BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 133: Tribute to James Baughn

Our next Pic of the Week tribute to James Baughn takes us out of Missouri and to neighboring Iowa. Located southeast of Mount Pleasant, the county seat of Henry County in the southeastern corner of the state is the Oakland Mills Truss Bridge. Spanning the Skunk River west of Franklin Avenue, the bridge was built in 1876 by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company which was based in Leavenworth, Kansas. It’s one of a handful of combination spans left in the State of Iowa, featuring (from north to south) a Pratt half-hip, a wooden trestle, two Pratt through trusses and a four-panel Pratt pony. Sources indicated the trestle may have replaced a third Pratt through truss span but it hasn’t been confirmed in the bridge records. The entire truss system features pinned connections while the southern through truss span has ornamental portal bracings. The bridge was converted into a park in the 1970s and has been on the National Register of Historic Places for almost a half century.

The Missouri Valley was one of a few companies that lasted well into the modern era, having been formed in 1874. It was dissolved in 1975 after a fire destroyed the shop at its original home in Leavenworth. It was reorganized shortly afterwards but it left the bridge building business altogether. The Kansas State Historical Society did an extensive write-up on the company’s history, which you can view here. In the 101 years of business, the company constructed a wide variety of bridges, ranging from single and multiple span truss bridges to cantilever spans. It even constructed a concrete pony truss in New Mexico in 1915, one of two of its kind left in the US. 80% of all bridges built by Missouri Valley were towards the south central part of the country, concentrating on Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Only two bridges in Iowa were reportedly built by this company, yet the Oakland Mills is the only one left in the state that’s still standing.

And it is also one of the most popular bridges to visit among bridge lovers, tourists and historians as one can make a picnic on the bridge and devote time to spending it on the bridge. Even at night, one is greeted with Christmas lighting as was my case when I visited the bridge in 2011 in the evening, on the eve of the Historic Bridge Weekend in St. Louis. But James’ pic was taken at the time of the Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa- two years later! In my opinion, the daytime shot was better than all the shots I took because of the lighting.

Still, who’s competing? 🙂 We both agree: The bridge is worth stopping for a visit, no matter for what purpose. And if properly and regularly maintained, the bridge will be around for generations to come. ❤ 🙂

Kern Bridge Stays Home in Mankato

Longest Bowstring Arch Bridge in the States Stays in Mankato, to be Re-erected between Sibley and Land of Memories Parks

MANKATO, MINNESOTA- What was built from home stays home. That is the slogan behind the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, a 189-foot long product of the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, which was built over the LeSeuer River on a township road south of Mankato in 1873. Until last year, the bridge stood in its place until efforts were undertaken to dismantle and remove the structure because of a failing abutment.

Now, the bridge is staying put, but will be the centerpiece, crossing over the Blue Earth River connecting two of Mankato’s largest parks.

The 148-year-old historic iron structure will span the Blue Earth River between two of the city’s largest parks, providing a pedestrian and bike crossing that also will fill a gap in the local trail system, and create a vital link between the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on Mankato’s northeast side and Minneopa State Park to the southwest. “From an engineering perspective, it’s an exciting project, but it’s also one that’s great for our community and the region on whole,” said Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty in an interview with the Mankato Free Press. He was in charge of putting together the winning application in an eight-way competition for the one-of-a-kind bridge. Four finalists had submitted full applications to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the structure. Aside from Mankato, the other three finalists came from Watonwan County, Fergus Falls and Sherburne County. “It was a close race. The applications were all really good,” said historian Katie Haun Schuring of MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit, one of the members of the steering committee of engineers and historians that ultimately decided Mankato’s plan was the best. “… All of the locations would have been good. I think Mankato’s just rose to the top after a lot of great discussion.”

The decision to keep the Kern Bridge home made a lot of sense as the last surviving bridge of its kind in Minnesota is also one of the Blue Earth County’s “Seven historical wonders” when it comes to architecture that had shaped the county in the past 150 years. Furthermore, the county is diverse in the number of different types of bridges that still exist and can be seen today. They include the Dodd Ford Bridge and, the Maple River Railroad Truss Bridge both near Amboy, as well as a Marsh arch bridge and the Red Jacket Trestle. Another truss bridge, the Hungry Hollow Bridge is sitting in storage and awaiting reuse elsewhere. When people think of Blue Earth County and bridges, the Kern Bridge would definitely go on top as it was the structure that spearheaded efforts by other engineers to leave their marks over rivers and ravines while expanding the network of roads and railroads that connected Mankato with Minneapolis and other points to the north and east.

