To be or not to be. That is the question that the city eastern Thuringia is facing in many aspects as it deals with housing and overpopulation issues, combined with education, social infrastructure, bike trails, and this bridge- the Camsdorfer Bridge, spanning the River Saale east of the city center.
The current bridge was constructed in 1913 but was widened in 2005 to accommodate additional lanes and two street car tracks. There is one problem though: the bridge is east of the railroad, which runs parallel to the main highway at Am Anger. While there are crossings at the intersections on both sides of the bridge, people are finding it annoying to not have an underpass running underneath as they are forced to dismount their bikes just to cross Camsdorfer Strasse at the bridge regardless of each end.
The Saale bike trail goes across the bridge but makes a sharp turn to the left at Wenigerjenaer Ufer at the Restaurant Grüne Tanne. A branch of the trail runs alongside the track before crossing at Griesbrücke near the train Station Saalbahnhof. Now the debate is ongoing as to whether the trail should run underneath the Camsdorfer Bridge or if other measures should be carried out to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, which includes a traffic light at Grüne Tanne. The catch to the debate is that the west end of the bridge, where the trail would run underneath, is protected by law. According to the local newspaper OTZ, the area west of the bridge is considered a natural habitat due to rare plants and other species. Since 2000, the area has been considered off limits. The east end of the bridge is impassable due to the steepness of the cliffs plus the lack of space to have a bike trail.
This leads to the question of what to do in the case of the bike crossing at the Camsdorf Bridge. The support for having the bike trail underneath the Camsdorf Bridge is growing for claims of “There’s no other possibility,” as mentioned by politician Christian Gerlitz, is growing. Yet in order to lift the ban at the western end, the City of Jena will have to go through every Office responsible for Flora and Fauna, from the local level to one in Berlin. That will take lots of time, energy and valuable resources away, which can be used for other issues Jena is facing, which are both numerous and huge for one of the fast growing cities in the eastern half of Germany and one of the most expensive places to live in all of Germany, competing with the likes of Leipzig, Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin and Munich.
This leads to the question of whether an underpass is well worth the fight, or should it look for alternatives, as seen in this questionnaire below. Look at the options and mark which one you would take. A map of the area around the Camsdorf Bridge with the options being discussed, plus the newspaper article (click here) will help you understand the situation and make a choice objectively. Comments can be added in the survey as well as in this article regardless of which language (English or German). Good luck! 🙂
Note: OTZ is short for Ostthüringer Zeitung, which serves Jena and the eastern half of the State of Thuringia. It is part of the Funke Media conglomerate which is based in Erfurt.
And then we have this bridge- a pedestrian bridge between Schlema and Aue that is now closed to all traffic. Workers recently closed the over 115-year old structure as they plan to rehabilitate the two-span Parker through truss span, whose predecessor was a wooden covered bridge. According to the Free Press in Aue, the decking of the bridge will be rebuilt and then integrated into the Mulde Bike Trail network. The trail itself is in the middle of construction and when completed this fall, it will run parallel to the river from Aue to Schlema, crossing the Iron Bridge. It currently shares a street connecting the two communities, but sharp curves and steep hills make it dangerous for cyclists and drivers alike. The catch to the problem however is with the railroad crossing. Because the current gates, used for pedestrians, are not suitable for cyclists, officials are looking at three options, all of them will cost as much as the project itself, which is 500,000 Euros (ca. $620,000). The first option is a modern railroad crossing guards like at the train station Bad Schlema. Another is a tunnel under the railroad tracks, which will require multiple closures of the rail line between Aue and Zwickau. And then there is a bridge that would cross over the tracks before gliding down towards the historic structure. Officials believe the third variant would be built and open by 2019. In either case while the bridge renovations may be cheap, the solution for the railroad crossing on the east end may be the one that could break the bank. Still, when the project is finish, cyclists can go from Eibenstock to Schlema without having any interruptions with detours, etc. There is hope that this stretch can be extended to Hartenstein (five river kilometers from Schlema), which would include restoring the Schlema Stone Arch Bridge. But because of lack of funding, chances are likely that after the fusion between Aue and Schlema, financial resources will be available to make both projects happen. The interest is there but in praxis, it is a different ball game.
But for now, the Aue-Schlema has priority while the story continues with the other stretch….
Bridge to become part of a city bike trail. Potential for other steel truss bridges to follow suit?
WINTERSET, IOWA- The Bridges of Madison County: Home of its covered bridges, one of a handful counties in the United States that has at least a half dozen of them. Built between 1867 and 1885, there were once 19 of these wooden housed structures spanning the North, Middle and South Rivers as well as numerous streams. Today only six of them remain, all of which are considered nationally significant, and each one has its own park and rest area to allow people to enjoy the bridge and the natural surroundings.
