Zumbrota Covered Bridge Collapses

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The Zumbrota Covered Bridge at its current location. Photo taken in October 2005

150-year old covered bridge loses roof in snow collapse. To be rebuilt pending on degree of damage.

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ZUMBROTA, MINNESOTA (USA)- Record-setting February snowfall in the Midwest is starting to take its toll on its infrastructure due to the development of potholes and cracks on the roads. It is also taking its toll on the architecture, for too much snow on the rooves of houses and covered bridges- especially heavy, thick snow- can cause a roof to cave in.

Ask the people in the town of Zumbrota, located between Cannon Falls and Rochester in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota. Their prized centerpiece of the community of over 500 inhabitants has an uncertain future as the Zumbrota Covered Bridge partially collapsed over the weekend.

Built in 1869, the covered bridge is a Smith through truss, which is similar to a Lattice truss with diagonal beams criss-crossing each other, except its outer diagonal beams represent an end-post angled at 30°. The bridge was rehabilitated in 1932, 1950 and again in 1997, when the 120-foot long structure was moved 100 yards downstream to a park, which is situated just off Hwy. 58. It had previously crossed at Main Street. The park covers much of the eastern shore of the North Branch Zumbro River and provides people with some recreational possibilities. The structure has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. Even though there had been another covered bridge of its kind built for a railroad north of Zumbrota, this covered bridge is the last one in service in the state of Minnesota.

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The Covered Bridge after the roof collapse. Photo taken by Mayor Bradley Drenckhahn on 24 February

As you can see in the Picture above, presented by mayor Bradley Drenckhahn, this was not what people had expected from the bridge. This was taken on the 24th, just after the roof of the covered bridge caved in, which had happened sometime overnight. Fortunately, no one was injured.

It is unclear if the center pier, built the same year the covered bridge was relocated, was affected by the collapse. The degree of the collapse will be inspected by transportation officials. The fortunate part is that the bridge is insured and town officials will rebuild the bridge once the snow has melted. The question is: just the roof or the whole structure? This is important for it could affect the upcoming events commemorating the covered bridge’s 150th birthday. According to its website, the covered bridge festival will take place on June 15th and 16th, whereas the birthday celebrations will be August 3rd and 4th. Both will take place at the park. How the collapse and the subsequent reconstruction will affect the festivities remain unknown.

A link to the covered bridge website is available and can be clicked here. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this bridge.

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New Hope Truss Bridge Collapses

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Product of Lomas Bridge and Iron Works Company Collapsed on 18 February. Causes are being investigated

CINCINNATI, OHIO- Police and county officials are looking into the causes of a historic Bridge that mysteriously collapsed three weeks ago. The New Hope Truss Bridge collapsed during the night of 18 February. Remains of the Bridge were found in the water the following morning resulting in the alerting of authorities. The Bridge had been abandoned for over three decades, having been made obsolete by the current structure that was built to the west of the iron structure since 1960. That bridge carries US Hwy. 68. Built over White Oak Creek north of New Hope in 1884, the iron truss structure was the product of the Lomas Forge and Bridge Works Company of Cincinnati, having carried Main Street between the village and points to the north. The truss bridge featured a Whipple through truss bridge with two layers of Town lattice Portal bracings, sandwiching the builders plaque in between. The connections were pinned. The total length was 160 feet with a deck width of 14 feet.  There had been interest in purchasing the bridge for the purpose of restoration and repurposing for recreation use, but nothing was ever realized.

The collapse of the bridge was a mysterious one for there had never been any flooding in the area. This leads to one of two theories: 1. The bridge collapsed under ist own weight as it happened with the Schell City Bridge in Missouri six years ago, or 2. Someone tried to dismantle the bridge in an attempt to steal metal parts to be sold in the market. In any case, because of flooding that has recently been affecting residents along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries, authorities will not be able to find out what exactly happened until the collapsed span is removed from the creek.

The loss of the bridge is a crushing one, for there is now one more through truss bridge left in Brown County at Higginsport. That bridge has been abandoned for many years and many people are fearing if nothing is done to restore the 1885 Whipple structure, that might meet its fate similar to the New Hope Bridge.  The George Street Bridge in Aurora, Indiana is the last surviving structure built by Lomas Forge. The Whipple through truss bridge was built in 1887 and was remodeled twice: in 1989 and again in 2011. The structure is still in use today.

