BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 143: Tribute to James Baughn

The 143rd Pic of the Week takes us to Burlington, Iowa, and to this bridge, the Cascade. If there is one bridge a person should see in order to appreciate its structural beauty, fitting in a natural setting, it’s this structure. The bridge features a Baltimore deck truss and two Pratt deck trusses, all of the connections are pinned. The Baltimore span is the only known truss of its kind in Iowa, yet its construction and uniqueness has earned it national recognition in the form of the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was built in 1896 by the Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works Company, using Carnegie Steel as its provider for steel bridge parts. The design cam efrom the engineering office of Boynton & Warriner in Cedar Rapids. The bridge is suspended more than 60 feet from the ground, with supports from both sides of the gulch which the structure spans. A rather unique piece of artwork for a bridge lover and historian.

The bridge was one of the stops we made during the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2013 and this pic came from James’ bridge library. Yet its days may be numbered for the structure has been closed since 2008, to pedestrians since 2019. Residents living on the south side of the city have been battling to at least reopen the bridge for bikes and pedestrians, even if it means making the necessary repairs to do that. Yet the Burlington City Council has been unwilling to make even the modest repairs because of the lack of funding. Its cash-strapped mentality has resulted in much of its historic architecture either disappearing with the wrecking ball or simply sitting there until one incident that brings up the liability issue comes about and it eventually becomes a pile brick and steel. Its abandoned houses and buildings are matched with those in Glauchau, where BHC is headquartered, except Glauchau’s issue are owners buying historic buildings and simply leaving them sit without doing anything with them.

The winds of change are coming to Burlington, though. Already plans to replace the Cascade Bridge is going into motion, though when this will happen remains unclear, due to the question of funding, combined with the bridge’s status and the opposition to demolishing the rare structure to begin with. I’ve been doing some research and interviewing some people involved with the project and an Endangered TRUSS article is in the making.

Stay tuned for more details…..

Mystery Bridge Nr. 79: How to Reconvert a Truss Bridge- Going From Deck to Through Truss in Oklahoma

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Photos courtesy of Mark W. Brown

Our 79th Mystery Bridge takes us to Oklahoma; specifically to Whitesboro in LeFlore County and this bridge. Spanning the Kiamichi River at Township Rd. 4044C south of Whitesboro, this bridge is one of the most unusual through truss bridges a person will ever see in the United States. According to the data from Bridgehunter.com, the total length of the bridge was 270 feet with the largest span being 127 feet, the width of the bridge is around 13-14 feet and the vertical clearance is 13.3 feet. Yet despite the date of construction being ca. 1940, this bridge is unusual as it is a pinned connected through truss, thus bucking the standards of truss bridge construction. As many resources have indicated, most truss bridges built at this time had riveted or welded connections, making the structure sturdier and able to carry heavier loads. Pinned connections had a tendency of dislocating or even having the bolts connecting the beams to break off, causing bridge failure. This resulted in many of the structures being taken off the state highway system and relocated onto less-used township roads beginning in the 1920s and extending well into the 1950s, especially as the US was lacking materials and engineers as a result of World War II. Judging by the appearance of the bridge, it appears to have been built between 1910 and 1915 as this was the cut-off period for constructing truss bridges with pinned connections. It was congruent to the time standardized bridges were approved by the state governments, which included not just focusing on truss bridges with riveted connections and either Howe lattice or lettered portal bracings (namely, A, X, M and West Virginia framed), but also the key truss designs, which were the Pratt, Parker, K-truss, Warren, Polygonal Warren and in some cases, Pennsylvania petit.

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The Whitesboro Bridge features a Warren through truss, but looking at the structure further, it appeared that in its former life, it was a deck truss bridge that had many spans, totaling at least 500-600 feet. One can see how the overhead bracings were added, which consisted of thin cylindrical steel beams. Furthermore, there is no portal bracing, like other truss bridges, and lastly, when looking at the joint where the upper beam and the diagonal end posts meet, the upper beam appears to have been sawed off.  According to observation by fellow pontist, Mark W. Brown, the piers are 2-3 feet wider on each side and 1-2 feet higher, thus creating a slight slope when entering and crossing the structure. Two theories go along with the piers: either they were installed when the bridge was built or they were reinforced after the bridge sustained structural damage because of flooding.

