Mystery Bridge Nr. 85: A Covered Bridge with a Thatched Roof

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Thatching is a different but efficient concept for roofing a house. Houses with thatched roofs have a Roof that is built using dry vegetation, such as straw, sedge, heather, water reed, palm fronds and/or rushes and with that, each side of the house has a roof that slants downwards towards the outer edge. Thatched Roofs have a dual function where it allows water to flow off the outer roof, keeping the inner roof dry (and thus preventing rotting and molding of the wood), but at the same time, it acts as an insulator, keeping the warm air inside during the winter and outside during the summer months. Houses with thatches roofs can be found in Areas with tropical climates, but also those with a continental climate, such as the northern parts Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Great Britain.

While architects find creative ways to building houses with thatched roofs, it is also no surprise that one can find covered bridges with thatched roofs. One just has to stumble across something like this one, located just south of St. Peter-Ording in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

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Located on a trail that separates the clinic and the Westküsten Park and Robbarium, this bridge Looks like a typical small crossing that spans a canal that transfers water from the North Sea to the fields to prevent flooding during high tides and severe storms but also to provide water to the farm lands nearby. The bridge is only seven to eight meters long, but the width is about 40 centimeters wider, especially if you count the overhead portion.  In bridge terminology, the bridge is a through truss using the Kingpost design. The entire structure is made of wood.

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Close-up of the A-framed Kingpost truss design.

Yet looking at it further, it definitely has the thatched roof appearance, as two different layers are added to the roof to make it unusual. The top layer has either sedge or rush roofing, whereas the bottom layer has the typical reed roofing, one sees with houses in Schleswig-Holstein and neighboring Mecklenburg-Pommerania. This type of construction makes the bridge very unusual for a covered bridge, but it does lead to the question of whether this is the only bridge of ist kind in the region, Germany or even Europe, or if there are similar bridges of ist kind out there. and if so, where.

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Close-up of the thatched roofing: The reed is the bottom layer; the sedge or rush is the top layer.

While the roof has the function of protecting the remaining elements from rotting or molding caused by moisture from rains, the structure itself is no older than 20 years old, for even though there is moss on some of the wooden beams, the bridge and its trusses look relatively new. Therefore, it is estimated that the bridge was built between 1995 and 2005, if not later. It is the question of who built it and why the engineer decided for this unique design.

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If you know more about this bridge, please send the author an e-mail with some information about it. This will be useful for the upcoming book project on the bridges of Schleswig-Holstein. What is just as important (or even more) than this bridge is the following:

How many covered bridges have a thatched roof similar to this one? And where are they located?

 

A discussion Forum has been established on facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram so that you can comment on this. Photos and info for the other bridges would be much appreciated.  🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 85: A Covered Bridge With a Thatched Roof

IMGP7464

Thatching is a different but efficient concept for roofing a house. Houses with thatched roofs have a Roof that is built using dry vegetation, such as straw, sedge, heather, water reed, palm fronds and/or rushes and with that, each side of the house has a roof that slants downwards towards the outer edge. Thatched Roofs have a dual function where it allows water to flow off the outer roof, keeping the inner roof dry (and thus preventing rotting and molding of the wood), but at the same time, it acts as an insulator, keeping the warm air inside during the winter and outside during the summer months. Houses with thatches roofs can be found in Areas with tropical climates, but also those with a continental climate, such as the northern parts Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Great Britain.

While architects find creative ways to building houses with thatched roofs, it is also no surprise that one can find covered bridges with thatched roofs. One just has to stumble across something like this one, located just south of St. Peter-Ording in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

IMGP7460

Located on a trail that separates the clinic and the Westküsten Park and Robbarium, this bridge Looks like a typical small crossing that spans a canal that transfers water from the North Sea to the fields to prevent flooding during high tides and severe storms but also to provide water to the farm lands nearby. The bridge is only seven to eight meters long, but the width is about 40 centimeters wider, especially if you count the overhead portion.  In bridge terminology, the bridge is a through truss using the Kingpost design. The entire structure is made of wood.

IMGP7466
Close-up of the A-framed Kingpost truss design.

Yet looking at it further, it definitely has the thatched roof appearance, as two different layers are added to the roof to make it unusual. The top layer has either sedge or rush roofing, whereas the bottom layer has the typical reed roofing, one sees with houses in Schleswig-Holstein and neighboring Mecklenburg-Pommerania. This type of construction makes the bridge very unusual for a covered bridge, but it does lead to the question of whether this is the only bridge of ist kind in the region, Germany or even Europe, or if there are similar bridges of ist kind out there. and if so, where.

IMGP7463
Close-up of the thatched roofing: The reed is the bottom layer; the sedge or rush is the top layer.

While the roof has the function of protecting the remaining elements from rotting or molding caused by moisture from rains, the structure itself is no older than 20 years old, for even though there is moss on some of the wooden beams, the bridge and its trusses look relatively new. Therefore, it is estimated that the bridge was built between 1995 and 2005, if not later. It is the question of who built it and why the engineer decided for this unique design.

IMGP7464

If you know more about this bridge, please send the author an e-mail with some information about it. This will be useful for the upcoming book project on the bridges of Schleswig-Holstein. What is just as important (or even more) than this bridge is the following:

How many covered bridges have a thatched roof similar to this one? And where are they located?

 

A discussion Forum has been established on facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram so that you can comment on this. Photos and info for the other bridges would be much appreciated.  🙂   A short history on thatching you can find here. It might give you some ideas on how to roof your home. 😉

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Mary Ruffner Covered Bridge Is Coming Home

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Mary Ruffner Covered Bridge at its current location in Perry County.   Photo courtesy of Fairfield County Historical Parks

1875 covered bridge returning home to Fairfield County after residing in Perry County for over three decades.

 

LANCASTER/ THORNVILLE (OHIO)-  When driving along Ohio Highway 13 in the direction of Thornville, one will not miss a unique covered bridge located off to the side of the highway, spanning a small lake. The bridge partially covered, revealing the skeletal truss design along the top half. With the exception of a metal roof and concrete abutments, the entire structure is made of wood. The bridge has been serving a narrow path to a farmstead for 30 years, crossing a small lake. The bridge is no longer in use today and the only way to access the structure is by foot through the weed-covered pathway, which used to be a driveway.

The farmstead used to be owned by Carroll Moore, who bought the bridge in 1986 and relocated it to its current location for private use. Now owned by George Censky, he offered Fairfield County the covered bridge for its journal home to its new site.

