When I first met John Graham at the 2nd annual Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh in 2010, my first impression of him was that he was a conservative, dressed up as white collar worker, but a man of detail and experience. It was John F. Graham who came up with a concept of augmented reality for structural analysis of bridges.
Augmented reality is a computer term that I had recently collected some general information on through a pair of presentations in an English for IT class at the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany. It basically analyses the inner portion of structures to analyze problems and find solutions. It had been introduced for medicine for identifying tissue damage in humans, making a precise diagnostic and recommendations for improving the body damage where the damage occurred. Yet could Augmented Reality work for infrastructure, such as bridges?
Apparently according to Graham, it does. In theory based on trial and error combined with experience, Mr. Graham at the conference showed that augmented reality can identify structural deficiencies inside bridge structures, through the use of special sensors, and make recommendations for fixing them. This latest technology would save money and prolong the life of the bridge, especially after the structure is rehabilitated. Evidence in praxis was shown with the Red Jacket Railroad Trestle south of Mankato, Minnesota later that year, for the Minnesota DOT was in charge of rebuilding the trestle after floodwaters undermined one of the piers, forcing officials to remove the deck plate girders while watching the stone pier collapse. In the other piers, structural weaknesses were identified to a point where the piers were reconstructed to resemble the original. The restoration ended in 2011. Other rehabilitation projects involved this type of technology which saved costs and opened the doors for reusing historic bridges.
Mr. Graham’s presentation based on this concept was one of many aspects that will make him a person who was conservative but reasonable when it came to the decision of rehabilitating bridges that were an asset to the area and replacing those that deteriorated beyond repair. He was a true Pittsburghese, having been born in the Steel City on 2 April, 1936 and studied civil engineering at Carnegie Tech (today known as Carnegie Mellon University. For most of his career, he was Director for Engineering and Construction for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, a position he held until 1989. During his time, he was responsible for the rehabilitation of hundreds of bridges in and around Pittsburgh, including the Sister Bridges, Sixteenth Street and the arch bridges at Fort Pitt and Fort Dusquene, just to name a few. He also had to replace some, like at Sutersville and Coraopolis, according to Todd Wilson, a civil engineer who knew him well during his days at Carnegie Mellon. Mr. Graham in 1978 pushed for and supported legislation that would allow the Federal Highway Administration to allocate the 90:10 funding ratio, whereby state and local governments would only bear 10% of the cost for rehabilitating or replacing the bridge, the former Graham championed and led to the prolongation of the lives of several of Pittsburgh’s bridges. Legislation continued this 90:10 ratio and prioritized rehabilitation until the Minneapolis Bridge collapse in 2007, which resulted in more radical measures to replace bridges. To the end, Mr. Graham continued advocating for identifying and fixing deficiencies in the structures, claiming that they were cost effective and would save on the use of materials needed for new bridges. Indirectly, it was a plus when identifying the historic significance of the bridges.
In 1989, Mr. Graham became the Director of Capital Projects for the City of Pittsburgh, where he oversaw the construction of the Pittsburgh International Airport and other related construction projects, including the Southern Beltway. He later worked for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and later taught engineering classes at Carnegie Mellon. He even operated his own civil engineering firm, where he was responsible for several projects, including the infrastructure for Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team. Much of the work in the greater Pittsburgh area has Mr. Graham’s name on it, and his unique conservative approach to bridge engineering will be remembered, even as people cross several of Pittsburgh’s restored historic bridges, of which he’s left a mark in at least half of them.
John F. Graham died peacefully on 14 March, 2019 with his daughter Wendy and her husband Marc by his side. In the last two years of his life he lived with her and her family in Philadelphia, which included her two sons. He was preceded in death by his wife, Kay. Mr. Graham was a true Pittsburghese and one who left a mark in Pittsburgh, the US and beyond, especially for his work in the field of civil engineering. Therefore, for his work, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is awarding him and his family Lifetime Legacy Post Humus with a big thanks for his contributions. Because of him, we have found many creative ways to make bridges safe and maintain its integrity instead of replacing them outright, a concept that does more than waste money. It impacts the environment negatively because of materials used that are dwindling and non-renewable.
