Interview with Sue Threader and Kate Castle of Rochester Bridge

From Left: Pictured are Kate Castle (Senior Engineer) & Sue Threader (Bridge Clerk) at Rochester Bridge Trust.

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Love builds bridges where there are none, and bridges are built with the love and care that only bridge engineers can give them. Yet for a bridge to last forever, tender loving care is needed by the same engineers to ensure they are maintained not only by their function as a crossing but also by its outer appearance. In order to ensure they are properly maintained and to understand how bridges work, education and only education is the key. 

When looking at the Rochester Bridge, we look at a unique structure that features not only one crossing, but as many as four: Two roadway structures, one walkway for maintenance and one two-track railroad structure. Each one coming from different generations- a lattice iron bridge dating back to the Victorian era, a three-span steel arch bridge built in 1910s and the youngest bridge is over 50 years old and made of concrete and steel. But there are more things about the bridge that goes way beyond the structures that exist. We have the ornamental warden houses on each end of the arch bridge, the architecture mimicking the Roman times and each corner having a statue of the lion; the lion is the bridge’s mascot. There’s the bridge chapel which had many lives apart from being a church. It is now a meeting place for the bridge trust. And one mustn’t forget the Esplanade with its ornate walkway to allow for tourists to be in awe of the structure and get as many photos as possible.

The bridge has maintained its composure as a structure that not only functions, but also looks attractive to visitors but in part because of the regular maintenance it has received. It has also been a poster boy for learning about bridges and how they are built and maintained. After all, the first bridge at this site dates back to the Roman Empire, built using stone. The bridge has been rebuilt at least four times before the Victorian era when the present-day railroad bridge was built. And the rest was history.

To ensure that the public can appreciate the beauty of the bridge and understand how bridges are built and cared for, the bridge underwent an 18-month extensive rehabilitation project that included everything that needed to be fixed, cleaned and in some cases, renewed so that the bridge looks like new. In addition, further ways of educating the public about this bridge including the use of technology has brought the public closer to the topic of bridges, how they are built and more importantly, how they are maintained with tender loving care. This project has reaped awards as the bridge has received accolades from several institutions nationally and internationally.

And that includes the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards, where the Rochester Bridge won in the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Kate Castle won in the category Lifetime Achievement. We decided to interview both her and Sue Threader, about the entire project to get an inside look at the bridge, the Rochester Bridge Trust, the bridges’ restoration project and how the bridge has become one of Rochester England’s prized attractions. So without further ado, here are some things we know about the bridge from their aspects:

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1. (Both) How would you summarize the Rochester Bridge in terms of its description and history?

The first Rochester Bridge was constructed by the Romans, around the time of their invasion in 43AD. The Roman bridge crossed the River Medway on the line of Watling Street, the main Roman road running from London to Richborough and Dover on the Kent coast. 

After centuries of maintenance and repair, the Roman bridge was washed away by flood waters and ice in 1381.

Ten years later we have the medieval stone bridge, which was constructed some hundred yards upriver of the Roman ruins. Then in the 1850s the Victorians replaced that bridge and Sir William Cubitt built his new bridge on the route of the original Roman crossing.

Today we have three bridges. The Old Bridge (1914) a reconstruction of the Victorian bridge; the New Bridge (1970) and the often-overlooked Service Bridge.

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2. What is the role of the Rochester Bridge Trust?

The Rochester Bridge Trust (RBT) was founded in 1399 by Sir John de Cobham and Sir Robert Knolles to ensure the provision of passage over, under or across the River Medway between Rochester and Strood, in perpetuity. They petitioned King Richard II for the organisation (now a registered charity) to be created, and they sought donations of land and money from other wealthy landowners. These donations formed the basis of the current estate of the Rochester Bridge Trust and fund all works.

Today, that means maintaining the three bridges (two road, and one carrying services). This includes managing the Trust’s historic estate to ensure there are enough funds to carry out any work; and supporting engineering and agricultural education, to ensure the expertise we require continues to be developed.

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3. In the RBT Website, there is a lion named Langdon, who entertains the younger visitors who want to see the bridge. Who was behind the creation of Langdon and why? What role does he play with the bridge?

Langdon the Lion is our education mascot and has his own dedicated website: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/

His inspiration comes from the lion statues that decorate the Old Bridge, with his name taken from Langdon Manor Farm, one of the first properties to be donated to the Trust and still under the charity’s ownership today.

We introduce Langdon to children with this story: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/meet-langdon/legend-langdon-lion/

His role is to help inspire young people to take an interest in bridges and civil engineering.

4. Tell us in simple terms about the restoration project on the Rochester Bridge based on the following questions

    a. Why was the restoration needed?  

It is essential that large bridges are properly maintained. Although our team carries out regular routine maintenance, there comes a time when more extensive work is needed to make sure the crossings remain safe and secure. It’s a bit like the schedule of services you might have with a car – you routinely keep it clean, change the oil and replace the bulbs, but after a large number of miles, the timing belt needs to be replaced. We had reached the point where the Trust’s three bridges at Rochester needed some more major work, and so we carried out the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project.

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    b. What areas of the bridge needed to be restored?

