An Interview with Clark Vance

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In 2011 at the Historic Bridge Convention in Missouri, I had a chance to meet Clark Vance in person and found him to be open-minded in many aspects, but having knowledge that is enriched for historic bridges, and other artefacts. Mr. Vance just recently retired from his position as high school teacher, but has been a key contributor of historic bridges for bridgehunter.com for as long as the website has existed, providing readers with photos and interesting facts on historic bridges, mainly in the Midwestern part of the US, centering around the states of Kansas and Missouri. Because of his contributions to historic bridges- as a photographer, historian and sometimes consultant- Mr. Vance won the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement in 2018.

I had a chance to interview him recently about his interests in the topic and found some more interesting facts about him, how his interest in historic bridges first started and some words of advice for those who are working in the field of historic bridges, in terms of photography and preservation. This is what I learned from him, as you read the interview:

 

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  1. Tell us more about yourself in terms of professional and private life.

I recently retired from 11 years of teaching engineering, math, and software engineering to high school students. I previously worked in IT and automotive technology. I still enjoy working with and driving my (too many) cars and motorcycles. My wife is a psychologist in private practice and her daughter is a professor at an art and design school. I highly recommend being retired.

 

  1. What got you interested in historic bridges?

My father was a civil engineer with the Kansas Highway Department in the late ‘40s before going to work as a structural engineer in private industry. He didn’t mind my gazillion “What’s that?” questions as a kid and actually had the knowledge to answer a lot of them, particularly about man made artifacts in the natural environment. My curiosity about infrastructure was rewarded with good explanations of whatever odd item caught my attention. Some of my best times as a kid were when he and I would visit road construction sites and he would answer all my questions then add information about things I hadn’t noticed.

 

  1. You do mostly bridge photography, right? Or do you write or talk about them?

My main public activity surrounding bridges is as a contributor to BridgeHunter.com. I’ve enjoyed old maps as a way to see into the past and discover things that are unused and forgotten. My enjoyment of driving back roads and hiking fit with this, and BridgeHunter gave me an excuse to photograph the things I found. I don’t consider myself a bridge expert or historian and I try to avoid spending too much time talking with others about bridges lest they consider me odd(er).

 

  1. Do you teach historic bridges in school? If so, how?

I didn’t get a chance to teach the second year class where we taught truss analysis, so my role as an educator was mostly as an informal consultant for the students working on entries to bridge building competitions. I taught an intro civil class where I got to cover infrastructure and of course I exposed my students to a lot of structural history using bridges. I hope they came to appreciate the significance of structures that their later instructors will possibly dismiss as obsolete.

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  1. What kind of historic bridges do you look for?

Although I enjoy simply documenting older existing structures, my greatest enjoyment comes from locating and documenting bridges that have been forgotten. Most of the time there is little left physically but I like to record the location and identify any visible remnants. Kansas City still has places where one can see the paths worn by the wagons heading out on the Santa Fe Trail. For whatever reason, I feel it’s important for people to remember the paths used in the past.

 

  1. A historic bridge in your opinion is…….

Defining what constitutes an historic bridge is similar to identifying an historic car. Anything old enough is worth preserving, and the more important it was when new, the more significant when old. Even the plainest, cheapest Model T should not be scrapped if it’s possible to preserve it. A Cadillac V-16 is obviously more rare and more worthy of preservation. From the perspective of the people trying to use objects in the economy, is would be foolish and wasteful to try to run a fleet of Model T taxis and it’s equally foolish to expect a tall, narrow pony truss to carry a combine or loaded grain trailer. It’s fun to drive old cars across the Chain of Rocks bridge but trying to keep it as part of the interstate system makes no sense.

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Chain of Rocks Bridge. Photo taken by Jason Smith in 2011

 

  1. What is your favorite historic bridge?

Picking favorites is difficult. Friends and I would walk out on the Chain of Rocks bridge not long after it closed. I haven’t been back since it got cleaned up but I imagine it’s still pretty spectacular. As a kid my family would visit relatives in southeast Kansas and I have a long standing love for the Marsh arches. I also enjoyed driving the old Flagler railroad bridges linking the Florida Keys back in the ‘70s.

 

  1. What historic bridge(s) do you miss the most?

Probably the bridges I miss most are: The Chouteau Bridge in KC. Totally obsolete and awful for trucks and cars alike, it was nonetheless an important bridge when built and quite impressive an an old, still functioning work. The ASB automobile lanes were narrow and had a reputation for fatal accidents where the lanes split to go around the trusses. For better or worse, one could have a close look at the structure and mechanism while driving by. More generally, I miss the many through trusses that were everywhere when I began traveling and which have almost all been replaced by much more efficient boring bridges guaranteed to keep concrete plants busy repairing and replacing them.