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It is possible that this crossing was the first to have been built as the town expanded because of the baby boomer population. But the expansion did not last as many people moved to bigger cities for job opportunities. As of the 2008 Census, the population of the town incorporated in 1908 and named after one of the founders is only 1298. The hunch is that the highest population of Whitesboro was about 3,400 by 1960.

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The Whitesboro Bridge has a design that is not like any unusual designs developed by the engineers at all. It is neither a Pegram nor a Kellogg, now is it a Schaper truss, which you can see in many truss bridges built in Germany and other parts of Europe. This bridge is definitely a repurposed truss bridge, having gone from its previous life as a deck truss spanning one of the state’s greatest rivers, like the Red and the Canadian, to one spanning a smaller river but on whose width justified a through truss span.

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This leads us to the following questions:

  1. When exactly was this bridge built and was there a previous structure?
  2. Who was the mastermind behind this repurposing project and why did the engineer choose this?
  3. Where did the bridge originate from?
  4. When was this built and who was the bridge builder?
  5. Are there other remnants of that bridge left besides the one at Whitesboro?
  6. What do we know about Whitesboro aside the facts and figures presented in wikipedia?

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Got any leads, please share in the comment sections here as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the link here. As this bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, any information you have or can find will help build a solid case for its nomination, let alone preserving it for future generations. As Oklahoma is losing historic bridges in large quantities in the past 8 years, the time is ripe to preserve what’s left of its culture, especially when it comes to unusual designs like this bridge in Whitesboro.

Special thanks to Mark W. Brown for bringing this to the author’s attention and for providing some interesting pics of this bridge.

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Times Beach Bridge: Time Is Ticking for This Historic Bridge

EUREKA/ ST.LOUIS, MISSOURI-  When tourists think of or visit the US, one of the characteristics they will mention first is The Mother Road, also known as Route 66.  Ninety years ago this year, US 66 was established, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles, passing through St. Louis, Springfield, Tulsa, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Flagstaff. It was part of the first national administration establishing the US Highway System, which was partially supplemented and partially supplanted by Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway Act, signed 30 years later. Five years after Route 66 was established, this bridge was built to accomodate traffic from this popular historic highway.  The Times Beach Bridge spans the Meramec River at Route 66 State Park near Eureka. Built in 1931 by the Frazier-Davis Construction Company of St. Louis, this riveted Warren deck truss span, based on the state standardized truss bridge design, features three main spans of 130 feet each, plus multiple approach spans, totalling 1009 feet with a roadway width of 30 feet.  Once serving US 66 until it was realigned onto neighboring I-44, the bridge used to serve traffic until the Missouri Department of Transportation(MoDOT) closed the structure in 2009. The bridge’s decking has been absent since 2013. And its future is questionable.

The Great Rivers Greenway district, consisting of local and regional organizations and volunteers in and around St. Louis and the surrounding area, is working on a project to repurpose the Times Beach Bridge into a recreational crossing, while at the same time, incorporate it into the adjacent Route 66 State Park and into a bike trail network which would extend to St. Louis to the east.  Trailnet and other organizations are helping Great Rivers in the push to save this bridge. Already, a study was conducted to determine its feasibility as a bike and pedestrian crossing, and some images of the bridge after its restoration have been presented on their website (click here). “This bridge is not only a significant and vital connection across the Meramec for walking and biking, but it is rich with history and one of the region’s outstanding cultural assets,” said Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet’s Executive Director, according to its website. “It is prudent to seek funding, considering the generous commitment made on behalf of Great Rivers Greenway and the work already achieved on behalf of the coalition.”

Currently, the bridge is under ownership of MoDOT, and the consortium  needs to raise $1 million by 31 December, 2016 before ownership can be transferred to the state park. Additional funding will be sought to rehabilitate the structure and reopen it to recreational use. Currently, $425,000 has been allocated by MoDOT ($325,000) and the State Park System ($100,000), while $6,000 has been raised privately. $569,000 is needed before ownership can be transferred on 31 December. Failure to achieve this goal will result in the project being scrapped and the historic bridge being demolished early next year.