Along with the wrought-iron bridge, now disassembled and stored in shipping containers, Mankato will be receiving federal funding that will cover 80% of the $1.8 million cost of reassembling it. According to the Free Press, numerous regulatory hurdles will need to be cleared because of the historic nature of the bridge, the need to build piers in the Blue Earth River, the existence of the flood-control system in the area, the design work on the bridge approaches, and the regulations related to federal funding. The Kern Bridge will be the main span over the river but will be flanked by steel gorders which will make the historic structure the centerpiece for the two parks. If all goes well, the bridge will be back in service by 2024 but as a pedestrian and bike crossing.

And while its 150th birthday celebration will most likely be in storage, the reestablishment and reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge, combined with its reinstatement as a National Landmark, will serve as a much-deserved belated birthday gift in itself. Even the best things come if we wait long enough and work to make it happen. 🙂

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The Kern Bridge finished second in the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge of the Year because of the efforts to save the structure from its potential collapse.

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The news came just as the Newsflyer podcast was released. To listen to the other news stories, click here.

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HYB: Orient Bridge in Pickaway County, Ohio

One bridge that a person should visit while bridgehunting is this structure: The Orient Bridge. Located south of Harrisburg, this unique truss structure can be seen easily from Darby Creek Road where County Road 26 and Ohio State Highway 726 meet. The 225-foot long bridge features a Whipple through truss span with one of the most ornamental features of a portal bracing one will see while looking for bridges in Ohio. The portal bracing features from the top down, trapezoidal beam with four-leaf pedestals carved out, followed by a one-rhombus Lattice with ornaments at the Xes, and lastly a Town Lattice with heels. Builders plaque is on the top tier as well as finials that look like an ornamental bowl set with covers. Built in 1885 by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company, the Orient Bridge represents the most ornamental example of a bridge built by this bridge building company. Ironically, another bridge built by the same company, can be found in Paoli, Indiana. There, a female truck driver tried driving across the truss bridge causing it to collapse. Fortunately, the bridge has been restored to its original glory.

Here are some more bridge facts you will find in a video recently produced by History in Your Own Backyard.

Some other stories and facts you can find through bridgehunter.com and historicbridges.org. Just click on the highlighted words and you will be directed to the respective sites. Enjoy the info and hope you will take a chance to visit the bridge on your next road trip. 🙂

Happy Bridgehunting, folks! 🙂

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Photo courtesy of Satolli Glassmeyer.

Endangered TRUSS: The Jefferson Highway Bridge at Okay, Oklahoma

All photos courtesy of Mark W. Brown

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OKAY, OKLAHOMA- There are many historic structures that are endangered because of the need to have a concrete bridge to move traffic from point A to point B. There are some that have been sitting abandoned- many of which for too long and need the attention of the public to save it from its ultimate doom. When I think of the first endangered TRUSS candidate, the first bridge that comes to mind is this one: The Okay Truss Bridge. The bridge spans the old channel of the Verdigris River to the west of the town of Okay in Wagoner County. The structure was first discovered a decade ago and even though it has been abandoned for several decades, records have indicated that the structure was once part of the Jefferson Highway, the second oldest intercontinental highway that was built in 1915 and went from Winnepeg, Canada to New Orleans, cutting through parts of Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma in the process.

There is not much information on the bridge’s history except to say that given the materials needed to build the structure, let alone the features, the bridge must have been built between 1910 and 1915, as part of the project to extend the Jefferson Highway through the small community. The bridge features two Parker through truss main spans. Each span features a 3-rhombus Howe Lattice portal bracings with angled heels, latticed struts and V-laced vertical beams. There is also a Pratt pony truss span on each outer end of the bridge. The connections are pinned and the material: steel for the trusses and wood for the decking.

Westernmost pony truss approach span

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The bridge was later bypassed by another structure to the south, as part of the project to rechannel the Verdigris and the truss span has been sitting abandoned and in disarray ever since. The easternmost pony truss span collapsed many years ago and it would take a lot of climbing just to get onto the bridge itself.

The gravest problem though lies with the through truss spans because of a failing pier. It is unknown when and how this occurred, but the center pier is crumbling, causing the end post of the western through truss span to slip.