This is a brief introduction to the works. The New Bridge was built in the late 1960s and some parts, such as the lighting, parapet and expansion joints, had reached the end of their serviceable life and needed to be replaced.

The lighting on the Old Bridge needed a review and it was time to improve its efficiency and install LEDs to reduce the environmental impact. Because of the bridge’s Grade II listed status, the existing lights were refurbished and upgraded and some additional matching lanterns were specially designed. We also carried out numerous unseen works to repair steel and concrete, as well as a complete re-waterproofing and re-laying of the roadway.

A new roof was installed on the Service Bridge.

Rochester Esplanade was constructed in 1856, from the remains of the old medieval bridge. The structure and river wall needed some attention and a new drainage system was installed. The whole area in front of the Bridge Chamber was landscaped and new benches added, together with information about the history of the bridges.

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    c. How was the bridge restored?

A major programme of engineering works was carried out over a period of 18 months. Hundreds of different activities took place along the length of the bridges and surrounding area. Much of the work was unseen by the public because it took place on the huge scaffold beneath the deck, which alone cost well over a million pounds.

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    d. How was traffic impacted by the restoration project?

Traffic impact was kept to a minimum. During the whole 18-month project there were fewer than 100 hours of bridge closure, and then only in one direction. Works were carried out in phases and mostly at night, using single lane closures to ensure traffic could continue to flow.

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    e. How was the project financed? Did you do any fundraisers prior to the project?

The £12m project was paid for privately, by the Rochester Bridge Trust, using funds generated by the historic estate. There was no cost to the public.

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    f. Which engineering firms/ construction companies were involved with the project?

The work was carried out by lead contractor FM Conway and a team of specialist sub-contractors.

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    g. When did the restoration begin and how long did the project last?

The refurbishment began in April 2019. There was a temporary closure while covid-safety measures were implemented at the start of the pandemic, with the works taking 18 months. The project was completed ahead of schedule in December 2021.

All the carbon generated during this project has been offset with the planting of more than 8,000 trees to create a new woodland.

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    h. How is the Rochester Bridge different now than before the project?

The three bridges have now been put into the best possible condition for the future, meaning that no major interventions – excluding the unexpected – should be required for many years to come.

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  1. Are there any missing items that need to be taken care of on the bridge?

There are no missing items on the bridge. The nature of bridge maintenance means there are always activities to be carried out.

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5. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge? What statement does it have with historic bridge preservation in your opinion?

This refurbishment was a significant project for us and we are very pleased to see Rochester Bridge recognised in these international awards.

We spent many years preparing for this project and ensuring everything would be carried out to the best possible standard, prioritising quality over cost. To see such an interest in our refurbishment, and to have people from all over the world voting for our bridge shows how much they appreciated our efforts and our Old Bridge.

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6. What roles did you play in the project (including title and description):

    a. Kate Castle
As the Bridge Programme Manager I worked alongside the Bridge Clerk to ensure all elements of the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project were carried out according to plan.

    b. Sue Threader

I am the Bridge Clerk [Chief Executive] of the Rochester Bridge Trust, and I oversaw the whole project.

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7. What is your career background prior to joining the RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
I graduated with a degree in civil engineering at the University of Surrey in 2002 and my background is in traffic and road safety engineering. I’ve worked for both the client and consultancy design sign, including Transport for London and Hyder Consulting. During these differing roles I gained project management experience which gave me a combination of skills that was vital during the refurbishment project. I joined the Trust in 2020, having been part of the wider team at then Bridge Engineer Arcadis since early 2013.

    b. Sue Threader
I graduated with a degree in civil and structural engineering from the University of Sheffield in 1988. I’ve worked for several local authorities as a civil engineer and transportation planner before joining the international engineering consultancy, WSP Group plc, in 1998 as a Technical Director. Moving back to the public sector in 2001, I held the post of Deputy Chief Executive and firstly Director of Services, then Director of Resources, for a district council in Surrey. I joined the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2006.

I am also a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Engineers and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Archives Panel. I was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the University of West London and an Outstanding Contribution Award from the ICE in recognition of my work to promote civil engineering to young people.

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8. Why did you choose your respective posts at RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
Having worked with the Rochester Bridge Trust for many years I already knew the structures and the breadth of interesting engineering involved in the site. It’s great to be able to contribute to this important historic river crossing.

    b. Sue Threader

As a civil engineer with an interest in history, the Rochester Bridge Trust brings together two of my favourite topics. It’s also a pleasure to be able to work for the same organisation that previously employed my engineering hero, Sir William Cubitt.

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9. Kate Castle, the crew at Bridge Boys, based in California, nominated you for Lifetime Achievement which you won decisively in the voting. Congratulations on winning the title! What are your reactions to winning the awards?

I’m overwhelmed! It’s wonderful to have my work recognised. During the project I took a lot of trouble creating virtual tours of the bridges as a replacement to the hard hat tours that covid prevented. To know that my explanations were appreciated and helped to bring the engineering to life all around the world is really special. Thank you to the Bridge Boys for nominating me and to everyone who felt my work was worthy of this award.

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10. (Kate Castle) What makes this bridge special to you, in your opinion?

