanor. Washington displayed more emotional intelligence than his father.

Yet, John was the genius than Washington wasn’t. And I don’t mean that as an insult, I think “Washy” would agree with me. He was an excellent engineer, but if we reserve “genius” for the top 1%, the out-of-the-box thinkers, John is the one of the two who hits that mark.

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6.  Then there’s Washington’s wife, Emily. She basically took over when he fell ill and became bed-ridden. What role did she play in helping finish the bridge project?

Oh, Emily is a hero! She taught herself engineering so she could be the relay between her bed-ridden husband and the ground. She was the co-Chief Engineer in my book. 

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7.  There are some in the history community that say that Emily should have been credited for building the bridge, but in the end, Washington’s name was mentioned. Why was she fully left out and should there be something to honor her for she was Washington’s eyes and guidance?

Frankly, I think it’s a damn shame that the plaques on the Brooklyn Bridge listing the big shots who built it and made it happen do not list her. I think it should be updated.

The reason why she got left off … I have no sources that I’ve seen in which the decision makers explain their rationale. As a historian, I want those documents first and foremost. In their absence, however, I would say it is fair to speculate the reason comes down to US attitudes on gender roles in the 19th century. And I am all for her receiving the proper recognition she deserves in our present.

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8. Since the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, there have been improvements in safety standards regarding bridge building. Can you elaborate further on this?

Thankfully, John Roebling over-engineered it. The bridge was designed to hold far more weight than it was expected to. That’s why it didn’t need much change for the first few decades. But as the population increased and cars became a thing, concrete and steel-reinforced roadway had to be added in the 20th century. The bridge has been renovated (painted, cleaned, etc.) a number of times. Like anything you want to last, it needs care and attention. 

Though perhaps one of the most important things New York has done was simply building other bridges, which cut down on traffic and weight on the bridge each day!

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9. Last year, you did a two-hour podcast on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Roebling family through Infrastructure Junkies. Your original podcast was about an hour. What are some differences between the two podcasts? 

The key difference is that HTDS’s episode was the story of the Brooklyn Bridge told as a single-narrator. I got int the drama of the Roebling family a bit more and the intrigue of New York politics. With Infrastructure Junkies, not only was the story’s telling through a conversation, it was focused very much on the nuts and bolts (literally). Still a good time, just a different flavor.

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10. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Bridge Media and Genre?

Honored, of course! Thank you again for the acknowledgement. It’s always good to know one’s work is appreciated, and I’ll add that I was particularly proud of that episode. I really enjoyed it. I obsessed over getting the engineering details right. So getting a nod for my telling of the Brooklyn Bridge was great.

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11. Are you planning on doing some further podcasts on American bridges and if so, which ones? 

Likely going to do Golden Gate and Bay Bridges at least. Others … we’ll see!

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12. If you have some advice for people doing podcasts on bridges, what would you give them? 

I would say know your audience. Are you telling the history of bridges or the infrastructure? Not that they are mutually exclusive but figure out what your primary goal is and make sure your product matches your intentions.

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And now the two-part interview about the Brooklyn Bridge done by the crew at Infrastructure Junkies. Each part is approximately 40 minutes.

And before we close it on the series on the Brooklyn Bridge, we have one person to interview because of the book review on David McCullough’s work on the bridge. That will come in the next article. Stay tuned! 🙂

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Interview with Sue Threader and Kate Castle of Rochester Bridge

From Left: Pictured are Kate Castle (Senior Engineer) & Sue Threader (Bridge Clerk) at Rochester Bridge Trust.

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Love builds bridges where there are none, and bridges are built with the love and care that only bridge engineers can give them. Yet for a bridge to last forever, tender loving care is needed by the same engineers to ensure they are maintained not only by their function as a crossing but also by its outer appearance. In order to ensure they are properly maintained and to understand how bridges work, education and only education is the key. 

When looking at the Rochester Bridge, we look at a unique structure that features not only one crossing, but as many as four: Two roadway structures, one walkway for maintenance and one two-track railroad structure. Each one coming from different generations- a lattice iron bridge dating back to the Victorian era, a three-span steel arch bridge built in 1910s and the youngest bridge is over 50 years old and made of concrete and steel. But there are more things about the bridge that goes way beyond the structures that exist. We have the ornamental warden houses on each end of the arch bridge, the architecture mimicking the Roman times and each corner having a statue of the lion; the lion is the bridge’s mascot. There’s the bridge chapel which had many lives apart from being a church. It is now a meeting place for the bridge trust. And one mustn’t forget the Esplanade with its ornate walkway to allow for tourists to be in awe of the structure and get as many photos as possible.

The bridge has maintained its composure as a structure that not only functions, but also looks attractive to visitors but in part because of the regular maintenance it has received. It has also been a poster boy for learning about bridges and how they are built and maintained. After all, the first bridge at this site dates back to the Roman Empire, built using stone. The bridge has been rebuilt at least four times before the Victorian era when the present-day railroad bridge was built. And the rest was history.