Madison County also has numerous truss bridges made of steel, and one of them is about to become part of a bike trail. The Valley View Trail Bridge, located four miles west of I-35 and two miles southwest of Bevington,has been closed since 2008 and has sustained significant damage to the approaches thanks to flooding that occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2013. The banks of one of the approach spans was washed away to a point where it resembled a diving board. Yet the 120-foot long bridge, constructed in 1911 by the Iowa Bridge Company and features a pinned connected Pratt through truss span with M-frame portal bracings and V-laced overhead strut bracings is seen by many locals as a rarity nowadays. Therefore the county is expanding its historic bridge heritage by including this bridge as part of a recreational complex. The plan is to place the bridge over a spillway being constructed at Cedar Lake in Winterset, which it will serve as a bike trail surrounding the lake. While costs are being calculated even as this gets posted, the county has already received funding from Iowa Dept. of Transportation (DOT) which will cover the cost for relocating the bridge.
The reuse of the Valley View Trail Bridge for recreational purposes has started a question about the possible use of other steel truss bridges in the county. There are as many steel truss bridges in the county as they are the covered bridges when their numbers reached its peak with 19 in 1920. Some of them have already been decommissioned and taken off the road system, yet there are some others that are approaching the end of their service, despite most of them being built during the Depression era. The relocation and reuse of the Valley View Bridge may serve as an incentive for the county to consider reusing these bridges and bring their histories to the forefront, making the county not only the place of covered bridges, but also the place of bridges built of steel with the help of bridge builders, steel welders and railroaders responsible for molding the bridge parts in the mills, transporting them by rail and erecting them on site. With the number of truss bridges becoming a rarity, the county might have to consider this option once the Valley View Bridge is relocated and reopened for cyclists and pedestrians.
There are seven bridges worth considering for reuse apart from the successful plan involving the Valley View Bridge. These bridges are as follows:
Located over North Fork Clanton Creek a mile south of Limestone Rd. between US Hwy. 169 and Clark-Tower Road, this bridge is one of the shortest of the through truss bridges in Madison County, as well as Iowa. The 80-foot long Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings was built in 1909 by local bridge builder SG Hunter Iron Works Company of Atlantic, Iowa, the bridge is perhaps the last example of its kind. Yet since its abandonment in the late 1980s, the bridge has become derelict. Relocation is possible, yet it would require dismantling the structure and doing some major sandblasting before reerecting it at its new home.
Located over Clanton Creek at 282nd Trail, this bridge is a classic example of a series of truss bridges built by the King Bridge Company because of its portal bracings, as well as the inscriptions on the diagonal and vertical beams and the builder’s plaque. The bridge was relocated to this spot in 1952 and has been here ever since. The bridge has seen its better days as the decking has been removed to keep everyone off the bridge. Yet the bridge appears stable enough to be relocated without disassembly.
Located over Middle River at Fox Trail (CSAH G-47), five miles southwest of Winterset, this 157-foot long riveted Camelback through truss with West Virginia portal bracings represents a great example of a truss bridge built using Iowa state highway standards introduced in 1914. The bridge was built by another Iowa firm, the A. Olson Construction Company based in Waterloo. Two dates of construction make this bridge a controversial topic: 1935 according to the National Transportation Records and 1951 according to records by Iowa DOT. The hunch is that this bridge was built in 1935 somewhere else and was relocated here in 1951. Still in use, this bridge has potential to become a National Register landmark in the next 15 years because of its unique design that is becoming rare to find.
Located three miles north of Winterset and one mile east of US Hwy. 169 over the North River at North River Trail, this 122-foot long riveted Pratt through truss bridge features an M-frame portal bracing similar to many structures built by a bridge company Wickes Engineering from Des Moines. Yet this structure was built in 1932 by Ben Cole and Son, located in Ames, just 25 miles north of the state capital along Interstate 35. The question is whether Ben Cole did business with Wickes prior to 1932. This will require some research to find out. Yet the Wickes style of bridge is becoming rare today, for despite having an average of three of these bridges in each county, the numbers have dwindled down to just above 10% remaining in Iowa. The bridge is still in use but has some potential of being reused once its time as a full-service bridge runs out. The bridge is located six miles west of another covered bridge, the McBride Bridge, which was destroyed by arson in 1983. The instigator, who confessed to the act as response to losing his true love, eventually did social work to make up for the incident- working as a bridge inspector at a county highway department!
Bevington Park Road Bridges
Located along Bevington Park Road between Bevington and St. Charles, this stretch of highway features two nearly identical trusses, located only three miles apart. Both feature riveted Pratt through trusses with M-frame portals. Both were built in 1932 by Ben Cole. Both have similar lengths of the main spans- ca. 125 feet. And both have the same color of a rustic brown. The only difference: One is located over the Middle River just outside Bevington and south of Iowa Hwy. 92; the other is over Clanton Creek, two miles north of St. Charles. They’re still open to traffic but once their service ends, they are potential candidates for reuse as they exemplify as early modern truss bridges built during the Depression era, using Iowa State Highway standards, which were later used in bridge building, especially during this difficult era.