All bridges are brilliant because they do an important job connecting people. This set of bridges is particularly special because of the extensive history that came before us – our archives om the Trust’s history are amazing and to be continuing that story is both a challenge and a joy. It’s also great to work on a local landmark, the Old Bridge’s bowstring-shaped trusses are an integral part of the Rochester landscape.

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11. (Kate Castle) What elements of a historic bridge are important and that people should appreciate? 

For me it’s the little details, such as ornamentation. We have lots of lions, heraldry, fruit, rams, crowns and more and it really emphasises the care and attention lavished on the Old Bridge when it was constructed. The Victorians who built our bridge wanted it to be beautiful as well as functional.

Some historic bridges tell their story in their structure too, for example the piers of our Old Bridge are older than the bowstring-shaped trusses – identifying the different phases within the structure can lead to the discovery of interesting stories.

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12. (Kate Castle) And that of the Rochester Bridge in your opinion?

That also.

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13. (Both of you) If there is a historic bridge that has as high value as the Rochester Bridge, what advice would you give to the group wanting to save the bridge?

Keep up with regular maintenance because it’s more efficient to do that, in terms of both cost and carbon usage, than having to completely replace a bridge when it’s been allowed to deteriorate too much to save.

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14. What is next for the bridge: Are you planning on writing a book about the project?

The project is fully documented in our archives which cover more than 600 years of the bridge’s history (the period since the foundation of the Rochester Bridge Trust).

As for what’s next? We never sit back and think, we fixed that bridge, so we can stop. We’re constantly looking for the next challenge and improvement.

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Thank you to Sue Threader and Kate Castle for the exclusive interview and for the stories behind the bridge. Congratulations once again on winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and to Kate Castle for Lifetime Achievement. 🙂

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Before ending this article, I would like to present you with a small clip of the bridge and the restoration project. While this was released in 2020, it will show you all the aspects of the project, as well as provide you with an overview of the bridge from ariel to ground view. Enjoy!

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Riverside Bridge Reset at a New Home

The Riverside Bridge being put into place at Finley Farms. Source: 407 Drone Imaging

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OZARK, MISSOURI- Ten years ago at this time, the community of Ozark, Missouri, with the help of many dedicated pontists from all over the US and Europe, came together to save a historic gem of a bridge, which had spanned Finley Creek at Riverside Drive- a product of the Canton Bridge Company of Ohio, built in 1909. An organization was formed in 2010 to save the two-span Pratt through truss bridge and to this day, this organization has almost 3000 members. The bridge was one of the main attractions of the 2011 Historic Bridge Weekend in August, together with the bridges of St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as the Gasconade Bridge and the now demolished structure at Enochs Knob. It was where old friends from high school reunited and new friends were made, some of which we are still in contact to this day.

Riverside Bridge at its original location before its first restoration project in 2013. Photo taken at the HB Weekend in 2011

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It was through these efforts that the Riverside Bridge was restored in its place and reopened in 2013. It took another challenge through a monstrous flood in 2015 and the knee jerk reaction of the special road district officials and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to turn to removing the bridge because of damage to the piers and parts of the bridge deck.

Enter Bass Pro and Finley Farms who fell in love with the bridge and decided it would be a wonderful accessory to their facility. Since March 30th, 2021, the truss bridge is up and over Finley Creek again, yet in a new home 1.3 miles from its original location. Crews lifted the two-span bridge onto new piers, one truss span at a time, in a ceremonial event which brought friends, families, locals and bridge lovers together, including Kris Dyer, who heads the organization devoted to saving the historic structure, and Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro and Finley Farms who made it happen, not just through money and power, but with dedication and love.

Once the decking is put into place and the path is in place, the bridge will serve as key connection between Ozark Mill- a grain mill that dates back to the 1830s- and the wedding chapel. It will be a popular attraction not only for weddings and other formal events, but also for tourists who want to see the entire Finley Farms complex, with its historic buildings and experiencing living history including the local delicacies. The Riverside Bridge will have the company of another two-span through truss bridge that was built 13 years later (in 1922) by the Pioneer Bridge Company and features Baltimore spans. For a true pontists, a day trip to Ozark Mill and to the two bridges will be well worth it. For families, it is an experience with lots of memories! 🙂 ❤

The Riverside Bridge in the background and the Ozark Mill Bridge in the foreground. Source: 407 Drone Imaging

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From a columnist’s point of view, the restoration of the Riverside Bridge would not be possible without the support of locals, historians and people who wish to keep the bridge and consider its value as a tourist sttraction. We have seen many structures disappear because there was a lack of support among the public and connections through businesses and the local government. Speaking from personal experience, having the interest in the bridge’s history, let alone a plan on how to reuse the structure once its days as a vehicular crossing, are keys to winning the support needed and making the efforts to saving the bridge possible. It takes a lot of marketing efforts, wit and especially patience to pull it off. If one party says it’s impossible, the other has to counter with not only a why, but also a reason why restoring a bridge is possible. One can learn from the experience of those who have been successful in their efforts but also those who tried and failed for whatever reason it may be (mostly, they are political).