After two years of planning, the wish to return home will be realized come this fall. But why Fairfield County instead of Perry County, where the bridge is located?  Easy question to answer: because the covered bridge originated from there.

 

Built in 1875, the covered bridge was originally constructed over Little Rush Creek on Gun Barrell Road, three miles north-northeast of Rushville. The covered bridge is 83 feet long, has a width of 13.5 feet and a height of 11.5 feet. The covered bridge is a Smith truss, a design that features interwoven diagonal beams but a cross between a Town Lattice and a Howe Lattice (whose X or Rhombus feature is found in per one panel).

The bridge was named after Mary Ann Ruffner, who emigrated with her family to Fairfield County, but whose life was very short and tragic. She was born on 26 May 1802 to Emanuel and Magdalene Ruffner but emigrated to the area at the age of three, carried by her mother on horseback. She married William Hill, son of George and Elizabeth Hill on 30 November, 1823, and later bore their only son, John, on 24 March, 1828. Unfortunately, under unusual circumstances, Mary Ann died six months later on 26 September, 1828. Her faith was Methodist and was therefore buried in a Protestant cemetary.

 

The bridge was deemed functionally obsolete because of the size of traffic crossing the bridge and was therefore put up for sale in 1986. Caroll Moore bought the structure with the intent to relocate it to Perry County, to be erected over a small lake on his farmstead near Thornville, which was completed later that year. Like in the upcoming project, the bridge was disassembled, hauled by trucks to its new home and then reassembled on new abutments. Although a necessity for reasons of cost, that option presents some concern for both Censky and Lancaster Parks Director Dave Fey because of the age of the structure and possible need to refurbish some of the parts already considered too worn for another move. Relocating the covered bridge in tact was ruled out because of prohibitive costs, plus the need to take down utility lines enroute.

Nevertheless, the Mary Ruffner Bridge is coming home but not to its original location. According to Fey, the plan is to erect the covered bridge at its new site in Landcaster: along the Sensory Trail, which is part of the Greater Landcaster Heritage Trail Network, which contains a series of bike and pedestrian trails that go through and around the city and surrounding areas (a link to the site where you can find the trails can be found here). Specifically, the bridge will be built near the Forest Rose School, a special school for students with developmental disabilities, even though the crossing will be open to everyone to enjoy.

 

Fairfield County was once home to over 200 covered bridges. After relocating the Mary Ruffner back home again, there will be 20 covered bridges still in service. For locals with a fond memory of the bridge on Gun Barrel Road, it will be a reunion with an old friend with a long history. For the new generation, it is a chance to learn about historic covered bridges and how they played a role in the development of roads in Fairfield County. For the families of Mary Ann Ruffner, a piece of their family heritage is coming home to stay.

And for Mary Ann Ruffner herself, knowing that her bridge will be moved home this fall, she’s already informed her Mama that she is coming home, and is working to have Ozzy Osbourne play for her bridge at its newly dedicated site, once open next year.  😉

 

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Röhrensteg to Be Rehabilitated

 

 

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Photo taken in Sept. 2016

500-year old covered bridge will receive a much-needed, total makeover next year.

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ZWICKAU, GERMANY- It is one of two prized structures spanning the Mulde River that deserves international recognition. However, it is not only the oldest bridge in Zwickau, but the only known bridge of its kind on the globe. The Röhrensteg was built in 1535 and rebuilt to its current form in 1790 after sustaining damage in a flood. The bridge is the only structure in the world that carries two different truss designs- a Queenpost on one side, and a subdivided Warren on the other. It has two different portal bracings: the A-frame on the city end, and an X-frame on the end going to Reinsdorf. The endposts are unlike any covered bridge known to people Europe or North America.  The covered bridge is the only one of its kind that carried water across the river into the city, via wooden pipes coming from a reservoir in Reinsdorf, 4 kilometers east of Zwickau.

The bridge has survived the test of time, including wars, weather extremities (including flooding) and the increase of traffic with bikes and pedestrians. And the age has shown on this structure, as shingles are missing on the bridge’s hip roofing, wood siding is becoming dilapidated, the flooding deteriorating, and some truss beams are deteriorating because of the growth of moss and development of cracks.

Yet because of its unusual design and historic significance, the City of Zwickau, together with an engineering firm in Chemnitz, are working together to restore the bridge. According to the Chemnitz Free Press, the list of what to do with the historic bridge is long: new roofing is needed, along with the siding; new beams and flooring are a must; the strengthening of the structure itself so it can last another couple of centuries is unavoidable, and lastly, the restoration must be done in-kind. That means, restoration must be kept in a way of its original form, using acorn planks.  The cost for the project, according to the city council is an estimated 400,000 Euros (ca. $510,000). However, the project has been approved because of the bridge’s association with Zwickau’s history and heritage, in addition to the wishes of the residents to keep this bridge. The lone catch behind this in funding. According to Thomas Pühn, director of the City Planners Office in Zwickau, the city is applying for state funding to cover the costs for the project. If approved by the state legislature in Dresden, the city will only have to cover 10% of the cost, with 90% coming from the state. The decision lies with the State Department of Transportation and Infrastructure in Saxony (German: Landesamt für Straßenbau und Verkehr).

When all is a go, construction can proceed next year, yet it is unclear how long the restoration will last. In either case, the city and people associated with the bridge are doing everything possible to make sure this bridge will continue to serve traffic while reminding others of its significant role with the history of Zwickau and Saxony’s infrastructure.

The author visited this bridge as part of the tour of the bridges in Zwickau in September 2016. Many more photos and film of the bridge can be found here.  You can also see some other historic bridges in Zwickau that will motivate you into visiting Germany and its historic bridges. 🙂

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the lastest on the project Röhrensteg. The bridge has already been nominated for the 2016 Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge and Bridge of the Year. Whether or not it wins  depends on the voting when it commences in December.  Together with neighboring Glauchau and a couple other cities in Saxony, Zwickau is also nominated for the Tour Guide Award.

The Bridges of Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

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Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau. Photos taken in September 2016

Under a pile of rubble, there is always a jewel, no matter who or what it is or where it came from. Located 16 kilometers south of Glauchau, along the Mulde River, the city of Zwickau may look like an ordinary community, whose architecture mostly comes from the Cold War. This includes high-rise buildings, mining facilities, old factories and even bridges built using scarce materials possible but only lasting 40 years. In fact, a newspaper report from a local newspaper in Chemnitz revealed as many as 37 bridges in the district of 480,000 inhabitants (of which the city itself has 104,000 residents) that are in dire need of repair or replacement. Most of them had exceeded their expected lifespan by 20 years and are hanging by a thread because of imposed weight limits designed to keep trucks, tractors and busses off of them.