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New Hope Truss Bridge Collapses

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Product of Lomas Bridge and Iron Works Company Collapsed on 18 February. Causes are being investigated

CINCINNATI, OHIO-

Police and county officials are looking into the causes of a historic Bridge that mysteriously collapsed three weeks ago. The New Hope Truss Bridge collapsed during the night of 18 February. Remains of the Bridge were found in the water the following morning resulting in the alerting of authorities. The Bridge had been abandoned for over three decades, having been made obsolete by the current structure that was built to the west of the iron structure since 1960. That bridge carries US Hwy. 68. Built over White Oak Creek north of New Hope in 1884, the iron truss structure was the product of the Lomas Forge and Bridge Works Company of Cincinnati, having carried Main Street between the village and points to the north. The truss bridge featured a Whipple through truss bridge with two layers of Town lattice Portal bracings, sandwiching the builders plaque in between. The connections were pinned. The total length was 160 feet with a deck width of 14 feet.  There had been interest in purchasing the bridge for the purpose of restoration and repurposing for recreation use, but nothing was ever realized.

The collapse of the bridge was a mysterious one for there had never been any flooding in the area. This leads to one of two theories: 1. The bridge collapsed under ist own weight as it happened with the Schell City Bridge in Missouri six years ago, or 2. Someone tried to dismantle the bridge in an attempt to steal metal parts to be sold in the market. In any case, because of flooding that has recently been affecting residents along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries, authorities will not be able to find out what exactly happened until the collapsed span is removed from the creek.

The loss of the bridge is a crushing one, for there is now one more through truss bridge left in Brown County at Higginsport. That bridge has been abandoned for many years and many people are fearing if nothing is done to restore the 1885 Whipple structure, that might meet its fate similar to the New Hope Bridge.  The George Street Bridge in Aurora, Indiana is the last surviving structure built by Lomas Forge. The Whipple through truss bridge was built in 1887 and was remodeled twice: in 1989 and again in 2011. The structure is still in use today.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 91: The Collapsed Jones Bridge in Georgia

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

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114-year old bridge collapsed into water. Crews seeking to remove it.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA-  Funeral services are being made for the 114-year old Jones Bridge, as the 114-year old bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River at an Atlanta metro park. According to recent sources, the collapse of the remaining span happened on the 25th of January 2018 at around 1:00pm local time. No one was reported injured at that time. The remaining span was an eight-panel Camelback through truss bridge with pinned connections and a three-rhombus portal bracings. The bridge was between 100 and 130 feet and was the remaining half of the two-span bridge that had existed for only a short time. The bridge was built in 1904 by an unknown contractor and had once connected Fulton and Gwinett Counties at John’s Creek. According to sources, the bridge served traffic for only 20 years before being made obsolete by a concrete bridge. It was subsequentially closed by 1930, yet how things led to the bridge being halved remains a mystery. Newspapers reported that a person masquerading as a bridge contractor had tried to tear down the bridge and sell the parts as scrap metal. Yet residents became suspicious and alerted law enforcement authorities, who came and arrested him but not before having successfully taken down one of the two through truss spans and the approach spans. The question is when exactly did this incident happen, for newspapers claimed that the incident happened in the 1940s, yet ariel imagery showed the entire span still remaining in place in 1955 and the span being halved in the 1960s. It is unknown which of the sources is proven incorrect for newspapers can make typing errors including the wrong date, whereas the photos make have been mixed up to make it look like the sturcture had existed during the 1950s when it was gone by that time. What is needed to solve this case is the exact date of construction of the bridge and its bridge builder, as well as the full detail of the incident: who were involved, when did it happen and lastly, what happened to the perpetraitor?

Two parks surround the remains of the structure are named after the bridge: The Jones Bridge section of the Chattahoochee River National Recreational Area to the north and the Jones Bridge County Park in the south. Both facilities will miss having the bridge there as crews work to remove the bridge and possibly salvage part of it as a monument. Yet for a bridge that had survived 70+ years in tact, one wondered had actioned has taken place prior to the incident if that remaining section would have been converted into a picnick area or even fishing pier. All it needed was a new set of cassion piers (as the one in the river had tipped over, causing it to collapse) and new decking. Unfortunately we may never know. However, the collapse will surely signal the need to look at other abandoned structures to see if they can be saved and reused for future purposes. If so, time is ticking for the next abandoned structure next door may be the next to go.

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Grain Truck Drops Historic Bridge in Iowa

Gillecie Bridge near Bluffton. Photo taken in 2005

143 year old Gilliece Bridge collapses after truck five-times its size tried crossing. Charges expected.