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  1.  What words of advice do you have for the following:

 

Photographing Historic Bridges: Get the big picture and the little details. Show the setting and what one would see driving by or passing under. Also, catch the details that can help identify the builder, date, and other parts of the history.

Teaching about Historic Bridges: I wish I had more knowledge about this. I found that I could engage students by providing some of the history behind modern concepts. Bridges played an important role in the development of engineering as a field, so I tried to cover bridge technology in discussions about changes brought about by developments in material science, structural analysis methods, etc.

Preserving Historic Bridges: Two things strike me as most important, public support and technical skills. Right now old bridges are in a place similar to steam locomotives in the ‘50s. They are being phased out and replaced by products deemed superior by policy makers. I don’t think there is much hope of their remaining in common use. The focus needs to be on finding ways to save them from being scrapped and preserving the knowledge needed to put them back in limited use when more of the public has the desire to experience the old technology. Each one lost will make the remaining ones more valuable and more likely to be saved.

 

Thank you for your time, Clark and wishing you all the best in your endeavors. J

 

The next question is who will win the now rebranded Bridgehunter Awards in the category Lifetime Achievement? If you haven’t voted yet, click here and you will be directed to the ballot. Deadline is January 10th and the winner will be announced two days later.

 

Note: Photos posted  but not cited here are all courtesy of Clark Vance.

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2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards: Nomination for Awards Now Being Taken

Zellstoff Bridge north of Zwickau (Saxony), Germany. Photo taken in September 2017
With construction season winding down and a lot of success stories involving restoring historic bridges, now is the time to nominate our favorite historic bridge(s) and preservationists both here and abroad. Between now and the 3rd of December, entries are being taken for the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. For those wishing to know about the awards, there are six categories for both American as well as international bridges where you can nominate your bridge, person or even best bridge photo.  Information on the categories and how you can enter are in the link below.
On this page, you can find the previous winners of the Ammann Awards which you can read about.   Voting will take place during the holiday season from December 4th until 6th January, 2018 with the winners to be announced on the 12th of January. The ballot will be available through The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. If you have bridges that deserve to be nominated and deserve an Award, or if you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at:
flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.
Happy Bridgehunting and may the nomination for the Ammann Awards begin! 🙂

2016 Ammann Awards Ballot Part II

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BEST KEPT SECRET TOUR GUIDE:

US:

The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa– Minus the now removed Wagon Wheel Bridge, this county is rich with history involving its bridges, one of which involved a hero who averted a potential disaster in Kate Shelley.

The Crossings along the Chesapeake-Ohio Canal– Built in 1828, the canal system serves four states and provides water to Washington. It also features some of the oldest arch bridges in the country, some of which have been restored since 2005.

The Arch Bridges of Cowley County, Kansas– Until this year, 17 arch bridges served the county, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920 and made of stone. One of the bridges succumbed to flooding this spring.

The Bridges of Cincinnati/ Covington– Several bridges, big and small, old and young can be found in this metropolis, including John Roebling’s suspension bridge built in 1869, one year before his death on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Bridges of Washington County, Maryland– 22 historic stone arch structures span Conococheague Creek and Antietam Creek, and its tributaries, including Wilson’s Bridge, a 210-foot long bridge built in 1819. Most of the structures are almost 200-years old.

The Bridges of Tompkins County, New York– Over two dozen bridges are found in this county that are historically significant, including their centerpiece, the Newfield Covered Bridge.

International:

Glauchau (Saxony)– Several arch bridges span the Mulde as well as on the hill leading to the castles. As a bonus, a covered bridge and an iron bridge can be found here.

Zwickau (Saxony) – It is extremely rare for a town to have a 500-year old covered bridge with a very unusual design, a cantilever pony truss bridge and an unusual through truss bridge in a community, but Zwickau has that and more.

The Canal Bridges of Brugges (Belgium)– several stone arch bridges span the canals serving this historic community.

Calgary, Alberta– Two dozen bridges, modern and historic serve this Canadian community including those on the city’s historic registry.

The River Tyne- Flowing through Newcastle and Gateshead, this river features 22 improtant bridges as it flows into the North Sea from the eastern UK.

The Bridges of Newark on Trent– Like Glauchau, Newark has 27,000 inhabitants and a wide-array of well-known bridges- ten of them.

The Bridges of Dublin, Ireland– Many bridges from different periods of time can be found here. This includes a pair of cable-stayed bridges, three arch bridges and a couple truss bridges.

