Flooding Devastates Bridges in Missouri, Arkansas and Surrounding States

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Photo taken by Dave Walden and Roamin Rich

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ST LOUIS/ GASCONADE- Looking at this picture taken by Roamin Rich, it presents more volumes than words can ever describe. The Great Flash Flood of 2017, which has been occurring since 30 April but the worst of it was during the date between then and 3 May,  can be compared to the one from 2008 in the Midwest in terms of its massive flow of water and the destruction that was left behind. Hundreds of houses and businesses, many of them more than 80 years old and considered historic, were washed away, and with that the livelihoods of families and business owners.

Many roads were washed away, however, as you can see in the Route 66 Bridge at Gasconade, closed to traffic since 2015, the undermining of asphalt uncovered the original concrete roadway that was laid there when the highway connecting Chicago and Los Angeles via Tulsa was designated and built in 1926. This leads to the question of whether to uncover the rest of the roadway and restore the concrete or pave it over. This is important because the debate is heating up regarding ownership and planned restoration of the structure and the Missouri Department of Transportation’s plan to construct a new bridge alongside the two-span truss bridge and defer ownership to a party willing to repurpose it for recreational use. But that is another story (click here for more about this bridge).

But the Gasconade Bridge also represents several bridges that were negatively affected by the floods. Several structures in Missouri alone have been destroyed- not just historic bridges but also modern bridges built in the 1970s and 80s, thus making them just as vulnerable to catastrophes like this as their predecessors.  James Baughn has compiled a list of bridges affected by the flooding for the Bridgehunter.com website (which you can click here for more details). The Chronicles will summarize the top five that are affected besides the Gasconade Bridge, whose repair work will obviously will be needed in order to make it passable again. We will keep you informed on the latest in Missouri, as clean-up efforts are underway.

 

The Author’s Top Five:

Bruns Bridge- Located over the Meramec River south of Moselle in Franklin County, this 1888 structure was the product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, where they fabricated the steel and one of Zenas’ sons, George, whose bridge company was located in Des Moines, oversaw the construction of the pinned connected Pratt through truss with X-frame portal bracings. The 193-foot span was knocked off its foundations and rushing waters slammed it into its replacement span, turning it into twisted metal. A video of the disaster describes it in details. With Franklin County eager on demolishing the remaining truss bridges in the county because of liability issues, one cannot expect this bridge to be restored unless it is relocated out of state, which is currently being sought in Winneshiek County, Iowa after the collapse of the Gilliece Bridge because of an overweight truck.

James Bridge- Ozark County faces at least 20 bridges that either have approach spans wiped out, severely damaged by flooding, both or completely destroyed. The James Bridge over the North Fork White River at Highway PP represents the last variant but in a spectacular fashion. The 1958 bridge, consisting of two polygonal Warren spans with riveted connections that were built by J.W. Githens, was flipped over by rushing waters, crushing the trusses under the weight of its own decking. Originally slated for replacement, this disaster will surely expedite the process as the highway is heavily traveled. But motorists will have to wait a few months before a crossing can be built.

Irwin C. Cudworth Memorial Bridge- Also known as the Hammond Bridge, this North White River Crossing at Highway CC represents a bridge type that is modern on one hand but is still not safe from the floodwaters. The 1975 steel stringer span was wiped out by floodwaters, leaving just the piers and abutments in tact. Despite plans for rebuilding the bridge, one will really need to examine what type of bridge to be built and how high it should be built. Regardless of material and type, no modern bridge is safe from mother nature. This bridge is the eighth modern bridge built after 1975 that has been destroyed since 2012. This includes the infamous interstate bridge collapse in Atlanta, which happened on 30 March, which was caused by a fire. That bridge, which carries Interstate 85, is being rebuilt and should reopen later this summer.

Devil’s Elbow Bridge- Another US 66 Bridge located over Big Piney River in Pulaski County, this two-span Parker through truss structure, which was built in 1923, had been restored and reopened to traffic in 2014, yet flooding put the structure partially underwater. Fortunately, because of the success of the restoration, the bridge withstood the pressure from the rushing water, plus debris from the nearby historic hotel and houses that succumbed under the pressure. Plans are underway to rebuild the hotel.