There are as many pony truss bridges in Madison County as they are through truss bridges. This bridge is located just east of the Holliwell Covered Bridge, southeast of Winterset. Given the eyebar connections as seen in the photos taken by James Baughn, this bridge may be one of the oldest in Madison County, let alone in western Iowa. Yet as written as a mystery bridge in the Chronicles in 2011, there is a lot to learn about this bridge (see article here). As there are three pony truss bridges already preserved as bike trails in Madison County, like the Cunningham, Miller and Morgan Bridges, this bridge would be a perfect candidate for trail use, regardless of whether it is in place at the Holliwell Covered Bridge (which would make much sense given the bridge’s value and location from Winterset), or if it was relocated to Winterset, as was the case with the Morgan and Miller Bridges. In either case, the bridge serves as a historical compliment to an even more popular Holliwell Bridge.
If these examples are not enough for people to take action and make the county an even bigger and more popular tourist attraction, then they should visit the county. After visiting historic Winterset, the John Wayne Birth Place and Museum and the six covered bridges, plus the site of the former McBride Covered Bridge, they should click on the links to the above-mentioned bridges, plan a trip to these structures, armed with a camera and some paper and have a look at them. Then start a movement to save the remaining truss bridges and repurpose them for recreational purposes. While covered bridges are one of the key symbols of American heritage, bridges like the ones mentioned here are just as valuable because of their contribution to the development of the US as a whole, and in this case, Madison County on the local level. The Valley View Trail Bridge project is just the beginning of a potentially bigger project to preserve what is left of these truss bridges. And if the county and state work together with private groups and those interested in these artefacts, then there will be another reason to visit Madison County in the coming summer months. Furthermore, Iowa just might have another completed preservation project on its long and storied resumé of preserved bridges, whose movement started with James Hippen in the 1970s and has been very successful since then.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Valley View Bridge project as well as any other developments involving the historic truss bridges in Madison County. The author would like to thank Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa and James Baughn of bridgehunter.com for allowing use of the photos. All information are courtesy of IowaDOT, whose director, Matt Donovan is to thank for his help.
The next Chronicles entry takes us back to Linz in central Austria, and in particular, this bridge over the Danube. Two years ago, the Chronicles published an article about the future of this three-span hybrid Parker-Whipple through truss span that used to carry rail and vehicular traffic and features a pedestrian boardwalk. At that time, public sentiment favored replacing the bridge with a modern one, which would fit the modern landscape but leave the Styregg Bridge in the northern part of the city as the lone historic bridge left. As seen in the article here, the Office of Historic Preservation was the last barrier to be taken down before demolition could proceed, which was backed by the city government and the Austrian Railways.
Fast-forward to the present, and we see a somewhat different scenario involving the bridge. The Austrian Railways has relinquished its responsibility of the bridge to the organization Linz AG, public support for the bridge has increased to the majority, but attempts to destroy efforts to preserve the bridge including one agency changing sides and producing one of the biggest scandals in the city’s history, are still there.
The organization Rettet die Eisenbahnbrücke (EN: Save the Linz Railway Bridge) was formed and started several initiatives to convince the city to change its mind. Despite its infancy, the support for the bridge has been enormous, with almost 8,000 likes on facebook and tens of thousands of signatures that prompted the city to involve the public about the plans for the bridge. Even the Chronicles has thrown in its support for this unique bridge that has been considered a historic jewel for the city, the Danube River and central Europe.
I had an opportunity to interview Robert Ritter, one of the organizers who is spearheading efforts to get the bridge saved, asking him about the current situation of the bridge and what the group wants to do with the bridge. Despite a long battle ahead of them, he remains optimistic that the public will have a say towards what they want to do with the bridge, which is restore the structure and convert it into a bike and pedestrian crossing with an option to include streetcar service in the future. Here is the Chronicles’ Q&A with Herrn Ritter:
1. What got you started with saving the Linz Railroad Bridge?
It was initially press reports saying that the demolition of the bridge had been enacted in the municipal council. We were wondering that nobody in public seemed to take notice of this incredible act let alone stand up against it. We learned that there were numerous initiatives campaigning for the preservation of the monument, all more or less remaining unnoticed or unsuccessful. So we decided to try the same through Facebook. Some weeks before we started a Facebook campaign demanding a beach cafe at the river Danube had led to a round table involving politicians and Facebook activists to realize the project.
2. In the past three years, political support has been mounting to replace the railroad bridge with a more modern one because of claims that the bridge cannot be restored. Is the political pressure there and if so, how have you been combating it?
It’s more ignorance than pressure we are fighting against. We are detecting massive economical interests in destroying the bridge and a network of actors that are very close to corruption the way they have been pushing their concerns. However, we have strong support by most of the political opposition to the government and even by members of the governing parties (which are the social democrats and the green party).