BEST KEPT SECRET INDIVIDUAL:

US:

Good Thunder Railroad Bridge in Minnesota

Sibley Railroad Bridge in Missouri

Marais des Cygnes River Bridge in Kansas

Coalbrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut (was inundated until the drought)

The Purple People Bridge in Cincinnati

Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas

Clairemeont Avenue Railroad Bridge in Wisconsin

International:

Isabella Viaduct in Puerto Rico

Röhrensteg Pedestrian Bridge in Zwickau, Germany

Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (UK)

Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire (UK)- photo included here

Sandford Drawbridge in Nova Scotia (Canada)- the world’s smallest bascule bridge

Prince Alfred Bridge in New South Wales (Australia)

Rosa Luxemburg Bridges in Berlin, Germany

Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany

Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct in New South Wales (Australia)

Hangeseilbrucke, Geierlay, Germany

Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

Clark’s Creek Bridge in Geary County, Kansas

Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany

Times Beach (US 66) Bridge in Missouri

Augusta Bridge in Kansas

Fehmarn Bridge in Germany

Hayden Bridge in Oregon

Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Arkansas

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa

Dodd Ford Bridge in Minnesota

Gasconade (US 66) Bridge in Missouri

Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece

White River Bridge in Clarendon, Arkansas

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2016 Ammann Awards Ballot Part I

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Route 66 Gasconade Bridge in Missouri. Photo taken by Roamin Rich

For instructions in English, please go to the areavoices version of the Chronicles (click here). Für die in der deutschen Sprache, bitte zum Blog The Flensburg Files gehen (clicken Sie here).

BEST PHOTO:

 

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BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:

Information on these bridges are available via links:

Long Meadow Bridge (MN): http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/10/28/long-meadow-bridge-open-to-bike-traffic/

Green Bridge in Des Moines (IA): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.1826891580920201&type=3

Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam Co. (IA): https://blog.jimgrey.net/2014/09/26/restored-and-repurposed-the-houck-iron-bridge/

Fort Morgan Rainbow Bridge (CO): http://www.fortmorgantimes.com/fort-morgan-local-news/ci_30393446/city-earns-award-rainbow-bridge-rehab-project

Wagon Bridge in Hemphill Co. (TX): http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/08/prweb13632078.htm

Bird Island Bridge in Chicago: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-division-street-bridge-st-0807-20160805-story.html

Molly’s and Rogers Landings US 66 Bridges (OK): http://www.route66news.com/2011/10/12/mollys-landing-saves-part-of-old-route-66-bridge/

Harahan Bridge in Memphis (TN): http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2016/09/27/video-tour-the-mississippis-new-big-river-crossing.html

Beaverkill Covered Bridge in Sullivan Co. (NY): http://cdn.equipmentworld.com/painstaking-restoration-of-historic-covered-bridge-in-the-catskills-nears-completion/

Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland (OH): http://bridgehunter.com/oh/cuyahoga/bh49083/

Hamilton Co. Park Bridge (IN): http://cdn.equipmentworld.com/indiana-festival-celebrates-three-historic-bridges-joined-together-to-form-one/

Maple and Lafayette Bridges in Fayetteville, AK: https://www.fayettevilleflyer.com/2016/12/05/city-to-celebrate-re-opening-of-historic-maple-and-lafayette-bridges/

Dodd Ford Bridge near Mankato, MN: http://mankatotimes.com/2016/06/30/ribbon-cutting-for-historic-dodd-ford-bridge-set-for-july-5th/

Eau Claire Railroad Viaduct (WI): http://bridgehunter.com/wi/eau-claire/bh36335/

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

 BACH STEEL: Nels Raynor, Derek Pung, Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagle, Brock Raynor and Nathan Holth- Several Bridges saved through in-kind restoration (restoring to its original form, including Farm Lane, Paper Mill and Martin Road, as well as their newest project: Springfield Bowstring Arch.