While the damage may be minimal when looking at it from a bird’s eye view, when on the bridge, it is far worse than it seems, as the crumbling pier, combined with the sagging of the endpost, is causing the western truss span to lean and twist on its side.

The twisted metal brought a reminder of one bridge that fell victim to flooding in 1990, which was the Rockport Bridge in Arkansas. Prior to its downfall, flooding in 1987 caused severe damage to the center piers causing the center span to tilt and twist. This is exactly what is happening to the Okay Truss Bridge, and if nothing is done with the truss span, the next flooding may be the bridge’s last.

What can be done to save the truss bridge? The easiest is to take the truss spans off the piers and dismantle them for storage. As it happened with the Bridgeport Bridge in Michigan, the twisted western Parker truss span could be straightened through welding, whereas the trusses in general would need to be sandblasted and repainted. The piers would need to be replaced and because the easternmost pony span is considered a total loss, a replacement span could take its place if one reerects the restored truss span and converts the area on the east end and the island between the old and new channels of the Verdigris into a park area. As this bridge is part of the original Jefferson Highway, research is needed on the structure’s history to nominate it to the National Register.

Oklahoma has seen a big drop in the number of truss bridges in the last two decades, yet efforts are being taken to save what is left of the bridges. There is little doubt that the Okay Truss Bridge can be saved if action is taken to salvage the trusses and rebuild the entire structure, while erecting a park to honor its history. It takes the will of not only the locals but also members of the Jefferson Highway Association to make it happen. Yet time is running out and we’re fighting windmills regarding even saving the truss structure before the next floodwaters. If there is a tiny sense of hope, removing and storing the trusses should be top priority. Afterwards, time and finances could be allotted to restore and rebuild the bridge to its former glory.

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Author’s Note: A big thanks to Mark W. Brown for allowing me to use his pictures for this article.

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2020 Author’s Choice Awards- Mr Smith takes his picks

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Pexels.com

And now, before we announce the winners of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, I have a few favorites that I hand-picked that deserve international recognition. 2020 was a year like no other. Apart from head-scratcher stories of bridges being torn down, we had an innummeral number of natural disasters that were impossible to follow, especially when it came to bridge casualties. We had some bonehead stories of people downing bridges with their weight that was 10 times as much as what the limit was and therefore they were given the Timmy for that (click on the link that will lead you to the picture and the reason behind it.) But despite this we also had a wide selection of success stories in connection with historic bridge preservation. This include two rare historic bridges that had long since disappeared but have now reappeared with bright futures ahead of them. It also include the in-kind reconstruction of historic bridges, yet most importantly, they also include historic bridges that were discovered and we had never heard of before- until last year.

And so with that in mind, I have some personal favorites that deserve international recognition- both in the US as well as international- awarded in six categories, beginning with the first one:

Best example of reused bridge:

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The Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge in South Dakota:

One of three hybrid Thacher through truss bridges left in the US, the bridge used to span the Big Sioux River near Castlewood until it disappeared from the radar after 1990. Many pontists, including myself, looked for it for three decades until my cousin, Jennifer Heath, found it at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Brooks. Apparently the product of the King Bridge Company, built in 1894, was relocated to this site in 1998 and restored for car use, in-kind. Still being used but we’re still scratching our heads as to how it managed to disappear from our radar for a very long time…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/castlewood-bridge-in-a-new-home-on-the-threshing-grounds/

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International:

Plaka Bridge in Greece:

Built in 1866, this bridge was unique for its arch design. It was destroyed by floods in 2015 but it took five years of painstaking efforts to put the bridge back together again, finding and matching each stone and reinforcing it with concrete to restore it like it was before the tragedy. Putting it back together again like a puzzle will definitely make for a puzzle game using this unique bridge as an example. Stay tuned.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/plaka-bridge-in-greece-restored/

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Hirschgrundbrücke in Glauchau:

While it has not been opened yet for the construction of the South Park Gardens is progressing, this four-span arch bridge connecting the Park with the Castle Complex was completely restored after 2.5 years of rebuilding the 17th Century structure which had been abandoned for four decades. Keeping the outer arches, the bridge was rebuilt using a skeletal structure that was later covered with concrete. The stones from the original bridge was used as a façade. When open to the public in the spring, one will see the bridge that looks like the original but has a function where people can cross it. And with the skeleton, it will be around for a very long time.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/06/update-on-the-hirschgrundbrucke-in-glauchau-saxony/

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Worst example of reused bridge:

Northern Avenue Bridge in Boston

This one definitely deserves a whole box of tomatoes. Instead of rehabilitating the truss bridge and repurposing it for bike and public transportation use, designers unveiled a new bridge that tries to mimic the old span but is too futuristic. Watch the video and see for yourself. My take: Better to build a futuristic span, scrap the historic icon and get it over with.