 

DECORAH, IOWA-  Almost a year and a half after a semi-truck drove across a historic bridge in Indiana, causing it to collapse, another incident, caused by a trucker ignoring a weight limit, has claimed a life of another historic bridge. Yesterday morning, a 15-ton grain truck tried crossing the Gilliece Bowstring Arch Bridge, spanning the Upper Iowa River at Cattle Creek Road, north of Bluffton, causing the bridge to collapse. According to multiple news sources, the driver of the truck ignored the weight restrictions posted on the 143-year old structure and tried to cross, going from east to west, causing the bridge to give way and the trailer to straddle the pier that used to hold the structure in place. The bridge had a weight limit of only three tons!  The driver of the truck, who works for Sinclair Milling Company of Parkersburg, survived the incident without injury, yet charges are pending for wreckless driving and disregarding the weight restrictions. According to Winneshiek County Highway Engineer, Lee Bjerke, in an interview with Decorah News, “When you see a weight limit on a bridge, we mean it. It’s there to keep you alive.”

The future of the bridge is questionable, given the damage to the structure. The curved upper chords are bent but can be straightened out, whereas the vertical and diagonal beams are either bent or broken in many places. Already hit by numerous tractors who had crossed it in the past, the upper bracings will need to be replaced, which will partially compromise the historical integrity of the bridge. Yet more details on the extant of the damage to the bridge will come as Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges, based in Grinnell, as well as other bridge restoration experts will examine the extent of the damage and determine its salvagibility of the bridge.

The Gilliece Bridge, which is also known as the Murtha or Daley, was constructed in 1874 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio. It was one of over two dozen bridges that were built by the company in the 1870s and 80s, thanks to efforts of bridge agent George Winthrop, who worked with the county to secure deals for bridges to benefit landowners living in the hilly areas along the Upper Iowa and Turkey Rivers. The bridge was 151 feet long with a main span of 129 feet. It was rehabilitated in the 1990s which included reinforcing the stone piers with concrete ones, one of which the truck trailer was sitting on when the bridge collapsed. It was considered historically significant in surveys conducted by the late James Hippen and the State of Iowa and was subsequentially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Workin Bridges bought the structure with the intent to relocate it in the near future, allowing for the county to work on replacing it with a modern bridge.

The Gilliece Bridge was one of ten bridges on the county’s list for replacement. Yet with its collapse, combined with the inconvenience of the homeowners living near the bridge on both sides of the river, attempts will be made to expedite the replacement process. The  Upper Iowa River is currently closed off to canoeists so that the wreckage can be taken out of the river. With over a half dozen bowstring arch bridges that had been built in the county and a dozen built by Wrought Iron Bridge Company, Winneshiek County now has only one exemplar in both left, which is the Freeport Bridge. Yet unlike the Gilliece, this bridge, the second longest of its kind in the US, is serving pedestrians at a park east of Decorah, making it safe from careless drivers. Yet this incident serves as a reminder that compulsory education for math, vehicular driving and in particular, truck driving for those wishing to enter the profession is badly needed, so that people learn that careless driving can indeed cost lives, especially if people don’t pay attention to the laws of the road that exist for a good reason-

which is to respect the lives and property of others. This incident is another example of the disrespect to both, no matter how a person interprets it.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest regarding the Gillecie Bridge and the events that follow the incident.

Trucker Gets Jail Time for Destroying Historic Bridge

Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana. Photo taken by James Baughn

Trucker to serve six months for driving overweight truck across the Gospel Street Bridge. Bridge being rebuilt.

INDIANAPOLIS-  Sometimes the price to pay for ignorance can be the most painful.  When a person misses a turn-off and tries a short cut, it turns out to be the longest odessy of her life. For Mary Lambright, the trucker who drove across the historic Gospel Street Bridge in a semi-truck laden with bottled water on Christmas Day 2015, dropping the structure built by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in 1880 into Lick Creek, that short cut she took will cost her time and then some.

According to multiple resources, Indiana District Judge R. Michael Cloud sentenced Ms. Lambright to six months in prison. In addition, she is to pay $2000 in damages to the structure, to be paid once the bridge is rebuilt. Ms. Lambright, 24, and a 17-year old passenger missed a turn-off enroute to Wal-mart and took a short-cut that led to the bridge on Christmas Day. Not knowing what six tons meant on the sign, she continued to cross the bridge at 30 mph, resulting in the top trailer being sheered off by the bridge’s overhead bracings and the bridge collapsing into the creek. Neither of the two were injured. The trucking company, based in Louisville, later went out of business because of liability claims involving the bridge but not before having fired Lambright right after the incident. Ms. Lambright apoligized to the court at the time of the sentencing, stating: I’m really, really sorry about what happened and, if I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t be so stupid.