Christopher Marston: Chris has been working for Historic American Engineer’s Record for almost 30 years, documenting and collaborating successfully to preserve many historic bridges. Interview here: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/10/06/an-interview-with-christopher-marston-of-habs-haer/

Nick Schmiedeler: It unknown how many years he has been a pontist, but Nick has found more abandoned “Elvis” bridges than a typical pontist in his/her lifetime. Record of his findings here: http://bridgehunter.com/profile/Nick_Schmiedeler

Royce and Bobette Haley: Known as Bridge Road Warriors, this couple has found and photographed more bridges in a span of two years than anyone in his/her lifetime. More on their work here: http://bridgehunter.com/profile/roycehaleyIII

John Marvig: Before 2010, no one really dared to photograph railroad bridges, that is until John arrived. Since then, 10 states and thousands of bridges profiled and photographed as can be seen here: http://johnmarvigbridges.org/

Kaitlin O’shea: For over a decade, she has been running the website Preservation in Pink, providing some interesting educational aspects to historic preservation, including bridges. And this over a good coffee and company with the flamingo: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/12/02/interview-with-kaitlin-oshea-preservation-in-pink/

Ian Heigh: For many years, this engineer has been responsible for maintaining the Scottish National Railway and especially the longest bridges in the country: Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay. More here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_vZjvTuSJw

MYSTERY BRIDGE:

Before voting, check out the information on the bridges being voted by clicking here. If any problems, please type in Mystery Bridge. The following candidates are numbered from 62 to 76. Two votes for the US and two for the international versions are allotted here.

 

 

 

2016 Ammann Awards Voting Underway

Devil's Elbow Bridge carrying US Hwy. 66 in Missouri. Photos courtesy of Roamin Rich
Devil’s Elbow Bridge carrying US Hwy. 66 in Missouri. Photos courtesy of Roamin Rich

After tallying and categorizing all the entries, in some categories the highest number on record, the voting process for this year’s Othmar H. Ammann Awards is currently underway. Between now and 6th January, you have an opportunity to select your favorite candidates in five categories: Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement, Best Kept Secret Tour Guide and Individual Bridge, Mystery Bridge, Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, and Bridge of the Year. Because of a record high number of entries in all but two categories, for the first time this year there will be an unlimited number of voting allowed for each of the categories with the exception of Mystery Bridges. There, you are allowed four votes- two for the US and two for the International Scene (Int.). That means for all ofthe categories except what was just mentioned, you can vote for as many bridges and people as you want at any time. It will encourage you to have a look at the bridges more carefully, esp. with the pictures, before you decide which bridges deserve your vote.

To vote, please go to the wordpress version of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. There you will have the ballot, which is divided up into Parts I & II. Part I has the categories of Best Photo (a gallery is enclosed), Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Lifetime Achievement and Mystery Bridge. In Part II, we have Best Kept Secret Tour Guide, Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge (both divided into US and International) and lastly, Bridge of the Year. Both Links are below.

BALLOT:

PART I

PART II

 

Bridges nominated but not on the list will be mentioned in the Author’s Choice Awards, which will be announced on January 6th, the same day as the last day of voting. They will most likely be candidates for the 2017 Awards as well.  Winners will be announced on January 11th.  As there are many entries from Germany, the announcement of voting in German can be found via sister column The Flensburg Files (click here for access)

If any questions of should some issues arise, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Good luck and let the voting commence.

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Odds and Ends: Eleven as the Magical Number

Kunitz Covered Bridge in Jena, Germany. Photo taken in August 2016
Kunitz Covered Bridge in Jena, Germany. Photo taken in August 2016

As we close in on the end of the year, we find that the number eleven is the magical number. Eleven is a tribute to the people who have made a difference, big or small, but whose lives were cut short because of tragedy. Eleven is the number which has been popping up recently because of three events that have hit home:

  1. It marks an end of 27 years of sorrow and worries as an 11-year old boy has come home to rest. Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 while returning home on a rural road near St. Joesph, Minnesota. His remains were found on 1 September, 2016, by a man who later admitted that he had kidnapped and murdered him. While he is currently behind bars awaiting sentencing, millions of people have cried, stopped by the site of the murder to lay flowers and have even done tributes for the boy, whose dreams of being an athlete were shattered one cold fall night. Jacob’s mother Patty addressed a crowd of people asking what can be done for the family (which you can read here) Even a poem in his memory can be found on sister column The Flensburg Files for you to read here.
  2. It marks the 15th anniversary of another tragedy but with larger proportions as two planes, on the morning of 11 September, 2001, crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, another into the Pentagon in Washington and another in Pennsylvania despite being enroute to the White House. This event has changed the world in many aspects, yet we still don’t understand how this could happen.
  3. It symbolizes the ongoing Spring Revolution in the Middle East and northern Africa, which happened five years ago in seven countries, including the conflicting country of Syria.

In honor of those, whose lives were unnecessarily cut short and whose dreams of becoming a professional in their field of interest were shattered, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be wearing a special avatar between now and the end of the 2016 Othmar Ammann Awards on its areavoices website and in some posts in the wordpress website. This is an important way of showing solidarity with the families and friends of those whose lives ended too early. You will find the logo here, and it will be used in all articles to come:

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It’s an arch bridge at sunrise, crossing a large body of water, showing solidarity between parties, and bring peace and prosperity to all. Jacob’s name symbolizes every child’s dream and hope for a better life, which can only happen if we as parents, teachers, historians and the like can help them make it happen.