Windsor Harbor Bridge- Located over Rock Creek near the Mississippi River in Kimmswick in Jefferson County, this bridge is of growing concern as floodwaters of the mighty river has inundated the structure, causing concern for undermining the piers and abutments of this through truss bridge. The bridge was built by the Keystone Bridge Company in 1874 at its original location in St. Louis. It was relocated to its present site in 1930 and was converted to pedestrian traffic when it was restored and repurposed in 1985. It’s well noted because of its Keystone columns and ornamental portals, all constructed with wrought and cast iron.

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Full Throttle Saloon Destroyed By Fire

Photos taken by James McCray after the relocation to Full Throttle Saloon

Bridges severely damaged in the fire- future in doubt

STURGIS, SOUTH DAKOTA-  A key icon symbolizing the great American bike trip is gone, and with it, most likely two symbols of America’s architectural past.  The Full Throttle Saloon, the world’s largest biker bar and one of the key meeting points of the annual Motorcycle Rally that takes place every summer in August, was lost by a great fire early this morning (September 8th). Fire crews were called to the site at 12:30am (Mountain Standard Time) or 8:30am Berlin Time this morning when smoke was coming out of the building. Despite attempts by the firemen to put out the smoke and flames inside the building, they were forced to battle the fire from outside, when the heat and smoke became too unbearable. Thanks to high winds and a possible gas line leak, the building complex was engulfed in flames at 2:30am and collapsed a half hour later, according to reports from the fire department and local news. No one was injured in the fire, nor was there anyone in the locked building at the time of the fire. The building complex and all its relics and symbols were considered a total loss. The Rapid City Journal has a gallery of photos taken after the fire, which can be viewed here.  Many videos were posted of the fire, but this one below shows the damage to one of the bridges and its decking:

As far as the two bridges are concerned, their futures are in doubt, as fire burned away the wood decking of both spans, leaving a truss superstructure standing. This is the first time since 2013 that a fire did considerable damage to a historic steel truss bridge. The Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa was set ablaze during the Historic Bridge Weekend in August 2013, causing significant damage to the bridge decking and bridge parts. That bridge has since been repaired and is being used as a venue for summer open-air concerts. The two bridges damaged by the Full Throttle Saloon fire were each built in 1912 and had spanned the Belle Fourche River before being relocated to the Saloon in 2008, to be used as an observatory deck for concerts and other events. Both bridges were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The difference between the two is the length and bridge type. The shorter span, measured at 79 feet, is a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings, decorated with X-lattice at the top- typical of the Canton bridges. The longer span is a Pennsylvania Petit with A-frame portal bracings and V-laced vertical posts. The bridge is approximately 200 feet long.

While the cause of the fire is being investigated by the state fire marshal, scores of letters of support are being poured in on the Saloon’s website and facebook pages in hopes that the place will be rebuilt. Whether and how this will happen, let alone whether these two bridges will be reconstructed or converted to scrap metal will depend on a series of inspections to be conducted by engineers and other architectural experts. These will be conducted in the coming months. But for now, tourists, bikers and bridge enthusiasts are mourning the loss of one of the most popular gatherings in the country, littered with vintage signs and other items that had once provided a nostalgia of a now bygone era, where the biker can pack little but travel cross country to see the wild west, stopping at places like this one for a good beer and good company. For many, Full Throttle will be missed, but another better one will take its place. And hopefully, the bridges and the salvageable can be used as part of a bigger meeting point for bikers.

Note: The Full Throttle Saloon won the Amman Awards for the Best Example of Historic Bridge Reuse in 2011. It was also the site of the 75th annual Motorcycle Rally this year. More on that here. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the future of Full Throttle after the blaze. You can visit their facebook page to provide them with some support for rebuilding the facility.

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The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015
Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015

Located along the River White Elster in eastern Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Zeitz, with ist population of 29,000 inhabitants, represents one oft he dying cities in the former East Germany. High unemployment, empty buildings, abandoned industries and a crumbling infrastructure, combined with historic buildings dating back to the 1800s that are sitting empty are what a person can see when passing through the city. Most of its main traffic has been diverted away from the city, and the only rail service in Zeitz are the lines connecting the city with Weissenfels, Gera and Leipzig- all privately owned and localized.