Several key bridges along US 66 have been restored or are scheduled to be restored in the coming years in an attempt to preserve the relects of the historic highway as memorials of the highway’s existence. They include the Chain of Rocks Bridges along the Mississippi River and its eastern channel in St. Louis, Bird Creek Bridge in Oklahoma,  Colorado Boulevard Bridge in Los Angeles, Devils Elbow Bridge, Gasconade River Crossing (both in Missouri), and the drawbridges in Chicago, just to name a few. For these bridges, problems involving ownership and liability combined with fundraising efforts were also typical at first. Yet because of their connections with the history of the communities, the Mother Road and American infrastructure, locals, historians and businesses contributed their finances, manpower and expertise to restore these structures for future use, many of them have been repurposed for trail use, while ones, like the Bird Creek Crossing were relocated and repurposed as memorials.  A book was recently written about these crossings which provides background information on how they contributed to making US 66 a great highway to travel on. It can be ordered here.

Still, there is a long way to go before reaching the goal of $1 million, yet the goal is doable and there is enough time to contribute what you can to save this bridge. If you or someone or some business you know would like to contribute to the cause, click on this link and donate.  The Times Beach Bridge is one of only four of its kind left in Missouri, but one that was part of a popular highway that people in the USA and around the world have seen and/or even travelled on. The bridge belongs to a historic site that many people would like to know more about. Let’s make America great again and donate to this bridge and preserve it, along with the rest of history along the Mother Road.

Check out the photos taken by the author during the 2011 Historic Bridge Weekend below:

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The Bridges of Flensburg, Germany

Author’s Note: This is a throw-back to an article I wrote for the blog version of the Chronicles in 2012. The difference here is this article features a map with a guide to the location of the bridges, so that you have an opportunity to visit them. In addition some articles about Flensburg are to appear in sister column The Flensburg Files soon, as some stories coming from there are worth having a look at. 

The Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border at Wassersleben. Photo taken in 2011

Flensburg, Germany: the city with lots of character. There are many factors that make the city, located at the German-Danish border unique. Given its proximity to the border, the city of 90,000 has the highest number of Danish minority living there with one in four having Danish blood. One will find many Danish stores in the city center and places to the north towards the border. The city prides itself on its local brewery, the Flensburger Beer with its 12 different flavors, which celebrated its 125th birthday this year. The city is the birthplace of rum, as the likes of Pott, Johannsen, Jensen and the like made their mark here, many of which can be seen by touring the Rum-Sugar Mile. One can tour see and learn about the ships that were built in Flensburg, let alone travel the Alexandra, the lone coal-powered ship still in operation. And if one is interested in sports, there’s the handball team, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, one of the premiere powerhouses in the Bundesliga.

And lastly, if one looks even closer, one will find some historic bridges, whose history has long since been hidden from view. In the three times I’ve travelled up there for vacation, one cannot get enough of the city’s history, especially with regards to that aspect. The bridges are scattered throughout the city, spanning all kinds of ravines, and ranging from girders, arches and even a wooden truss. This tour guide takes you to seven bridges that make Flensburg unique in itself. A couple of the bridges have been mentioned in previous articles as there is potential to find substantial information on them. And for some, it required some great effort as the photographer had to battle through a bed of thorns and Rotweiler dogs to get to the bridges. So without further ado, here is the guide to the bridges in the Hölle Nord:

Schleswiger Strasse Brücke- When getting off the train at the station, this is the first bridge you will see. Spanning the railroad line connecting Flensburg with the key points to the north and south, the two-span arch bridge is the second crossing at this site, for the first bridge was built in 1854 when the rail line was first constructed. This bridge was built in 1926 and still retains its original form. One should not be mistaken by the fact that the bridge is brand new. It has shown some wear and tear especially on the inner part of the arches. But overall, the bridge is in excellent shape and is in the running for being declared a historic landmark by the city.

