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. 🙂
300 meter long motorway bridge over the Waiho at Franz Josef Washed Away in the Storms
FRANZ JOSEF (NEW ZEALAND)-
Less than two weeks after the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, which left 50 people dead and scores injured, residents on the South Island of New Zealand are dealing with another mishap- this time by Mother Nature. Storms and high winds, producing rainfall of up to 550 mm or 10% of the yearly rainfall amount caused widespread flooding and erosion in the Franz Josef Glacier Region and putting tourism in the town of Franz Josef/Waiau, with 450 inhabitants, plus areas along the Waihou River in peril. At the time of this posting, one person was reported to have died after being swept away by floodwaters.
Many roads have been washed out and bridges damaged. But one bridge in particular, which connects Franz Josef with areas near Haast, has been washed away by floodwaters, thus leaving tourists stranded and having to look for another crossing. The Waihou Bridge at Franz Josef lost two thirds of its spans on Tuesday, as the raging river, ripped the bridge off its abutments, broke off two spans sending it down the river and left a third one hanging in the water. A video taken by a spectator shows the destruction of the bridge:
The six-span bridge was a Bailey pony truss with a total length of approximately 300 meters long. The width was no more than 6 meters, which meant only one car could cross and a speed limit of 30 kilometers/hour was enforced. It is unknown when that bridge was built, let alone how long until a replacement span is constructed. It did serve a major highway going along the West Coast of the South Island. Just minutes before the wash-out, there were people on the bridge viewing the rising waters of the Waiho River, some filmed it from the bridge before getting off. The disaster happened when no one was on the bridge.
Ironically, another key bridge, the Waihou Swinging Bridge near Franz Josef, was not affected by the floods and is still open for hikers and pedestrians. The 90-year old bridge was fabricated in England before it was shipped to New Zealand. It still is a popular attraction for tourists.
Franz Josef is 32 kilometers away from the nearest city of Whataora to the northeast. It is on the western side of the island, almost exactly opposite of Christchurch but over 450 flying kilometers away to the east.
The Bailey Truss Bridge: a work of the past that’s still being used today. First developed by British civil engineer Donald Bailey in 1941, the truss bridge won its fame right away, as they were made of light steel, easily assembled and reassembled, used to replace thousands of bridges destroyed by German and Italian troops in World War II, as they tried to slow the advancing Allied Troops. But from the moment the first Bailey Truss bridge was erected in Tunesia in 1942 to the construction of 3000 of these bridges in Sicily totaling 55 miles, to the usage of double of the amount in Germany alone, neither Hitler nor Mussolini had a prayer as these bridges helped carry heavy artillery, tanks and truckloads of troops to their final destinations on D-Day. And while Donald Bailey was knighted in 1947 for his work, these trusses were later used for civilian uses in the US, Europe and even parts of Africa and western Asia, replacing bridges washed away by natural disasters. In Iowa, for example, several counties relied on these trusses after flood waters destroyed many bridges in 1945. At least a dozen of them were constructed in Harrison County alone. A couple of them are known to exist today.
In Shelbyville Kentucky, located east of Lexington, there is a Bailey truss span over Clear Creek that has been in the news recently. Located on Jail Hill Road just north of US Hwy. 60, this bridge was erected here in 1982, even though the span may have built earlier. Unlike many Bailey trusses that were built by American bridge builders (and of course are located on US-soil), this one was the work of a bridge-building firm located in Great Britain, the birthplace of this unique truss bridge. According to the plaque discovered by James MacCray and Jon Parrish, the bridge was built by Thomas Storey Engineering near Manchester, with the steel being manufactured by Appleby-Frodingham Steel in the district of Lincolnshire. Where the bridge was first built or how many times was the bridge rebuilt remains unclear.
The current status of this bridge is not good. Since the end of last year, the crossing has been closed to traffic because of structural concerns, with plans to replace the bridge being not so far off in the future. Yet there is interest in the purchase of the bridge to be used for private purpose, according to the latest report from the bridgehunter.com website. If you are interested in helping this gentleman out with some information or moving the bridge, please refer to the post here. You can also contact the Shelby County Road Department using the contact details here.
There is hope that this bridge will find a home in one way or another. With its history as unique as it is, it would not be surprising if it appears on the National Register of Historic Places in the near future. But that depends on the amount of information that is available on the bridge.
Author’s note: Special thanks to James MacCray for the use of his photos for this article.
Produced together with sister column: The Flensburg Files
Clean-up of flooded areas underway. Several small crossings destroyed by flooding, mostly concrete beam bridges. Others doomed due to damage. Linz Railroad Bridge spared flooding and near ship mishap but fate sealed?
Four weeks where fields became lakes, towns became small Italian villages, and farmers and merchants became gondola drivers and boaters. That is the signature of the Great Flood of 2013 in central Europe. Heavy rainfall caused several major rivers in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and other countries to flood their banks, setting new records, destroying livelihoods and causing damages that are exorbitant financially and in a literal sense. In Germany alone, 10 out of 16 states were declared disaster areas, with the hardest hit areas being in Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony. Cities, like Passau, Halle (Saale), Magdeburg and Luneberg broke 400-500 year old records with much of the city being under water.