Yet the city scape of Zeitz has, for the most part been in tact, thus making it the venue for many films produced that require an East German scene or story. Despite their emptiness, many historic buildings in the city center are worth visiting and perhaps occupying with businesses and housing. Even the Moritzburg Castle and the nearby mills and churches, built during the Baroque period, still entertain guests because of their charm. You can also try the local wine from the vineyards located along the rugged Elster Bike Trail.

And then, there are the historic bridges.

At least a dozen bridges exist along the White Elster within a 10 km radius of the city, six of which can be found directly in Zeitz. Two thirds of them are at least 70 years of age or older. Yet all but two of them have been mentioned in the history books or by the International Structure Database in Berlin (structurae.net) which is part of the Wiley and Sons Publishing Conglomerate. While much of the records have disappeared because of World War II and later the Socialist regime, the structures profiled here are unique in its design and historic value. Most of the bridges are arches, but there are a couple girders and trusses that are worth mentioning as well. Each one lacks the most basic in terms of the date of the builders, their dimensions and for the most part, the stories behind them and their affiliation with the communities and castles they serve. Henceforth, this tour will profile each of the bridges in and around the Zeitz area, starting with the bridges near Crossen to the south and ending at Elsterau to the north. All but three of the bridges profiled in this tour guide are along the Elster. One of the bridges, the Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge, has already been profiled separately in a Mystery Bridge article and will therefore be omitted from this article. A link to this bridge can be found here.

We’ll start off with the first of two bridges in the village of Crossen, both of which can be reached by bike:

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Rauda Bridge at Crossen:

This bridge spans Rauda Creek, approximately a half kilometer south of the White Elster crossing. The bridge is approximately 15 meters long and six meters wide, good enough for a bike trail. The bridge is a stone arch design that probably dates back to the 1800s, when it was used for horse and buggy, serving a trail between Crossen and Silbitz. Later it was used for farm vehicles, but as the fields nearby are located in the flood plain of the Elste were therefore rendered useless, the trail was eventually converted into the bike trail connecting Crossen and Gera to the south. The bridge still remains in great condition despite its age and is a great place to stop for a picnic or even good photo opportunity, as seen with this photo.

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Crossen Bridge:

Spanning the Elster River, the Crossen Bridge features a deck arch bridge made of brick and concrete, and features seven arch spans totalling 130 meters long. The longest arch span (the center span) is approximately 30 meters long. The bridge’s spandrel is all made of concrete, whereby the arches were built of brick. While the bridge has been renovated as recently as 10 years ago, the date of the original construction of the bridge goes back to between 1900 and 1920. Records indicated that an attempt to implode the structure by the Nazis in 1945 in an attempt to stop the march of the Soviet troops only for the local residents to splice the wiring to the bombs in order to sabotage their attempts. The Nazis surrendered on 7 May, 1945 but not before their leader Adolf Hitler and many of his close friends committed suicide in order to avoid prosecution by the Allies. The bridge continued to be in service until recent renovations where sidewalks were added and the roadway was narrowed. Today, the bridge provides only one-way traffic controlled by traffic lights on each end. Yet it has no load limits, thus allowing for all kinds of traffic to cross, as seen in the photos below:

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Haynsburg Bridge:

Spanning the White Elster on the  road going to Haynsburg Castle to the east, this bridge features five arch spans totalling approximately 200 meters, the longest center arch span is around 50 meters. That span is flanked with two door-like openings on each corner, embedded into the piers, resembling an embedded pavillion on each corner. It is unknown what the original atructure looked like before World War II, but the date of construction goes back to 1911, according to local records. The bridge is one of three works of art one should see while in Haynsburg. The castle is three kilometers up the hill from the bridge. A train station along the rail line between Leipzig and Gera has a decorative lounge, even though trains no longer stop there. Haynsburg itself was a target of a witch hunt, for in 1624, one of the residents was burned at the stake for witchcraft.  Since 2010, Haynsburg is part of a local conglomerate that includes two other villages. The town is only a handful that has witnessed steady population growth for it has 580 inhabitants. The bridge itself will be rehabilitated come 2018 with the purpse of improving its load capacity and its aesthetic value.