Othmar H. Ammann Awards underway earlier than expected.

Furthermore, entries are being taken earlier than expected for this year’s Othmar H. Ammann Awards, the awards where we take pride in the areas historic and unique bridges in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. The reason behind this is twofold:

  1. This year is the fifth anniversary of the Ammann Awards. To commemorate the event, the Chronicles’ Hall of Fame will be established, which will feature the top six finishers of each category, plus the inductees from the Lifetime Legacy. Therefore, there will be two rounds of voting for this year’s awards: The first round will be for the 2016 Awards, while the second round will feature the voting of all the winners and runners-up in each of the categories dating back to 2011, with the top six overall being inducted. The Hall of Fame page will appear in the Chronicles’ wordpress page.
  2. In light of the recent tragedy in Minnesota, but also in connection with the 50th anniversary of the National Register of Historic Places and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, starting the contest early will help families take their children on photo tours of several historic bridges in the US to show them the importance of bridges in the development of the US infrastructure. As Europe has some gorgeous historic bridges that are two centuries old in many places, people there can share their experiences in preserving them with their American counterparts. So taking a parent’s advice, take your kids out and show them how bridges shaped your countries, spend some time with them taking pictures and writing essays about your favorite bridge(s), and send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Entries in other languages are welcomed.

More information on how to enter the 2016 Ammann Awards in the categories of best photo, bridge of the year, lifetime achievement, tour guide of the bridges in the region, and best kept secret can be found here. Deadline for all entries is 1 December 2016 with voting to follow. The winners will be announced on 11 January, 2017 for both the annual awards as well as the Hall of Fame.

Please note, the contest is open for everyone both in the US as well as Europe and elsewhere.

A series on the National Register of Historic Places and the role of historic bridges is in the works which includes interviews and other comments. They will be posted in both wordpress and areavoices versions. In addition, the author has several bridge tours in eastern Germany, which will be added in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more from the Chronicles.

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2015 Amman Awards Voting Part 1

Finally, after a pair of significant delays due to events that have interrupted our lifestyles on both sides of the Big Atlantic, the time has come for the voting process for the 2015 Othmar H. Ammann Awards, powered by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and Poll Daddy.com. Unlike in previous voting, all the voting will be done directly through the Chronicles, which means more independence from external sources. 🙂 Also differently from last year is that the voting process will commence in two separate articles. This article will feature the category of Best Photo, where all photos will be presented and you will choose your top two votes.  Article 2 will feature the rest of the categories in the form of ballots with descriptions being presented. Please follow all instructions given when voting. In case of questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles

You have until 2 February to vote. The votes will be tallied and the result presented the same day. The five-year anniversary version of the Ammann Awards, where the top two from each category in the years 2011-2016 will be selected and voted on next year. More details will come in November.

Here we go with the voting! 😀

BEST PHOTO (2 Votes limit)

Photo taken by the author in December, 2014
Photo taken by the author in December, 2014

Bentonsport Bridge in Iowa- Jason D. Smith

 

MN-210 Bridge

Thomson Bridge in Minnesota- John Weeks III

 

hayden bridge

Hayden Bridge in Oregon- Julie Bowers

 

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.
TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE
A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.

Nixon Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter- Bozeman Chronicle

 

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.
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Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.

Williams Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter  Bozeman Chronicle

 

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Hwy. 5 Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett

 

firescald bridge tn

Firescald Bridge in Tennessee- J. Carson Barrett

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Chapel Curry Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett

 

Savana-Sabula Bridge in Iowa-Illinois- Roger Deschner

 

AFTER LOOKING AT THE PHOTOS, PLEASE PROCEED TO PART II, WHICH IS HERE ->

2015 Ammann Awards: The Author has some bridge stories to tell

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To start off this new year, there are some good news as well as some bad news. First the bad news: The deadline for entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards has been pushed back again for the last time. This time the 10th of January at 12:00am Central Standard Time (January 11th at 7:00am Central European Time) is the absolute deadline for all entries, including that for Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement and other categories. Reason for the delay is the low number of entries, much of that has to do with the weather disaster of biblical proportions in the United States and Great Britain, which has kept many away from the cameras and forced many to fill sandbags. The the voting process will proceed as planned with the winners being announced at the end of this month.