Both spans in place. Now comes the decking. Source: 407 Drone Imaging

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The Riverside Bridge represents a classic example of a bridge that got the love and support of the local community to save but also connections and a good plan to make the preservation happen. When we started on the campaign in 2010, we had a lot of ideas on how the bridge could be kept into place and shared lots of success stories with Kris (Dyer) and others involved to give them ideas on how it could be done. We did fundraisers and even produced some shirts dedicated to saving the bridge, two of which I bought and are still at home in Germany. 🙂 After the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2011, the local government stepped in, realizing that the bridge was indeed a valuable commodity to the community, and the bridge was subsequentially restored and reopened to traffic.

The flooding of 2013 put the bridge in danger again due to damage to the piers and there was doubt that it could ever be restored because it would have required the bridge to be raised to meet certain flood level requirements. Also, the historic Riverside Inn, which had been closed for many years, had to be removed as part of the plan to have a flood plain. That area is now a park next to the replacement structure, opened to traffic last year.

Photo taken in 2011

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Still, the love for the bridge did not wane and thanks to our efforts in 2011, new actors came in with a plan to not only save the bridge but also find a new home for it. While buying a bridge for a buck ($1) is the easiest way to save a structure, that’s just the start. A good plan for moving it or even converting it to a park just off the road where the replacement structure is needed as well ensurance that the bridge is safe for use. In the case of Riverside Bridge, the idea of showcasing it in an area flanked by a mill and nearby parks was the best idea and the safest way to preserve the structure and prevent its ultimate doom. What is needed is a bit of love, creative ideas and also back-up plans in case plan A failed to bear fruit. Most importantly, it needs the support from the community and businesses who are willing work with the project to ensure future generations will enjoy it. The Riverside Bridge, who is up for its second Bridgehunter Award in the Category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge this winter, represents just that.

When there is a will, there is a way. The slogan for saving the bridge, for a second time. While many historic bridges have met their doom despite efforts to save them, there are others that are still in the fight to be preserved and reused for future generations. There’s a lot to learn from the Riverside Bridge experience, something that can be used for other projects. And if there is a doubt, Ozark is in southwestern Missouri near Springfield. Have a look at Finley Farms and its new accessory and you will see success in historic bridge preservation right in front of you. 🙂

Article and website in connection with the event:

https://eu.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2021/03/30/bass-pro-finley-farms-touts-raising-historic-riverside-bridge-ozark/4799036001/

Finley Farms: https://finleyfarmsmo.com/

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Quick Fact: This will be the third home of Riverside Bridge, yet as it was built at the Ozark Mill site in 1909, it’s a welcome home celebration. It had first served the mill until the Baltimore truss bridge replaced it in 1924 and it was relocated to the site at Riverside Dr.

The Author would like to thank 407 Drone Imaging for use of the photos, plus to Kris Dyer, Bill Hart, Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth and the community of Ozark and Christian County for many years of efforts, ideas and all for making it happen not only once but twice. Also a shout out to the heavens to James Baughn, who is probably watching this right now with the Lord at his side, enjoying some shots and a good beer. This one’s for you, bud. 🙂

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Kern Bridge Stays Home in Mankato

Longest Bowstring Arch Bridge in the States Stays in Mankato, to be Re-erected between Sibley and Land of Memories Parks

MANKATO, MINNESOTA- What was built from home stays home. That is the slogan behind the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, a 189-foot long product of the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, which was built over the LeSeuer River on a township road south of Mankato in 1873. Until last year, the bridge stood in its place until efforts were undertaken to dismantle and remove the structure because of a failing abutment.

Now, the bridge is staying put, but will be the centerpiece, crossing over the Blue Earth River connecting two of Mankato’s largest parks.

The 148-year-old historic iron structure will span the Blue Earth River between two of the city’s largest parks, providing a pedestrian and bike crossing that also will fill a gap in the local trail system, and create a vital link between the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on Mankato’s northeast side and Minneopa State Park to the southwest. “From an engineering perspective, it’s an exciting project, but it’s also one that’s great for our community and the region on whole,” said Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty in an interview with the Mankato Free Press. He was in charge of putting together the winning application in an eight-way competition for the one-of-a-kind bridge. Four finalists had submitted full applications to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the structure. Aside from Mankato, the other three finalists came from Watonwan County, Fergus Falls and Sherburne County. “It was a close race. The applications were all really good,” said historian Katie Haun Schuring of MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit, one of the members of the steering committee of engineers and historians that ultimately decided Mankato’s plan was the best. “… All of the locations would have been good. I think Mankato’s just rose to the top after a lot of great discussion.”

The decision to keep the Kern Bridge home made a lot of sense as the last surviving bridge of its kind in Minnesota is also one of the Blue Earth County’s “Seven historical wonders” when it comes to architecture that had shaped the county in the past 150 years. Furthermore, the county is diverse in the number of different types of bridges that still exist and can be seen today. They include the Dodd Ford Bridge and, the Maple River Railroad Truss Bridge both near Amboy, as well as a Marsh arch bridge and the Red Jacket Trestle. Another truss bridge, the Hungry Hollow Bridge is sitting in storage and awaiting reuse elsewhere. When people think of Blue Earth County and bridges, the Kern Bridge would definitely go on top as it was the structure that spearheaded efforts by other engineers to leave their marks over rivers and ravines while expanding the network of roads and railroads that connected Mankato with Minneapolis and other points to the north and east.