After processing the candidates and adding some information to some of them, the time has come to vote for our favorite candidates in nine categories for the 2019 Bridgehunter Awards, powered by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. As mentioned earlier in the year, the Ammann Awards were changed to this name to honor some of the pontists, whose category and prizes have been named in their honor. Nevertheless though, the format is the same as in the previous awards. There are two voting ballots- one here and one on the next page (which you can click here). With the exception of the category Best Photo, each candidate has a link which you can access so that you can look at them more closely in terms of photos and information.
For Best Photo, I’ve decided to do it differently. One simply looks at the photos and votes. The names of the top six (including the winner) will be announced.
Voting is unlimited due to the high number of candidates in each of the categories- both on the US level as well as on the international level- and because many of us have multiple preferences than just one. 😉
Without further ado, here’s part I of the voting ballot and have fun voting. 🙂
Have you found something that was small and unnoticeable from the outside but you find high historic value in that you want to document on it? It could be a ghost town, abandoned church, a historic bridge that is closed or even a historic site that is open but doesn’t receive enough attention to get any notice? How would you document it: in print form, video, online, or a combination of the mentioned items? History is an underrated commodity where even the most popular places are sometimes ignored and hidden jewels that have high historic value are forgotten- buried under a pile of dirt representing time, until someone discovers it and want to talk about it.
Someone like Satolli Glassmeyer, the creator of History in Your Backyard (HYB). Launched in 2014, HYB is an online portal where videos on artefacts of the past can be found, be it abandoned school houses and churches, memorials commemorating history or in this case, historic bridges, which are disappearing in vast numbers every year. Much of the coverage has been between Chicago and Cleveland, for Mr. Glassmeyer originates from Cincinnati, Ohio and spent much of his childhood visiting many spots in the vicinity (and later beyond).
But how was HYB conceived and how successful has it been since its launch? The Chronicles did an interview with Mr. Glassmeyer and found out some interesting details about HYB and the direction it’s going in the future. Here’s what I found out about him and HYB’s successes. Please note that some video examples from HYB are included for you to watch.
I wanted to start off by asking you what motivated you to starting this video program?
This is kind of a long story but here we go….When I was a teenager back in the mid 1970s I had zero interest in history such as the War of 1812 or the Magna Carta. However I was a huge bicycle enthusiast riding my bike at least 10 miles a day and then typically doing 75-100 mile bike rides on a Saturday or Sunday. My longer weekend trips would take me through small towns where I began to fall in love with the buildings and bridges constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I was fascinated with what was built back then and with what little they had to work with compared to the modern construction equipment that we have today.
When I was 18 I bought my first car, a 1970 AMX which was also another passion of mine. About a year later I formed an AMX club in the greater Cincinnati area which eventually included 20-25 owners of these unique automobiles. We would get together once a month and have events for the club. Some of the “older guys” in their 30s and 40s taught us younger guys how to do “road rallies” which is basically a scavenger hunt using an automobile. Once again I fell in love with the road rally concept and did quite a few for the club as a hobby until I turned it into a business in the late 1990s called Scenic Road Rallies. With the rallies, I found that I was able to take my passion for fast automobiles and combine it with my passion for historic structures. In the direction packets that I handed out for each road rally event I included a few short lines about each historic building the teams would pass or each bridge they would cross over.
The teams enjoyed the short history lessons but asked for more information on these sites. Information that they could use on their own time without having to do a road rally event. So in 2011 I began producing driving booklets that I sold which were basically guided road tours spelling out in detail (With pictures) all of the historic buildings and bridges along the route. I put myself on a strict schedule of producing one driving tour booklet a month until after 2 years I had accumulated a small 24 volume library of tour guides.
Unfortunately the booklets didn’t sell as expected. A couple of friends pointed out that people don’t read much anymore and videos now seem to be the way most people get their information. I gave it some thought, then when out and bought a cheap video camera, named my new company History In Your Own Backyard and went off to document the forgotten historic structures in the region. That’s basically how we arrived at this point in time.
How are your historic places selected? Based on personal visit, personal request or both?
Since this is a business, I typically don’t choose the site, the client makes the selection be it a church, a bridge or a cemetery. If I have time after the clients shoot, I will go out and film other obscure sites such as bridges that I’m sure no client will pay for yet needs to be documented for future generations.
What is all involved in the filming process?
It’s a fairly involved process to film a site. I have a check list of 29 points that need to be addressed to get a video from start to finish. Beginning with discussing the potential project with the sponsor to contacting the local newspaper after the video is released so that they can write a story about the video project.