The Gospel Street Bridge is currently being rebuilt, piece-by-piece, to its original form, using the money provided by the insurance company that had once protected the trucking company she used to work for. The bridge is expected to be completely rebuilt and open to traffic by the beginning of July. With the sentencing handed down and the eventual return of the historic bridge to a small Indiana community, it will provide a closure to an incident that has been a focus of discussion about how to better train semi-truck drivers (how to avoid restricted areas and drive safely and responsibly), especially as the Gospel Street Bridge had served as the key artery into the business district. For those who have close ties to the bridge, they will be the lucky ones as they will win their historic bridge back- something that seldom happens to historic bridges in the US in this use-damage-throw away age of travel and consumption.

Author’s Note: What do you know about the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in terms of its years in business, its founder and examples of other bridges built? The Chronicles is putting together a bridge builders directory that will contain a summary of the history of the companies and engineers who contributed to almost 200 years of bridge building in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. If you have any information about this company, please contact Jason Smith at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. A link will also suffice. You can find this directory on its wordpress page by clicking here.

 

 

Rig Downs Historic Highway Bridge in Arkansas

Photo taken by Wayne Kizziar in 2011

Semi-truck with skidder brings down 1920s through truss bridge that used to serve three major highways, no one injured.

POTTER, ARKANSAS- Careless and ignorance seems to be the major theme involving historic bridges in the United States and elsewhere, as drivers of large heavy trucks have been illusive in ignoring the restrictions involving crossing a light weight bridge and have taken the chance, even if it meant paying the price for their ignorance.

After the Christmas Day disaster in Paoli, another bridge of similar type has fallen victim to an overwiszed and overweight truck in near Potter in western Arkansas. Police officials are investigating the reasons why the driver of a semi truck with a trailer loaded with a skidder, ignored the weight limit of the Two Mile Creek Bridge and tried crossing the bridge only to drop the 1920 structure into the water. The incident happened on Friday. According to officials, the Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings, Howe lattice strut bracings and riveted connections, had a weight limit of 6 tons, while the truck’s weight limit was four times the weight limit. The bridge used to carry three different state highways before the county took ownership. The crossing carried US Highways 71 and 59 as well as State Highway 375 before they were relocated on a new (and straighter) alignment. Prior to its collapse, it carried county highway 37.  Its truss design, a riveted Pratt through truss was constructed using standardized truss designs to accomodate the load. Unfortunately, it is unknown who the bridge builder of the 100-foot long crossing was.

It was just unfortunate that the bridge could not accomodate a truckload that was four times its weight limit, as it was seen in the picture below. Considered a total loss, the crossing was the last of the through truss bridges in Polk County. Compounding it with the most recent flooding, the bridge is the second one in a month that became victim. A two-span pony truss bridge was severely damaged by flooding on Christmas Day and its fate is uncertain. As for the driver, charges are pending for wreckless driving and disobeying the weight limit sign. More information will follow.

Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance
Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance

REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter your photos, bridges, etc. for the 2015 Ammann Awards. Entries will be taken until 12:00am Central Standard Time. The Voting process will start the following day, which will be posted in the Chrinicles. Get your entries in before it’s too late!!!

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2014 Ammann Awards: The Author Chooses the Best Bridge Stories

Bentonsport Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Van Buren County, Iowa. Photo taken in December 2014

To start off the Author’s Choice Award version of the 2014 Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, I would like to present you with an overture which is in connection with this year’s theme: Bigger is not always better. Enjoy!

 

This year’s Author’s Choice Awards features some of the most interesting stories of how people have come together to save their valued work. However, we have a story of a bridge found underneath a pub, as well as a failed attempt to salvage a historic bridge, and a disaster caused by gravity. And finally stupidity at its finest- caught on tape and youtubed! So without further ado, here are my pics for 2014:

Most Spectacular Disaster:

USA:

Ledbetter Bridge in Kentucky- Spanning the Tennessee River, this 1931 three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge was one of the latter works of architectural art built by Polish engineer, Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940). The bridge no longer exists as it was removed last month, several weeks after a replacement span 700 feet downstream opened to traffic, but one cannot help but watch sections of the bridge collapse on its own, as seen in the photo gallery here.  After reporting one of the approach spans dropping by two feet in 24 hours, officials fenced off the entire bridge, only to later watch sections of it fall on the shoreline. Cause: Erosion undermining the piers, plus some vultures perching on the railings of the affected spans, as the photographer stated.

International: 

Cherryvale Bridge in New Brunswick, Canada- Covered bridges have been especially hardest hit this year, as fire, oversized trucks and natural disasters have damaged or destroyed over three dozen bridges in North America and elsewhere. The Cherryvale Bridge in the province of New Brunswick was one of those unfortunate victims, as floodwaters knocked the 1870s wooden structure off its foundations in May, and the structure flowed downstream before being smashed against a concrete bridge carrying a highway. More on this story hereAs beloved as they are, covered bridges are usually rebuilt by demand from residents. This is the case as well, but will it happen with this bridge? We’ll have to see….