Link: https://www.northernavebridgebos.com/about & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcWEvjdsAUQ

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International:

Demolishing the Pilchowicki Bridge in Poland for a Motion Picture Film-

Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruz should both be ashamed of themselves. As part of a scene in the film, Mission Impossible, this historic bridge, spanning a lake, was supposed to be blown up, then rebuilt mimicking the original structure. The bridge had served a railroad and spans a lake. The plan was tabled after a huge international cry to save the structure. Nevertheless, the thwarted plan shows that America has long been famous for: Using historic places for their purpose then redo it without thinking about the historic value that was lost in the process.

Links: https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/07/24/concern-over-reports-that-historic-bridge-in-poland-will-be-blown-up-for-tom-cruise-film/ & https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/so-long-tom-historic-bridge-saved-from-tom-cruise-bomb-14980

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Salvageable Mentioned:

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Okoboji Truss Bridge at Parks Marina in Iowa-

A one of a kind Thacher pony truss, this bridge went from being a swing bridge crossing connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, to a Little Sioux River crossing that was eventually washed out by flooding in 2011, to the storage bin, and now, to its new home- Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji. The owner had one big heart to salvage it. Plus it was in pristine condition when it was relocated to its now fourth home. A real winner.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/the-okoboji-bridge-at-parks-marina/

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International:

Dömitz Railroad Bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania in Germany-

World War II had a lasting after-effect on Germany’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands of historic bridges were destroyed, either through bombs or through Hitler’s policies of destroying every single crossing to slow the advancement of the Allied Troops. Yet the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, spanning the River Elbe, represents a rare example of a bridge that survived not only the effects of WWII, but also the East-West division that followed, as the Mecklenburg side was completely removed to keep people from fleeing to Lower Saxony. All that remains are the structures on the Lower Saxony side- preserved as a monument symbolizing the two wars and the division that was lasting for almost a half century before 1990.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/domitz-railroad-bridge/

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Spectacular Bridge Disaster

Forest Fires along the West Coast- 2020 was the year of disasters in a literal sense of the word. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a near standstill, 2020 was the year where records were smashed for natural disasters, including hurricanes and in particular- forest fires. While 20% of the US battled one hurricane after another, 70% of the western half of the country, ranging from the West Coast all the way to Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas dealt with record-setting forest fires, caused by drought, record-setting heatwaves and high winds. Hardest hit area was in California, Washington and even Oregon. Covered bridges and other historic structures took a massive hit, though some survived the blazes miraculously. And even some that did survive, presented some frightening photo scenes that symbolizes the dire need to act on climate change and global warming before our Earth becomes the next Genesis in Star Trek.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/great-western-fires-destroy-iconic-historic-bridges/  &  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/catastrophic-inferno-hits-western-united-states-photos-noble-reporters-worlds-iconic-news-media-site/  & https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/no-comment-nr-2-the-great-california-fire/

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Bonehead Story:

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Demolition of the Historic Millbrook Bridge in Illinois-

Inaction has consequences. Indifference has even more painful consequences. Instead of fixing a crumbling pier that could have left the 123-year old, three-span through truss bridge in tact, Kendall County and the Village of Millbrook saw dollar signs in their eyes and went ahead with demolishing the entire structure for $476,000, coming out of- you guessed it- our taxpayer money. Cheapest way but at our expense anyway- duh!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/26/historic-millbrook-bridge-demolished/

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Planned Demolition of the Bridges of Westchester County, New York-

While Kendall County succeeded in senselessly tearing down the last truss bridge in the county, Westchester County is planning on tearing down its remaining through truss bridges, even though the contract has not been let out just yet. The bridges have been abandoned for quite some time but they are all in great shape and would make for pedestrian and bike crossings if money was spent to rehabilitate and repurpose them. Refer to the examples of the Calhoun and Saginaw County historic bridges in Michigan, as well as those restored in Winneshiek, Fayette, Madison, Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties in Iowa.  Calling Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/10/the-bridges-of-westchester-county-new-york/

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Collapse of Westphalia Bridge due to overweight truck-