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Bahnhofsbrücke:

Spanning the White Elster River, this pedestrian bridge connects the train station with the park complex along the river next to the city center in Zeitz. While travelling along the river along the Elster Bike Trail, this bridge is one of the two most visible structures near the vicinity of the train station. The bridge has a bedstead Pratt pony truss with welded connections. Judging by its aesthetic appearance, the structure appears to be at least 10 years old but no older than 20. It is unknown whether a previous structure had occurred there but because of the prescence of the pavillion across the river from the station, it may be possible that a structure had existed beforehand, but was either destroyed during World War II and was not rebuilt before 1990 or it fell into disarray during the socialist regime and was consequentially removed. But more information is needed to determine whether a previous structure existed prior to this one.

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Untere Promenade Bridge:

Located over the Mühlgraben Creek at the confluence with the White Elster, this bridge is located right next to the aforementioned  Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge. The bridge serves the Elster Bike Trail but it is unknown when the bridge was built. It would be unusual to have a bridge exist alongside the pavillion bridge for a long period of time, so one must assume the bridge was built after World War II, especially because of the ballustrades that were remodelled. Yet more information is needed to determine whether the bridge was built in modern times to replace the pavillion bridge or if it was built at about the same time, especially as arch bridges were very common up until 1915. The author’s prediction is that the bridge was built to mimick the pavillion bridge in the 1950s or 60s to accomodate a trail running alongside the river. In either case, both bridges retain a high degree of historic and aesthetical value that it is worth stopping to photograph.

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Geschwister Scholl Brücke

This is perhaps the most ornamental of the bridges along the White Elster River between Gera and Leipzig, for the 250 meter long seven-span concrete arch bridge provides the best access from the train station to Moritzburg Castle by car. The bridge has stone keystones and seal engravings above the piers. Its ballustrades are similar to the Untere Promenade Bridge and were redone most recently (10-15 years ago). Finials can be found on both ends of the bridge, but more unique and unusual is the lighting on the bridge- only one pair of lanterns are located at the very center of the span, but built on cast iron poles with a unique ornamental design.

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Judging by the age of the bridge, it appears to have been built between 1890 and 1915, yet when looking more closely at the structure ‘s center span in comparison with the outer ones, the bridge appeared to have been rebuilt after the war, as the Nazis blew up the center span in an attempt to slow the advancement of Soviet troops. The bridge and street itself were named in honor of Sophie and Frank Scholl, siblings who led the White Rose movement, a group whose purpose was to create an uprising against the Hitler regime. They were arrested and executed in 1944, along with dozens of other members of the movement. Yet the Nazi government ceased to exist with Germany’s surrender on 7 May, 1945. Hitler committed suicide a week prior to the fall.

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Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge

Spanning the White Elster east of town, the Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge is one of the most unique of spans, as the bridge features two Howe spans meeting in the middle. The center of each Howe span is supported by one steel pier but the outer ends are anchored by concrete piers. The truss itself has bedstead end posts and features welded connections. Lighting  illuminates the bridge. The bridge appears to be one of the younger spans, being built in the 1990s, but it is located near a small park on the north end of the river. It also serves as the division point for two sections of the trail. The older section of the Elster Bike Trail crosses this bridge before turning left and heading to Tröglitz. A newer portion of the trail does not cross the bridge but continues north past the park towards Massnitz and Zangenberg, tunneling through the forest along the way. Both paths have historic bridges along the way to photograph.

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Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridges

Located over the White Elster at the railroad crossing just outside the village of Tröglitz (1 km east of Zeitz), the Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridge features two different bridges. The river crossing, which one can see at the railroad crossing, consists of two Warren pony truss spans with vertical beams and riveted connections. Just 100 meters from that bridge is a deck plate girder bridge with eight spans, spanning a stream that empties into the White Elster. Both bridges, dating back to the 1920s, can be seen from the road connecting Tröglitz to the east and Zeitz to the west, and as the older stretch of the Elster Bike Trail runs parallel to the road, bikers and photographers have the best view of the two bridges with the camera. The bridges once served a rail line connecting Zeitz with Meuselwitz via Tröglitz and Rehmsdorf. Unfortunately, flooding caused the collapse of three of the plate girder spans resulting in the closure of the bridge and the rail line. Most likely the collapse happened during the most recent flooding in 2013. It is unknown whether that bridge will be replaced and the line reopened. But given the availability of bus service in the area, chances of anything happening with the line are slim.