How do you collect the information on your historic artifact?
This is basically the sponsors responsibility. However if I am doing a video on a site of my choosing, the research process can entail online searches, books, personal interviews, etc. Each project is different when it comes to an information source and history is always muddy. No matter how much research you do, once the video is produced, someone will say “you’re wrong”. So you just have to do your best and keep an open mind that not everything you read or see is accurate.
Many videos on bridges are between a half hour and an hour. Yours are between 3-5 minutes on average, with some being only 10 minutes. Why so short?
Good question! My video style is much different from traditional videos.
Everyday around the world we lose historic buildings and bridges to fire, flood, storms, neglect, progress, civil unrest, war, earthquakes, etc. Nothing lasts forever and it’s important to me to document these structures as quickly as possible before they are lost forever. My goal is to produce 10,000 documentaries before I die. Right now I have about 420 documentaries completed which means even if I produce a documentary every day from here on out, I still have over 26 years of work ahead of me. I’m 62 now so I’m basically running out of time here.
I produce short documentaries for a couple of reasons:
One is that statistically speaking most people who watch a video on YouTube (Where all of my videos are featured) only watch about 4 minutes of a video before they click off and move on to the next selection. If you produce a relatively short video you have a better chance of having the video completely viewed to the end and a better chance of having the viewer share that video with their friends and family. Longer videos are rarely watched completely and it’s even rarer for them to be shared. The whole idea behind my project is to get as many eyes on these videos as possible so that people will sit up and take notice of these structures and possibly save them for future generations. My videos are not designed to be entertainment but rather peak peoples interest so that they get in their car and go out to look at the site.
Video production isn’t cheap and is very time consuming. When it comes to my videos, for every one minute of video you see, it takes about 1 hour of research, shooting video and editing to complete the job. So a 5 minute video may take about 5 hours while a 30 minute video could take 30 hours or more.
Secondly, I’m trying to do this project as cheaply as possible so that anyone who wants a video can afford it. I produce these videos at about 1/3 the going rate of a typical video production company. Mainly because I have very little overhead, a small crew and I’m pretty damn good at keeping costs down. I charge between $399.00 and $1899.00 to produce a video depending on the site, location and needs of the client.
A 50 minute long documentary you might see on PBS can take years to produce using an army of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know someone that produced a documentary for PBS using just grants. The documentary turned out great but took 5 years to make and over $120,000.00. I personally don’t have the time to mess around for 3, 4 or 5 years to produce one indepth video.
I know of a tourism bureau who had a local TV station produce a 60 second video on the sights and sounds of their town. The project cost them $6,000.00 ($100.00 per second) and all they received was a DVD of the project. It was never shown on TV. It was for their own personal use. Not many of my clients have $6,000.00 to spend on a 60 second video so that’s where I come into play with a decent quality video at a very reasonable price which will be viewed by thousands of people.
Aside from Youtube, how are your videos published?
Yes, my videos can be found on YouTube under the History In Your Own Backyard channel. All of those videos are linked to my website database where the videos are broken down by State/County/Town and also include a map to show the location of the site. (By clicking onto the two highlighted links, you will be redirected to their respective sites) All of the schools in the county where the video was shot and all of the schools in the surrounding counties are sent a link to the video so that the history teachers can share it with their students. All of the mayors and council members in the county where the video was shot and all of the council members in the surrounding counties are sent a link to the video so that they can share it with their residents. The video is placed on a Google Maps page where you can click on any of the 420+ pinpoints to see a video in that exact location. Eventually all of the videos will be archived in the state libraries where they were shot so that future generations can look back to see what existed in 2019. I did contact the Library of Congress regarding these videos being archived but that was very early on in the project. I was asked to contact the department later after I had a substantial number of videos produced. When I hit the 500 mark next year, I’ll reach back out to them.
How many people are on your staff?
My direct staff is just me and the two cats. However I do have a couple of interviewers that work for me directly on the videos shoots. So in a nutshell, I do just about everything, sales, research, shooting video, editing video and the archiving process.
Give me your top three favorite historic bridges that you’ve filmed?