But underneath the doom and gloom of a bygone era, there are some jewels to find. Zwickau prides itself on the automobile industry, where the beloved Trabant automobile was built- now the company belongs to Volkswagen. Audi was founded in this community in 1904. The world’s first known and popular automobile racing union was created five years later.  It also has an international school (Saxony International in Reinsdorf) and a college of science and technology (Westsächsisch Hochschule), making the city a multicultural university town. It has a bridge building firm that has existed since 1854 and still has its base in the city.

And when there is a bridge builder in the community, there will always be bridges, especially given its proximity to the river!

The town was first mentioned in 1118 when the Slavs settled there, yet a half dozen bridges, mostly covered wooden ones were built to connect it with other villages by the 1500s. By the late 1800s, more than 40 bridges crossed the Mulde or surrounded the old town center. Today, if one subtracts the crossings carrying pipelines, only a quarter of the bridges exist in Zwickau, all are along the Mulde. And of these 10 known crossings, counting the Zellstoff Bridge, four of them are over 70 years old. Two of them however have received national accolades because of their unusual designs. They include the Paradiesbrücke- the only known bridge in Germany and the western hemisphere that has the cantilever pony truss design- and the 500-year old Röhrensteg- the only known covered bridge with multiple designs and functions, plus the oldest in Saxony. Both of these centerpieces will be profiled together with nine other structures that will include a couple near Wilkau-Hasslau(to the south) and a couple near Schlunzig (to the north). All of them were built before 1990, but they will present not only the historical aspects of the bridges, but also address the issues involving their ability to carry traffic. A gallery of pictures are enclosed for each bridge I stopped at during the tour in September.

Picking up where I left off in Glauchau, we’ll start the tour going upriver and through the prized automobile and infrastructural community, starting off with our first bridge:

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Present-day Schlunzig Bridge with its replacement to the right. Photo taken in May 2018

Schlunzig Bridge:
Built in 1954 replacing a wooden bridge destroyed in a flood, the Schlunzig Bridge may be a typical bland concrete beam bridge with little or no value, even if the structure is equipped with the ever so quickly disappearing set of street lighting from the bygone era. Yet its significance resembles two sides of a coin. On the one side, it is a typical East German Bridge, constructed using scarce materials that were prescribed by the Communist government- similar to the Wave at Wernersdorf (for more, see the tour guide on Glauchau’s bridges). Even the lighting originated from that era, which was considered too industrial for the region that is mostly oriented towards agriculture and nature. On the flip side, the bridge is a poster boy for the structural woes the region (and much of Germany) has been dealing with: a run-down structure that is unable to withstand increasing traffic or even weather extremities. The good news though is the district of Zwickau has approved the design and financial support for a new bridge. When the 50 meter long, Mulde crossing is replaced in 2018, in its place will be a more attractive bridge type that will awe even the bikers using the bridge to continue on the Mulde Bike Trail: the cable-stayed span! It will be interesting to see what it will look like when the bridge is back in service by 2020.

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Schneppendorf Bridge:
Three kilometers to the south, near Crossen, we have this bridge. The Schneppendorf Bridge features a three-span closed spandrel concrete arch bridge with a total length of 80 meters. Like the Schlunzig Bridge, this one stems from the East German days with typical lighting and railing. It also fits the stereotype of bridges that despite being between 65 and 90 years old (as I estimated its age during my visit), it is in need of repairs because of wear and tear, combined with structural neglect. The bridge has weight restrictions, still it serves as a backdrop to the scenery one can enjoy at a park and rest area located just to the south of the structure. As a bonus, especially for photographers, the bridge and another one just 100 meters to the north- a through truss bridge carrying pipelines across the river- both have a nice background with wooded hills and old-fashioned houses. That bridge had a 45° skewed portal bracing, similar to the next bridge located to the south of the arch bridge. Sadly though, this bridge was removed in 2017 after it was revealed that the structure was rendered useless and a hazard for boaters along the Mulde.

Fast Fact: The bridge was in fact built in 1959 replacing an earlier span that had been built 21 years earlier but was destroyed in the war. Ironically, the 1938 span replaced an iron truss span that was built in 1878, replacing a wooden covered bridge from 1547. No pictures, postcards and drawings exist at this time, but if you have any that you wish to add please contact the Chronicles.

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Zellstoff Bridge:
Entering Zwickau’s city limits, we have the Zellstoff Bridge on the left. Spanning the Mulde River, this bridge features one of the most unusual through truss spans in the region. It’s span consists of a Warren through truss with riveted connections. The portal bracings are skewed at a 45° angle and feature a V-laced form (outer portal) and an I-beam form with heel bracings (inner portal). The struts and vertical beams are both V-laced, as well with the diagonal beams being H-framed. The approach spans feature five spans of a concrete cantilever design. A gallery below will give you a description of what the bridge looks like. Also interesting is a narrow chimney at the left side of the west portal. This may be part of a mechanism that harnessed or even supported electricity, especially as many electrical lines went over this bridge. The bridge served a rail line connecting an automobile factory and possibly an area where mining had existed and therefore, played a key role in Zwickau’s industrial history. But more research on the mining area in Zwickau and in particular, the mini-chimney is needed to help uncover the secrets to the bridge and its surrounding area. The bridge was abandoned after 1990 and there was a plan to remove the structure shortly afterwards. However, thanks to opposition to the plan by residents and preservationists, the decision was scrapped in 2007, and today, the bridge serves as a bike trail between the city and the area where mining had existed. The overgrowth has dominated the bridge and the trail going east, but people can still use them to see what the mining area had looked like before the Fall of the Wall. Despite its age, many people still love this bridge, especially as I met some people while filming it, who all said this one word: “Historique.” That I’m not in a position to disagree with you on. The interest in the Zellstoff Bridge contributed to the City of Zwickau’s successful project in renewing the bridge flooring in early 2018. Since that time, more and more people are using the bridge and even getting some good shots with the camera. A blessing for bridge preservationists, historians and locals alike. 🙂

Here’s a Youtube video on this bridge:

Note: If you know more about this bridge in terms of its history and historic significance to the region, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles. The information will be added to the tour guide.

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Eckersbach Bridge:
Located at Thurmstrasse in the suburb of Pölbitz, this two-span structure features a concrete deck cantilever design. The bridge is one of the heavily travelled bridges in Zwickau for the crossing provides traffic in and around Zwickau as well as points to the west and north. The current structure was built in 1955 replacing a wooden structure that was built in 1898 but was destroyed during the flooding of 1954/55.  Given its age and its wear and tear because of weather extremities and congestion, the bridge has seen better days, and it appears that in the coming years with the increase in traffic replacement may have to be considered. Although the bridge has carried the name Eckersbach since 1990, it had been named under socialist circumstances, having first been named Socialist Bridge when the wooden structure had been first opened to traffic and then later named after Ethel and Julius Rosenberg when the 1955 structure opened.
Only 150 meters north of the bridge is a pipeline bridge, built using steel plate girders. Built in the 1980s, the bridge carried hot water to Zwickau from sources to the east of the city. Abandoned for a decade, the bridge was removed recently not only for liability reasons, but the residents nearby did not want to see an eyesore obstructing the view of the Mulde River valley.

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Maritius Bridge:

The Maritius Bridge is the first of two Mulde River bridges in Zwickau that carry the major highway B93 going south. The steel structure Features two bridges: One built in 1992 to accomodate street car service going south and a parallel one built in 1994 to accomodate vehicular traffic. Both structures replaced an iron crossing built in 1861 but was closed down to all traffic in the 1970s because of structural deficiencies. This resulted in a complicated detour through other parts of Zwickau where massive traffic had not been seen on residential streets.  Because of lack of funding due to the economic conditions in East Germany during that time, reconstruction was only possible after the two Germanys were reunited. Ironically, the iron bridge was built two years after the local brewery bearing the bridge’s name was founded. Before 1994 it had been named the Beer Bridge (Bierbrücke). Before the iron Bridge, there had been records of wooden crossings at this site but they were short-lived due to ice jams destroying the structure only a few months after they had been built. Today’s Maritius Bridge is the gateway to Zwickau from neighboring Glauchau and points to the north along the expressway B93  connecting it with Leipzig.

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Paradise Bridge (Paradiesbrücke):
Germany was once known as a place filled with ornamental bridges built using unusual designs. Despite 90% of them being destroyed during the Third Reich and through the bombings in World War II, there are still some diamonds in the field that if found are worth researching and given its rightful honor. The Paradise Bridge, located at Nicolai and Reinsdorfer Strassen near the Nicolaischule is one of those bridges that deserves international accolades, as well as its neighbor upstream, the Röhrensteg. Here are some interesting facts worth noting about this bridge:
1. The bridge was the first one of its kind that features a cantilever pony truss design. Furthermore, it was the only known cantilever truss bridge whose trusses are supported by only one tower. Before the completion of the new Küblers Bridge in Lunzernau, located 45 kilometers downstream, in 2017, none of the bridges known in the western hemisphere had had that unique design.

2. The bridge was built in 1900 by a bridge-building firm Beuchelt & Company in Grünberg in Schlesia (now part of Poland), replacing a covered bridge, which was one of over 30 that were built in Zwickau. The predecessor was built in 1694 by Johann Georg Findeisen from Schellenberg at a cost of 200 Taler. The covered bridge was one of the fanciest of the dozen built in Zwickau and it had come in response to multiple previous crossings that had been built but had survived briefly as they had been destroyed by ice jams, flooding and war. The Findeisen span was in service for 306 years before it was decomissioned and dismantled in favor of the cantilever bridge, whose bridge builder was Bundel and Co. from Grünberg in the former German state of Schlesia (which is now part of Poland. )

3. The bridge is located near the site where a former mine and bridge building company used to be located. A memorial site with a miner resting with a beer in the hand can be seen 100 meters northeast of the city side of the entrance.

4. When the bridge was renovated in 2003, the towers were crowned with finials resembling the Matthäus Kirche (St. Matthew’s Church) which was located 400 meters east of the entrance. Additional decorations on the trusses and ornamental lamps were also added making the bridge more attractive to tourists and passers-by.

5. The structure itself is 120 meters long, its tower is in the middle of the Mulde River. The width is 15 meters, counting the trusses. Since its renovation in 2003, the bridge has been serving cyclist and pedestrian traffic, carrying a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s City Centre with Reinsdorf, located four kilometers to the east. Its replacement structure is found 200 meters west of the bridge at Dr. Friedrichs Ring (Hwy. 173). That bridge, known as the Adolf Hennecke Bridge and later from 1990 onwards as the Glück-Auf-Brücke, was built in 1979 and connects Zwickau with Chemnitz to the southeast.

Any more reasons for listing this bridge on the UNESCO site in comparison with the nays? Check out this youtube video on this bridge:

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Pöhlau Railroad Bridge:
Located near the site of the International Trabant Museum, this bridge appears to be one of the newer truss bridges built no earlier than 25 years ago. While its light brown color makes it look rusty in appearance, its “molded” connections is typical for today’s truss bridges. The Warren through truss bridge with beam portals and Lattice truss overhead bracings used to serve a rail line connecting Pöhlau and Zwickau Central Station. The bridge and the line are now abandoned. Given its age and modern appearance, chances are this bridge will be reused at some point- either as a crossing for cyclists in its place, a street car crossing going south or a railroad crossing at a new location. Time will tell what the City of Zwickau will do with this structure.