3. The bridge is now privately owned, from what I understand. Is it right? If so, what are your plans for the bridge?
That is correct although the “private” owner is a company that is owned by the city. The company is a result of sourcing-out services provided by the city. Our plans are to preserve the monument as a bridge for cyclists and pedestrians and – if necessary – for a tramway. A new bridge for cars can easily be built beside the railroad bridge unless it should turn out that another position for the new bridge is a better option in terms of traffic concepts.
4. How much support have you received so far?
Well, we almost have 8000 supporters on Facebook. Even 7000 were enough to make the mayor invite the Facebook activists for “Linz braucht einen Strand” to a round table. We notice that there is also very much popular demand for a preservation of the bridge by persons that are not on Facebook. And we do not detect much open opposition against our concern.
5. Is it true about the Denkmalamt removing the historic status of the bridge (as seen in one of the fb postings)? If so, how will you go about in convincing the agency to reinstate this status?
The permission to demolish the monument (so the official term) was politically motivated and is a scandal on its own. Some history: in the 1960ies the municipal government of Linz destroyed a textile manufactory of the 17th century in face of grim protest of the public. As a result an independent advisory board for issues concerning historical monuments (Unabhängiger Denkmalbeirat) was established by law to never let anything like that happen again. Well, the advisory board argued by majority vote FOR a preservation of the railroad bridge. For the first time in the history of the advisory board the Denkmalamt ignored its recommendation. Notice that the Denkmalamt is subordinated to the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture headed by a social democrat minister. Coincidence?
6. If plans for restoring the bridge are approved, what is the timeline for the project? How will the bridge be maintained?
Well, we are far away from speaking of timelines. We are preparing to utilize all democratic means to fight for a participation of the population in the decision. At the moment the city government is planning a timeline for the demolition of the bridge. The demolition has to be executed within 3 years after the permission of the Denkmalamt which means a lot of pressure for the destroyers. There are detailed offers by steel building companies to restore the bridge. It is possible and it is by far cheaper to restore AND build a new bridge than to tear down the monument and build a new one.
7. Any advice to anyone who is working on saving a historic bridge, especially one over such a large river like the Danube? Do you know of other similar bridges that are being restored that are worth mentioning?
There are more best practice examples for restoring historic bridges than can be mentioned here. Some of them are the bridges Baltoji Voke and Kaunas (both Lithuania), Eglisau (Switzerland) and The Hef in Rotterdam. To anyone who is working on saving a bridge: fear nobody, don’t give up, involve the public! And utilize social media – they have an incredible potential for reaching lots of people within a short time.
If you are interested in taking part in any efforts to save the Linz Railway Bridge, go to their facebook page to like (here) and follow up on the updates and photos provided on the page. There is also a website, where you can sign the petition and subscribe to updates on the current situation with the bridge so that you have an opportunity to participate in the efforts to save the structure. You can click on the link here for more details.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving the bridge, as things are heating up between those wanting to save the bridge and those wanting to demolish and replace it. The Chronicles is also on facebook and twitter which you can subscribe to follow the updates on that and other bridges in Europe and the US. As you can see in the interview, the battle is brewing, but in the end, the people of Linz will have the final say as to what will be done to the bridge. It is hoped that a compromise- a historic bridge as a bike and pedestrian trail and a new bridge alongside it for vehicular traffic will serve to the liking of both parties. But it will all depend on the number of votes needed to realize this project.
The author would like to thank Robert Ritter for the interview and wish him and the rest of the group best of luck. Also a round of thanks to the photographers who were willing to share their pics of the bridge for this article. Their names have been noted on each one.
Montana: its mountainous landscape, its lucious vegetation, its gorgeous bridges. In the state about the size of France with 2 million inhabitants, it holds a vast array of historic bridges, many of them built between 1890 and 1930 and made of steel. Most of them were built by the bridge builders originating from the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders. Featuring the likes of Commodore Jones, The Hewett Family, Lawrence Johnson, and Alexander Bayne, these were men who owned and operated bridge building companies in Minneapolis and became the counterweight to the American Bridge Company when it was created out of 28 well-known bridge companies located in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 1901, dominating the western landscape with hundreds of truss bridges built using several truss types.
The Old Red Bridge, spanning the Flathead River near Columbia Falls is one of several bridges that came from the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders. Constructed in 1912 by disciple Alexander Bayne, the bridge features two Pennsylvania petit spans, with each one being over 200 feet in length, totalling 442 feet. The bridge withstood the test of time, including flooding, which was a common problem for residents of Columbia Falls at the time of the bridge’s opening. One of the floods in 1913 caused the center pier to erode and the bridge spans to tilt. While that was corrected, the bridge served traffic until it was closed off to vehicles in 1989 and to pedestrians three years later. To ensure that no one crossed the bridge, workers removed the approach spans and fenced off the bridge from both ends after the decision was made to close the structure to all traffic.