But surprisingly according to newspaper reports, unlike the Great Flood of 2002, damages to the bridges in Europe were minimal. While many smaller bridges were destroyed because of flash floods, the major bridges along the Saale, Elbe, Danube and Rhine Rivers (among them) sustained little to moderate damage. This is a stark contrast to what happened in 2002, where many major crossings were damaged to a point where demolition and replacement were warranted. This included the Pöppelmann Bridge in Grimma (Saxony), a 1719 stone arch bridge that was undermined in the 2002 flooding and had to be rebuilt. While Grimma was flooded out again this time around, the bridge survived the flood thanks in part to the main span allowing water to pass through.
But it does not mean that the bridges that survived the floods and mudslides are safe. Many bridges are being inspected to ensure they are safe for travelling. This includes the Elbe River crossings between Magdeburg and Lauenburg, where the Elbe put hundreds of miles of highways and rail lines underwater together with the bridges. While bridges like the historic Anna Ebert Bridge in Magdeburg are being inspected for structural concerns to determine whether street cars can use it again, it is possible that an even bigger solution to the flooding problem will come at the expense of these crossings as many local and state government officials are looking at all options possible to ensure that the next round of floodwaters stay in the rivers and not flood the banks. This includes raising some bridges and rebuilding and removing those that are hindering the flow of water. This puts such crossings like this and the old railroad bridge over the Old Elbe River located downstream from the Anna Ebert Bridge, at risk. A link to the bridges of Magdeburg is here if you wish to look at the city’s bridges and their history.
One of the interesting facts about this round of floods is the fact that not only the small river crossings were undermined and destroyed by flood waters, but the majority of the bridges destroyed in the floods were concrete beam bridges built between the 1980s and 2000s. This is unusual given the fact that beam bridges were built to allow river currents to flow over and underneath the structure. But as you can see in a video of a beam bridge being washed away in Poland two weeks prior to the Great Flood, if the river current is strong enough, it can cause the span to sag and eventually break it apart and wash it away. You can see the full video here. This was exactly what happened to the bridges in eastern Thuringia and western Saxony in the area of Zwickau and Chemnitz, as these crossings were either wiped out or damaged to a point where replacement is now a necessity. Even if beam bridges are made of wood and steel, many of them crossing these small streams were wiped out or barely survived but are not stable enough to be repaired. This will most likely lead to the question of which other bridge types to be used when these structures are being replaced, for many arch, suspension, cable-stayed and truss bridges survived the onslaught of flood waters with little or no damage. Interestingly enough, these types are being used more extensively for bridge construction here in Europe than beam bridges, which should put other countries (like the US and Canada), their agencies, politicians and bridge builders on notice regarding bridges to be used not only to accommodate traffic across ravines but also be structurally sound against such natural disasters.
To close this series on bridge disasters and the Great Flood of 2013, there are a couple interesting bridge stories to mention that provide some lessons in dollars and sense. One deals with preventive measures to keep a temporary bridge from being washed away at the cost of many thousands of Euros. Another bridge survived a near boat mishap, to the dismay of the majority of the community the bridge is located, for the 110-year old structure is due for replacement but is protected by federal preservation laws, which officials are pursuing to have this protection revoke to allow for the bridge replacement to proceed. Here are the details:
Flood destroys new bridge abutments and temporary bridge in Zschopau, Saxony:
Many small bridges along this small river in western Saxony were severely damaged or destroyed during the floods. This bridge is one of them. Located along the Zschopau River in the town bearing the river’s name, near Chemitz, the Bailey pony truss bridge was supposed to serve as a temporary crossing as a new bridge was being built replacing a two-span brick arch bridge. Yet misunderstanding plus political inaction and rushing water doomed the temporary bridge as the floods not only destroyed the bridge, but also the abutments of the new bridge being built. This created a stir among residents who were against the construction of a new bridge and had pushed to temporarily remove the Bailey truss from the river, both unfortunately to no avail. The bridge has long since been fished out of the river, and a new temporary bridge is planned at the moment, but at costs that would have been avoided had action been taken earlier. As for the new bridge, it is unknown when it will be completed for construction crews will have to build a new bridge completely from scratch, even revising their plans to ensure that the structure will survive such onslaughts as this one. An article on the bridge can be found here.
Linz Railroad Bridge survives flood and close call:
Never has there been such discontent towards a bridge as the city of Linz in Austria. As reported last year, the three-span through truss bridge spanning the Danube River has been targeted for demolition and replacement by politicians and the majority of the community, even after a pair of reports indicated that half of the bridge cannot be restored. Yet this 1903 structure has been protected by the Austrian Heritage Laws because of its historic significance to the region and its rare truss type that was used in bridge construction in Austria. This bridge survived a close call as a small ship traveling along the high flowing Danube River almost rammed into the bridge. However, this was not before having to evacuate 120 Swiss tourists ashore prior to its passage. The ship barely made it across the rising river. A few more centimeters and a collision with the truss bridge would have been likely, causing damage to both the boat and the structure. An article on this incident can be found here. While many were wishing that the accident would have happened and the bridge would have either collapsed or been damaged to a point of irreparably, government officials, which includes the city council, the mayor of Linz and the railroad company that runs trains across the bridge have filed a petition to the Austrian Heritage Office in Vienna to have its historic status revoked, so that the replacement of the bridge could proceed at the earliest in 2014. While the decision was expected last month, there is still no word on whether this waiver will be granted. If the request is denied, the city and the railroad will be forced to consider alternatives, which includes rehabilitating the entire structure. This will take twice as long as the two years needed to replace the bridge. More information on this bridge can be found through the OÖ Nachricht here as well as through the Chronicles, here, which will keep you posted on the latest on this bridge. An organization aimed to save the bridge has been created. You can find them by clicking on here.