Peelwatt Viaduct- Spanning the railroad line connecting Flensburg and Kiel, this viaduct was built in the early 1900s and is the tallest and longest bridge in Flensburg. The bridge is about 70 meters long and 30 meters deep, carrying Kaiserstrasse. This bridge was difficult to photograph given the number of thorns that had to be dealt with, in addition with being chased by a large Rotweiler owned by a couple having an “open air concert” during my visit in 2011. Unless you’re Nathan Holth and want to deal with scratches and bruises, this stunt should not be attempted. While the bridge had seen its better days because of cracks and falling debris, the structure was recently rehabilitated in a way that a new roadway and railings were built, making it safer for cyclists to cross. Since finishing the work this year, the bridge has been serving as an important link between the campus of the University of Flensburg and the City Center.

Angelburger Brücke- Located at the junction of Angelburger Strasse and the main highway Sudenhofendamm, this bridge has a history in itself that required a lot of researching. When I visited the bridge in 2010, the first impressions that came to mind was that it was just a girder bridge with some ornamental railings resembling an X-shape. Underneath the bridge it features V-laced truss framing that is welded together with gusset plates.  But beyond the engineering facts, if one looks more closely at the abutments, one can see the remnants of a bike shop encased into the bridge’s north abutment because of the old German lettering and a wheel resembling an old-fashioned bike from the 1930s. As the nearest bike shop was up the hill at Hafenmarkt, I sent an inquiry about this bridge after writing a mystery bridge article about it. The response was an interesting one. The shop inside the bridge was indeed a bike shop owned by the Kraft family, which housed not only bikes, but also a repair shop. That remained in business through the 1960s before being replaced with a store that sold used books and comic booklets. It was owned by Emma Voss. Shortly before its abandonment in ca. 2000, a used furniture store took its place. After sustaining damage through broken windows and other forms of vandalism, the windows were bricked shut and a bilboard took their place. However, according to the Petersen Bike Shop, who provided the information, the city is looking at revitalizing the Bahndamm which would include remodelling and reusing this unique store space. Whether and when this will be realized remains to be seen. The bridge was built in 1919 as part of the Bahndamm line connecting the harbor and the train station. It is used next to never these days. But with the revitalization plan on the table, that might change as well.

Bahndamm Bridges:  Located at the junction of the Hofenden and Hafendamm, the 1919 bridges feature not only one, but two bridges built next to each other. Each one carries a rail line just west of the split with each one caressing the harbor. Once used to transport goods from ships to the main land, both lines appear to have been abandoned for a couple decades or have seen little use. The bridges themselves are plate girder with V-laced bracings at the bottom. Its future however seems uncertain as they pose a hazard to vehicular traffic. A traffic light is right after the bridge and the lanes have become a problem, even though the city council has tried to fix it most recently.

Bridge of Friendship:  This bridge is the northernmost structure, as it is located at the German-Danish border at Wassersleben, carrying a bike trail which leads to Kursa. It is also one of the most unique structures in Schleswig-Holstein for it is not only made of lumber, but the truss design is unusual- a Queenpost deck truss but designed in a manner similar to a Queenpost pony truss- the diagonal beams connect the piers with the decking without meeting at the center. Built in 1920 but reconstructed in 2003, the BoF has symbolized the connection and friendship between Germany and Denmark, which has been that way since the 1950s. Yet up until World War II, the relations between the two countries were not always the best, as they fought each other over the lands extending from Schleswig up towards Kolding- the region known as Angeln. Yet the Battle of Dybol (near Sonderburg) in 1864 decided the border in favor of German empire, with Flensburg becoming a border town. With the exception of World War II, when Hitler invaded and conquered Denmark, the border has remained the same. Between 1945 and 1995 Danish and German guards stood at the bridge, ensuring that people can cross without incident, especially as each country had its own set of laws. Yet after the Shengen Agreement, the border bridge became a free crossing and has remained so ever since. One can see the empty border patrol station still in place today when crossing into Denmark.