The good news: The author has enough candidates and stories to justify announcing his choices for 2015- the first to be announced before the actual Ammann Awards presentations but one that should keep the interest in historic bridges running sky high, especially before the main course. In other words, the author is serving his appetizers right now to keep the readers and candidates hungry for more bridge stuff. 😉

So here is our first appetizer: The Biggest Bonehead Story

Photo taken by Tony Dillon

USA:

Truck Destroys Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana- Ever since Christmas Day, this story has been the hottest topic in the media, even breaking records of the number of post clicks on the Chronicles. A 23-year-old woman, who claimed to be Amish, drives a 30-ton truck full of drinking water across the 1880 Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company structure that was only able to carry 6 tons. Naturally, the bridge gave in, yet the excuses the driver brought up became more and more incredulable: 1. I just received my driver’s license, 2. I couldn’t turn around or find an alternative so I took the chance, and 3. (Most outrageous): I didn’t know how many pounds equaled six tons.

Yet the question remains, which was more incredulable: The incident or the consequence of the incident: a mere $135 fine for crossing the light-weight bridge, destroying it in the process?

International:

Viaduct Collapses in Sicily- 2015 was not a good year for bridges outside of the USA, for several key (historic) crossings have met their fate or are about to due to human error. A temporary pedestrian bridge in Johannesburg (South Africa) falls onto the motorway crushing two cars. A pedestrian suspension bridge in New Zealand breaks a cable, causing the decking to twist and send hikers into the water.  Fortunately, no casualties. Both incidents happened in October. The highest glass bridge in the world, located in China, is cracking even though the government says it is safe.

But this bridge collapse on the island of Sicily, which happened in January, was a scandal! The Scorciavacche Viaduct near Palermo was completed in December 2014, three months earlier than scheduled, only for it to collapse partially on January 5th, 10 days after its opening! While no one was hurt, the collapse sparked a political outcry as the multi-million Euro bridge was part of the 200 million Euro motorway project, and as a consequence, officials prompted an investigation into the cause of the bridge. The construction company, which claimed that the accident was caused by “substinence,” tried shooting down the accusations, claiming the accident was overexaggerated. Makes the reader wonder if they tried covering up a possible design flaw, combined with human error, which could have caused the collapse. If so, then they have the (now jailed) Captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to thank, for like the ship that has been towed away and scrapped, the bridge met the same fate. Lesson for the wise: More time means better results. Check your work before opening it to others.

 

 

Best Historic Bridge Find:

While the author stayed out of the US for all of 2015 and focused his interesting findings on European soil, other bridge colleagues have found some bridges that had been either considered gone or had never been heard of before. One of these colleagues from Minnesota happened to find one that is still standing! 🙂

 

USA:

Bridge L-1297 in Clearwater County, Minnesota-

According to records by the Minnesota Historical Society, the Schonemann Park Bridge, located south of Luverne in Rock County, is the only example of a Waddell kingpost truss bridge left standing in Minnesota. This 1912 bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Bridge L-1297, which spans the Clearwater River near Gronvich in Clearwater, is the OTHER Waddell kingpost pony truss bridge that is still standing. Its markings matches exactly that of its Schonemann counterpart. Although there is no concrete evidence of when it was built and by whom, Pete Wilson, who found it by chance and addressed it to the Chronicles, mentioned that it was likely that it was built between 1905 and 1910 by the Hewett family, which built the bridge at Luverne. In either case, it is alive, standing albeit as a private crossing, and should be considered for the National Register. Does anybody else agree? 🙂

International:

The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

It is rare to find a cluster of historic bridges that are seldomly mentioned in any history books or bridge inventory. During a bike tour through eastern Thuringia in March, I happened to find a treasure in the hills: A dozen historic bridges within a 10 km radius, half of which are in the city of 29,000 inhabitants, including the ornamental Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge located on the east end of town. Highly recommended the next time you pass through the area. These bridges will be profiled further in the coming year because of their aesthetic and historic value, which makes the town, resembling an East German bygone era, more attractive. Check them out! 🙂

 

Spectacular Disasters:

Flooding and Fires dominated the headlines as Mother Nature was not to kind to the areas affected, thus they were flooded, destroying historic bridges in the path. If there was no flooding, there were dry spells prompting fires that burned down everything touched. While there were several examples of historic bridges destroyed by nature, the author has chosen two that standout the most, namely because they were filmed, plus two runners-up in the international category. Fortunately for the bridge chosen in the US category, there is somewhat of a happy ending.