Tough question Jason! In no particular order:
The Triple Whipple Bridge near Aurora, Indiana is high on my list. As someone else said, she’s the Queen Mary of all bridges! Beautiful, tall, restored and the only one of it’s kind still standing. The bridge is only about 15 miles from my home so I get to see her fairly often.
Film on the bridge:
The Dresden Suspension Bridge in Dresden, Ohio is a favorite that we just covered this year with the Ohio Historic Bridge Association. A beautiful bridge that is easily viewed.
Film on the bridge:
Finally the Crosley Bridge in Jennings County, Indiana. A private steel truss bridge built by Powel Crosley, the bridge is extremely narrow and hidden deep in the woods via a dirt road.
Film on the bridge:
What historic bridge do you regret seeing demolished?
Definitely it was the Cedar Grove Bridge in Cedar Grove, Indiana. Long story short, I was part of a group who tried to save this bridge from demolition. The State of Indiana offered to give our group the money they would pay for the demolition if we could find a local government entity who would take ownership of the bridge for 30 seconds while signing the bridge over to us where it would be refurbished and turned into a park for the locals. Unfortunately the town council in Cedar Grove and the Franklin County Commissioners had zero interest in seeing the bridge survive. After a 2+ year fight to save the bridge, when it became apparent that all of the government entities and the locals themselves had zero interest in the structure, we abandoned our cause and the bridge was demolished via the State of Indiana on February 17, 2016.
Film on the bridge’s demise:
Complete this sentence: A historic bridge in your opinion……..
A historic bridge in my opinion is a mix of style, engineering and quality from an era that we will never see again. It was a different breed of men that built bridges in the 1800s and early 1900s.
What is important for keeping the historic bridge “historic” instead of neglecting it to a point of demolition?
Once these bridges are gone, they are gone forever. Bridges are probably the most used structure no matter where they were built. Some bridges only see 5 or 10 crossing per day while others literally see tens of thousands of crossings if not more. It’s hard to think of another item produced by man that gets this much usage and can last for 100 or more years. Holding on to these structures for future generations is important not only for educational purposes but for general enjoyment as well.
What are your future plans for HYB? What bridges are on your agenda?
Right now as I think I mentioned earlier, I have over 420 videos produced and hope to add at least 100 more documentary videos in 2020. I have about 20 bridge videos that have been shot and are awaiting the editing process. They are scattered throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia & West Virginia. Hopefully I can get those finished over the Winter.
If a person has a historic bridge that needs to be filmed, like for example Kern Bridge in Minnesota or the Bridgeport Bridge in Michigan, who to contact?
It’s simple, just give me (Satolli Glassmeyer) a call at 812-623-5727 between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm. If I don’t answer, leave a message. Or if you like, send an email to Info@HistoryInYourOwnBackyard.com. We can discuss your needs and wants for the video project while I guide you to the best option to preserve that bridge on video now and in the future.
A closing thought……Statistically speaking, over the next 100 years we will lose 50% of the historic bridges currently standing due to fire, flood, storms, neglect, progress, civil unrest, war, earthquakes, etc. 99% of those historic bridges will disappear over the next 200 years for the same reasons and eventually all will disappear. Nothing lasts forever. At some point down the road, we’ll no longer need bridges and this project will at least preserve the memory of when we used these engineering marvels to cross vast expanses of water or terrain
Thank you for your time and interview at the Chronicles and wishing you all the best in your career.
Just recently, HYB got its 1 millionth view on YouTube on its page. It currently has over 3900 viewers with just as many (if not more) visitors daily, which makes it one of the most popular short-film documentaries in the US. A video on that can be found here:
HYB provides people with a short glimpse of some of the historic artefacts that people can see while they are in the area, let alone should see before they are gone. Sometimes less means more- the most basic means the more interest in seeing the places in person. So as Satolli would say: Travel Slowly, Stop Often. 🙂
Author’s Note: Some of HYB’s bridges will also appear on this page from time to time, to encourage people to watch them and eventually visit them.