Bahnhofstrasse Brücke:  Located just north of Carlisle Park on the road heading to the train station, this 1919 railroad bridge features similar lattice bracing as the Angelburger Bridge but in the form of a snowflake. The bridge was part of the rail line connecting the train station with the harbor but has been unused for the most part for a couple decades.

Tarup Railroad Bridge:  While this bridge may look like a typical deck plate girder, this 1903 bridge is located in the rural village located 8 km east of Flensburg. Interesting to note that there is a restaurant located 300 meters away from the bridge with the date saying that the railroad was in service from 1903 to 2000. Yet the information seems to be mistaken, for the bridge carries a rail line between Flensburg and Kiel, with trains running on the hour. It is possible that the train station in Tarup was discontinued in 2000 forcing many to board at either Flensburg or Husby, but more research is needed to prove that.

Lautrupsbachtal Viaduct:  The last bridge on this tour is this one. Built in 2009, the bridge spans the Lautrup Creek and several other smaller streets and a bike trail in the village of Lautrup in the eastern part of Flensburg. Despite a debate about the construction of the bridge, the it has served as a blessing, carrying traffic around the eastern end of the city, reducing the congestion, which is still a recurring problem in the city center. The bridge is the longest, measuring 500 meters, and presenting a curve. The railings also serve as a noise barrier- 10 meters tall, resembling the Ecu Viaduct in Geneva, Switzerland. A video of the crossing is presented here.

There are some more bridges that are worth visiting but could not be put on this page. Yet another bridge photographer, Fritz Wissemborski also took a tour through Flensburg in 2003 and has a set of pictures you can view here. It pretty much sums up how important the bridges were to the city of Flensburg, for it contributed to the development of its infrastructure over the years. And because talks are underway to convert the former rail line to a bike trail connecting the harbor with the train station, one will have an opportunity to see these bridges reused again, as more and more people will take to the bikes and leave their cars in the garage. This way people will know more about these structures and come to appreciate them even more than they did in the past, providing another reason to visit Flensburg apart from the rum, beer, boating and handball.

Click on the highlighted bridges to gain access to the photos. Some of which were photographed by the author and can be found on his facebook page. 

Google Map: A guide to the bridges in and around Flensburg you can find here: 

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zcTmPZtqubT0.kLBfVOG_8Xr8

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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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The Bridges of Eau Claire, Wisconsin (USA)

Photo taken by John Marvig

When you go out and hunt for bridges, it is not rare to find a city that has a pocket full of antique bridges. What I mean for antique bridges in this case are structures built prior to the second World War, which one can find at least a third of them in most cities with a population of 15,000 or more. However it is rare to find a city or metropolitan area with a high number of notable antique railroad bridges.  One of these cities happens to be Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Located about 140 kilometers east of Minneapolis-St. Paul along Interstate 94, the county seat with 65,000 inhabitants is part of a triangular metropolitan area shared with neighbor cities Menomonie and Chippewa Falls and is located at the junction of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers. It is home to four colleges (two of which being public) and is one of the greenest cities in the state of Wisconsin.  Yet when it comes to historic bridges in the city and its surrounding area, there are quite a few diamonds in the rough, especially with regards to railroad bridges, as John Marvig discovered during his recent visit to the city.  Mr. Marvig is a photographer and writer on railroad bridges in the upper Midwest and Eau Claire was one of the stops on his bridgehunting tour. Yet little did he realize that his trip brought more than what he bargained for and is providing you with a tour of the historic bridges in the greater Eau Claire area. Some of the bridges have been converted to bicycle trails but there are others that have the potential to become part of a recreational trail and it is certain that there are many people interested in restoring them- more so after reading his tour guide here, as a guest columnist. Enjoy!

Hello, I am John Marvig.  You may have heard of my work photographing historic railroad bridges in the upper Midwest.  If you have not, then now you have 🙂 Thanks for looking and enjoy these photos!

When you think of historic railroad bridges in the upper Midwest, you probably think of the massive arches of stone gracing the mighty Mississippi below St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, or perhaps the massive steel arches north of Stillwater.  Or maybe you think of the bridges in places such as Green Bay.  Or what about bridges such as the Kate Shelley Bridge near Boone, Iowa?  But I doubt anyone thinks of Eau Claire, Wisconsin as a place to find large, historic railroad bridges.    After over three months of planning, I finally got to go out here on Mother’s Day weekend.  And I was not disappointed by what it produced.