To ensure that the public can appreciate the beauty of the bridge and understand how bridges are built and cared for, the bridge underwent an 18-month extensive rehabilitation project that included everything that needed to be fixed, cleaned and in some cases, renewed so that the bridge looks like new. In addition, further ways of educating the public about this bridge including the use of technology has brought the public closer to the topic of bridges, how they are built and more importantly, how they are maintained with tender loving care. This project has reaped awards as the bridge has received accolades from several institutions nationally and internationally.

And that includes the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards, where the Rochester Bridge won in the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Kate Castle won in the category Lifetime Achievement. We decided to interview both her and Sue Threader, about the entire project to get an inside look at the bridge, the Rochester Bridge Trust, the bridges’ restoration project and how the bridge has become one of Rochester England’s prized attractions. So without further ado, here are some things we know about the bridge from their aspects:

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1. (Both) How would you summarize the Rochester Bridge in terms of its description and history?

The first Rochester Bridge was constructed by the Romans, around the time of their invasion in 43AD. The Roman bridge crossed the River Medway on the line of Watling Street, the main Roman road running from London to Richborough and Dover on the Kent coast. 

After centuries of maintenance and repair, the Roman bridge was washed away by flood waters and ice in 1381.

Ten years later we have the medieval stone bridge, which was constructed some hundred yards upriver of the Roman ruins. Then in the 1850s the Victorians replaced that bridge and Sir William Cubitt built his new bridge on the route of the original Roman crossing.

Today we have three bridges. The Old Bridge (1914) a reconstruction of the Victorian bridge; the New Bridge (1970) and the often-overlooked Service Bridge.

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2. What is the role of the Rochester Bridge Trust?

The Rochester Bridge Trust (RBT) was founded in 1399 by Sir John de Cobham and Sir Robert Knolles to ensure the provision of passage over, under or across the River Medway between Rochester and Strood, in perpetuity. They petitioned King Richard II for the organisation (now a registered charity) to be created, and they sought donations of land and money from other wealthy landowners. These donations formed the basis of the current estate of the Rochester Bridge Trust and fund all works.

Today, that means maintaining the three bridges (two road, and one carrying services). This includes managing the Trust’s historic estate to ensure there are enough funds to carry out any work; and supporting engineering and agricultural education, to ensure the expertise we require continues to be developed.

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3. In the RBT Website, there is a lion named Langdon, who entertains the younger visitors who want to see the bridge. Who was behind the creation of Langdon and why? What role does he play with the bridge?

Langdon the Lion is our education mascot and has his own dedicated website: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/

His inspiration comes from the lion statues that decorate the Old Bridge, with his name taken from Langdon Manor Farm, one of the first properties to be donated to the Trust and still under the charity’s ownership today.

We introduce Langdon to children with this story: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/meet-langdon/legend-langdon-lion/

His role is to help inspire young people to take an interest in bridges and civil engineering.

4. Tell us in simple terms about the restoration project on the Rochester Bridge based on the following questions

    a. Why was the restoration needed?  

It is essential that large bridges are properly maintained. Although our team carries out regular routine maintenance, there comes a time when more extensive work is needed to make sure the crossings remain safe and secure. It’s a bit like the schedule of services you might have with a car – you routinely keep it clean, change the oil and replace the bulbs, but after a large number of miles, the timing belt needs to be replaced. We had reached the point where the Trust’s three bridges at Rochester needed some more major work, and so we carried out the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project.

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    b. What areas of the bridge needed to be restored?

This is a brief introduction to the works. The New Bridge was built in the late 1960s and some parts, such as the lighting, parapet and expansion joints, had reached the end of their serviceable life and needed to be replaced.

The lighting on the Old Bridge needed a review and it was time to improve its efficiency and install LEDs to reduce the environmental impact. Because of the bridge’s Grade II listed status, the existing lights were refurbished and upgraded and some additional matching lanterns were specially designed. We also carried out numerous unseen works to repair steel and concrete, as well as a complete re-waterproofing and re-laying of the roadway.

A new roof was installed on the Service Bridge.

Rochester Esplanade was constructed in 1856, from the remains of the old medieval bridge. The structure and river wall needed some attention and a new drainage system was installed. The whole area in front of the Bridge Chamber was landscaped and new benches added, together with information about the history of the bridges.

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    c. How was the bridge restored?

A major programme of engineering works was carried out over a period of 18 months. Hundreds of different activities took place along the length of the bridges and surrounding area. Much of the work was unseen by the public because it took place on the huge scaffold beneath the deck, which alone cost well over a million pounds.

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    d. How was traffic impacted by the restoration project?

Traffic impact was kept to a minimum. During the whole 18-month project there were fewer than 100 hours of bridge closure, and then only in one direction. Works were carried out in phases and mostly at night, using single lane closures to ensure traffic could continue to flow.

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    e. How was the project financed? Did you do any fundraisers prior to the project?

The £12m project was paid for privately, by the Rochester Bridge Trust, using funds generated by the historic estate. There was no cost to the public.

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    f. Which engineering firms/ construction companies were involved with the project?

The work was carried out by lead contractor FM Conway and a team of specialist sub-contractors.

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    g. When did the restoration begin and how long did the project last?

The refurbishment began in April 2019. There was a temporary closure while covid-safety measures were implemented at the start of the pandemic, with the works taking 18 months. The project was completed ahead of schedule in December 2021.