TOURNAIS, BELGIUM- This article pays a tribute to the Pont de Trous, a bridge spanning the River Scheldt in the City of Tournai in Belgium. At the time of this posting, this bridge is all but a memory as it was pushed aside in the name of progress. The project to demolish the bridge started on August 9th as part of the project to deepen and widen the River Scheldt to allow ships to sail through France to join the Seine, which flows into the Atlantic. The bridge was built in 1290 to replace a wooden crossing and was the last of the military crossings of its kind in the world. However, as the city claimed the bridge is being rebuilt with the stones being saved for reuse, this was the scene of this “reconstruction project:”
A news report shows the details of this senseless destruction:
A new bridge mimicking the original historic character of the crossing is expected to be in place by the end of 2020. However, despite its McDonald’s arches that are being proposed, one has to ask if this was really necessary, given the fact that the bridge was part of Tournai’s old town. Featuring historic buildings, inside the fort and a cathedral, all from the same era as the bridge, the old town of Tournai has been a UNSESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. With the proposed rebuilding of the bridge, one has to ask himself if this was really a necessity. Do we need larger ships to pass through or if it makes sense to transport by land, which has enough highways and railways taking goods and persons to ports in the areas mentioned? Is it really necessary to have the bigger is better mentality or is less really more? And lastly, how much do we care about history in general?
With this demolition of one of the most historic bridges in the world, I’m reminded of a comment one of my students mentioned about history in class: “History is history. We need to worry about the future.” Yet history is important to understand the present and change it for our future and that of the next generation. Without history we will never know how we got to where we are now and what is expected to come. We will never know how we progressed with our infrastructure and how it contributed to forming a nation, partnerships with other nations and society that we have today. It’s like the environment we fighting to save: We’ll never know until there’s nothing left…….
……but a memory. If we even remember this bridge a generation later, or if all that is left in memory are Ronald’s Golden Arches…….
Author’s note: The Pic of the Week and the Weekly Newsflyer will trade places from now on due to time constraints. That means the Pic of the Week will be held Mondays, instead of Fridays and Newsflyer vice versa.
This week’s Pic of the Week is also a candidate for Best Kept Secret in the category Individual Bridges International. With this bridge located in the Thuringian part of the Vogtland region (not far from the borders of Saxony and Bavaria), it is one of the most forgotten because of other, more famous bridges in the region, such as the Göltzschtal Viaduct, Elstertal Viaduct near Plauen, or the most recent posting of the Border Viaduct near Hof, a mystery bridge located in a mysterious region.
Yet looking at the bridge more closely, one will find some facts right in front of you that has a connection with another region that is closer to home than you think. This bridge alone is located over the River Saale in the village of Harra, which is five kilometers northwest of Bad Lobenstein and 10 km north of the Thuringian-Bavarian border, where the border between West and East Germany once stood. The bridge itself is a combination Parker pony truss and a polygonal Whipple through truss. Its connections are both welded and pin-connected- the former being found in the lower chords; the latter with the truss paneling. Its portal bracing is bedstead with art-greco design.
The bridge was originally built in 1898 in Großheringen, spanning the same river but providing a connection to Bad Kösen. Großheringen is between Naumburg and Jena, the latter is the birthplace of the optics industry and was where I spent the first eight years after arriving as an exchange student in 1999. The bridge was then relocated to its current spot in Harra in 1951, to replace a bridge destroyed in World War II that was built in 1932. It was later rehabilitated in 2000, which included new paint for the trusses and a new decking. It still provides access to the campgrounds to this day. As for the crossing at Großheringen, a through arch bridge was built in 1951 and served traffic until 2011, when another arch bridge replaced that span.
The bridge’s setting makes photographing it a paradise, as it fits nicely into the landscape featuring the steep bluffs and forest-covered hills of the Saale and the landscape of the small village of 700 inhabitants. Its quiet setting makes for a day of advantures on and at the bridge itself. One can enjoy a meal at the restaurant nearby, boat along the river or even hike the hills. In either case, the Harra Bridge is a treat for anyone with an interest….
……even as a photographer, who has an album with more bridge pics which you can click here to view. 🙂
On March 26th, a major storm washed away a key highway bridge spanning the Waiho River at Franz Josef. The storm killed one person and caused millions of dollars in damage. A recap on the spectacular wipe out of the bridge:
While most crossings wiped out need 1-3 years of planning and reconstruction, this bridge rebuild was done thanks to planning and efforts by many key agencies, including the New Zealand army and its bridge planners. How this was done can be seen in the film below:
For a 300 meter long structure, it’s a feat that is for the books for the region, New Zealand and in the world of bridge engineering, one that will rake up some awards in the long term. 🙂
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels