Mystery Bridge Nr. 40: A Whipple Truss Bridge in Japan

Photo taken by John Paul Catton, author of the ‘Sword, Mirror, Jewel’ fantasy trilogy’ Used with permission

 

The next mystery bridge takes us over 20,000 kilometers away from home, to the country of Japan.  With over 127 million inhabitants and despite the tragedies that have affected them for years- namely the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which effectively ended World War II,  and the triple disaster at Fukushima three years ago (earthquake, followed by a tsunami that wiped many cities off the map and the worst nuclear disaster since 1986)- Japan maintains an unusually fast-paced but honor-obsessed culture, which makes the country stand out among other industrialized countries in the world. The country is famous for its sushi and rice, and thanks to its decades of developing modern technology, Japan is the third most powerful country in the world with regards to the world economy.

Many people do not really think much about Japanese heritage as the population is always on the move. And it is no wonder why  historic bridges are almost next to never mentioned. Yet John Paul Catton, who is the author of the Sword, Mirror, Jewel Fantasy series and webmaster of Planet 303 (Adventures in a Post-Fictional World), happened to find this jewel, while providing readers with a tour of the Japanese city of Asakusa.  The city is part of the perfecture of neighboring Taito, which is part of the Japanese capital of Tokyo.  As for the bridge itself, it has a history of its own. The truss design is clearly marked: A Whipple pony truss with pinned connections. This design was patented by Squire Whipple in 1841, and set the precedent for the development of the bowstring arch bridge in general, which started populating the American landscape in the late 1860s. The Norman’s Kill Bridge near Albany, New York, built in 1869, is one of the earliest examples of this truss type.

The Whipple truss bridge at Asakusa, according to Catton, used to be located in Fukugawa, which is southeast of Yamaguchi on the extreme southwest end of Japan. It was relocated to this place in Asakusa in recent times, perhaps 10-20 years ago,  given the newness of the abutments, and the roadway that runs underneath the span. While no exact dimensions have been found on this bridge, one can assume that the span is between 20 and 30 meters long. Because welded and riveted connections were introduced in 1910 to replace the pinned connections, one can assume that the bridge was originally constructed in the time period between 1865 and 1880, and whoever designed the span was either a disciple of Squire Whipple himself, or he borrowed the design from him (or his colleagues) to use when building it at Fukugawa. Because Fukugawa is 918 kilometers (570 miles) southwest of Asakusa (in Tokyo), the feat of relocating the span to its current place must have been a Herculean one, because of the exorbitant costs combined with obstacles in transporting it (Think of the mountainous landscape, combined with potential earthquakes, which overshadow the well-knitted infrastructure).  Such a feat is rare to find in the United States, yet attempts are underway to relocate a truss bridge from Pennsylvania to Alabama as part of a major project, supported by Alabama DOT and a private group wanting to save the BB Comer Bridge. If approve, this record distance of transporting a historic bridge from A to B, will surely be broken.

This bridge was first mentioned through bridgehunter.com, though a thorough article about the bridge and the request for information about the bridge’s history has not been written until now. Therefore, the Chronicles needs your help regarding finding the following information:

1. When was this bridge built?

2. Who was the bridge builder? Was he a disciple of Whipple or did he work for a firm in Japan (or elsewhere)?

3. Where exactly was this bridge located in Fukugawa?

4. Because of the fact that the bridge is one of the oldest left in Japan, what was the motive behind relocating the span to Asakusa?

5. When did the relocation take place and how?

Send your information to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. As soon as all the questions have been answered, there will be a follow-up to this article in the Chronicles.

Japan does take pride in its culture, and how (and why) this bridge was relocated remains a mystery, except for the fact that they really care about it, considering it one of the important landmarks of Japanese history. The Chronicles is working together to make sure the bridge’s history and its association with the development of the Japanese infrastructure comes to light. More on this Mystery Bridge will follow.

Fast Fact: Fukugawa is located between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities that were destroyed by two atomic bombs in 1945. President Truman ordered the bombs to be dropped after Germany surrendered to the Allies in May. Hiroshima was destroyed on 6 August, 1945, Nagasaki followed three days later. Japan surrendered on 2 September, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito signed the surrender papers on the USS Missouri, with General Douglas MacArthur overseeing the process. How nuclear radiation affected Fukugawa as a result of the two bombs, remains an unknown factor.

The author of the Chronciles would like to thank John Paul Catton for the use of the photo.

 

 

Success Story number 2: The Nine Mile Creek Aquaduct

Photos taken by Marc Scotti. This is the overview of the arches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Erie Canal: One of the greatest landmarks of civil engineering in the United States and the world. Built in 1825, the canal is 584 kilometers long, extending from Albany, the capital of New York to Buffalo at the mouth of Lake Erie and at the border to Canada.  It was built with a purpose: to expand the settlement in the new world, provide commerce to the state of New York and a travel to its neighbor to the north. Countless bridges, locks and aquaducts spanned the canal before it was replaced by an even wider, more efficent New York Barge Canal in 1918. Even then, when the original Erie Canal was made obsolete, many of the structures remained in place, waiting for residents to take note of them and reuse them someday.