All the carbon generated during this project has been offset with the planting of more than 8,000 trees to create a new woodland.

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    h. How is the Rochester Bridge different now than before the project?

The three bridges have now been put into the best possible condition for the future, meaning that no major interventions – excluding the unexpected – should be required for many years to come.

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  1. Are there any missing items that need to be taken care of on the bridge?

There are no missing items on the bridge. The nature of bridge maintenance means there are always activities to be carried out.

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5. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge? What statement does it have with historic bridge preservation in your opinion?

This refurbishment was a significant project for us and we are very pleased to see Rochester Bridge recognised in these international awards.

We spent many years preparing for this project and ensuring everything would be carried out to the best possible standard, prioritising quality over cost. To see such an interest in our refurbishment, and to have people from all over the world voting for our bridge shows how much they appreciated our efforts and our Old Bridge.

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6. What roles did you play in the project (including title and description):

    a. Kate Castle
As the Bridge Programme Manager I worked alongside the Bridge Clerk to ensure all elements of the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project were carried out according to plan.

    b. Sue Threader

I am the Bridge Clerk [Chief Executive] of the Rochester Bridge Trust, and I oversaw the whole project.

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7. What is your career background prior to joining the RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
I graduated with a degree in civil engineering at the University of Surrey in 2002 and my background is in traffic and road safety engineering. I’ve worked for both the client and consultancy design sign, including Transport for London and Hyder Consulting. During these differing roles I gained project management experience which gave me a combination of skills that was vital during the refurbishment project. I joined the Trust in 2020, having been part of the wider team at then Bridge Engineer Arcadis since early 2013.

    b. Sue Threader
I graduated with a degree in civil and structural engineering from the University of Sheffield in 1988. I’ve worked for several local authorities as a civil engineer and transportation planner before joining the international engineering consultancy, WSP Group plc, in 1998 as a Technical Director. Moving back to the public sector in 2001, I held the post of Deputy Chief Executive and firstly Director of Services, then Director of Resources, for a district council in Surrey. I joined the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2006.

I am also a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Engineers and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Archives Panel. I was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the University of West London and an Outstanding Contribution Award from the ICE in recognition of my work to promote civil engineering to young people.

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8. Why did you choose your respective posts at RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
Having worked with the Rochester Bridge Trust for many years I already knew the structures and the breadth of interesting engineering involved in the site. It’s great to be able to contribute to this important historic river crossing.

    b. Sue Threader

As a civil engineer with an interest in history, the Rochester Bridge Trust brings together two of my favourite topics. It’s also a pleasure to be able to work for the same organisation that previously employed my engineering hero, Sir William Cubitt.

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9. Kate Castle, the crew at Bridge Boys, based in California, nominated you for Lifetime Achievement which you won decisively in the voting. Congratulations on winning the title! What are your reactions to winning the awards?

I’m overwhelmed! It’s wonderful to have my work recognised. During the project I took a lot of trouble creating virtual tours of the bridges as a replacement to the hard hat tours that covid prevented. To know that my explanations were appreciated and helped to bring the engineering to life all around the world is really special. Thank you to the Bridge Boys for nominating me and to everyone who felt my work was worthy of this award.

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10. (Kate Castle) What makes this bridge special to you, in your opinion?

All bridges are brilliant because they do an important job connecting people. This set of bridges is particularly special because of the extensive history that came before us – our archives om the Trust’s history are amazing and to be continuing that story is both a challenge and a joy. It’s also great to work on a local landmark, the Old Bridge’s bowstring-shaped trusses are an integral part of the Rochester landscape.

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11. (Kate Castle) What elements of a historic bridge are important and that people should appreciate? 

For me it’s the little details, such as ornamentation. We have lots of lions, heraldry, fruit, rams, crowns and more and it really emphasises the care and attention lavished on the Old Bridge when it was constructed. The Victorians who built our bridge wanted it to be beautiful as well as functional.

Some historic bridges tell their story in their structure too, for example the piers of our Old Bridge are older than the bowstring-shaped trusses – identifying the different phases within the structure can lead to the discovery of interesting stories.

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12. (Kate Castle) And that of the Rochester Bridge in your opinion?

That also.

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13. (Both of you) If there is a historic bridge that has as high value as the Rochester Bridge, what advice would you give to the group wanting to save the bridge?

Keep up with regular maintenance because it’s more efficient to do that, in terms of both cost and carbon usage, than having to completely replace a bridge when it’s been allowed to deteriorate too much to save.

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14. What is next for the bridge: Are you planning on writing a book about the project?

The project is fully documented in our archives which cover more than 600 years of the bridge’s history (the period since the foundation of the Rochester Bridge Trust).

As for what’s next? We never sit back and think, we fixed that bridge, so we can stop. We’re constantly looking for the next challenge and improvement.

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Thank you to Sue Threader and Kate Castle for the exclusive interview and for the stories behind the bridge. Congratulations once again on winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and to Kate Castle for Lifetime Achievement. 🙂

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Before ending this article, I would like to present you with a small clip of the bridge and the restoration project. While this was released in 2020, it will show you all the aspects of the project, as well as provide you with an overview of the bridge from ariel to ground view. Enjoy!