Deck plate girder spans
Deck plate girder spans
Close-up of the collapsed spans.
Close-up of the collapsed spans.

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Börnitz/ Massnitz Railroad Bridge:

Leaving the Zeitz area and heading north along the White Elster, we have this bridge, located only four kilometers from the one at Tröglitz. Even stranger is the fact that even though it is located near Massnitz and Börnitz, it also served the line that ran in a loop fashion going north from Zeitz, then looping onto this bridge before heading south to join the line that eventually terminates at Meuselwitz. This leads to the question of whether this bridge was the original crossing serving the line between Zeitz and Meuselwitz before it was eventually realigned to go past Tröglitz and replaced by the aforementioned bridge. If that is the case, then when did the replacement take place? The author’s hunch: as this bridge features two concrete arch spans over the river, supported by 10 (approach) spans of steel deck plate girders (summing up the length to about 1 kilometer), and the piers of the approach spans look much newer than the arch spans (which most likely dates back to a time up to 1890), the structure was originally an arch span (probably 10-12 spans counting the two spans over the river). All but the two river spans were blown up (most likely by the Nazis in 1945), and while Soviet troops tried to rebuild this bridge, a temporary bridge at Tröglitz (the one mentioned earlier) was built, which later because its permanent replacement. While more evidence is needed to support this argument, Adolf Hitler’s plan of destroying everything in the path of the Allied troops, known as operation Nero, is known throughout the circle of German historians. Nero was enacted at the dismay of even his closest allies, shortly before his suicide in 1945, but failed when even the locals realized that the war was all lost and sabotaged the attempts of the Nazi soldiers to blow up the bridges. 80% of Germany’s remaining bridges were destroyed as part of the plan, only 10% of them could ever be restored. It is uncertain whether this bridge was one of the 80%, but it would not have been surprising if evidence points to that. In either case, the bridge is accessible via street and bike route connecting Tröglitz and Massnitz on the east side of the river as well as the new Elster Trail between Börnitz and Zeitz.

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Close-up of the arch spans. How old do you think they are?
The arch spans behind the trees. Photo taken from the newer stretch of the Elster Bike Trail
The arch spans behind the trees. Photo taken from the newer stretch of the Elster Bike Trail

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Göbitz Mühlgraben Bridge:

Located over Mühlgraben Creek just 500 meters from its confluence with the White Elster, this bridge appears to be one of the oldest remaining structures in the Zeitz region. The 25 meter long structure features a trapezoidal style concrete arch bridge, which is typical of bridges built in the 1800s. The bridge may have been built to serve horse and buggy traffic between Börnitz and Göbitz until newer highways diverted it away from this crossing. Although it still serves pedestrian, cyclar and farming traffic today, spalling cracks in the spandrels and the wingwalls show that some structural rehabilitation is needed in order for it to accomodate traffic in the future. Whether or not it will happen remains to be seen.

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Elsterau Pedestrian Bridge:

The last bridge profiled on the tour is this crossing. Spanning the White Elster River, this wooden pony arch span serves not only the Elster Bike Trail but also the trails connecting Börnitz and Göbnitz. The bridge was most likely built between 2008 and 2012 for it appears new to the eyes of the tourists. In either case, the bridge serves as a new addition to the village of Börnitz, which is a quiet community with just a handful of shops.

A map of the bridges can be found via Google Map, by clicking here:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zE70H-hBCaFg.kBi4SDJUWfjk

To summarize this tour, the bridges in and around Zeitz, most of which are located along the White Elster, represent the charm and historic value that best fits the landscape of the area. These structures have a history of their own, many of which are worth researching, for the information on them are scarce. But as you bike along the Elster Bike Trail, you will find that these structures are worth biking for, even if the trail can be rugged at times. Yet these bridges are only a handful of the structures one should see in neighboring Leipzig (to the north) as well as Gera (to the south). Henceforth, never skip a stop for each one is full of surprises that are worth spending a few minutes of your time for. Zeitz is one of those forgotten examples that should not be forgotten.