 

Best Historic Bridge Find:

USA: 

Rocky Balboa Railroad Bridge in Durham, North Carolina- This railroad underpass, featuring a 100-year old deck plate girder span, may be a typical bridge accomodating rail traffic. But (and the music from Rocky Balboa will support this), it has had a record of annihilating semi trucks and trailers, as well as tractors, busses, and other overweight vehicles. This DESPITE having every form of warning system and sign in place. Here’s a video to prove it:

 

International:

The Parade Bridge in Norwood (South) Australia- Australia has a wide variety of metal, concrete and wooden bridges dating back to the early 1800s. This bridge, located underneath a pub, was found by chance by the owner as the venue was undergoing extensive renovations. Made of parapet and cobblestone and built in the 1850s, this bridge has a unique history, which can be found here.

Honorable mentioned: The Kersten Miles Bridge in Hamburg, Germany- Built in 1897 and named after the mayor of Hamburg during the Medieval times, this arch bridge is one of the darlings of Hamburg one needs to see, if one wants to know which of the 2,500+ bridges should be visited in the second largest city in Germany. Apart from its ornamental appearance and the fact that the bridge is made of brick, a recent discovery of a pflaster mosaic underneath one of the spans is another reason to visit this unique landmark. More on this discovery can be found here.

Best Way to Salvage a Historic Bridge: USA:

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span- The 1936 eastern half, consisting of cantilever truss spans, was replaced with a cable-stayed span with concrete girders last year and is still being dismantled even as we speak. Yet one person is looking at salvaging parts of the bridge for sustainable housing developments. Although it would look unusual to today’s housing standards, as seen in the article here, it would at least preserve the legacy of the eastern half of the bridge, which partially collapsed in the earthquake in 1989.

Also worth mentioning: Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Pukaski County, Missouri- The Freedom Prime Bridge and this bridge were two of the candidates considered for the author’s choice awards. Yet while Freedom received some accoldaes for best preservation example, this 1923 two-span Parker truss bridge got this one for two reasons: 1. The bridge was part of the Mother Road (Route 66) and because of the importance of the crossings along the highway that had once connected Chicago and Los Angeles, efforts are being undertaken to save what is left of this historic highway. 2. The bridge underwent an extensive renovation, which included new decking, sandblasting and repainting the trusses and making the bridge look just like it was when opened 91 years ago. The bridge should set an example for a pair of other crossings that have recently been rendered unsafe and whose futures are in doubt. More here

International: Katzenbuckel Bridge in Ebenhausen, Bavaria (Germany)- Spanning a rail line near Augsburg in Bavaria, this arch bridge was in the way of progress, for the German Railways want to expand the line and electrify it. The solution: Instead of razing the structure because of its historic significance, the plan is to raise the bridge to better accomodate traffic. Impressive but also one that will have other regions with similar bridges to consider this option, for there are enough candidates to go around. More on the plan can be found here.

Photo taken by James Baughn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worst Example of Restoring/Using a Historic Bridge

USA:  Blue River US 40 Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri- Preservationists and locals are scratching their heads about this 1931 bridge, a steel through arch bridge that is the product of a pair of local bridge builders. The bridge was dismantled to make way for its replacement in August, but in a way that the parts were cut apart and left in a pile, waiting to be taken to its new home in Grandview. Photos of the bridge before and after its dismantling can be found here. Given the “logic” behind this process, the first and foremost question that comes to mind is: How are you going to put the structure back together again without altering its historic integrity? Or are you going to scrap it? My prediction: Its induction into Nathan Holth’s Wall of Shame.

International: Kramer Bridge in Erfurt, Germany- This bridge in the news but in a negative sense. The face of Thuringia’s capital was the focus of a drug operation, used in the German mystery series, Tatort (Scene of the Crime). The episode was aired in December and drew fire from viewers who deemed both the usage and the content to be inappropriate. Shortly after the release, two of the three actors resigned and the German channel MDR decided to scrap the Erfurt series. Lessons on how Tatort should be produced and how places of interest should be used without degrading it should be given by those who have been with the series for over 2 out of the four decades of its existence on German TV, including the likes of Ulike Folkerts, Axel Prahl and Jan Josef Lieffers, who play investigators for their cities (Ludwigshafen and Muenster, respectively.)