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Endangered TRUSS: The Three Historic Bridges of Christian County, Missouri

Unless noted otherwise, all pics were taken by the author in 2011

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OZARK, MISSOURI- When I first became involved with Christian County’s historic bridges back in late 2010, we were at the beginning of a renaissance- a renaissance where our country was becoming more aware of the importance of historic bridges, and there were numerous exchanges of ideas and success stories on historic bridge preservation. The public was beginning to wake up and whenever they heard about a historic bridge that was targeted for demolition and replacement, they stepped forward to halt the plans and worked together to save these precious structures, those that played key roles in the development of America’s infrastructure and with it, bridge engineering. Myself, together with fellow pontists Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth, Bill Hart and the late James Baughn worked together with Kris Dyer and the organization to save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, first restoring it onsite in 2012 and then after flooding caused damage two years later, relocating the bridge and restoring it at its new home at Finley Farms in 2020. The preservation movement gained a lot of support among the community and the county that they never forgot how important the Riverside Bridge really was to them- and still is today.

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After a double-success story which garnered a two gold medals in the 2012 Ammann Awards and three silver medals in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards, plus several other awards, there is hope that the Riverside Bridge story could be spread to three other bridges in Christian County. As mentioned in last week’s BHC Newsflyer podcast, three historic bridges are slated for replacement, though it is unknown how the county will fund these projects, let alone when they will be replaced remains open.

Which of these bridges are targeted for replacement? Three remaining “wild” truss bridges- bridges that are either open to traffic still or have been abandoned for only a few years, waiting for repairs or replacement so that the crossing is used again. The only common variable: Like the Riverside Bridge, these three were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio. Specifically they are as follows:

Green Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Smyrna Rd. NE of Ozark

Bridge Type: Pin-connected Pratt through truss with A-frame portal bracings

Dimensions: 281 feet long (main span: 119 feet), 11.8 feet wide, vertical clearance: 14.8 feet high

Date of construction: 1912; rehabilitated in 2004 & 2017

The Green Bridge is one of only three through truss bridges left in the county and also the last of the single span truss bridge. Like the Riverside Bridge, its portals feature the typical markings and the bridge builder plates with the name Canton on there. It’s one of the tallest in the county and one where even a train could cross it. It’s narrow enough that only one truck and one person could be on the bridge at the same time. This was my personal experience visiting the bridge with Ms. Dyer and a friend (and former high school classmate) of mine and his family. The bridge is situated in a natural habitat surrounded by forests on both sides of Finley Creek. A beautiful place for a picnic or a photo opportunity.

Photo by Nathan Holth at historicbridges.org

Hawkins Ford Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Seneca Road

Bridge type: Two-span pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridge

Dimensions: 161 feet long (per truss span: 80 feet); 11.8 feet wide

Date of construction: 1915.

The Hawkins Ford Bridge is one of those mystery bridges, whose case needs to be solved before its ending as a vehicular crossing. It was relocated here in 1966 but no record mentions where its origin was. We just know that Canton built the structure in 1915 and that’s it. The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and even though there are claims that justify its end of life, the bridge still has a chance at a new life for because of its bridge type, there are many ways to save it. The bridge is quite popular among locals, as you can see in the photos in bridgehunter.com.

Red Bridge

Location: Bull Creek on Red Bridge Road south of Ozark

Bridge Type: Three-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections

Dimensions: 255 feet long in total (longest span 85.8 feet), 11.5 feet wide

Date of Construction: 1915; Repaired in 2005

The Red Bridge was built at the same time as Hawkins Mill but like the Green Bridge, it is located in a heavily forested setting and is a very narrow crossing- narrow enough that only one car and one person could fit, side by side. If there is one bridge that would need to be completely rebuilt, it is this one because of the piers that have been crumbling since my visit in 2011.

All three bridges are considered elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but given Canton Bridge Company’s good track record with the county, let alone the company’s agent, these three structures should be on the National Register. In fact, given the fact that also the Riverside Bridge and Ozark Mill Bridge, now standing side by side at Finley Farms, have not been listed yet, there should be a historic bridge designation with the purpose of not only protecting them but also making them a tourist attraction, as it is being done with the covered bridges in Lyndon, Vermont (as mentioned in the most recent podcast).

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The bridges at hand here are no longer suitable for modern-day traffic and according to Christian County Highway Commissioner Miranda Beadles, the new structures would be two-lane to allow for all traffic to use them, especially emergency crews, school buses and utilities. But the county has expressed interest in saving the structures and is open to all options, including giving them to a third party. The question is what options are available? Here are a few worth considering:

Leaving them in place

This option has been practiced where historic bridges could be in place alongside the old one. For the three bridges, there is the option of making a park/rest area on the bridge, integrating them into a bike trail crossing, converting them into a fishing pier or leaving it as is. Advantage is that the relocation costs would be subtracted and the cost would only be allocated for repurposing them onsite, including the cost for the parking area and possible lighting. Plus it would allow for easier and quicker listing on the National Register. The drawback is the costs for ensuring that the bridge is not a liable risk. That means repairs to the structure, esp. with the Red Bridge, plus security and flood protection would be needed. But for this option, it is the most popular avenue for historic bridge preservation.