Along with the wrought-iron bridge, now disassembled and stored in shipping containers, Mankato will be receiving federal funding that will cover 80% of the $1.8 million cost of reassembling it. According to the Free Press, numerous regulatory hurdles will need to be cleared because of the historic nature of the bridge, the need to build piers in the Blue Earth River, the existence of the flood-control system in the area, the design work on the bridge approaches, and the regulations related to federal funding. The Kern Bridge will be the main span over the river but will be flanked by steel gorders which will make the historic structure the centerpiece for the two parks. If all goes well, the bridge will be back in service by 2024 but as a pedestrian and bike crossing.

And while its 150th birthday celebration will most likely be in storage, the reestablishment and reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge, combined with its reinstatement as a National Landmark, will serve as a much-deserved belated birthday gift in itself. Even the best things come if we wait long enough and work to make it happen. 🙂

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The Kern Bridge finished second in the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge of the Year because of the efforts to save the structure from its potential collapse.

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The news came just as the Newsflyer podcast was released. To listen to the other news stories, click here.

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Newsflyer 20 June, 2020

train with smoke
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

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To listen to the podcast, click onto this link: https://anchor.fm/jason-smith-bhc19/episodes/BHC-Newsflyer-21-June–2020-efngcj

 

Headlines:

Bridge Restoration Firm to Close Down

Information on Workin Bridges (including statement):

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWorkinBridges%2Fposts%2F3015290328508224&width=500

Website: https://www.workinbridges.org/

 

 

Virginia’s Historic Truss Bridges on the Endangered List

Link:  https://www.pecva.org/maps-and-resources/press/1560-historic-truss-bridges-named-among-virginia-s-most-endangered-historic-places

Guide on Virginia’s HBs: https://de.slideshare.net/pecva/virginias-historic-bridges

Top Rankings (bridgehunter.com): https://bridgehunter.com/va/rankings/

 

The Pursuit to Rename a Historic Bridge in Alabama

Bridge Info: http://bridgehunter.com/al/dallas/2273/

Article 1: https://www.fox5dc.com/news/thousands-sign-petition-to-rename-historic-selma-bridge-after-rep-john-lewis

Article 2: https://www.wsfa.com/2020/06/16/rep-terri-sewell-joins-call-rename-edmund-pettus-bridge/

 

Covered Bridge in Danger of Collapse

Bridge Info: http://bridgehunter.com/ky/fleming/bh36285/

Article: https://maysville-online.com/top-stories/181686/graton-looking-at-options-to-save-bridge

 

Historic Bridge in Trier, Germany to be Rehabilitated

Article:  https://www.volksfreund.de/region/trier-trierer-land/kaiser-wilhelm-bruecke-trier-ist-vom-6-bis-20-juli-baustelle-mit-sperrungen_aid-51707655

Bridge Info: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiser-Wilhelm-Br%C3%BCcke_(Trier)

 

Hochdonn Viaduct in Schleswig-Holstein to be Repainted

Article: https://www.shz.de/nachrichten/meldungen/2022-beginnt-sanierung-von-2-2-kilometern-bruecke-mit-dem-pinsel-id28648037.html

Bridge Tour: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-bridges-along-the-baltic-north-sea-canal-part-i-the-grand-canal/

 

A pair of Historic Bridges discovered in southern Germany

Soda Bridge in Bavaria: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/19/mystery-bridge-nr-130-the-motorway-bridge-to-nowhere/

Arch Bridge near Lahr: https://www.bo.de/lokales/lahr/historische-bruecke-in-heiligenzell-entdeckt

 

Plus an important address about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

bhc george floyd

 

Plaka Bridge in Greece Restored

Photo taken by C. Messier for wikiCommons in 2014

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ARTA, GREECE- It took a few seconds to bring down the largest bridge of its kind in the Balkans Region. Flash flooding from the Arachthos River washed away the Plaka Bridge in February 2015, an 1866 stone arch bridge built by Constantinos Bekas.

Five years later, the bridge has been rebuilt and it looks like nothing happened. Over 300 crews worked around the clock to rebuild the arch bridge, using the same technology that had been used when the structure was originally built. As many as 9000 stones with a measurement of 70 by 40 by 10 cm were hewed and wedged together carefully without the single use of metal skeletal support for the bridge. In fact the only metal used was temporary scaffolding to hold the pieces of the bridge in place. “The result is a bridge which is more than a twin of the first one, it is a bridge with the same DNA,” says Dimitris Kaliabakos, Professor of Metallurgy and Mine Engineering at the National Metsovio Polytechnic in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

With the bridge, or shall we say its “twin” back over the river and the scaffolding now gone, crews are going to observe the bridge closely to see how well it can survive the extreme weather conditions, such as flooding and other storms, the same extremities that destroyed the original structure. Afterwards, it will be reopened to the traffic and the Katsanohoria villages in the region of Epirus will reclaim ownership of this unique structure. When the Plaka Bridge finally reopens to traffic remains unclear.

The Plaka Bridge is located at the borders of Arta and Ioannina prefectures, spanning the River Arachthos. With its arch of 40 metres (130 ft) width and 17.61 m (57 ft 9 in) height, it is the largest single-arch stone bridge in Greece and the Balkans. It is also the third largest bridge of its kind in Europe. The central, monumental arch also has two small auxiliary arches on either side, each measured at six meters wide. Like with the reconstruction, it was the most difficult bridge ever built.