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Röhrensteg:
Like the Paradiesbrücke, the Röhrensteg (translated as the Bridge of Pipes) is another key attraction for Zwickau which should receive international recognition for its design and function. The bridge’s history dates back over 500 years to 1535, when the bridge was first built. At that time, the people in Zwickau needed water for their personal and commercial use. Because the water of the Mulde was dirty and not drinkable, the only source of clean drinking water to be found was at a pond near Reinsdorf- three kilometers away from the bridge. Henceforth, workers created man-powered pumping stations and pipelines made of hard wood from oak trees. The trees were cut down, and after stripping the bark and outer layers, a hole with a diameter of 30 centemeters was dug out by hand, but not before having cut the wood into sections and then connecting them once the hole was “drilled.” The wooden pipeline then transported water down the hill and across this bridge before being distributed throughout the city. A section of this wooden pipeline can still be seen on the bridge, where the overhead beams are still supporting it, providing proof that this practice once existed. A total of at least 17 wooden pipelines had been built for the city of Zwickau to provide drinking water for the community, four fountains where the wooden pipes were connected dating back to the 1700s have been preserved as exhibits at the city center to show this unique engineering feat. This pipeline system was later replaced with more modern systems in the early 20th century, but the bridge itself has withstood the test of time and mother nature. Despite having had substantial damage during the flood of 1790, the Röhrensteg was rebuilt and has retained its original form ever since. The bridge has survived numerous floods and other natural disasters, even after new pier casings were installed in 1940 as part of the project to dredge the Mulde River.
In terms of its structure, the Röhrensteg is the only truss bridge (wooden or metal) to have two different designs and two different portals. The bridge features a three-span Queenpost truss design on the western side and a subdivided Warren truss on the eastern side. A-frame portal bracing is found on the city side, X-frame lattice with heel bracings on the Reinsdorf side. Endposts with 45° angles can be found at each portal; together with the wooden siding lining up between the bridge and the abutment, this makes the Röhrensteg one of the most unusual covered bridges to have ever been built. Roofing is of hip style with an angle of 45°, which is similar to the covered bridges found in Switzerland. The bridge serves a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s southern part and Reinsdorf via Oberhohnsdorf, serving as a spur to the Mulde Bike trail that careens along the river.
Despite its unusual design and multi-functionality, the bridge is showing its age, and therefore is scheduled to be rehabilitated beginning in 2017. Despite having new approach spans on the Reinsdorf side and the pier casing, no extensive work has been done on the bridge. That will change, and in the end , the bridge will become safer for use and more attractive. It is hoped that the structural integrity will remain intact when the work is completed. If that is the case, it will be in the running for several international awards.

More on the work can be found here.

A youtube video on the Röhrensteg takes you across the bridge and to the pipes found in the superstructure itself. Check it out:

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Schedewitz Bridges:
Located in the suburb bearing the bridge’s name, the next two bridges are located only 300 meters from each other, each spanning the Mulde. The older bridge is a two-span Warren deck truss without verticals but with stone arch approach spans. Built in 1894, this bridge may have replaced the arch bridge that had existed prior to that, but was destroyed by flooding. Records had a bridge built here in 1842 replacing a covered bridge built in the 1600s. Closed to traffic since the opening of its successor in 1958, this bridge still exists in its original form- with a cobble-stone deck, typical East German railings and street lighting and despite the rust on the trusses, no renovations have been done, and the bridge is sparsely used by cyclists and pedestrians alike. Chances are, assuming there is no severe flooding that could undermine the 100 meter structure (with two 30 meter truss spans), there will be no plans of rehabilitating the structure, let alone tear it down.

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Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge:  Five kilometers further upstream and biking past the Cainsdorf Bridge is the pedestrian bridge at Wiklau-Hasslau, the southernmost suburb of Zwickau. There, one will find a rather unique pedestrian bridge. Built in 2004, the bridge features a pen-like tower, with cables supporting the roadway and the tower itself. The roadway has a curve, allowing cyclist from the east side and Schneeberg to enter as a ramp, as it curves to the right towards the west end. The 145 meter long pedestrian bridge crosses the Mulde River and a pair of railroad tracks that provide train service between Zwickau and Aue to the south. The valley’s hilly and wooded scenery is what the Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge has to offer- along with a short break at a modernized city center, which has a weekly market- before biking on to some more bridges. The tower has a height of 32.2 meters, making it the tallest bridge in Zwickau. Yet to the south of the bridge is an even taller bridge carrying the Motorway A 72. Built in 1995, that bridge spans the deepest of the Mulde River valley in Zwickau, but is the second longest bridges along the stretch between Hof (Bavaria) and Chemnitz.

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Kirchberg (Mulde) Bridge:

To the north of the pedestrian bridge is the Kirchberg Bridge,  perhaps the longest of the “at-level” river crossings over the Zwickau Mulde in the greater Zwickau area. When looking at the bridge from the pedestrian bridge, one could guess that the stone arch bridge, built using sandstone, had three arches. Yet when walking along the streets of Wilkau-Hasslau to get a better, closer look at the bridge, one can see the number of spans being more than double. In fact, eight spans glide over the river and the flood bed with a total length of between 300 and 400 meters. Records reveal that the Luten arch structure was built in 1867 but it appears to have been widened in the early 1990s to better accomodate traffic between the joint community (which was established in 1934) and Kirchberg, located five kilometers to the southwest. This bridge has shown its age as cracks are appearing in the stone arches. Despite emergency repairs in 2018, a full-blown rehabilitation project to prolong the crossing will most likely occur sometime in 2020. When this happens, most likely the West German style flourescent lighting will disappear in favor of fancier, ornamental lanterns with LED-lighting, which will present a more appropriate flavor for Wilkau-Hasslau.

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Marienthal Viaduct

Approximately 350 meters north of the Central Railway Station is the Marienthal Viaduct- the only bridge in this tour guide that does not span the Zwickau Mulde. Spanning a small but deep creek as well as Werdauer Strasse, the eight-span stone arch bridge is the longest in Zwickau, with a total length of 94 meters. With a height of 14 meters above the ground, it is also the highest. If counting the Motorway 72 Viaduct in Wilkau-Hasslau, it is the second longest in this tour guide. The viaduct is the shortest of the noted viaducts along the Nuremberg-Hof-Dresden Magistrate with the next ones in both directions being at least twice as long. The bridge was built in 1869 as the railroad was being built for Zwickau from the east. It was built using red brick, sandstone and porphyr. The bridge still sees use on a daily basis for as many as 10 trains cross this bridge per hour; most of them passenger train services connecting Zwickau with Glauchau, Chemnitz and Dresden. Albeit a regional service route, it is expected that this route will be connected to the long-distance train in the future, for the Bahn plans to electrify the line south of Hof and in the end have InterCity trains going from Dresden to Munich.

 

A map of the bridges in Zwickau is enclosed in case you would like to visit the bridges yourself.

If you have any more information on Zwickau’s bridges that need to be added, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form below. All information will be added to this guide.

 

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2015 Ammann Awards: The Winners

2015 Ammann Awards: The Winners

Amy Squitieri wins Lifetime Achievement; Gallatin County, Montana gets top honors in two categories, another accolade for Michigan’s Historic Bridges

JENA, GERMANY-  Earth calling Amy Squitieri! Ms. Squitieri, there is a customer out in Montana, specifically in Gallatin County, who has been profiling historic bridges in the county. The majority of them cannot bear today’s loads anymore but have historic character to it that many people don’t want to see scrapped. This includes the Nixon Bridge. Can you help?