Photo by James MacCray

USA:

Full Throttle Saloon Fire-  Only a few weeks after celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Motorcycle Rally at the World’s largest saloon, the Full Throttle Saloon was destroyed by a massive fire on September 8th. Two of the historic bridges, relocated here to serve as overlook platforms and stages, were damaged by the blaze with the bridge decking being completely burned away. While the saloon was considered a total loss, bar owner Michael Ballard is planning on rebuilding the bar complex and has already lined up concert events including the upcoming Motorcycle Rally in August. More on how you can help rebuild here. Whether the bridges will be part of the plan is unclear, but given the effort to bring in the structure, it is likely that they will be kept and be part of the project as well. More on the project will follow, but things are really looking up for bikers and bridge lovers alike. 🙂

 

International:

300-year old arch bridge washed out by flooding-

While there was a three-way tie for spectacular natural disasters done to the historic bridges on the international front, this concrete arch bridge in Tadcaster in the UK stands out the most. The bridge collapsed on December 29th as floodwaters raged throughout much of the northern part of Great Britain. It was one of dozens of bridges that were either severely damaged or destroyed during the worst flooding on record. The saddest part was not the video on how the bridge fell apart bit by bit, but the bridge was over 300 years old. Demolition and replacement of the bridge is expected to commence at the earliest at the end of this year once the damages are assessed and the clean-up efforts are under way.

Runners-up:

Coach takes a swim under a culvert in Brazil:

Two runners-up in this category also have to do with bridge washouts due to flooding. One of them is this culvert wash-out in Brazil. A video submitted to the French magazine LeMonde shows what can happen if engineers choose a culvert over a replacement bridge, as this coach sank into the raging creek, went through the culvert and swam away! :-O Fortunately all the passengers evacuated prior to the disaster, however, it serves as a warning to all who wish to cut cost by choosing a culvert over a new bridge- you better know what you are getting into, especially after watching the video below.

 

Massive Panic as Bridge is washed out in India-

The other runner-up takes us to the city of Chennai in India, where flash flooding wreaked havoc throughout the city. At this bridge, the pier of a concrete bridge gave way as a large wave cut up the crossing in seconds! Massive panic occurred, as seen in the video seen below:

 

 

Dumbest Reason to destroy a historic bridge:

The final category for this year’s Author’s Choice Award goes to the people whose irrational decision-making triggered the (planned) destruction of historic bridges. This year’s candidates features two familiar names that are on the chopping block unless measures on a private scale are undertaken to stop the wrecking ball. One of the bridges is an iconic landmark that is only 53 years old.

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

USA:

BB Comer Bridge in Alabama- Three years of efforts to raise awareness to a vintage cantilever bridge went up in smoke on November 14th, when county officials not only rejected the notion for a referendum on saving the BB Comer Bridge in Scotsboro, but also turned down any calls for the matter to be brought up for all time to come. While the organization promoting the preservation of the bridge claimed that the city and Jackson County would not need to pay for the maintenance of the bridge, officials were not sold on the idea of having the bridge become a theme park, which would have been a win-win situation as far as producing funds for the tourism industry is concerned. Instead, behind closed doors, the contract was signed off to convert the 1930 bridge into scrap metal, giving into the value of the commodity. Talk about short-sightedness and wrist slitting there!

 

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International:

Fehmarn Bridge to come down- In an effort to push through the Migratory Freeway through Fehmarn Island and down the throats of opposing residents, the German Railways condemned the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge, built in 1963 to connect the island with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The official reason was too much rust and any rehabilitation would prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years- highly disputable among the preservationists and civil engineers given the number of concrete examples of rehabilitated bridges lasting 50+ years. Yet many locals believe that the German Railways is pushing for the bridge to be removed in favor of its own railroad crossing that would carry Fernzüge from Hamburg to Copenhagen, eliminating the ferry service between Puttgarten and Rodby in Denmark. The fight however is far from over as the campaign to save the island and its cherished architectural work is being taken to the national level, most likely going as far as Brussles if necessary. In addition, lack of funding and support on the Danish side is delaying the tunnel project, threatening the entire motorway-bridge-tunnel project to derail. If this happens, then the next step is what to do with the Fehmarn Bridge in terms of prolonging its life. The bridge is in the running for Bridge of the Year for the 2015 Ammann Awards for the second year in a row, after finishing a distant second last year.

 

AND NOW THE VOTING PROCESS AND RESULTS OF THE 2015 AMMANN AWARDS, WHICH WILL BEGIN STARTING JANUARY 11th, AS SOON AS THE DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES PASSES. HURRY TO ENTER YOUR PHOTOS, BRIDGES, AND PERSONS DESERVING HONORS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!