Relocating them

This was done with the Riverside Bridge already as Finley Farms purchased the structure and financed the restoration project. Normally relocating a bridge takes a lot of money, not only for the cost of disassembly and reassembly, but also the transport and the construction of the abutment and decking. In the case of the three bridges, there is the question of where to place them, though Ozark would be the best spot for these structures, be it as a city-wide bike trail network where these bridges would be showcased, or a bridge museum and/or park near the Finley Farm complex, or an open space where the bridges could be displayed and a new park would be created. That option would depend on the availability of space in town but most importantly, the interest in the community in this endeavor.

Integrating the historic bridges into the new structure

This practice is being done with several historic bridges, including the Route 66 Bridge at Bridgeport, Oklahoma, which will be considered the largest ever. And even though all three bridges would benefit from this “reconstruction,” including the National Register listing, the county has made it clear that the new structures would be two lanes, thus making Hawkins Ford and Red Bridges eligible, and the Green Bridge would be left out, its future unknown.

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The current status is as follows: the three bridges are scheduled for replacement but the county has not given up on them just yet. They are looking for ideas on how to reuse them. The interest is still there to save them. The question is how. The Riverside Bridge has shown us that when there is the interest and the way to preserve a historic bridge, nothing will stop it from making it happen. While the Missouri Department of Transportation has been literally busy working on replacing every single historic bridge on the map, competing with Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin for the title of the first truss-bridge-less state in the country, there are some counties in the state and those along the Route 66 Corridor that do not subscribe to MoDOT’s point of view. The end of a bridge’s structural life does not mean the bridge must be torn down and replaced. And newer structures designed to last 100 years have turned out to have lasted a quarter of that time. With global warming and its disastrous implications on our environment, we have to rethink the way we preserve and replace bridges. We have to appreciate how bridges are built and make use of what history offers us by preserving what is left and using the playbook to build those that are adaptable to change and conform to the environment surrounding it. Truss bridges have played a pivotal role in doing both- as a bridge type that fits with nature and a bridge type that withstands floods and other natural disasters.

And this is where we return to the three bridges of Christian County and their futures. How should they be preserved? If you have any ideas, here are the contact details of people with whom you can share your ideas and ask more about them.

Save the Riverside Bridge would be a good way to start. It has a fb page: https://www.facebook.com/saveriversidebridge

Then you have the following contact details of the Christian County officials:

Ralph Phillips:

rphillips@christiancountymo.gov

417-582-4302

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Lynn Morris:

lmorris@christiancountymo.gov

417-582-4304

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Hosea Bilyeu

Hbilyeu@christiancounty.org

417-582-4303

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Highway Administrator – Miranda Beadles mbeadles@christiancountymo.gov

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Christian County Commission

100 West Church St., Room 100

Ozark, MO 65721

Phone: 417-582-4300

Countycommission@christiancountymo.gov

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The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the three bridges and their futures, which are currently up in the air. Will they be saved and if so, how and which ones will benefit? All options are open at this point.

Best Kept Secret: Munksbrücke near Ockholm

This past summer, my family and I had an opportunity to visit the North Sea coast near Dagebüll. The town of 2,500 inhabitants is located 65 km west of Flensburg and 30 km northwest of Husum. Not far from the mainland are the Halligen Islands. These small islands serve as wave breakers and are located between three and 15 kilometers off the mainland. With a couple exceptions, these islands can be accessed by foot during low tide (Ebbe) and only by boat at high tide (Flut). The influence of the tides can also be seen in the canals and waterways that exists on the mainland, which are controlled by a series of dams and dikes. This system has been in use since the Great Flood of 1961, which flooded half of Schleswig-Holstein and almost all of Hamburg, killing hundreds of residents and causing billions of US Dollars in damages. Yet the dikes are being improved as the water levels are increasing as a result of Climate Change.

Located eight kilometers to the south of Dagebüll is this bridge. Located over the Bongsiel Canal, this bridge is located in an area that is out of the way, serving a local road near Ockholm. Unique about this bridge is the fact that it is the oldest of its kind left in the state. Constructed in 1886, this bridge is 31 meters long and features a bowstring pony arch bridge with welded connections. The bridge is a year older than the swing bridge at Klevendeich near Hamburg.

Like with truss bridges in North America, the Munksbrück features welded connections, where the truss parts are bolted together by hand, supported by gusset plates. They were the forerunners to truss bridges with riveted connections, where the truss parts are slid into the gusset plates like a person wearing a glove and then bolted shut. Most of the truss bridges in Europe were built using this system of connections until the 1920s when riveted connections were introduced. Most truss bridges today are molded together offsite before sliding it into place.