The bridge will be in the running for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge.

BHC 10 years

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 85

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The 85th Pic of the Week takes us to a lone relict of history in the State of Iowa. The Kirby-Flynn Bridge is the only bridge of its kind that is left in Palo Alto County in north central Iowa. The six-panel Pratt through truss bridge features A-framed portal bracings and pinned connections. The truss span itself is 121 feet with the total length being 161 feet. The bridge was built in 1883 but was relocated here in 1919 as part of the project to dredge and rechannel the West Branch Des Moines River. At that time, as many as 20 bridges had spanned the river and its snake-like flow. As flat as the county was, vast areas at and within a 10 mile width of the river had been prone to flooding. This bridge was one of an additional 14 spans that were needed to span the new channel, whereas an undisclosed number of original bridges- namely wooden and iron crossings were either replaced or removed.

When I first visited the bridge in 1998, the truss span was in very bad shaped with missing and/or broken wooden decking, damages to the stringers and railings and lots of rust. My original prediction had been that the structure would eventually have been removed due to damage or neglect. In fact, a fire caused by fireworks in 2006 surely would have sealed the bridge’s fate.

However, fast forward to 2010 and one can see that Kirby Flynn is still standing. The bridge was given a thorough make-over, which included new decking, new steel columns for the endposts, new painting and a clearance bar to ensure that no trucks would cross. The project lasted a year, and the bridge was reopened in April 2010.

This photo was taken during my visit in August 2010. I was revisiting some of the bridges I had photographed 12 years earlier and was taken aback at the work that was done at this bridge. The photo was taken in the late afternoon with no cloud in the sky. This scene was symbolic for two reasons: 1. A movement towards preserving and restoring many historic bridges was in full swing, as a response to the increase in the demolition of bridges that were unwanted in the name of progress yet there were louder responses from those wanting to save them for future generations. While the movement to save historic bridges started by Eric Delony and company in the 1970s, it didn’t really gain as much momentum until the early 2000s, thanks to the rise of information technology, especially the internet but also later social media. With that came the exchange of information and preservation techniques that made restoring bridges easier to do.

This brings us to number 2. The Kirby Flynn as a poster boy of what can be done if there are enough expertise and interest in saving it. One could cleanse the county of all the bridges and have bland pieces of concrete in their places. Yet many in the county wanted this bridge because of its history. It’s an artefact that is part of the county’s history and one where a field trip with some stories behind the bridge’s history, let alone the restoration is worth it.

Even in my visit to this bridge, the structure shone brighter than it did during my visit in 1998 which made it and the photo taken worth it. Sometimes a quick stop off the highway for the purpose of a photo opp. will bring you surprises you would least expect it.

And like the visit to the bridge, the surprises you encounter and the education behind your discoveries and observations are well worth it.

Learn more about this bridge by clicking here: http://bridgehunter.com/ia/palo-alto/brushy-bayou/

 

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Ultimate Restorations Documentary: The Story of Workin Bridges and the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge.

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Jim Schiffer of Schiffer Group Engineering (left), Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges (middle) and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel (right)

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HOLT, MICHIGAN/ GRINELL, IOWA-  The long-awaited documentary by Ultimate Restorations on historic truss bridge restoration is now available for viewing at www.ultimaterestorations.com or Amazon Prime. Featuring the 1874 Springfield Des-Arc Bridge, an historic King Iron Bridge Co. bowstring truss in Conway, Faulkner County, Arkansas, the two episodes document how an engineer, craftsmen, two nonprofits, a city, county and state worked together to save a rare historic bridge in the USA. Local screening are also being scheduled.

Bach Steel of Holt and St. Johns, Michigan provided the iron restoration expertise. The craftsmen, Nels Raynor, Derek Pung, Brock Raynor and Lee Pung put their backs into this project from riveting to pack rust removal, repairing splice plates, lifting and resetting old iron. Jim Schiffer, PE of Schiffer Group Engineering, Traverse City, Michigan. (SGI) worked with Bach Steel to detail the repairs. SGI also engineered the caissons by request from Julie Bowers at Workin’ Bridges who just didn’t want to see another concrete abutment for the historic truss. “These are the kinds of projects we relish. The reuse and preservation of durable cast and wrought iron and steel, that are still serviceable with a little coaxing, to recreate elegant functional forms that the communities can enjoy is really fun. These are the projects that we enjoy applying our technical experience and training to bring to successful completion.” stated Jim Schiffer after viewing the video. Though you don’t see him in the site work, without his engineering neither Workin’ Bridges nor Bach Steel would be able to act on these jobs.

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Working with the City of Conway and Faulkner County, the planning and iron work for the restoration of this bowstring took well over a year after lifting it from the North Fork of the Cadron River. The bridge was restored and reset at Lake Beaverfork in August of 2016. The project began, however, with a site visit in 2010 to discuss the potential of the oldest road bridge in Arkansas, also a King Iron bridge. The project required the aid of the Prof. Kenneth Barnes, then a director of the Faulkner County Historic Society to continue raising the awareness that this vintage bridge needed help. Many of these stories can be seen on the video.