The current situation with the bridge is as follows: The bridge is the last bridge in Montana featuring two Pennsylvania petit spans- this after the demolition of the Fort Keogh Bridge in 2012. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2010 because of its association with Alexander Bayne and his contributions to bridge building in Montana and points to the west. And lastly, since 2010, attempts have been volleyed between restoring the structure or removing it altogether. This included a proposal to restore the bridge and convert it into a bike trail, featuring a park complex, as proposed in the link. County officials have been adamant about doing anything with the bridge because it has become an issue of liability, especially in light of the recent floods in 2011 and 2012.
Already proposals to dismantle the bridge were brought up, which they claim to be the most viable issue as other measures to keep people off the bridge would be futile. The county, which owns the bridge, is fully aware of the historical significance of the bridge and the paperwork that is required before tearing it down, which includes informing the state historical preservation office (SHPO) about it. Yet as many in the community are attached to the bridge and its history, plus due to its potential to be preserved as a recreational bridge, both the residents of Columbia Falls as well as Flathead County are not ready to let go of the bridge until all options to preserve and restore the bridge are exhausted.
At the present time, efforts are being rekindled to restore the Red Bridge, although at a snail’s pace, which is slower than in 2010. The main factor that is keeping the bridge from being restored is money. Cost for restoring the structure is estimated at $2.5 million, not including plans for a bed and breakfast, restaurant, kayak landing and boat ramp near the bridge as possible sources of funding for the project. Originally, $500,000 had been earmarked for the bridge restoration by the county through a federal grant, but was shifted towards other projects because of the lack of commitment towards providing funding for the bridge from other groups. “I see it more as an issue of show me the money,” stated city manager Susan Nicosia, who brought the issue of restoring the bridge to the attention of the Columbia Falls City Council in May. It has led to the questions of how much it will cost for restoring the bridge, how should the bridge be restored, how much money will be garnered from the public and private sectors to restore the bridge and through which means.
Greg Fortin, who is leading the latest efforts to saving the Red Bridge, under the name of Old Red Bridge LLC, is currently consulting a non-profit restoration company specializing in restoring historic bridges in hopes to have a starting point in the project that has been lagging due to several external factors that has hindered the willingness of the county and the City of Columbia Falls to say “yes” to the project. According to him in an interview with the Chronicles, having a consultant as an outsider will help in terms of many items needed to restore the bridge, ranging from grant writing to any grass roots efforts needed to repair and reuse the bridge again. He hopes that the bridge would one day be part of the Gateway to the Glacier Trail, which is proposed to run from Glacier National Park to Columbia Falls, but currently has an existing trail between Hungry Horse and Coram. More information about the trail can be found here.
The Old Red Bridge LLC needs your help. Apart from pushing for more efforts towards restoring the iconic landmark in Columbia Falls, funding ideas and donations are needed to make the project happen, with the eventual goal of reopening the bridge to recreational traffic and producing income through tourism in the area. The ideas of having boat ramps , food and lodging are advantageous for passers-by travelling through the city by boat, bike or car, yet it cannot be realized without your help. Go to the facebook page Old Red Bridge, follow and find out how you can get involved in the restoration efforts. The contact person is Greg Fortin, who can provide you with information and let you know how you can help.
The Red Bridge is an integral part of Columbia Falls’ history and surrounding landscape. Eventually it will become a magnet for tourists and historians, especially if the bike trail to Glacier’s National Park is realized. But it can only be done if one shows them the money and manpower available. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will follow-up on the preservation efforts as events unfold and the future of the Red Bridge is more clearly known.
The author wishes to thank Greg Fortin for the interview and photos, and may the wishes of the organization to have the bridge reopen for recreation come true. 🙂
Sister Bridges. They may look alike in structural appearance. They may be built at the same time. They may have been built by the same bridge builder. The difference though is where they are located, how each of the structures are maintained and how they are honored and appreciated by locals and passers-by. There are many sister bridges that exist in the US, Europe and other places. One of the most common sister bridges can be found in Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, where three self-anchored eyebar suspension bridges spanning the Allegheny River are located. All three yellow-colored crossings were built by the same bridge builder (American Bridge Company) at the same time (between 1926 and 1928), and each one was named in honor of the prominent people originating from Pittsburgh: Roberto Clemente, Rachel Carson and Andy Warhol.
In Arkansas, there are sister bridges as well- in the form of Warren cantilever through truss bridges. Located over the White River, the bridges at Augusta, Newport and Clarendon were built in 1930-1 by Ira G. Hedrick, a prominent bridge builder for the state. To build these gigantic structures, Hedrick worked together with six different bridge companies from five states, including Texas, Missouri, Virginia and Kansas. Each of the bridges had a center span of 400 feet but a total length of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet.
All three sisters are facing demolition. Already gone is the Augusta Bridge through replacement in 2001, replacement and imminent demolition are in the works for the Newport and Clarendon Bridges. However, private groups are working together with the state and local governments to ensure that when their replacement bridges open to traffic, their prized works by Ira Hedrick are saved and reused for recreational purposes.