 

Biggest Bonehead Story We had a lot of candidates for this category, many of whom just could not learn to shorten the height of and/or lighten the weight of the load. The end result: covered bridges losing their tops and other bridges dropping to the ravine with their load on it. Yet only two examples really standout and should serve as a signal to truck drivers to NOT rely solely on GPS and assumptions, but to obey the traffic signs, or face liabiity.

Pollock’s Mill Bridge in Jefferson, Pennsylvania- Spanning Ten Mile Creek near Jefferson, this single span Whipple through truss bridge, built in 1878 by the Massilon Bridge Company in Ohio is one of the last remaining iron bridges in western Pennsylvania. Yet it almost became a hunk of twisted metal after a tanker truck tried crossing the structure, only to fall partially through the decking. To make matters worse, the driver dumped liquid contents into the stream to lighten the load and keep it from collapsing. A double-environmental catastrophe. Yet with two trucks following him, he should have known better than to first drive through the height restricted underpass located just a half mile before the bridge and then try crossing this bridge, right? Leadership prevents stupid things from happening. Fortunately, the bridge will be repaired and nothing was severely adversed in the water. However, as the article stated here, it could have been worse…..

Watford Bridge in North Dakota- Spanning the Little Missouri River at US Hwy. 85, this Warren through truss with V-laced portal bracings has dealt with a lot in the 55 years in service, especially as it is located near the Bakken Oil Fields. This includes oversized vehicles crossing it and damaging the overhead bracing. Sometimes stupidity is best shown on video, and the truck driver probably did not realized how much of an idiot he was for ignoring the height restrictions until watching the amateur video taken by another truck driver and his passenger, who  spiced it up with some commentary (Note- some comments may not be suitable for children under 13.)

 

This sums up my picks for 2014. As you can see, we had some interesting stories, all caught on photos and film in hopes that drivers pay attention to their load when using the bridges. Because even the most modern bridges can only take so much. Take this advice in mind: Less is Always More, regardless of the gas price.  After watching the videos and reading the articles pertaining to the bridge picks, have a look at the winners of the 2014 Ammann Awards coming up in the next article…..

 

Mystery Bridge 44: Fink Truss Bridge in San Antonio

Houston Street Bridge in San Antonio Photo courtesy of Texas Transportation Museum

The Fink Truss: one of the most unusual of truss bridge types ever designed and built.  Invented and patented in 1854 by Albert Fink, the truss design features a combination of Warren and Bollmann trusses, and with the diagonal beams criss-crossing the panels, especially the deck trusses resembled a triangle with many subdivided beams. Many trusses built with this design were in the name of the German bridge engineer, who was born in Lauterbach in Hesse and emigrated to New York after completing his engineering degree in Darmstadt. This included the following Fink deck truss bridges: the Appomatox High Bridge in Virginia– built in 1869 and featured 21 Fink deck truss spans, the Verrugas Viaduct in Peru– named after the virus that inflicted the workers who constructed the highest bridge in Peru with three Fink deck truss spans in 1869, the Lynchburg Bridge in Virginia– built in 1870 and is the last of its kind in the US and one of two known bridges left in the world. The other Fink deck truss remaining is the Puenta Bolivar in Arequipa, Peru, built in 1882 by Gustav Eifel.  Fink trusses were found in through truss designs as well, as was seen with the Hamden (New Jersey) Bridge– built in 1857 and was known to be the oldest metal bridge in the US at the time of its collapse by a car accident in 1978, and the Zoarville Station Bridge at Camp Tuscazoar in Ohio- built in 1868 and is still the remaining truss bridge of its standing in the US.

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Flemington Fink Bridge in New Jersey before its collapse. Source: HABS/HAER

While it is unknown how popular Fink Trusses were during its heyday of construction between 1860 and 1880, one of the through variants was brought to the author’s attention via one of the pontists. This bridge was located over the river in San Antonio, Texas at Houston Street. Built in 1871, this Fink through truss span, similar to the Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio in its appearance, replaced a wooden bridge built in the 1850s but was washed away by flooding six years earlier. Sources have indicated that the iron span was imported from as far away as St. Louis. Yet as the first bridge building companies were not established before 1890, according to Darnell Plus, one has to assume that the span originated from places further eastward, perhaps in Ohio or Maryland, were the Zoarville Station Bridge was built by the likes of Smith, Latrop and Company of Baltimore. But there is no current to support claims of the span’s origin. It was from the eastern part of the US, where the iron bridge parts were transported by train to St. Louis and then to Indianola, Texas- most likely by ship as the town was situated on the Gulf of Mexico. From there, it was transported by horse and wagon for more than 150 miles northwest to San Antonio. With fourteen of the largest wagons in the area hauling bridge parts that were forty feet long and weighing tens of tons, this effort of transporting the bridge for over 100 miles to its destination was one of the largest feats ever accomplished in Texas.