Bach Steel has worked on over 40 historic bridge projects across the country, winning awards for their work in Texas, Michigan and Arkansas since the 1990s. “The Springfield Bridge tells a story of one of the projects that we started with Workin’ Bridges in 2010 and it took years to fund it. There are so many bridges across the country that can be restored but it takes political will, our engineer, money and us to get it done….and big cranes!” stated Nels Raynor at the shop in St. Johns.

Ultimate Restorations produced the shows out of the bay area. Producer Terry Strauss along with Executive Producers Bill Hersey, Loren Lovgren, and Bob McNeil have documented the restoration of some of America’s beloved treasures. “The story of this bridge is what Ultimate Restorations is all about. The vision to save the iconic pieces of our history that would otherwise be lost, plus the skills, passion and talent to bring them back to life. Walking over that bridge, is like being told a story, reminding us of who we are and where we’ve been.” said Terry Strauss, who directed the film in Arkansas. More info at www.ultimaterestorations.com. You can view the Ultimate Restorations episodes on our bridge restoration as well as the full Season 2 of Ultimate Restorations on Amazon Prime with 1874 Des-Arc Springfield Bridge Part 1: Moving Day and Part 2: Another Hundred Years at https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07ZZZJ8D5/ref=atv_dp

Photo by Wayne Kizzar

One of the red-carpet premieres of Springfield Bridge documentary will be at 2 pm on Sunday, November 24, 2019 in Burlington, Iowa at the restored Capital Theater. Community screening dates are also being pursued in Conway, Arkansas, Lansing / Traverse City, Michigan and Grinnell, Iowa and will be announced soon.

Questions and screening requests can be addressed to Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262 –  jbowerz1@gmail.com. You can access more information on the web at www.workinbridges.org and on Facebook at Workin’ Bridges,  www.bachsteel.com and on Facebook at Bach Steel and www.schiffergroup.com. Restoration photos can be seen at Springfield Bridge on Facebook where the process was also documented.

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 56

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To honor the reopening of a key historic icon, this Pic of the Week takes us back ten years and to Winona in Minnesota. During my visit in 2010, I took a ton of photos of the Winona Bridge, a 1942 cantilever through truss bridge that spans the Mississippi River at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, carrying Highway 43. While I got a lot of angles and listened to some interesting stories about the bridge, including one from a gas station attendant who used to be a female wrestler (she even looked like one of my heroes, Sara Del Rey), this shot from the Wisconsin side was probably the best one of the bunch. Even with the new bridge running alongside the newly restored historic bridge, this photo vantage point would be highly recommended if you want to get a shot of just the cantilever bridge itself, even when lit with LED at night.

To learn more about the restoration of the Winona Bridge, click here to listen to the Newsflyer podcast and access the links and videos of the project.  More photos of the bridge plus facts about the bridge can be accessed here.

Update on the Hirschgrundbrücke Reconstruction Part II: How Art and Craftmanship are bring the bridge back together.

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-  In a follow-up to the last article on the reconstruction of the Hirschgrund Bridge at the Castle Complex in Glauchau, I decided to attend the informational meeting and tour of the bridge, which took place on May 11th at the front court of the castle. This meeting and tour, which was divided up into three different time slots, was part of the Day of Funding and Support sponsored by the State of Saxony, and its main focus is the work that is being done to the castle itself, which started in 2017 and is scheduled to be finished by 2025.  Already finished is the construction of the front court of the castle, which features a series of flower gardens, bike racks, picnic areas and a multifunctional facility that can be used year round, including for ice skating, which is Glauchau’s past time together with its Christmas Market.

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The front court yard of the Castle Complex

This event was also tied in with the city’s first ever arts and crafts fair, which took place inside the castle and included exhibits, workshops and an auction. Due to inclimate weather, comprising of heavy rain and cold weather, the attendance was down across the board. However, we did come away with something for our own best interests- me with bridges, my daughter with arts and my wife with some ideas on how to better the arts and crafts fair. 🙂 Inspite of this, this article is on the bridge itself for based on my meeting with a representative from a construction firm working on the bridge, here are some facts that will need to be taken into account.

For instance, while newspapers and even my own previous reports had mentioned about the bridge being reopened by July, that assumption was proven false, both verbally and on the posters. Right now, if all goes well, the project should be finished and the bridge reopened by the end of November 2019 (this year). There are several factors that contributed to this delay.

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Poster of the project. The upper left-hand corner shows more demo than expected.

The first one has to do with the demolition of the bridge. According to the spokesperson at the meeting, while attempts were made to keep only the foundations and piers of the 1700s- built arch bridge, combined with the two outer arches as part of an agreement with the State Ministry of Culture and Heritage to save them, demolition of the bridge took a little more out than expected as many elements from the original bridge had to be removed because they could no longer be used for the load bearings. That means they were worn out and would not be useful for the reconstruction. A good example of the extensive work on the bridge regarding that aspect can be seen in the picture above.  If this was in American standards, this entire arch bridge would have been completely removed, going against the Historic Preservation Laws that were designed to protect historic structures like this from being destroyed. While the preservation of the outer arches and the piers were a compromise, it should be considered a stroke of luck in the face of modernization, which is becoming the norm in our society, even at our expense.