After all, with multiple years of experience, you deserve the Lifetime Achievement Award, so your help is needed. 🙂 And as a bonus, the man named Troy Carter won Best Photo for the Nixon Bridge! 😀

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

Before getting to the rest of the results, the Chronicles would like to thank everyone for taking part in the voting. Thanks to Poll Daddy, people had no problems with the voting process, with the exception of the website being down once a day for five minutes, as that was the only complaint. Because of the high turnout, the plan is to keep the format as is for the 2016 Awards, which will run its original form with voting in December and the results to be presented in January 2017.

But going back to the results, Squitieri is the second person from Mead and Hunt in three years to win the Lifetime Achievement Award, Robert Frame III won it in 2014. And like Frame, she received 45.8% of the votes, far outpacing the second place winners from Ames, Iowa- consisting of Randy Faber, Judy McDonald, Hank Zalatel and Matt Donovan from the Iowa Department of Transportation- who received 22.4%. Julie Bowers from Workin Bridges recieved 14% of the votes, outgunning Nathan Holth by four percentage points.

And the rest of the results for LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

  1. Amy Squitieri- 45.8%
  2. Donovan, Faber, McDonald and Zalatel- 22.4%
  3. Julie Bowers- 14%
  4. Nathan Holth- 9.4%
  5. James Barker- 5.7%
  6. Todd Wilson and Lauren Winkler- 2.8%

 

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

BEST PHOTO:

As mentioned at the beginning, Galatin County, Montana won in two categories, which include the category of best photo. Even more so, Troy Carter obtained not only the gold medal, but also the silver for the picture above, of the Williams Bridge. Bronze medalist goes to Roger Deschner for his photo of the Savana-Sabula Bridge over the Mississippi River.  And the rest of the votes:

  1. Nixon Bridge (Troy Carter)- 51.2%
  2. Williams Bridge (Troy Carter)- 38.1%
  3. Savana-Sabula Bridge (Roger Deschner)- 6%
  4. Tied:  Bentonsport Bridge, Firescald Bridge, Thompson Bridge, Chapel Curry Bridge (1%)

BEST KEPT SECRET:

Due to a lack of entries for individual bridges, that and the city guide tours were merged for this year’s awards. However, the two subcategories will be presented again for the 2016 awards. As always, the votes were broken down to US, International and All around. The top three in the US category happened to be the winners all around, while the bridges in Newcastle (UK) and Paris (France) shared top honors in the International Division. Furthermore, he second and third place winners came from New Jersey, while three out of the top five finishers originated from New Jersey.  Here are the results:

USA/ All Around:  

  1. The Bridges of Gallatin County, Montana- 41.1%
  2. The Bridges along the South Branch Raritan River in New Jersey- 17.9%
  3. The Bridges along the Delaware River at the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border- 10.7%
  4. The Bridges of New Ulm, Minnesota- 7.1%
  5. The Bridges of Hunterdon County, New Jersey- 5.4%
  6. Tied- Newcastle (UK) and Paris (France)- 5.4%

International:

  1. Newcastle/Paris
  2. Tied- York (UK)/ Zeitz (Germany)

 

BEST RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE(S):

For the second time since its inception, the Historic Bridge Park near Kalmazoo, Michigan has won an award by the Chronicles. In 2011, the Park won the Award for Best Kept Secret, while simultaneously, its engineer behind the creation of the park, Vern Mesler, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. As attractive as the park is and as big of a posterboy as this place has served, it is justified that the award is given, especially as 36.4% of the voters gave the people there the nod. 🙂 As for the other results….

  1. Historic Bridge Park in Michigan- 36.4%
  2. Tied- Sandy River, Portland Waterworks Bridge in Oregon/ Thompson Bridge in St. Louis County, Minnesota- 15.2%
  3. McConnellsville Bridge in Morgan County, Ohio- 12.1%
  4. High Bridge in New York City- 9.1%
  5. Swing Bridge Park at Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota- 6.1%
  6. Two tied with 3%

 

MYSTERY BRIDGE:

The competition was fierce, especially in the international division, but the unusual covered bridge in New Hampshire received 25% of the vote, and therefore took the USA and All Around divisions. Only 7% behind was the Waddell truss bridge in Clearwater County, Minnesota with 18.8%, and the Howe Truss Bridges in Blue Earth County won third place with 3.1%. In the International Category, the Estate Bridge in Staffordshire in the UK won the competition, and third place in the All Around. In second place, we have a tie between The Bridge of Lions in Berlin and the Natural Bridge at Mallorca Island in Spain. Third place goes to Havenga Bridge in South Africa and the Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge in Zeitz, Germany.  Here are the complete results:

  1. Covered Bridge in New Hampshire- 25%
  2. Waddell Truss Bridge in Minnesota- 18.8%
  3. Estate Bridge in the UK- 15.6%
  4. Bridge of Lions (Germany) and Natural Bridge (Spain)- 12.5%
  5. Havenga Bridge (South Africa) and Moritzburg Bridge (Germany)- 6.3%
  6. Howe Truss Bridges in Minnesota- 3.1%

 

 

hayden bridge

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

And lastly, the 2015 Bridge of the Year. While the Cliffton Suspension Bridge ran away with the competition in the 2014 Awards, the competition was fierce among the candidates, as there were several ties before the Hayden Bridge in Oregon came away a winner with 27% of the votes. Second place finisher is the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama, which was the site of the demonstrations in 1964. The 50th anniversary celebrations took place at this steel through arch bridge. It received 18.1% of the votes. The Savana-Sabula Bridge finished in third with 12.1%.  And as for the rest:

  1. Hayden Bridge in Oregon
  2. Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama
  3. Savana-Sabula Bridge
  4. Tied- Fehmarn Bridge in Germany/ Firth of Forth Bridge in Scotland/ Calhoun Street Bridge in New Jersey
  5. Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany
  6. Traffic Bridge in Saskatoon (Canada)

 

FAZIT:

And with that, we have closed shop for the belated 2015 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. For the delay because of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the author apologizes. For that, plus in light of the 5-year anniversary of the Ammann Awards, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be accepting nominations for the 2016 Ammann Awards between now and 1 December, 2016. If you have any candidates in any of the categories, please use the contact form and send them in this direction.

In addition, the Chronicles will have its own version of the Hall of Fame, where the top two candidates of each category of each year (from 2011 to 2016) will be voted upon, and the top three in each category will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. More information will come during the course of the year. It is clear that two different and sequential voting processes will commence during December 2016 and January 2017.