The Clarendon Bridge is the longest of the sister bridges. Spanning the White River at Clarendon, the bridge was designed by Hedrick and built by three bridge companies in 1931. It carries US Hwy. 79 and has a total length of 4,200 feet, counting its concrete approach spans that glide into Clarendon. At the moment, a replacement bridge is being constructed down stream, and plans are in the making to demolish the historic bridge by the end of 2015, after the new bridge is built. Yet a local group is trying to purchase the bridge for reuse, integrating the crossing into the nationwide bike trail network, while at the same time, bring the history of the bridge and its surrounding area- the White River Delta- to life.
The Chronicles had an opportunity to interview John Moore IV, who is one of the organizers of the Save the Big White River Bridge group. The author wanted to know how significant the bridge is and what they are trying to do to save the bridge from its untimely end. Here are the answers to the questions provided below:
1. What is so special about the Clarendon Bridge? How is the bridge tied in with the community in terms of history and significance?
The Big White River Bridge in Clarendon, Arkansas isn’t just a bridge spanning a body of water. As it twists and turns two and a quarter miles through the upper boughs of the river bottom hardwoods it’s not just a bridge going through the woods. This bridge is a symbol. Before it’s 1931 construction the folks of Monroe County relied only on a ferry to cross the river, which left the miles of untamed, flood ridden river bottoms to cross on foot and hoof. The Big White River Bridge became a road of progress. What was once a sleepy little town, stuck somewhere in the late 1800s was suddenly projected into the 20th Century. Highway 79 became one of America’s premier roads across the country. The day the bridge was opened there was two-day celebration including a circus, parachute jumper, high divers, boat races, pageant, and parade. The Big White River Bridge is near and dear the heart of Monroe County.
2. The Clarendon Bridge is one of the sister bridges over the White River. Can you tell us more about it?
The Big White River Bridge was built as one of a set of three double-cantilever bridges in Arkansas. These bridges were built in Clarendon, Newport, and Augusta. After the 2001 demolition of the Augusta bridge, only the Clarendon and Newport bridges remain. Both Clarendon and Newport are working to save their respective bridges since being scheduled for replacement.
3. What is the current situation with the bridge? Is construction of its replacement underway?
The current situation for the bridge is that it is scheduled to be demolished in mid to late 2015. The replacement bridge is currently being built and will be open for traffic around May of 2015.
4. According to a recent posting in bridgehunter.com, the city of Clarendon was not willing to take ownership of the bridge. Does this hold true still? If so, what attempts are being made to either convince the city to reconsider or have another party take ownership?
The City of Clarendon is willing to take the bridge only in a responsible manner. We are pursuing different means of long-term upkeep, but none of this can be set in stone until the powers that be approve the bridge to still stand.
5. What plans do you have for the bridge? Will there be some restoration work in store and if so, how?
If all goes well, we plan to keep the entire two and a quarter miles of the bridge to use as a cycling and pedestrian bridge. The national cycling group, Adventure Cycling Association, wants to designate the bridge as part of a national cycling interstate as U.S. Bike Route 80. The bridge will serve as an integral part of the system by being a safe route across the largest contiguous bottomland hardwood forest in North America.
6. Have you done some fundraising for the bridge? What other support are you receiving for the project?
We have not done any fundraising so far as the bridge has not yet been approved to remain standing. We have, however, garnered an incredible amount of support from individuals across the nation and the State of Arkansas. Our Congressional and Senate offices are in full support. Virtually every cycling group in the state has given us their approval. The U.S. Coast Guard, Arkansas Water Ways Commission and the National Register of Historic Places all have given support and/or approval. The Harahan Bridge project in Memphis has also given us their best whishes.
7. It is mentioned in the website that a historic bridge will provide some revenue for tourism. How do you want to make the bridge attractive for the tourists?
As mentioned earlier, if the bridge is saved, it will become part of U.S. Bike Route 80. It will also serve as a cycling route from Memphis to Little Rock. The Harahan Bridge project is creating a cycling and pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis. Going through Clarendon would serve as a no-brainer route for crossing the central part of the state on a bike. Also the natural landscape and the extraordinary nature of the bridge is a testament unto itself. There are few bridges of this mass that run through a forest of this size.
8. Based on your experience so far, what advice would you give to a group or organization working to save a historic bridge?
First of all one should start early. One shouldn’t try to save a bridge once the decision has been made to tear it down, but when the talk of replacement begins. Secondly, the most important part of gaining traction when trying to save something so momentous as a bridge is building relationships. Saving a bridge is not just a matter of one person’s hard work. It’s a matter of motivating hundreds of people to get behind your cause and say, “Yes. We must save this bridge.” If you do begin the preservation process late in the game, much like we have done, the hill becomes a steeper climb, but as we have learned, it may not yet be too late. It is not just about cutting ones way through red tape but finding the right people who know the right people and building trust and relationship.