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With the removal of most of the bridge comes the preservation of more than 12,000 different grey-colored granite stones from the original structure. According to the representative from the construction firm, they will be incorporated, like I mentioned. The question is: how?

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As a facade! 🙂

This would make the best sense especially after my inquiry with the city’s civil engineer who also has been watching this project very closely. As mentioned in the previous article, the bridge is being rebuilt, first starting with the arches, then following with layers of concrete slabs supported by a skeletal system of vertical and horizontal support beams that would hold the bridge in place. The stones from the previous structure would be used as both decking as well as for the facade. While the reconstruction of the arch bridges will not be in-kind, meaning rebuilding it just like building the arch bridge from scratch beginning with the arches and then filling them in, layer by layer, the use of the skeletal system with concrete support beams as a skeleton will ensure that the new bridge will be sturdier than its original predecessor. I learned that in 2004, wooden support beams were put into place underneath the arches to keep them from collapsing. While this would have been considered useless if the bridge was coming down anyway, it did keep the bridge intact, thus helping the construction workers save as much of the materials for the rebuild as possible. Otherwise, allowing the bridge to sit derelict and let it collapse would not only eliminate that possibility, it would have been dangerous to even approach it.

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Granted that there is wooden support for all four of the bridge’s arches for the new structure, yet they were meant for building the two inner arches from the ground up and reinforcing the outer arches- for the former, they were following the recipe Romans used when building their arch bridges during their peak in power.

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Close-up of the truss supports for the arches.

With that comes the skeletal system and the layered concrete, which brings up another interesting fact I learned at the meeting. The vertical beams mentioned in the previous article feature a combination of concrete with steel wiring. This concept is often used for American bridges, in particular, with beam bridges. In Germany, it is hardly spoken of for the majority of modern bridges built after 1945 have focused solely on steel, fabricated from the mills in western Germany as well as parts of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg in the east.  With very few quarries, concrete is used rationally- mainly for abutments, piers and decking- much of it with other materials. In this case, the vertical beams have the American style of steel wiring drowned with concrete with the wiring sticking out. The main purpose here is as the concrete layers are built up, the top layer will be covered with a decking made of stone and concrete, providing a sturdy crossing for years to come.

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Add railings of up to 1.7 meters high to ensure the safety of those crossing it, the bridge will have a width of 3.7 meters and a total length of 55.3 meters from the castle to the park, with LED lighting, making the new crossing an attractive site in addition to the castle itself.  The bridge will be 9 meters tall, a few centimeters taller than its was before the complete makeover started last year.

While there were only a few people at each of the three tours in the morning due to the weather, most were eager to know more about the project and even some of them shared some memories of crossing the bridge before it was closed off due for safety reasons many years ago. Many had a chance to ask the representative more in details about what was being done with the bridge with a lot of curiosity. The atmosphere was mostly positive when I was there. But all had one thing in common- they would love to see their bridge back as it is part of the Castle Complex, connects with the park and is part of Glauchau’s history in general. In November of this year, this will come true.

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fast fact logo There are three projects that are going on around Glauchau’s Castle Complex- all of them being funded by the state. The front courtyard at the castle’s entrance was finished in December, right in time for the Christmas market. The bridge will be finished by the end of November. The third project scheduled to begin in 2020 will be redeveloping the grounds inside the castle as much of the markets and festivals take place there. That project is expected to last 2-3 years.

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T-shirts and apparel with the theme of the bridges along the Zwickau Mulde, with exemplaries of the ones in Glauchau, Zwickau and Rochlitz can be found in the online shop via word press. Click here and order one today. 🙂

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Wilischthal Viaduct Renovated and In Service

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ZSCHOPAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-  Four kilometers to the south of Zschopau in the village of Wilischthal, deep in the valley of the river that bears the same name as the city of 9,600 is a piece of artwork that most recently got a much-needed facelift. The Wilischthal Viaduct was built in 1901 and features a series of different arch types. The main span is an open-spandrel arch bridge which stretches 31 meters across the River Zschopau.  The three approach spans, each of which are over 10 meters, spans a rail line connecting Annaberg-Buchholz with Riesa and Chemnitz on the east side next to the main highway, S228, a state highway. The entire bridge was built using natural stone, taking well over a year to build. It was open in 1901.  For 10 years, the bridge had been open for only one lane of traffic. Now the bridge has been reopened to traffic and two cars can meet from each direction. Furthermore, pedestrians can cross it without any hindrance.  According to news story from the Chemnitz Free Press, bridge was rehabilitated at the cost of 1.3 million Euros ($2.1 million) and included replacing the decking with a wider one (the original deck width was 6 meters; the new one is now three meters wider) and installing beautiful blue railings. Furthermore, the arches were strengthened to accomodate heavier loads. All of the renovation work lasted two years and it included partial and full closures, thus making access to nearby villages  Gelenau and Scharfenstein difficult.

Nevertheless, the renovation was worth it during my visit at the bridge. There will be more photos of the bridge to come as the tour guide on the bridges in Zschopau is being made, but the whole bridge itself looks just like new.

And for a 117-year old bridge, this IS telling. 🙂

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