To the truck driver who drove a load over the bridge whose weight was four times the weight limit, let alone bring down the 128-year old product of the Kansas City Bridge Company: It’s Timmy time! “One, …. two,….. three! DUH!!!!”  The incident happened on August 17th 2020 and the beauty of this is, upon suggesting headache bars for protecting the bridge, county engineers claimed they were a liability. LAME excuse!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/truck-driver-narrowly-escapes-when-missouri-bridge-collapses-truckers-4-truckers/

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International:

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Waldcafé Bridge in Lunzenau, Saxony-

Located near the Göhren Viaduct in the vicinity of Burgstädt and Mittweida, this open-spandrel stone arch bridge used to span the Zwickau Mulde and was a key accessory to the fourth tallest viaduct in Saxony. Yet it was not valuable enough to be demolished and replaced during the year. The 124-year old bridge was in good shape and had another 30 years of use left. This one has gotten heads scratching.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/waldcafe-bridge-in-gohren-to-be-replaced/

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Collapse of Bridge in Nova Scotia due to overweight truck-

It is unknown which is more embarrassing: Driving a truck across a 60+ year old truss bridge that is scheduled to be torn down or doing the same and being filmed at the same time. In any case, the driver got the biggest embarrassment in addition to getting the Timmy in French: “Un,…. deux,…… toi! DUH!!!” The incident happened on July 8th.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/historic-bridge-in-nova-scotia-collapses-because-of-truck-reminder-to-obey-weight-and-height-limits/

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Spectacular Bridge Find:

Root Bridges in Meghalaya State in India-

Consisting of vine bridges dating back hundreds of years, this area has become a celebrity since its discovery early last year. People in different fields of work from engineers to natural scientists are working to figure out how these vined bridges were created and how they have maintained themselves without having been altered by mankind. This region is one of the World’s Top Wonders that should be visited, regardless whether you are a pontist or a natural scientist.

Link:  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/living-root-bridges-in-the-tropical-forests-of-meghalaya-state-india/

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Puente de Occidente in Colombia-

This structure deserves special recognition not only because it turned 125 years old in 2020. The bridge is the longest of its kind on the South American continent and it took eight years to build. There’s an interesting story behind this bridge that is worth the read…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/1895-this-suspension-bridge-in-colombia-is-still-the-second-longest-span-of-its-kind-on-the-continent/

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The Bridges of Schwerin, Germany-

For bridge tours on the international front, I would recommend the bridges of Schwerin. It features seven iron bridges, three unique modern bridges, a wooden truss span, a former swing span and  a multiple span arch bridge that is as old as the castle itself, Schwerin’s centerpiece and also home of the state parliament. This was a big steal for the author as the day trip was worth it.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/the-bridges-of-schwerin/

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USA:

Thomas Viaduct in Maryland-

Little is written about the multiple-span stone built in 1835, except that it’s still the oldest functioning viaduct of its kind in the US and one stemming from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad era.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/thomas-viaduct-in-maryland/

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The Bridge Daheim in New York-

Geoff Hobbs brought the bridge to the attention of the pontist community in July 2020, only to find that the bridge belonged to a mansion that has a unique history. As a bonus, the structure is still standing as with the now derelict mansion.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/mystery-bridge-nr-132-the-bridge-daheim/

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The Bridges of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana-

The Proving Grounds used to be a military base that covered sections of four counties in Indiana. The place is loaded with history, as not only many buildings have remained largely in tact but also the Grounds’ dozen bridges or so. Satolli Glassmeyer provided us with a tour of the area and you can find it in this film.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/the-bridges-of-jefferson-proving-grounds-in-indiana-hyb/

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Now that the favorites have been announced and awarded, it is now the voter’s turn to select their winners, featured in nine categories of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that, we will go right, this way…… =>

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 130: A Tribute to James Baughn

Sometimes the best photographers usually follow the events that are happening by visiting the site on a regular basis and taking lots of pictures. For bridge photographers, this applies when there are projects like bridge restoration or in this case, bridge replacement.

In our next series paying tribute to James Baughn, we go back to the year 2003 and to this bridge, the Cape Girardeau Bridge. This bridge was the oldest of the Twenties Trio that were built within a year of each other along the Upper Mississippi River. In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill, authorizing the bridge project at Cape Girardeau. The American Bridge Company of New York (superstructure) and U.G.I. Construction of Philadelphia were given the contract to build the bridge, which the project started in February 1927 and was completed in September 1928. Three months later, the Quincy Bridge followed and at the beginning of 1929, the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. The bridge featured a series of six Pennsylvania through truss spans, followed by a continuous through truss span (671 feet), with a total length of 4471 feet.