9. How would you handle the issue of liability for the bridge?
To prevent liability lawsuits we will use appropriate signs and guardrails. Also while a municipality can be sued, those running the municipality cannot be personally sued for their roles in the government. There is the possibility of a lawsuit in nearly any venture that one may propose, but that should not fetter progress.
If you want to know more about the bridge, or are willing to help in the preservation efforts, please click on the link with the contact details, and write to the organization. Every little support and effort will count a long way towards saving the Clarendon Bridge, one of the two remaining sister bridges over the White River and one of the last remaining works of Ira Hendrick.
There are more bridge types that make Des Moines one of the most populous bridges in the Midwest. As we will see in this part, truss bridges were just as popular of a bridge design as the arch bridges that were built by James Marsh and company. As many as 30 truss bridges were reported to had been built during the time span between 1870 and 1930 along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as other tributaries, including those mentioned in the first two parts of the series. The majority of them featured two or more spans. And while more than half of them were Pratt designs, there were many exceptions to the rule. Already mentioned in part II there was the Post through truss design that had existed at Court Avenue before its replacement in 1917. But like this bridge, the majority of the structures lack the information regarding its history, including the date of construction and the bridge builder. This was in part because of the fact that they were gone prior to the urban renewal period in the 1960s and after 1993. This is not good for many of these structures, like the 18th Avenue Bridge featured some decorative designs on the portal bracings, which were common during the period of bridge construction prior to 1920, when bridge builders could afford to leave their marks with ornaments and builders plaques. After 1920, with the standardization of truss bridges and the letter-shaped portal bracings (A, M and X-frames), these were seldomly used and can rarely be found today when travelling on Iowa’s highways.
Today, eight bridges are known to exist in Des Moines that have a truss design, at least two thirds of the number that had existed prior to 1970. This does not include the CGW Railroad Bridge, which was demolished in its entirety last month. While some of the structures have already been mentioned earlier, the tour of Des Moines’ truss bridges will feature the ones not mentioned. Each one will feature a location, when they were built (and replaced), what they looked like and if there is no concrete information on the bridge builder, some assumptions will be made. As they will mentioned in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project that is being compiled by the author, any information on the bridges will be useful.
Without further ado, here are the bridges worth mentioning on the tour:
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue: This bridge can be seen from Hartford Avenue on the southeast end of Des Moines. The three-span subdivided Warren through truss bridge with X-frame portal bracings is the fourth bridge to be located at this crossing, for the earliest crossing was dated 1871. It was rebuilt in 1890 and again in 1915 with a four-span through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. While it can be assumed that the reconstruction in 1890 and 1915 may have to do with either flooding that damaged the spans or the increase in rail traffic, the current span was built in 1920 by the American Bridge Company and it most probably had to do with the destruction of the 1915 bridge, albeit more research and information is needed to confirm that claim. The bridge is 469 feet long and is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. However, it was part of the Rock Island Railroad with had a line connecting Indianola and Kansas City to the south, going through Des Moines enroute north to Albert Lea and Minneapolis. When the railroad company was liquidated in 1981, the line was acquired by Chicago and Northwestern, which in turn was bought by Union Pacific in 1995. 20 trains a day use this bridge.
18th Street Bridge:As seen in the picture at the very top of the article, this bridge crossed the Raccoon River at what is now Fleur Drive, southeast of the Central Academy. Before its demolition in 1936, the bridge featured four Camelback truss spans and was one of the most ornate bridges in Des Moines, let alone along the Des Moines River. More information is needed as to when the bridge was built (and by who) and why it was demolished. It is known that today’s Fleur Drive Bridge serves four-lane traffic and serves as a key link to Martin Luther King Drive and all points south of downtown Des Moines.
Inter-Urban Trail Bridge: Built in 1902, this bridge spans the Des Moines River south of the Euclid Avenue Bridge. The structure features four spans of Pratt with pinned connections, yet three of the spans feature lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the fourth and easternmost span features V-laced portal bracings with a 45° angle heel bracing- quite possibly a span that was either brought in or built on-site to replace an earlier span destroyed. This bridge used to serve the Inter-Urban Rail Line, one of eight in Iowa accomodated commuters through the 1950s. This route connected Des Moines with Colfax in Poweshiek County, a length of 23 miles. Service continued until 1949, when the freight railroads took over and people resorted to the car or bus. 33 years later, the railroad line and bridge was abandoned, but the City bought both of them to be converted into a bike trail, which was opened in 1998. With the exception of the replacement of the approach spans in 2012, the bridge today retains its integrity and still serves bike traffic, while providing access to the Neal Smith Bike Trail, which combs the Des Moines River.