Our last part of the Flood Series focuses on Canada and its acute flooding situation which has ripped railroads out of their beds and dropped many important crossings into the water, including the ones in the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Stay tuned!
You can view the highlights of the Great Flood of 2013 in Europe through sister column the Flensburg Files, which you can click on here.
Located in Oneida County in north central New York State, the Town(ship) of Boonville is one of the forgotten relicts of the bygone era. With a population of over 4,500 inhabitants, the township was founded by Gerrit Boon, who explored and bought land for his company in 1795. It is located on the Black River Canal, which connects the Black River and the Erie Canal. There are a lot of historic points of interest that makes the town special, including those in the village of Boonville, which accounts for half of the township’s population.
For bridge lovers, Boonville town(ship) is loaded with unique bridges of every size, type and history, whether it is the bowstring arch bridge, which serves as a showcase for the local museum, a Whipple truss bridge that used to serve a railroad, but now serves a snowmobile trail, or even an arch bridge. There are over 25 historic bridges within the area of Boonville, some of which are concentrated within the village of Boonville. Because of the high number, the Chronicles will profile six of the ones that should be visited, thanks to information and photos provided by Marc Scotti of the New York State Department of Transportation. One of the bridges was entered in the Best Photo Contest for this year’s Ammann Awards.
Willett Bridge: This bridge spans the Mohawk River in the village of Rome, 30 minutes away from Boonville. The design features a Luten arch, characterized by its elliptical arches, as seen in the photo. The bridge is one of the more ornamental ones serving the village, as it has a unique builder’s plaque and many 20s style ornamental lighting, which makes this 1929 structure unique.
Sugar River Bridge: There are many reasons why this bridge is a must-see. It was built in the 1800s by Phoenix Bridge and Iron Company, consisting of a Whipple through truss bridge with Phoenix columns. It also had double-floor beams, which is one of a kind according to today’s standards. It was converted to snowmobile traffic in the 1980s. It placed third in last year’s Ammann Awards for best bridge photo.
Boonville Museum Bridges: The Boonville Canal Museum has many features that are in connection with the Black River Canal and the town’s history. Three genuine bridges, including the Whipple arch bridge (shown at the beginning of the article) serve this area, provding tourists with a sense of nostalgia, when walking through the area about 3 square miles. The Whipple Arch Bridge was one of many bowstring arch bridges that were built by Squire Whipple in the 1870s. This one was built in 1872. Interesting fact is the fact that it was Whipple himself who patented the bridge in 1848 and most of the bridges built during his lifetime were in New York state, many of which were along the Erie Canal. The second bridge is the Bailey Truss bridge, a riveted Howe lattice bridge that was used solely for temporary crossings during the 1940s and 50s, but this span was preserved and is used as primary access to the Whipple bridge. The youngest of the bridges happens to be the youngest bridge of its type built in New York state- the Town Lattice covered bridge. Built in 2005, the 70 foot long and 24 foot wide bridge is the most ornamental of covered bridges in the state and one of the main features of the park. A photo of the bridge, provided by Scotti is one of the candidates for this year’s Ammann Awards for Best Photo.
Other bridges worth noting but will be mentioned in later articles include those built by the Havana Bridge, Vermont Bridge and Iron and Elmira Bridge Companies, where one of two of each of the bridges are left in the state (and perhaps the country). Two thirds of them consist of a standardized truss design, but the history of each one is unique for the Boonville area because of local stories that are associated with them, in addition to the bridge builders. Unfortunately, half of these bridges will be replaced over the next couple of years. However, the Chronicles will profile the bridges in the next year in hopes that someone will pay attention to the unique value of the bridge and claim it before the bulldozer does. In addition, a Lane pony truss bridge is also located in the township, although it is unclear where it is located. Built in 1903, the truss bridge type is one of the rarest to find in the US. The Chronicles will provide a tour through the rare bridge types next year and will present the history of the bridge type and the examples that still exist.
While the number of bridges in the township is huge and cannot all be profiled, the author hopes that a few examples will provide tourists with another reason to visit the Boonville area (town(ship) and village), in addition to knowing about its history and visiting the historic places that make the are very special. There is special bridge for everyone in the area, which justifies its place as one of the candidates for Best Kept Secret for 2012. And even if one does not visit Boonville for the bridges, there is a lot of history and heritage that makes the area worth seeing.
The author would like to thank Marc Scotti for mentioning this area and for providing the photos and information on the bridges.