We start our little tour of Eau Claire on the north part of downtown.  There lays a bridge not really famed, but definitely worthy of it! This bridge is the oldest in Eau Claire.  The four main spans were built 1880, with the current approaches being added 1898.

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Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Built By: Chicago, St. Paul Milwaukee and Omaha Railroad
Currently Owned By: City of Eau Claire
Total Length: 890 Feet
Length of Largest Span: 180 Feet
Width: 1 Track
Height: 80 Feet (Estimated)
Main Type: Lattice Deck Truss
Approach Type: Deck Plate Girder
Date Built: 1880, approaches rebuilt 1898
Traffic Count: 0 Trains/day (Bridge is abandoned)
Link: http://pegnsean.net/~johnm/Northwestern%20Railroad%20Bridge.html

The bridge consists of four large lattice deck truss spans, a major difference between the warren deck truss bridge that succeeded mainline traffic just north of this bridge.
Crossing the Chippewa River, his bridge served traffic until 2007, when there was no longer a need to access the Nestlé plant.  The bridge was purchased by Eau Claire because of the gas pipeline running on the bridge.  So now in 2012, the bridge is fenced off, but easy to get to.  Several people have fallen off this bridge.  Even though there are fences and people are aware of this information, bicyclists still cross this bridge, and will continue until this bridge is the newest bridge on Eau Claire’s vast trail system.  Hopefully we aren’t too far off from that time!!!
Getting to the riverbank on the east side is easy, as there are stairs leading down from an access road.  The west end is much more challenging.  One must be able to get down limestone bluffs on steep paths and climb and crawl back out.

This photo is looking from the east bank of the river. There are stairs leading to this view.

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This is what one of the approach spans looks like. This is the eastern approach.

And this is a typical stone abutment. It was built for the old approaches, which were smaller deck truss spans. This is the east abutment.

The bridge being as high as it is should be fenced off. This is looking west across the bridge.

These are bridges just east of the bridge. They cross Forest Street. They were both built 1918. The tall one served the mainline, while the shorter one served a spur.

The bridge north of here consists of a deck plate girder span, 4 deck truss spans and 3 more deck plate girder spans. This photo is of that bridge from the west end. The new bridge was built 1911 as a giant double track bridge.

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This next bridge is located directly south of the last bridge.  This bridge is also over the Chippewa River.  This one is a lot smaller, and is a lot lower lying.  I now introduce, the Phoenix Park Railroad Bridge.

Phoenix Park Railroad Bridge
Built By: Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road)
Currently Owned By: City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin DNR
Total Length: 526 Feet
Length of Largest Span: 232 Feet
Width: Formerly 1 Track
Height: 15 Feet (Estimated)
Main Type: Whipple Through Truss
Approach Type: 2 Spans Through Pratt Truss
Date Built: 1903
Traffic Count: 0 Trains/day (Bridge is a trail)

This bridge is the second bridge over the Chippewa River on the former Milwaukee Road in Eau Claire.  The bridge has a 146’ and 148’ Pratt Through Truss and a 232’ Whipple Through truss.
This bridge was abandoned 1981 after a failed attempt to put traffic back on it after the Milwaukee Road abandoned it.  Then it was turned into the state trail.  Phoenix Park was also built up very well in this area.
The best views are from Phoenix Park.  There are overlooks and grassy areas to look at this bridge.  The west bank is a little more challenging to get down to, but is fairly easy once you find a path.

This photo is also looking from the east bank. But this is the other side of the bridge.

Phoenix Park is also a trailhead. This is looking west across the bridge from Phoenix Park. 50 years ago this was all rail yards.

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The date stamp is located on the west abutment.

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Snaking across the Eau Claire River in the industrial section of Eau Claire is this bridge.  The famed Soo Line S Bridge.