In the meantime, get your cameras and candidates out there, you have more than enough time between now and December 1st, 2016 to win your fame and fortune with your bridge and pontist. 🙂

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2013 Ammann Awards: Smith picks his favorites

Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque, Iowa. One of the nine-span 1868 Mississippi River crossing that had existed until 1898 when it was dismantled. Photo taken in August 2013 by John Marvig.

While many people are taking last minute attempts to submit their ballots for the 2013 Ammann Awards, as the deadline was extended to January 11th due to the extreme severe cold weather that kept many from voting, the author of the Chronicles went ahead and chose the select few bridges that deserve the best attention possible. In its third year, the Smith Awards go out to the bridges that serve as examples of how they should be preserved from the author’s point of view.  This year’s Smith Awards also hit a record for the number of entries, for many examples were presented that should be brought to the attention to those whose historic bridge may be deemed unsafe in their eyes, but restorable in the eyes of those who have the experience in preservation as those who have close ties with the structure.

So without commenting further, let’s give out the Smith Awards beginning with:

Quinn Creek Kingpost Bridge in Fayette County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2013 by James Baughn

BEST BRIDGE FIND: 

USA:

This year’s Smith Awards for the Best Bridge Find in the United States is given to three Iowa bridges because of their unique features. The first one goes out to the Kingpost through truss bridge spanning Quinn Creek in Fayette County. Built around 1885 by Horace Horton, this bridge was thought to have disappeared from view in the 1990s when it was replaced by a series of culverts. Bill Moellering, the former county engineer and Ammann Award for Lifetime Achievement candidate was the first person to prove us wrong, for he mentioned of the bridge’s existence during our correspondence in March of last year (I had asked him to speak at the Historic Bridge Weekend, which he accepted). Dave King and James Baughn provided the pictorial evidence a few months later. Albeit not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this one will most likely be listed in the near future. And given the county’s staunch stance regarding its historic bridges, this bridge will remain in its place for many generations to come.

The second one goes  to the Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque. This span was one of the nine spans of the 1868 bridge that had spanned the Mississippi River for 30 years before it was dismantled and the spans were dispersed all over the country. This one is in its third home, as it used to span Whitewater Creek near Monticello before its relocation to its present spot in 2006-7. The next question is: what happened to the rest of the spans? The Chronicles will have an article on this unique span in the near future.

Photo taken by the author in September 2010

And the last one goes to the Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama in Tama County. The bridge was built by Paul Kingsley in 1915, two years after the Lincoln Highway, which the bridge carried this route for many years, was created. Its unique feature is the lettering on the concrete railings, something that cannot be found with any other concrete bridge in the US, or even Europe. The bridge was part of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway celebrations last year and will surely have a celebration of its own in 2015, the same year as the 100th anniversary of the Jefferson Highway, which meets the Lincoln Highway at Colo, located west of this bridge. As James Baughn commented through his bridgehunter.com facebook page: “It is a true crime to visit Iowa and NOT photograph this bridge.” This one I have to agree.

 

Photo taken by S. Moeller. Public domain through wikipedia

International:

Fehmarn Sound Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany:  Spanning the channel connecting mainland Germany and Fehmarn Island, this 1963 bridge was unique for it was the first bridge in the world to use the basket-style tied arch design. It has since been recognized a national historical landmark. Yet another unique bridge in North Rhine-Westphalia received larger recognition this year, and because this bridge type was used extensively beginning in the 1990s, this bridge fell to the wayside. Yet it at least deserves this honor for the work engineers and construction crews put in to make this span possible, especially as it is one of the key landmarks to see, while visiting northern Germany. The bridge still serves rail and vehicular traffic today, albeit it will receive a sibling in a form of another crossing that will connect Fehmarn Island with Denmark, thus eliminating the need for ferry service and completing the direct rail connection between Berlin and Copenhagen through Hamburg and this location.  Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

BIGGEST BONEHEAD STORY:

International:

St Jean Baptiste  Bridge in Manitoba, Canada.  What is much worse than replacing a historic bridge against the will of the people? How about tearing down a historic bridge that is a key crossing to a small community and NOT rebuilding it. This is what happened to this three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge in February 2013. Extreme hot weather combined with flooding from the rains in the fall of 2012 undermined the easternmost abutment and bank of the crossing, prompting officials in Winnepeg to not only close down the bridge, but dropped the entire structure into the Red River of the North. The implosion occurred in February 2013.  This has created widespread pandemonium not only because of its historic significance (it was built in 1947), but because of the detour of up to 50 kilometers either to Morris Bridge or to Dominion City to cross the river. There is still no word from Winnipeg regarding whether or when the bridge will be rebuilt, angering them even more.  A sin that is not forgiven, and politicians making that unintelligent decision will most likely be voted out of office in the upcoming parliamentary elections, if they have not been relieved of duties already.

Note: A new bridge would cost up to CDN $60 million and take five years to build.

More on this story can be found here.

 

Second place:

Europa Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany. The incident in Canada far eclipses the incident involving the 42-year old bridge crossing the Baltic-North Sea Canal, where crews closed most important crossing connecting Flensburg and Denmark in the North with Hamburg and the rest of Germany in the South. And this during the peak of summer travel in July!  While trying to squeeze across using the tunnel carrying a main street through Rendsburg, the closure left travelers with no choice but to use the rail line and the Rendsburg High Bridge.  You can imagine how crowded the trains were at that time. Given the fact that the A-7, which crosses this bridge, is the main artery slicing through Germany, many residents are still scratching their heads and demanding the logic behind this abrupt closure of an important link between the south and north.

 

USA

Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge: Arsonism overtook the theft of metal components from bridges as the number one culprit that has either severely damaged or even destroyed historic bridges. At least a dozen reports of vandalism and arson on historic bridges were reported this year in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Iowa. What gets people to set bridges made of wood, or metal bridges with wooden decking is unknown, except for the fact that their ignorance is hurting the counties that maintain them as tourist attractions.  The Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge in Vinton County, Ohio is a classic example of one of those victims of arson. Built in 1874, the bridge used to be one of two in the country with an arched bridge deck until fire engulfed the bridge in June 2013. This five years after the county had spent over $300,000 in restoring the bridge by adding a new roof and improving the trusses and decking.  Police are still looking for the perpetrator to this day and more information about the incident can be found here. It’s unknown whether this bridge will be rebuilt, especially as there is a steel pony truss bridge built alongside the structure to accommodate traffic.

More on the tragedy here.