Contrary to the tire tracks left on the bridge and the wear and tear, this bridge was restored in 2019. According to the engineering firm Grassl, the abutments were rebuilt, mimicking the original ones when it was built in 1886. Furthermore, the bridge itself was restored, in-kind. This means truss parts were sandblasted , strengthened and then repainted to protect them from corrosion. Some parts were most likely replaced in the process. Furthermore, a new wooden decking was installed which includes a drainage mechanism where the water is drained into the canal. The bridge was never widened, which means the one-lane bridge restriction was left in place. Based on my observation during our visit in 2021, road-users were paying attention to the oncoming traffic to ensure that those who have the right-of-way can use it. In American standards, it would be considered impossible for today’s bridges must have a minimum of three lanes- two for cars and one for pedestrians and sidewalks. A total of at least 35 feet in width, which puts the remaining truss bridges in service in danger of being replaced; the trusses sent to the recycling centers for reuse. One of the caveats I have as an American is when the bridge wobbles.
From an American bridge building perspective, it would call for an immediate replacement for a crossing must sit still when something crosses it. However if one does the homework correctly, he/she will find that a truss bridge vibration is normal as it undergoes regular stress caused by loads going across it. It’s just a mere question of how much of a load the bridge can tolerate. Yet from a neutral perspective, one needs to check and ensure that no damage is done to the diagonal beams or better yet, havea weight limit to ensure only light vehicles can cross the bridge. After all, a concrete bridge, built in the 1960s is located just a kilometer away from the bridge, clearly visible from the truss bridge.

There is very little information about this bridge except to say that it is the second crossing currently in service. The bridge is located only 200 meters away from a nearby restaurant that bears the same name. Unfortunately because of the Covid-19 epidemic, the restaurant is out of business, having been closed for quite some time. Likewise, many restaurants in this region has born the brunt of the epidemic for 70% of the restaurants located outside communities, like Dagebüll, Husum and Niebüll have shuttered because of Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions. As long as the epidemic exists, the way of life will be restricted unless we be active in our efforts to contain and defeat it. This includes getting the shot and even the boosters that are and will continue to be available. But it also making some fundamental changes in terms of our travel habits, such as reducing capacity at public events and on flights. The less is more approach cannot come at a better time than now. Already Schleswig-Holstein is leading the pack in these aspects and more and it is hoped that other states in Germany, as well as other countries, such as the US will follow suit. If in doubt, ask the politicians in Kiel. They will show you the path.

The (now shuttered) Restaurant bearing the bridge’s name.

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But once the epidemic is over, perhaps places like this restaurant will reopen. If that is a case, it makes for a perfect stop to enjoy the meal and see the bridge. The Munksbrück Bridge is one diamond that one has to see while in the region where the Halligen Islands are located. It has maintained its structural integrity, even more so with its recent facelift. As long as the bridge is properly maintained and drivers pay attention to the other man on the (opposite end of the) bridge, the structure will remain in service for generations to come. It’s a trip that was not regrettable and is recommended to everyone, pontist or non-pontist.

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Author’s note: I’m looking for more information on this bridge’s history, especially in terms of its builder. It’s in connection with the bridge book I’m compiling on Schleswig-Holstein’s bridges. For more information, click here. My contact info is here. Thanks in advance for your help and happy bridgehunting, folks.

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💉🌉BHC

The Bridges of Grimma (Saxony), Germany

Poppelmann Bridge at Volkshausplatz and City Center. Photos taken in August 2021

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Located on the River Mulde between Leipzig and Dresden is the city of Grimma. With a population of 28,700 inhabitants, Grimma is geographically located at the junction of the flat lands to the north and the hills and lakes region to the south. The name is of Sorbian origin and means a region that is at or below sea level, surrounded by water. The city has had its share of flooding in its 1000+ year history, but for each disaster it faces, it emerges bigger and better than before. It has survived six floods plus the bombings of the second World War only to become a more attractive community for people to live. Much of Grimma’s architecture today either originates from the Baroque period or mimick’s that because the original was destroyed. Grimma’s city center has many small shops in historic buildings that are over two centuries old. The historic city hall is one of them. The largest building in the city is the St. Augustin, a combination of high school and chuch located along the Mulde. To the south of the city near the dam is the castle, where the Margraves of Meissen and the Electors of Saxony once resided.  Grimma is the largest city along the River Mulde in Saxony and is a major stop for cyclists riding along the Mulde. In terms of land size, it’s the fourth largest in the state of Saxony. And when it comes to bridges, Grimma has a storied history behind two of the city’s most popular attractions.

Eight bridges within a radius of 10 kilometers can be found in Grimma, including the Motorway 14 Bridge and a bridge south of Grimma at Grossboden, all but two spans the River Mulde. Yet the most important of the city’s bridges are the Grimma Suspension Bridge and the Poppelmann Arch Bridge because of its history of being rebuilt after each disaster and also because of their unique designs. These two bridges, plus an arch bridge along a former railroad line, the arch bridge at Grossboden and the Mill Run Bridge will be featured in the Top Five Bridge Pics when visiting Grimma. The other bridges will be mentioned in one way or another in reference to the bridges profiled here in this tour guide.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the bridges in Grimma and find five bridge reasons to convince you to visit this fine community.

Poppelmann Arch Bridge

Location: Mulde River at Volkhausplatz and Muldenufer

Type: Stone arch bridge with tubular steel arch main span. Five arch spans exist.