In 2002, construction was let to build its replacement, the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, the current bridge that features a cable-stayed span with H-shaped towers. The original bridge was closed to traffic on 13 December, 2003, the same day the new bridge opened to traffic. Demolition of the old bridge commenced in June 2004 and lasted a half year. What’s left of the original structure is an arch and the first two spans on the Missouri side, which were repurposed as an observation deck.

James did a detailed series on the bridge before and after its replacement and including the demolition of the bridge. During that time, he collected a series of facts and history of the structure, which he added as the bridge was being replaced. You can find this in his bridgehunter.com website by clicking here. The details he did of the bridge in terms of photos as well as research, served as an inspiration for another person to do the same with his website, Nathan Holth, who launched historicbridges.org in 2003, the same year the truss bridge was replaced. You can access his website by clicking here.

If there was a lesson learned from this, it is this: Details are key, especially if you are looking for hard-core facts that are needed to complete the bridge’s story or if you want to contradict the facts given by a previous author. Bridgehunter.com is like wikipedia as it provides a database with photos, facts and stories about bridges like these with the goal of making the information available for those to use for their own purposes, be it for research for a school project or for finding information to nominate a structure for the National Register of Historic Places or even for personal reasons. When this bridge was being replaced, the website was in its infancy. Now looking back at James’ legacy and in particular, this bridge, the website has been serving its purpose well- a library with interesting facts for all to access.

And if there is a word of advice for those who are doing a project that features one or more bridges, check out bridgehunter.com first, followed by the others. There you will find at least something that will serve as your starting point and can build off from there. The website is like an encyclopedia, you will most likely find what you are looking for. 🙂

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 129: A Tribute to James Baughn

The next photo in the James Baughn series takes us to Wayne County and this bridge, the Wapello Bridge. The Pennsylvania through truss spans the St. Francis River on County Road 517 between the Riverside Campground and Shepards Fold Ministry, four miles southeast of Lake Wapello. The bridge was a product of Stupp Brothers Bridge and Iron Company in St. Louis and the Pennsylvania truss design and the A-frame portal bracings were very common features of the polygonal truss structures built by Stupp. Built in 1911, the 10-panel truss bridge had a total length of 242 feet, the main span had a length of 209 feet. The bridge was one of James’s favorite spots to photograph and you can find a gallery with his pictures of this bridge on the bridgehunter.com website. Sadly, the bridge was replaced in 2008.

Years later, I had an opportunity to interview an extended family member of the Stupp family about the company’s history. It will be posted in a later article. For now enjoy the photos of this unique bridge. ❤ 🙂

Truss Bridge with an A: A Look at the Difference Between the Lane and the Miller-Borcherding Truss Design

Buffalo Ridge Road Bridge in Franklin Co., Missouri (replaced in 1999). Source: Missouri DOT

Imagine this scenario: You have a rail line that is abandoned but not before leaving in the rail ties and rail track. You have a pair of abandoned railroad cars, one of which used to be a dining car while the other used to be a loading bed for logs. And your town needs a new bridge because the old one collapsed during a flood. Your town doesn’t have enough money to build a super, duper new concrete bridge. Your replacement bridge must be 40 feet long. How would you create your make-shift bridge?

Crab Run Lane Truss Bridge near McDowell, Virginia. Source: C. Hanchey

This was the question that two of the bridge builders had when they were finding ways to recycle steel and wood for a unique bridge design of their own. Daniel Lane, who later established the Lane Bridge Company in New York, and the bridge building firm of Miller & Borcherding, based in St. Louis, were not quite well-known bridge builders in the US in comparison with the likes of Wrought Iron Bridge and the King family in Ohio, let alone the bridge builders from the Minneapolis school. However the designers found a creative, but also affordable way to design truss bridges, using recycled materials such as steel parts, wiring and wood.

Ward & Teslow Bridge in Winneshiek Co., Iowa. Example of a Warren truss bridge. Source: J. Smith

Using the Warren truss design, with its W-shaped pattern as a motif, they came up with a unique design with a three-panel truss span, where the center panel features the A-frame. The difference is how the outer panels are constructed and how the diagonal beams are constructed.