 

Second Place: 

I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington:  Not far behind the theme of arson is the collapse of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington state, which occurred in May 2013. A semi-truck exceeded the vertical clearance limit on the portal bracing of this 1950s through truss bridge, sending part of the bridge into the water. While the driver was not cited, it sparked a debate on how to deal with through truss bridges with many people wanting them taken off the roadways for good. One state senator even went further by advocating the elimination of the Section 106 and Environmental Impact Survey requirements for bridge replacement. Both of these are way too expensive and, as a political science professor at the University of Jena would say: “It will just not happen.” So we’re going to end this topic by travelling to a through truss bridge on any highway- on a reduced load- and cross it, appreciating its grace and beauty!

More on the bridge disaster here.

 

Bonus:

Ft. Lauderdale Railroad Bridge:  There are many reasons why No Trespassing signs are posted on railroad bridges. Add this incident involving a railroad bridge in the Florida community. A 55-year old woman, walking home from her breast cancer walk, found herself hanging onto dear life from a bascule bridge that had lifted to allow ships to pass- and getting a pose in the process from thousands of onlookers who took pictures and posted them onto the social network pages!  Being dressed in pink and in an outfit like that probably made many people react in strange way, but for her, it probably made her day. Fortunately she was rescued by fire crews, but it redefined the meaning of No Trespassing, which now ranks up there with being photographed by automated cameras in Europe if exceeding the speed limit on the motorways.  Do as expected, or expect to shamed in the media!  More on the story here.

SALVAGEABLE MENTIONED:

Photo taken in August 2011

Roof Truss Bridge at FW Kent Park in Iowa:  This crossing has a unique story. The truss bridge was built using the steel trusses from a vintage automotive dealer in Iowa City, four miles east of the park, which were found in the ditch along the road in the late 1980s and converted into a bridge to serve the pedestrian path encircling the lake. The bridge is a must see, as it is located on the north end of the lake and is one of nine truss bridges that makes the core of the park. Click here for more about this story.

 

 Honorably Mentioned

New Bennington Bridge in Vermont:  Technically, this bridge should have gotten this award for it featured a one of a kind Moseley iron arch span whose superstructure was found along the road in the ditch, cut in half and was put together as a truss bridge now serving a park complex. Yet the difference is the creativity aspect, for this salvaged and restored span had once been  a bridge before it was taken out of service. Hence its nomination in the Ammann Awards for Best Bridge Preservation Practice. It would not be surprising if these two bridges won their respective awards for 2013.

 

WORST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

View inside the bridge. Photo taken by Steve Conro, released into public domain through http://www.bridgehunter.com

 

New Castle Bridge near Oklahoma City: The 10-span Parker through truss bridge was a victim of a double-tragedy: a tornado that destroyed two of the spans and the demolition of all but one span, as directed by the local and state governments. It is unclear what the plans are for the remaining span, yet this act falls in line with eating up all but the head of the gingerbread man. A tortuous loss that should have gone one way or the other: dismantle and store the remaining trusses for restoration and reuse or tear down the whole structure and risk receiving the Bonehead Award for 2013, which was given to the arsonists who succeeded all the way in this type of business.

 

BEST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

USA:   

The Petit Jean Bridge in front of Danville City Hall. Photos courtesy of J. Randall Houp

Petit Jean Bridge in Arkansas:  While looking at this 1880 bowstring arch bridge, one would say that it is a typical vintage bridge that deserves to be honored, even if it is demolished with the information being placed in the books. Yet apart from its history with an infamous lynching incident in 1883 that scarred Yell County, the Petit Jean Bridge receives this award and is in the running for the Ammann Awards for Best Preservation Practice for a good reason: It is the only bridge in the state, let alone one of a few rare bridges that was relocated more than one time in its lifetime- and still retained its original form! The bridge was relocated three times, including one to its final resting point this past October: in front of the Danville City Hall to be part of a city bike trail network. If the Petit Jean Bridge wins the Ammann Awards in addition to this one, it will be because of the care that the county took in relocating and restoring the bridge multiple times. What other historic bridge can make this prestigious claim?

 

International:

Three bridges in the UK have received the Smith Rewards for the best example of preserving a historic bridge. The first one goes to the Llangollen Chain Bridge in the Northeastern Part of Wales. The cantilever suspension bridge was built in 1929, even though the crossing has a 200-year tradition, yet it was closed to all traffic 30 years ago due to safety concerns. Since that time, efforts were undertaken to raise funds for restoring and reopening the structure connecting the Llangollen Canal and the railway. This was successful and the bridge is currently being restored, awaiting reassembly  this year.  The second one goes to the Whitby Swing Bridge in North Yorkshire, a duo-span deck girder swing bridge that underwent renovations totaling £250,000 last year to redo and waterproof the electric wiring, strengthen and paint the girders. It worked wonders for while flooding this past December left the swing spans in the open position, no damage was done to the electrical wiring and the superstructure itself. Something that people can take pride in and show others how restoring a swing bridge can actually work.  And lastly, the Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge, located near Chester (England) is currently undergoing an extensive rehabilitation to rework the swing mechanism, strength the Howe trusses and improve the decking for a total of £4.5 million, with the goal of prolonging its lifespan by 50 years. The preparations for this project was herculean for a temporary span was constructed prior to the closure of the 90-year old structure, for the bridge provides the only vital link between the two communities.  Once the bridge reopens next year, it will show to the public that the project and its difficulties in arrangement and processes was really worth it, especially as the people of the two communities have a close relationship with the bridge.

For more information on these bridges, click on the links marked in the text. As you can see in the selections, it is just as difficult in choosing them as it is for people voting for the candidates for the Ammann Awards. Yet despite the fear that 2013 would usher in the year of destruction of historic bridges- and we’ve seen a lion’s share this year- it actually was a good year for many unique examples were restored for reuse, marking a sign that the interest in historic bridges is huge- both in the United States, as well as elsewhere. How 2014 will take shape depends on numerous factors, which include the interest in historic bridges, the increasing number of preservationists and technical personnel willing to restore them, and lastly the financial standpoint. There was speculation that the Crash of 2008 in the US marked the end of the preservation movement, yet that did not seem to move the people whose close ties with these structures remain steadfast. If communities cooperate with private groups and provide support towards preserving the remaining historic bridges, as seen with the Bunker Mill, Riverside and Green Bridges, then there is a great chance that they will receive new life and will be greeted by the new generations interested in them. Without cooperation and funding, the structures will simply sit there rotting until they are swept away by the ages of time.

On to the results of the Ammann Awards; even though the deadline is January 11th to submit your votes, the results will be given out on the 13th. Stay tuned.