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Soo Line “S” Bridge
Built By: Soo Line Railroad
Currently Owned By: City of Eau Claire
Total Length: 431 Feet
Length of Largest Span: Feet
Width: Formerly 1 Track
Height: 15 Feet (Estimated)
Main Type: Warren Deck Truss
Approach Type: Deck Plate Girder
Date Built: 1910
Traffic Count: 0 Trains/day (Bridge is a trail)

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Although this bridge is wonderful as a trail, it is hard to get a clear view of the entire structure.  In fact, it is an unfortunate fact that it is near impossible.
But as hard as it is to get to, it is a good bridge.  It was converted to a trail in 2002.  It is very famed around western Wisconsin.  The bridge was built at an S shape so it could cross the river between tracks running parallel to the river.
And as far as the views go, who knows!  You may find the new best view!  Good luck and happy hunting!

This photo is looking across the bridge from the north side.

Looking from the north bank is challenging, but it can be done.

The south bank is also obstructed by trees 😦

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Finishing with the major bridges directly in Eau Claire, we come to the Clairemont Ave Railroad Bridge.

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Clairemont Ave Railroad Bridge
Built By: Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific (Milwaukee Road)
Currently Owned By: City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin DNR
Total Length: 670 Feet
Length of Largest Span: 145 Feet
Width: Formerly 1 Track
Height: 15 Feet (Estimated)
Main Type: Pratt Through Truss
Approach Type: Wooden Trestle/Concrete Slab
Date Built: 1886, rebuilt at a later date
Traffic Count: 0 Trains/day (Bridge is a trail)
Link: http://pegnsean.net/~johnm/Clairemont%20Ave%20RR%20Bridge.html

This bridge is the first bridge over the Chippewa River on the former Milwaukee Road in Eau Claire.  Has 4 Pratt truss spans ranging from 128’-148’ in length.  There is also trestle approach on the south side and concrete slab on the north.    The original four main spans were built 1886.
This bridge was abandoned 1981 after a failed attempt to put traffic back on it after the Milwaukee Road abandoned it.  Then it was turned into the state trail.
The best views are from atop Clairemont Ave.  Clairemont Ave (US 12) is a large road running at an angle from this bridge.  It is a very busy road.
This bridge also might be the reason the line was abandoned.  It was abandoned because of a very weak bridge in the Eau Claire area.  And this bridge could be that bridge.  It was converted to trail use in 2004.

Looking from Clairemont Avenue will provide the best overview photos.

Looking from the north bank can also provide some interesting photos.

There are trestle approaches on the north side of the bridge.

The Builder’s Plaque. Note: As you can see, this bridge is very old (but not as old as the Northwestern Bridge!) 🙂

Even though I did not include all the bridges in Eau Claire in this column, I would recommend if you ever have the chance, get out to this area.  You will be happy you did!  I hope you enjoyed the photos and thanks for looking!

Author’s Note: Apart from the four gorgeous looking railroad bridges one can see while visiting Eau Claire, there are a couple other notable ones one should keep in mind. One is a railroad bridge and another is an ordinary roadway bridge. More information and photos of the bridge is available by clicking on the title of the bridge.

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Union Pacific Chippewa Railroad Crossing:

Type: Warren Deck Truss (main span) with through and deck plate girder approach spans

Location: Chippewa River south of North Crossing Bridge

Built: 1911 by American Bridge Company (New York City) for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad

Status: Still In service

Comment: Mr. Marvig was also at this bridge during this tour and the only way to view this bridge is by boating on the river, as even though the deck view of the bridge is great, finding side views of the bridge from shore are difficult, as can be seen by the pics. However, one is not advised to cross this bridge as it is still in service.

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Dewey Street Bridge:

Type: 2-span open spandrel arch bridge

Location: Eau Claire River on Dewey Street

Built: 1931

Status: Still in service

Comment: This is probably one of the most beautiful roadway bridges in the city; especially given its arch design and its aesthetic appearance and conformity to the residential area. This bridge is the third to last structure on the river as it empties into the Chippewa River on the north edge of downtown Eau Claire.

Note: You can visit Mr. Marvig’s website on railroad bridges by clicking on the link here.