Keeney Settlement Bridge near Cuyler, New York. Source: C. Gehman

The Lane Truss

Daniel Lane, who was the proprietor of the Lane Bridge Works Company developed the truss design using old railroad and trolley tracks. Between 1890 and 1901 the bridge company constructed single span Howe truss bridge designs, using old rails which were reformed and clamped together by bolts that were once used for laying the track. These rods were to represent the upper and lower chord of the design, pinned together by nuts and bolts by just simply inserting the bolts through the rails and screwing the nut on afterward. This made the disassembling and reassembling of the truss design a lot easier.  This design was to be a Howe truss configuration but with three panels with the center span consisting of an A-frame design. Many of the trusses constructed during Lane’s tenure were no longer than 100 ft. in length. 

While many of these Lane pony trusses became popular at the turn of the century, one can only find four existing Lane trusses today: a 30 ft. long structure near Mc Dowell, Virginia built in 1896 and christened the Crab Run Bridge, the 90 ft. long Park’s Gap Bridge near Martinsburg, West Virginia, which built two years earlier, the Bonnie Branch Bridge in Howard County, Maryland and lastly, the Keeney Settlement Bridge in Cuyler, New York. The Crab Run and Keeney Settlement Bridges have been restored and repurposed for recreational use, while the Bonnie Branch is open for private use. Park’s Gap Bridge is still in use but features a three-layered Queenpost truss design with a Lane truss in the central panel. The company itself dissolved sometime after 1903, according to the Darnell Bridge Builder catalogue yet there is little information on both the company and Mr. Lane himself.

Portal view of the Hargrove Bridge in Butler Co., Missouri Source: J. Baughn

The Miller-Borcherding Truss:

While the Lane truss bridge was phased out after 1901, another company in Missouri, the Miller and Borcherding Bridge Builders of St. Louis altered the Lane and made it sturdier but easier to   disassemble and re-assemble. The company featured two different bridge builders- R.L. Miller, who had established a bridge building company in 1888, and Louis Borcherding, a German-born engineer whose firm merged with Millers in 1915 but lasted only two years. The Miller-Borcherding truss was developed using the remnants of the Lane truss. The Lane truss was altered by adding vertical beams which start at the lower chord and vertical post and end at the center of the end post at a 90° angle. Unlike the Lane truss, the Miller-Borcherding trusses design were fabricated using steel, just like with the original designs of the Pratt, Warren, and Howe designs that were being constructed during this time, and the joints were riveted, meaning the beams could be slid and molded together.  

Most of these bridges were constructed during the 1910s and 20s in Missouri, with many of them located in Butler County. Five of them were reportedly built, yet only one of them still exists to this day- an unusual 219-ft. two-span structure supported by a steel tower in the middle of the river west of Poplar Bluff, also known as the Hargrove Bridge. Built in 1917, the bridge was restored in 1999 and continues to serve traffic to this day. It is one of the most unique of the Miller-Borcherding truss bridges that can be found. All in all, a total of three bridges of its kind can be found today, counting the Hargrove Bridge. The Logan Creek Bridge in Callaway County is the oldest of the Miller-Borcherding trusses with a build date of 1911. This was perhaps the prototype that was built. It is abandoned. The Slagle Creek Bridge in Bollinger County is the last single span truss bridge in use. Another bridge in Cape Girardeau County was replaced yet the trusses were last seen leaning on the barn awaiting its fate.  

Cane Creek Bridge in Butler County, Missouri (now extant). Source: J. Baughn

Fazit:

While there were other truss designs that were developed or even modified with the purpose of using recycled materials, the Miller-Borcherding and the Lane trusses represent a more common example of this type of trend. With bridge building firms in fierce competition, combined with the rise in the price of steel, regions with a dense population but with enough financial resources were able to take advantage of the offers provided by them and were greeted with sturdy but sometimes fancy truss spans, using designs that were becoming more and more common for use: Pratt, Warren, Pennsylvania, Parker and Baltimore. The regions with a sparse population and with that, the lack of financial resources, were forced to either go with cheaper offers by smaller, less known bridge firms or had to resort with recycling the materials to be used for crossings. Both of these were done through local firms that only existed for a short period of time because of the competition. Yet these were the firms that designed and patented the bridge design for the purpose of making a crossing that is affordable to build and easier to disassemble and reassemble elsewhere. 