Built: 1719 replacing earlier spans dating back to 1292. Rebuilt seven times, the last being in 2012

Length: 143 meters, 7.3 meters wide

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The Poppelmann Bridge has perhaps one of the most storied histories of bridge building not only in Saxony, but on the international front. Its first crossing dates back to the 13th Century. Counting the reconstruction in 2021, it has been rebuilt at least ten times in over 900 years of its existence. It was built and rebuilt using at least five different bridge types: arch bridge, covered bridge, metal truss bridge, suspension bridge and modern beam bridge. It is also considered one of the most ornamental bridges in Saxony, as today’s bridge is covered with ornamental lighting, and has a Baroque-style shield representing Saxony. To go into detail about the bridge would require a separate article but there is a book that was written about this bridge that was published in 2017.  But to give you some facts about this bridge:

The ornamental monument with the seal of Saxony, constructed with the bridge in 1719. Source: Joeb07, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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The bridge in its current form was constructed in 1719 by Mathias Poppelmann. It was the fourth crossing at this location as the previous ones were destroyed either during warfare or flooding. For almost a Centruy before Poppelmann built this bridge, there was no crossing and attempts to garner support had failed. Mr. Poppelmann had left his signature in bridge building in Saxony, which included not only the construction of the Augustus Bridge in Dresden, but also the Poppelmann design, where the covered bridge is the main span and the approach spans are made of red stone arch. Dozens were built in Saxony during his time as bridge engineer, yet sans covered bridge, only two of his examples exist today, here and in Waldheim. The Poppelmann Bridge in his current form had existed for over 170 years with the covered bridge having been rebuilt in 1816, three years after it was destroyed during the war with Napoleon.

In 1894, in response to the increase in traffic, the bridge was rebuilt. The covered bridge was replaced with a Schwedler pony truss span while the arches were strengthened. It was in service until the span was imploded by the fleeing Nazi troops on 15 April, 1945. It was rebuilt with an improvised suspension bridge right after the war, but was replaced with a deck truss bridge two years later. The bridge was extensively rehabbed in 1972 which included a permanent deck truss span. It remained in service until 1996 when the bridge was rehabbed again, this time with a concrete deck arch center span. At the same time, a taller span was constructed, located 100 meters north of the structure, which has been serving traffic ever since. The historic bridge was reopened in 1999 but little did the City of Grimma realize that a flood of biblical proportions would cause massive destruction to much of the city and this bridge.

The Poppelmann Bridge after the 2002 Floods. When this was taken in 2009, two additional arches were removed. Source: Joeb07, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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On August 13, 2002, massive floodwaters caused extensive damage to the bridge. The newly built center span was dislodged from the bridge and was washed away. The two arches that had supported the main span was damaged to the point that they were not salvageable. The bridge was rebuilt from the bottom up, rebuilding the arches that could be saved and removing the ones that were not. A new center span, featuring a tubular arch design, was chosen as its replacement. On August 12, 2012, after a three-year project, the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and cyclists. It survived the 2013 floods unscathed, while other areas to the north of Grimma was affected the worst.

Today’s Poppelmann Arch Bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists and is conveniently located next to the parking lot that accommodates visitors to the shopping center and sports complex. The Poppelmann Bridge is the best accessory to Grimma’s city center as it presents a backdrop to the historic buildings that exist on the western side of the river, including the St. Augustin and the historic City Hall.

More on the bridge, including historic photos and the like here: http://www.poeppelmannbruecke.de/

Grimma Suspension Bridge

Location: Mulde River at Colditzer Weg and Bärenburg Castle

Type: All-steel wire suspension bridge

Built: 1924, rebuilt in 1949 and again in 2004

Length: 80 meters

The Grimma Suspension Bridge can be easily accessed by both car as well as through the Mulde Bike Trail as both run along the river. The bridge itself is the longest suspension bridge in Saxony and is one of six suspension bridges along the Mulde/ Zwickau Mulde. The suspension bridge is a photographer’s paradise as it presents a beautiful backdrop from both sides of the river. On the west side of the river is Bärenburg Castle located on the hill. Two eateries and a hotel are located nearby. On the east end is nothing but nature as the city park and forest cover much of the eastern side of the Mulde. The bridge is located 30 meters from the dam and one could find a perfect side view from that area, with or without the dam.  The bridge is unique as the entire structure is all built using steel. The roadway is supported by Warren trusses which even curves around the western entrance. The cables and suspenders are all wired and pin-connected.  The towers have three different portals with a V-laced bracing at the top, followed by vertical beams and lastly an A-frame portal bracing whose bottom endpost extends to the bridge deck. It’s one of the most ornamental of bridges in Saxony, competing with the likes of neighboring Poppelmann Bridge, the Blue Miracle Bridge in Dresden and the Paradiesbrücke upstream in Zwickau.

The bridge has survived a bombing attack before the end of World War II as well as several flooding events, among others, in 1954, 2002 and 2013. It has been rebuilt twice: in 1949 and again after the flood disaster in 2004. Repairs were made in response to the flood damage two years earlier and the bridge reopened again in 2015.  Located near the dam, a memorial was erected in 2006 that was dedicated to the Great Flood in 2002 with people who risked their lives to save many others, some of which were profiled in newspapers and magazines.