The Nine Mile Creek Aquaduct, located near Camilus, is one of the prized structures that one should see while visiting New York. The aquaduct was built over the creek in 1841 when the Erie Canal was enlarged to provide more traffic. It features a five-span limestone arch bridge while the decking of the bridge featured wooden decking that was strong enough to hold several thousand cubic feet of water, carrying the boats safely over the creek. It was one of the first aquaducts built to carry water and marine traffic in the US.

Sadly, when the State Barge Canal was opened in 1918, the original Erie Canal was abandoned, and with that, all the locks, bridges and aquaducts were either left abandoned, partially removed to allow nature to take its course, or were relocated to the newer canal. The Camilus Canal had its wooden decking removed, but the arch spans remained abandoned for over 90 years.

Fortunately, a group of citizens recognized the importance of this aquaduct and went ahead with the reconstruction project. Apart from making repairs on the arches, they rebuilt the wooden decking of the bridge, using glulam, a series of wooden beams which were held together with glue, and they refilled it with water. It was rededicated in 2009 and today, the aquaduct is still in use, as part of the Erie Canal that is used for recreational purposes and designated as a national heritage site by the National Park Service (it was recognized in 2004). You will find that listed on the National Register, along with the other artefacts that belong to the once prestigious canal that was a contributing force to the expansion of the United States. According to historians, this is the only remaining aquaduct in the country that is in full operation. You will find this aquaduct along a two-mile stretch connecting Sim’s Museum and Warner’s Park at the eastern edge of the original Erie Canal. According to Marc Scotti at the New York State Department of Transportation, a boat tour along the canal is available with dining possibilities, even though one will have to consider planning ahead when visiting the region. There one will have the opportunity to see a work of art that took a group of residents, financial support and a lot of technical know-how and dedication to restore.

Top view of the aquaduct

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s note: There will be more articles on the bridges along the Erie Canal and the northeast region in the future. This is just a taste of what you can see when driving through the region.  The bridge has been nominated for this year’s Ammann Awards under Bridge of the Year, together with five other historic bridges.

The Winners of the Top Ranked Unique Savable Structures (TRUSS) Award

Meridan Street Bridge in Puyallup, Washington. Photo taken by K.A. Erickson, used with permission.

 

After some delays because of non-bridge related commitments on the part of the author as well as the webmaster of the Historic Bridges of the US website (James Baughn), the winners of the 2012 TRUSS Awards as well as the honorably mentioned have been announced. It is very difficult to pinpoint which bridge is the most targeted for preservation before they become a pile of broken stones and twisted metal as there were many MANY nominations that were submitted and the painstaking task to narrow them down based on appearance and urgency. Many bridges nominated for the 2012 TRUSS Awards were either winners or honorably mentioned last year and were omitted from the list. Yet there is a link to the 2011 Award winners here:

2011 TRUSS Award Winners: http://bridgehunter.com/story/1147/

In either case 15 historic bridges were awarded the prestigious prize, five of which will be mentioned here together with five of the 16 honorably mentioned bridges. In either case, the full list of winners and nominated structured can be found here:

2012 TRUSS Award Winners: http://bridgehunter.com/story/1172/

and the honorably mentioned: http://bridgehunter.com/story/1171/

 

Jason’s Top Five TRUSS Bridge Pics

1. Meadows Road Bridge (Northhampton County, Pennsylvania). This stone arch bridge over Saucon Creek was built in 1858 and is one of the oldest bridges in the state. Yet patchwork and alterations on the bridge make it less appealing to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, who wants to see this bridge replaced. This bridge is a classic example of a wrong attempt to give the bridge a face lift while keeping its unique appearance intact. Already, historic bridge preservationists including Nathan Holth are leading an attempt to convince PennDOT to change their minds and leave the bridge in its place while allowing a new structure to be built on a new alignment.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/pa/northampton/meadows-road

2. Cedar Grove Bridge (Franklin County, Indiana). Indiana has had an excellent reputation of preserving, restoring and reusing pre-1930s metal truss bridges for recreational use, for an average of six of these bridges have been spared annually, thanks to efforts on the part of Indiana DOT, the governor Mitch Daniels, and other actors from the private and public sectors. This leads to my question of why INDOT wants to demolish this 1914 Parker through truss bridge that was built by an in-state bridge company. According to Ed Hollowell, they and Franklin County have been at odds over the ownership of the bridge and the former highway it carried across the Whitewater River, Hwy. 1. With INDOT’s request to demolish the bridge submitted to the state historic preservation office, another party is now involved and there is hope that this request will be denied and that the ownership issue be settled; especially as many locals would like to see this bridge reused again, even if it is for recreational purposes.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/in/franklin/cedar-grove/