Oblique and close-up view of the Lynchburg Bridge. Photo taken by Royce and Bobette Haley in 2017

The mastermind behind this task was freighter and pioneer, August Santleben. Born on 28 February, 1845 in Hannover, Germany, he and his family emigrated to Medina County, Texas when he was four months old and settled at Castro’s Corner, along the Medina River near Castroville. His life began from there, where he became the youngest mailman at the age of 14, running a carrier route between Castroville and Bandera, and became involved in the Civil War on the side of the Union. Yet his biggest success was a freighter and stage coach driver, establishing routes between Texas and Mexico, including the first ever line between San Antonio and Monterrey established in 1867. The service later included destinations of Satillo and Chihuahua, the latter of which was the basis for establishing the Chihuahua Trail several years later. After 10+ years in the business of freighter, Santleben and his family (his wife Mary and his nine children (two were adopted) moved to San Antonio, where he ran a transfer company and later became a politician, serving the city for several year. Before his death on 18 September, 1911, Santleben had written his memoir about his life and successes entitled A Texas Pioneer, published in 1910, and still widely known as one of the best of its genres of that time. The book has been published most recently, according to the Texas Transportation Museum, but can be view online, by clicking here.

In his memoir, Santleben described the hauling  of the Houston Street Bridge from Indianola to San Antonio, citing that the iron bridge was the first of its kind in Texas, when the mayor ordered the truss bridge from an undisclosed bridge company, and one that garnered public attention for quite some time because of its aesthetic appearance. Gustav Schleicher oversaw the construction of the bridge in 1871. He later became a member of the US Congress, representing his district. According to Santleben, the bridge, which was a considered a novelty because of its unique appearance, served traffic for 20 years before it was relocated to the site known as “Passo de los Trejas” at Grand Avenue near the Lonestar Brewery. According to the museum, the bridge continued to serve traffic at Grand Avenue for over 40 years. It is unknown what happened to the iron structure afterwards, for no further information on the bridge has been found to date. Yet, as Santleben had mentioned in his memoir, the bridge was the forerunner to numerous iron structures that populated the streets of San Antonio shortly after its erection at the Houston Street site, replacing the wooden structures that were considered unsafe because of their short life spans.

While the Houston Street Bridge became the first iron bridge crossing to span the river at San Antonio, let alone the first iron bridge to be constructed in Texas, it is unknown whether the bridge was brand new, or if it was a used structure, having been constructed somewhere in the eastern half of the country before it was dismantled and transported out west. What is definitely excluded from the equation is the fact that the span came from the three-span crossing at Camp Dover, Ohio, where the Zoarville Station Bridge originated from. That bridge remained in service until 1905, when it was replaced by a newer structure made of steel, with one of the iron spans being relocated to its present location at Camp Tuscazoar. What could be mentioned though is that the Houston Street Bridge may have been fabricated by Smith and Latrop, which had built the Zoarville Station Bridge two years before. This is because of the portal bracing that is similar to the one at Camp Tuscazoar. It was then transported by train and ship to Indianola, where Santleben led the caravan to haul the bridge parts to San Antonio, where Schleicher oversaw the efforts in building it at Houston Street.  While Santleben stated in his memoir that there was no reason for the iron bridge (which had been relocated from Houston Street to the location at Grand Avenue) to not be there for another hundred years, it is unknown when exactly and whether the iron bridge was relocated, or  if it was scrapped. Therefore it is important to find out how long the iron bridge was in service at both locations in San Antonio before it was dismantled.

To summarize the questions regarding the bridge, we need to know the following:

  1. Was the bridge fabricated before being transported to Texas, or was the truss span a used one, which had originated from somewhere out East?
  2. Was it Smith and Latrop that fabricated the truss bridge?
  3. How was the bridge transported to Texas?
  4. How long was the bridge in service at both Houston Street and Grand Avenue? Who was responsible for the relocation of the bridge from Houston Street to Grand Avenue?
  5. What happened to the bridge after its 40+ year service at Grand Avenue?

 

Three channels are open for you to help contribute to the information. You can post your comments either on this page or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. There is also the contact information through Hugh Hemphill at the Texas Transportation Museum, using the contact form enclosed here. And lastly there’s Jason Smith at the Chronicles, whose contact information can be found here.

Texas takes pride in its history- in particular, with historic bridges as they tie in with the local history, as seen here with the Houston Street Bridge. Yet each bridge has its missing pieces to fill- some big, some small. It is up to the reader (us) to provide these missing pieces and make the communities, like San Antonio proud of its heritage.