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Source: Falk2, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Rabenstein Railroad Bridge (now extant)

Location: River Mulde south of the Grimma Suspension Bridge at the Rabenstein Observation Point

Type: Metal Through Truss Bridge

Built: 1876 (first crossing); replaced in 1931; destroyed in 1945; removed afterwards

When biking south along the Mulde bike trail, one will find  piers and abutments of a bridge that once existed. The Rabenstein Bridge was built as part of the construction of a rail line that connected Grimma with Grossboden. The original railroad station was located adjacent to the market square. The original span, built in 1876, featured a two-span Schwedler through truss with skewed portal bracings. How the portals looked like remains unclear, but post card photos reveal how the end posts are skewed at the piers.

Source: Brück & Sohn Kunstverlag Meißen, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Because of the increase in rail traffic and the structural weakness of the bridge, the spans were replaced by multiple-span Warren through truss bridges in 1931, built with riveted connections and with I-beam portal bracings supported by heels. All but the easternmost span were imploded in April 1945 by the Nazis in an attempt to slow the advancement of Russian and American troops from the east. Grimma came under Soviet control and eventually became part of East Germany by 1949. Because of chronic material shortage, rail lines and bridges deemed expendable were removed with the steel recycled and reused for other purposes. That was the case with the rail line as it was relocated to the western side of the Mulde and up the hill making the original line useless. A new station at Leipziger Strasse near the city center was constructed which still operates to this day.  The tracks of the old line and the remaining span were both removed in the 1960s, though when exactly it happened is unknown. The Mulde Bike Trail now uses the track remains along the eastern side of the river.

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Mulde Bike Trail Arch Bridge

Location: Small hiking path near the Grimma Dam and Suspension Bridge

Type: Stone Arch Bridge

Built: 1876

This bridge is hard to find, unless you happen to hike the trails in the city forest on the eastern side of the River Mulde. It is unknown who was behind the design and construction of this short crossing, which is no longer than 10 meters long and 3 meters high, but it was once part of the railroad line that had passed through Grimma until 1945. It’s now a rail-to-trail that is part of the Mulde Bike Trail. When going under the bridge towards the dam, one must pay attention to the mud that exists, partially because of the water run off from the hills into the river, 30 meters away.

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Kössern Bridge

Location: Mulde River near Grossboden

Bridge Type: Eight-span stone arch bridge

Built: 1887-88

Dimensions: 142.5 meters long, 22.5 meters wide

As a bonus, one should drive 6 kilometers south along the Mulde to this bridge. This bridge is easy to photograph as there is plenty of grass land on the eastern side of the river which makes it perfect for a photo with a heavily-forested background. The bridge is located only two kilometers from the train station in Grossboden, which serves train traffic to this day between Leipzig and Freiberg via Grimma and Wurzen. The bridge is the first roadway crossing over the Mulde north of the confluence between the Zwickau and Freiberg Mulde at Sermuth. Not far from the bridge is an abandoned railroad bridge made of girder spans.

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Fazit:

Grimma is a quick stop for a visit, with many possibilities to satisfy travelers for a good hour or so. If you are a pontist, the city has two historic bridges with a storied history in the Suspension and Poppelmann Bridges and three more bridges whose history belongs in the books and are worth a visit. It’s a junction between a well-traveled bike trail and some well-travelled highways. Speaking from experience of spending a couple hours there with my family, Grimma is worth the stop no matter where you go. 🙂

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Author’s Note: A Biography on Mathias Poppelmann will appear in the next year as the author is currently collecting some bridge examples that were built by the engineer, namely the Poppelmann Bridges with the combination covered bridge with stone arch approaches. If you know of some postcards, photos and other information on these bridges, feel free to use my contact form (here) and send it over. Thank you for your help in this matter. 🙂

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The Historic Bridges of Gundagai, Australia

The Railroad Bridge and Viaduct. Built in 1903. Source: Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0 AU https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/au/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons

News has been going around about the demolition of the Prince Alfred Bridge in Gundagai, Australia, for 40 years of abandonment has led to deterioration to a point where rehabilitation is impossible and the structure is hazardous. Little do we realize that Gundagai had not only one viaduct, but three!

To summarize, after the construction of the original wooden viaduct to accommodate the Hume Highway in 1867, another wooden trestle was built by the American Bridge Company in 1902. The trestle, which accommodated railroad traffic for many decades featured Howe lattice deck truss spans, and over the Murrumbidgee River, a combination of a Parker through truss main span and steel girder approach spans. The railroad trestle curved under the Prince Alfred Viaduct before crossing the main river. These two bridges ran parallel until the Sheahan Viaduct was constructed in 1977 and traffic was shifted from the Prince Alfred onto this bridge.

To get a better idea what these bridges looked like, I’ve enclosed two videos that show the tour of all three in Gundagai. Each one contains some information and photos about the bridges and why they were constructed. It serves as a memorial for the Prince Alfred which is being torn down at the time of this release. The project is expected to be completed by December. Yet it also honors the other two in hopes that some day, they will become a monument that will depict the toil and tears needed to build something this long and this high over an area that is prone to flooding.

So without further ado, sit back and enjoy the two films. 🙂

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These bridges are in the running for the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards under the categories Endangered TRUSS and Bridge Tour Guide International. 🙂

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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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