3. Meridian Street Bridge (Pierce County, Washington). After the fall of the Liberty Memorial Bridge in 2008, this bridge in Puyallup is perhaps the last of the Turner Truss bridges ever constructed in the United States. Turner trusses have a polygonal upper chord with Warren trusses resembling an A-frame shape, as seen at the beginning of this article. Washington DOT plans to accelerate the construction schedule and remove the bridge before 2013, yet attempts to halt the progress because of its National Register eligibility may delay these plans by a couple years. More on the fate of this bridge will come as the story unfolds……

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/wa/pierce/meridian/

4. Black Bridge (Albany County, New York). This bridge is one of two TRUSS Award winners where the public is taking a prudent stance in their attempts to save the bridge. A railroad bridge in Eau Claire, Wisconsin is the other candidate. Both are abandoned railroad bridges, yet this bridge (located in Cohoes) presents the good, the bad and the ugly with regards to good intentions and tragedy. On New Year’s Eve a man ventured onto the abandoned bridge, only to slip and fall into icy the Mohawk River. His body was found a day later. Despite a petition and demand by many citizens demanding that the bridge be torn down, the mayor took a stance opposing the demolition. This was hailed as a success by many in the pontist community and plans are still in place to repair the bridge and convert it into a pedestrian trail this year. With this staunch support for revitalizing the bridge, there is hope that instead of leaving a huge void in the cityscape (as it would have been the case with the bridge removal), that the bridge will make the city more attractive. As popular as the fallen person was, it would not be surprising if the newly converted pedestrian bridge would be named in his memory.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/ny/albany/black/

Link to the Eau Claire Railroad Bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/wi/eau-claire/bh36335

Note: Additional links to the Black Bridge can be found under a summary written about the structure when it was announced the winner of the TRUSS Awards.

5. Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh (Allegheny County, Pennsylvania) I visited this bridge during a tour of the region in 2010 and was awed by its impressive design: five Pennsylvania petit truss spans with the main span being over 500 feet long! This far outspans most of the bridges of this type west of the Mississippi and is second behind its cousin bridge the Donora-Webster Bridge in terms of its length of the main span in the greater Pittsburgh area. Todd Wilson of bridgemapper.com has been working together with students of his alma mater (Carnegie Mellon University and other actors in finding ways to preserve the bridge intact even though some difficulties in terms of its geographical location may make any attempts to stop the replacement process futile; especially if Pennsylvania wants to modernize its landscape and improve its infrastructure at the expense of the numerous historic bridges that exist.

Link with sublinks on the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/pa/allegheny/hulton

WILD CARD: Murray Bridge (Humboldt County, Iowa): While most of the historic bridges in the upper Midwest have disappeared to progress, one can see a couple pieces of silver lining nearby. The Murray Bridge over the Des Moines River between Bradgate and Humboldt is unique because of its association with a local bridge builder who left its signature in a form of ornate design on its portal bracing. Yet it had been the most neglected bridge as it was not considered historic to state and national standards and is still on the county engineer’s list of bridges in dire need of replacement. After being given the TRUSS Award for 2012 and after providing an article to the local newspaper on the part of yours truly (who has visited the bridge twice already and even nominated the bridge for this year’s prize), maybe some minds will be changed on the part of Humboldt County. We will have to see.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/ia/humboldt/murray/

Note: More on this bridge will come soon as an article on Humboldt County’s bridges is in the making.

Ellworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, Iowa. Photo taken by the author in August 2011

The Honorably Mentioned:

1. Mahned Bridge near Hattiesburg (Perry County, Mississippi): Anandoned for many years, this bridge has a checkered past that is bone-chilling.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/ms/perry/mahned

2. Arkadelphia Bridge (Clark County, Arkansas): Slated for replacement, this bridge is up for the taking, and would be considered a “nomadic bridge” as it would be relocated for a second time, a feat rarely seen for a historic bridge.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/ar/clark/arkadelphia

3. Ellsworth Ranch Bridge  (Emmet County, Iowa): One of only two King Bridge Company structures carrying the Thacher truss design left in the country, this bridge has been closed since 2010 and the question of its future is unclear.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/ia/emmet/ellsworth-ranch/

 

4. Champ Clark Bridge (Pike County, Missouri). Now that the Missouri River has been “cleansed” of all the “hideous, ugly, and scary” truss bridges, the Mississippi River is now the next target of progress. This speaking as a devil’s advocate who frowns in the name of progress that is to be had on this bridge, a five-span Pennsylvania peiti truss bridge.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/mo/pike/champ-clark/

 

5. Chambers Ford Bridge (Tama County, Iowa). If there is a way to bring down a historic bridge the “civilian” way, try torching this two-span Pratt through truss over the Iowa River, as it happened recently. Fortunately the bridge is still intact but there is hope to beautify and reuse the structure before arsonists strike again.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/ia/tama/chambers-ford/