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Parks Gap Bridge in West Virginia. Source: Sewing Taylor (wikiCommons)

The idea of disassembling and reassembling trusses was later adapted with the introduction of standardized trusses beginning in 1910 with riveted connections. Yet the shortage of steel during the two World Wars and a Great Depression in between also led to the pinned-connected truss spans to be reused elsewhere on roads that were less traveled.  In any case, the idea of recycling materials was kept but at the cost of creativity as seen with the two truss designs presented here. The Miller-Borcherding and Lane Trusses represent one of the last examples of truss designs where creativity but with less use of materials, like steel, came together like bread and butter. And in today’s world of bridge building, both are left aside in the name of functionality, the mentality most engineers have, to ensure a crossing carries a road from point A to point B.

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 128: Tribute to James Baughn

As I mentioned in the last Pic of the Week entry for 2020, this year’s series pays tribute to the late James Baughn, who created bridgehunter.com, the largest bridge database in the US, and also won the Bridgehunter Awards for Lifetime Achievement for 2019. Every week, we will showcase his greatest bridge pics, most of whom stem from his website.

Our first bridge pic for 2021 takes us to Butler County and the Hargrove Bridge. This bridge spans Black River near the town of Broseley and features a combination of a swing bridge span, whose towers support two truss spans. These spans are the Miller-Borcherding trusses and as we will discuss this in a separate article, they feature a three panel pony truss, whose center panel has an A-shape frame and the outer panels have a subdivided triangular chord. The bridge was built by the Miller & Borcherding Bridge Builders in St. Louis in 1917, at the time when riveted trusses were considered the standard norm for truss bridge construction. The bridge was damaged by floods in 1992 but was restored to its former glory seven years later and has since been open to traffic, but with an 8-ton weight limit. More on this bridge can be found by clicking here.

This bridge was one of James’ first to appear on his website and one of his most frequented visited structures. It is one of those structures that one should visit when learning about the history of American architecture and infrastructure, especially as many bridge builders tried to fashion truss bridge designs of their own instead of building based on the standards provided by the state beginning in 1910- namely Warren, Pratt, Parker or Pennsylvania with riveted connections in a form of gusset plates. Their argument- less steel meaning less costs for manufacturing and assembling. When visiting the bridge, you will see how much less steel it was needed to create a unique structure.

And with that, we will move on with the next bridge James visited but not before we talk about the Miller-Borcherding truss type. And for that we will move right this way…….. => 🙂

Historic Railroad Bridge in Booneville Replaced- Truss Spans Gone

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BOONEVILLE, IOWA- It had been touted as one of the longest multiple-span through truss bridges in the state of Iowa. Four spans with a total of over 700 feet. It was one of the last of the quadrangular Warren through truss bridges as well. Now the Booneville Railroad Bridge is all but a memory.  According to multiple stories, the last span of the historic railroad bridge came down this past week after having served two different railroad companies for 120 years. The new railroad bridge, a combination concrete and steel plate girder bridge was built alongside the historic railroad bridge and opened to traffic on June 30th of this year.

It was christened the William Duggan Bridge, named after the person who salvaged the railroad when he took over at Iowa Interstate in 1989. The line had once been operated by Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad from 1900, the year the bridge was built, until its bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation in 1980. The line sat idle for four years before Iowa Interstate took over in 1984, and when Duggan took over five years later, he led efforts in revitalizing the line, which runs through central Iowa from Council Bluffs to the Quad Cities.

The new railroad bridge was needed as the truss bridge had met the end of its functional use. Two of its piers had tilted due to years of flooding and erosion. Others had cracks and were spalling. The new 661 foot multiple-span bridge will carry train traffic of up to 40 mph- double of that of the railroad bridge)- and trains will be able to carry taller and heavier loads. The $3.5 million project was half funded by the federal government through the Federal Railroad Agency through the use of Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant. It took only 17 months to build the new span.  It’s part of the 20+ year project to modernize the entire line and will include additional bridge replacements in the future, including three bridges in Davenport- the 3rd and 4th Street Overpasses and the Arsenal Bridge.

The loss of the Booneville Railroad Bridge is a big one for Dallas County, as it is one that people would see when crossing the Raccoon River enroute to West Des Moines. Yet with Des Moines sprawling and the need for transporting goods by rail increasing, the replacement was needed. Whether the bridge would have been used for a pedestrian crossing instead of being scrapped remains open, yet this loss will serve as a reminder that no historic bridge is safe and that action is needed to save the remaining bridges, even those that continue to serve the railroads that travel through Iowa.

Photos and further description of the railroad bridge can be found by clicking here.

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