Interesting note to close: Located on Matagorda Bay near the Gulf of Mexico in Calhoun County, Indianola was founded in 1844 by Sam Addison White and William M. Cook. It was once the county seat of Calhoun County and at its peak, had over 5,000 inhabitants. It was the easternmost terminus of the Chihuahua Trail. Yet the town was devastated by two powerful hurricanes- one in 1875 and another in 1886. The latter, combined with a massive fire, obliterated the entire town, resulting in its abandonment. The county seat was moved inland to Port Lavaca. Today a marker is located at the site where it once existed. More information can be found here.

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Padlocked Bridges: The Incident at Pont des Arts in Paris and the issue of padlocks on bridges

Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris. Photos taken in 1999

Lovelocks. Love locks the two together for eternity to come. And how to provide that but to attach a lock on a historic bridge and throw the key away into the river. The origin of lovelocks was from Serbia, where a school misstress fell in love with a World War I soldier and met often at the Most Liubavi in the Serbian town of Vrnjacka Banja. However, the couple broke up after he went off to war and the woman died a broken heart. In response, locals showed their solidifying love by putting their padlocks on the Most Liubavi and it became part of a work by Serbian poet and writer,  Desanka Maksimovi?. The bridge of love, where lovelocks are attached to bridge railings and other parts, later spread to other bridges in Europe, and today, lovelocks can be found in the hundreds of thousands on popular bridges, such as the  Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and even the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne.

Love locks on the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne, Germany

Yet these lovelocks are starting to pose a major problem, as can be seen with the latest incident with the Pont des Arts Bridge, spanning the Sienne River in Paris. According to reports by the BBC, parts of the parapet of the 1804 iron deck arch bridge collapsed on Sunday because of the weight of these love padlocks. This has raised a debate on whether the padlocks should be removed in its entirety due to concerns of the historic integrity and aesthetics of the bridge being compromised, as well as the hazard that is being imposed on boat traffic passing underneath the bridge. The Pont des Arts is one of three of the dozens of Parisian bridges that are laden with padlocks. The other two are the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor and the Pont de l’Archevêché. Consideration is being taken to remove the padlocks in its entirety, as it has been done to several bridges in Europe and North America that have been the magnet for these lovelocks, such as the Humber Bridge in Toronto, as well as the aforementioned bridges in Dublin and Florence. Yet if any action is taken, it will run into stiff opposition by those wishing to keep the tradition alive, as this was seen by action taken with the Kettenbrücke in Bamberg and the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne last year. At both places, protests forced the proprietors of the two bridges (the City of Bamberg and the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn)) to retract their decision to remove the locks.

Close-up of the arches, the parapet and the lamppost.

While lovelocks are a symbol of eternal love and the tradition should be alive. The question is why choose certain bridges, such as the Ponts des Arts in Paris. Upon my visit in 1999, before the bridge became a magnet for this sensational ritual, the bridge was clean of all its padlocks, including the parapets and the lampposts dating back to the 1800s, when the bridge was not affected by the years of conflict it would sustain through the French wars with Germany lasting up until the end of World War II. It was restored in 1984 after parts of the span collapsed in the 1970s and was the hub for artwork, mainly from the students of the school of art École des Beaux-Arts. This included a series on cowboys and indians from the American wild west, which was on display during my visit:

 

 

And while art exhibits have changed from time to time on the bridge, nobody has expected the lovelocks to decorate the bridge, making it look colorful and more beautiful on the one hand, but ugly and one that can ruin the structural beauty of the bridge. But then again, love does have its good and bad sides as well, and conflicts can be solved through compromise, which will need to be made before too many lovelocks do indeed cause damage to historic bridges, causing damage and costing more money to repair and restore them than necessary.

It does not mean that lovelocks should not be allowed on the bridges and other places of interest. It should be encouraged, however in moderation. This means that only a limited amount of lovelocks should be allowed on a bridge or at or near a place of interest to ensure that the aesthetic and structural integrity are not harmed in anyway. This means that there are more places to show your love with lovelocks than just this one particular place, as long as it is allowed.

After this incident at the Pont des Arts, questions will arise as to what will become of the lovelocks on that bridge as well as the other two in question. Yet as lovers have done when being in love, when there is a will, there is a way to show the love and keep the tradition alive; if not at this bridge, then another one.

Question:

Apart from the aforementioned bridges in this article, which other bridges in the US, Europe and other places have this lovelock tradition? And if there is a bridge where you would love to see lovelocks on there, apart from the Lover’s Leap Bridge in Columbus Junction, Iowa and New Milford, Connecticut, which ones would you place your lovelock on and why?  Put your comments here as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook pages.