Commerce Bridge:Spanning the Raccoon River, this bridge featured four truss spans which included three Camelbacks with Howe Lattice portal bracings with subdivided heels and a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings. The latter was built at a later time, whereas the three Camelbacks were reportedly to had been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, one of many Iowa bridge builders that existed during the period between 1890 and 1930. It is unknown when they were built, let alone rebuilt, but records had it that the bridge was destroyed during the Flood of 1965. The bridge was later removed, and Commerce Street was rerouted to run along the Raccoon. All that remains are the abutments and the rapids where the bridge once stood. They can be seen as 105th Street southwest curves to the south.
Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge: Spanning the Des Moines River south of the Red Bridge and once part of the Rock Island Railroad, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge was built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company and featured eight spans of pony girders totalling 625 feet. While it used to be a double-tracked bridge, the eastbound track was abandoned and fenced off in the 1980s and today, only one track is used. It replaced a four-span lattice through truss bridge, which had served one-lane of rail traffic and was built 30 years earlier. The future of this bridge is in doubt due to its sparse use, combined with the city’s plans to raise the dikes. Already the Red Bridge was raised four feet and the CGW Railroad Bridge were removed as part of the city flood planning. It would not be surprising that the bridge’s owner, Iowa Interstate Railroad would abandon the bridge altogether, making it the target for scrap metal. But it is unknown if and when that would happen.
SW 63rd Street Bridge:Located over the Raccoon River between Brown’s Woods and Water Works Parks on 63rd Street in West Des Moines, this three-span truss bridge featured two pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges with portal bracings similar to the 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream. It is possible that either George E. King or Clinton Bridge and Iron Works (because of the plaque on the portal bracing) had built the original span. Its northernmost span featured a Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections and A-frame portal bracing. That bridge was most likely brought in to replace one of the original spans that was destroyed either through flooding or an accident. Little information was gathered about the bridge prior to its demolition and replacement in 1964, due to lack of interest in the history of the structure. Had the historic preservation movement started 10-15 years earlier, it would most likely have been one of the first bridges eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Historic Preservation Law was passed in 1966, one year after the replacement of this bridge was open to traffic.
Waterworks Park Bridge: Built in 1922, this Raccoon River crossing is one of the key attractions of Waterworks Park on the south end of Des Moines, as well as the city’s bike trail network. The crossing is 320 feet long and features two 98 foot riveted Pratt pony trusses that used to carry vehicular traffic until its closure in the 1990s. In 1999, the City converted the crossing into a bike trail bridge and has remained in that fashion ever since.
SW Ninth Street Bridge: This Raccoon River crossing is perhaps one of two bridges on this tour that has the least amount of information on its history, despite the fact that it was replaced with the current bridge in 1967. The structure featured three spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses with Howe lattice portal bracings. Yet that is about it as far as further information is concerned…..
Old Highway 46 Bridge: This is the second of the two bridges that is missing information (including dimensions) and even more detailed photos than what is shown in the link. No information was found in the historic bridge survey conducted in the early 1990s. Located southeast of Des Moines, this multiple-span polygonal through truss bridge was built in 1938 and was removed 60 years later when the Hwy. 65 freeway opened. Other than that, there was no information as to whether a previous structure had existed before that, let alone who the bridge builder was that built the 1938 structure. It is known though that the removal of the bridge came despite protests from farmers, who wanted the bridge open so that they can haul farm equipment across it. Yet because the valley where the bridge was located was flood prone, safety precautions were taken and the bridge was removed. Today, portions of the highway exist on its original path from Avon to the river and from there to Des Moines, terminating at Hwy. 163. Interestingly enough, a railroad bridge located adjacent to the bridge was removed in 1968 after the railroad decided to reroute the line through Indianola enroute to Knoxville. A section of the railroad line exists but makes a dead-end at the power plant located on the north side of the river.
Ashworth Park Truss Bridge:This is one of three bridges that straddle Walnut Creek carrying Iowa Interstate Railroad through Des Moines (the other two are Pratt pony trusses). The 1897 Warren through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings and riveted connections used to serve dual track rail traffic until the 1990s when it was reduced to only one track. The bridge still serves traffic and can be seen up close from the bike trail while passing through Waterworks Park.
This sums up the tour through Des Moines. The truss bridge portion of the tour is rather the most interesting, but the most challenging if one wants to find information and photos of the structure. As some of the structures will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project, if you have any information that is useful for the project, or for other people who are interested in bridges in general, you can leave a comment here, or you can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Aside from that, it is hoped that people will have an opportunity to visit the bridges while in Des Moines and listen (or read) the stories involved with each of them, for the bridges span a total of 160 years and three periods, both in terms of materials (wood-iron/steel- concrete) as well as the period of bridge building (trusses-arch-modern bridges). Through the interest in history, you are doing more than just collect stories, you are sharing them with others as well, for there is no such thing as no interest in history. Without history, we are ignorant and a group of people with no identity, no pride and no soul. We take pride in history to ensure we know who we are and bridges are an integral part of our history.
Author’s Note:More info can be obtained by clicking on the links marked in the heading and text. Special thanks to John Marvig for photographing the bridges and allowing usage in this article.
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