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Amman Awards Entry Deadline Extended to January 2016

Hartley Drive Bridge in Allamakee County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2011

Deadline for Submissions of Photos and Entries extended to January 6th 2016. Voting to Commence in January.

2016 will be the year that the Othmar H. Ammann Awards will be voted on twice. In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, to show solidarity for the people affected by these attacks (including the refugees), to allow for more time for people to submit their entries for the Ammann Awards, and finally to allow time for the author to prepare for the awards, the 2015 Ammann Awards will entend well into 2016. That means between now and January 6th, entries will be taken for voting purposes in the categories of best photo, best example of a preserved historic bridge, lifetime achievement, region with a high concentration of historic bridges, and mystery bridges. More information can be found via link here. Voting will commencence on January 8th and last through January 29th. The winners of the Awards will be given out on February 1st.  The Author’s Choice Awards will be given at the same time.

This decision is unusual, but given the situation at hand, it not appropriate at this time to keep to the December 1st deadline, while in the midst of events that occurred on 13 November 2015, which killed 130 and injured scores of others in Paris alone. In addition, the Chronicles also welcomes any entries of bridges in France and Lebanon to be posted in the online column, and entered in the Ammann Awards. The author visited Paris in 1999 and will present a tour guide of the city’s bridges before the deadline in January, in addition to the bridges in Brussels, where he visited in 2010. That city has also been a focus on the purge of neighborhoods to arrest more suspects involved in the bombings.  It is strongly encouraged that other bridges in France and Lebabon are entered by others to show solidarity and pride towards the infrastructure of both countries.  This in addition to bridges submitted originating from the US and other places.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sisiter column The Flensburg Files are showing solidarity in times of trouble. A pair of articles about the events and the war on terrorism can be found here and here. As mentioned in previous articles, the logos representing France, Lebanon and peace will be presented in every article for the rest of 2015, to show support towards families and friends of people affected by the bombing attacks, with the goal of finding a peaceful way to end the bloodshed and find some sort of co-existence that all sides can benefit from. Some say war cannot be won. That is true, but on both sides. Yet there is always a way to find peace and love. It’s a matter of time before the sides come to a table and find a solution that will satisfy everyone.

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2015 Ammann Awards Underway/ New Website Relaunched

Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011
Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011

2015 marks a special year for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Five years ago this month, together with sister column The Flensburg Files, the Chronicles was launched on the areavoices platform, operated by the Fargo-based InForum Communications. Over the years, the online column has expanded, winning support from hundreds of readers, preservationists and bridge-lovers alike, including those seeking help to preserve their beloved treasures of their communities.

NOW TAKING ENTRIES FOR THE 2015 AMMANN AWARDS

Again for the fifth time this year, the Chronicles is now collecting entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards. The Awards goes out to people who devoted their efforts into saving historic bridges, as well as historic bridges that are worth seeing, not just from the author’s point of view but also that of others.  Between now and December 1st, you can submit photos for Best Photo, mystery bridges for its own award as well as that for best preserved bridges, cities/regions with a high concentration of historic bridges for the Best Tour Guide, and people for Lifetime Achievement. More information you can find in the front header of the column or by clicking here. It includes the winners of the Awards in the previous years dating back to 2011.  Entries are due by December 1st, 2015 at 12:00am Central Standard Time (or December 2nd at 7:00am Berlin Time).

Voting will then proceed from there, which will be done directly through the Chronicles’ polling page. This was introduced as part of the launch of the Chroncles’ wordpress website page, earlier this year. More instructions to come once the entries are collected.

In addition to the traditional voting, voting will also take place to determine the top five places to visit historic and unique bridges as well as the top five bridges to visit, both on a national and international scale. This is in connection with the Chronicles’ fifth anniversary and it includes not only the bridges and places profiled here to date, but also those you have contributed. If you want to contribute to this part, please let Jason Smith at the Chronicles know. The e-mail address can be found in the header About the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

 

WEBSITE RELAUNCHED:

After a few months absence, the Chronicles’ wordpress website page has received a much-needed makeover, The reason behind this is due to the problems with the layout, combined with difficulties involving the font size and its contrast with the background color. To better get acquainted with the website and follow, click here.  The website version will focus more on bridge tours, mystery bridges, and themes involving historic bridges and preservation, whereas the areavoices site will focus on news stories involving historic bridges as well as interviews with people and literary profiles, scheduled to be relaunched next year.  Both will have coverage on the Ammann Awards, but the long-range plans is to use the areavoices site for US bridges and the wordpress site for international bridges. But for now, enjoy the new website and there are many ways to follow both for more coverage on historic bridges. 🙂

 

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