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Beaver destroys historic bridge in Bavaria

KUTZENHAUSEN-BUCH/ AUGSBURG- The Rothbrücke, located in the district of Augsburg in the community of Kutzenhausen has been in the news recently because of a rather interesting story that is making residents and Bavarians scratch their heads as to how this could happen. The 40-50 foot long beam bridge with concrete decking that spans a small creek has come under attack from an unlikely source, and it has caused the mayor to pursue measures to demolish and replace the bridge with haste. Beavers have been busy taking the bridge apart, piece by piece, where they have undermined the bridge’s abutments and wingwalls by digging several holes behind it, as well as along the shoreline surrounding it. The abutment supports the decking of the bridge, whereas the wingwalls allows water to flow freely under the bridge and keep the dirt back. The end result of the beaver’s work has been the area having several holes and tunnels at and behind the abutments, making it look like Swiss cheese, according to reports by the newspaper, Augsburger Allgemeine. The problem was first discovered in 2010, resulting in the weight limit of 3.5 tones being imposed on the bridge. But it was not enough for the beavers to widen their tunnel network and bring the bridge to a point of collapse. According to the mayor, Rupert Kugelbrey, the abutments are so undermined that the bridge could collapse at any moment.  While the bridge has been closed off to all traffic including pedestrians since the end of February of this year, plans are now in the making to remove the bridge at the earliest possible convenience for safety reasons. Whether there will be a replacement for the 40+ year old bridge to follow remains open. But it has provided locals and pontists with some humor, as the beaver is being talked about among the social network community. And it is no wonder, for beavers have a potential to bring down trees and dam up streams, causing flooding. That they have the potential to destroy bridges by undermining important parts is something that is going to have engineers look at other ways to keep wild animals from destroying other bridges, regardless of age and materials used.  For this beaver, it will have to find other bridges to undermine, once the Rothbrücke is removed, but not before receiving the Chronicles’ Author’s Choice Awards in the process, which will be presented next year.

Respect. 🙂

More on the bridge can be found here. A photo of the bridge and the damage done by the beaver can be found here.

 

Ely Street Bridge in Bertram Washed Away

Photo taken in September 2010

1891 Bridge near Cedar Rapids knocked into flooded Big Creek.

June of this year saw unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, as heavy rainfall saturated the ground and turned quiet creeks into violent rivers flowing out of control. This includes the areas of Linn, Jones and Johnson Counties in east central Iowa, where floodwaters and erosion caused damage to two major highway bridges northeast of Cedar Rapids, and sadly the destruction of a prized historic bridge in the small town of Bertram.

Located east of Cedar Rapids and accessible from highways 151 and 13, the town of 300 inhabitants is located on a key railroad line between Clinton and Cedar Rapids. The quiet community prides itself in having four historic bridges located within a six-mile radius, all of them located along Big Creek, one of the tributaries that eventually empties into the Cedar River.  The Ely Street Bridge, located on East Bertram Road just south of the railroad crossing is one of them.

Built in 1891, the two-span Pratt through truss bridge, with Town lattice portal bracings and pinned connections, is a key example of a bridge built by J.E. Jayne and Son Bridge Company in Iowa City, located 30 miles south of Cedar Rapids. Born in 1838,  John E. Jayne moved to Johnson County at the age of two where he settled down with his family on a plot of land in Graham Twp., according to county records. He started his bridge building business in Iowa City in the 1870s, with his company located on Gilbert Street. Many bridges built in Linn County were credited to his name, including three in and around Bertram. The red-colored Ely Street Bridge is the best known product built by Jayne, as the structure consists of two truss spans totalling 224 feet long and 14 feet wide. Plaques are found at the top center part of the portal bracings. The bridge is well-hidden but one will cross it right after crossing the railroad tracks.

That is, it used to…

Heavy rainfall caused Big Creek to flood its banks, resulting in trees and other debris falling into the rushing waters. One of the larger trees knocked the two-span structure into the water on June 30th, cutting the truss bridges into pieces and the street off from its main access to US 151 and IA 13.  Once standing while underwater, the truss structure is now in many pieces, and there is no word on whether the bridge will be rebuilt or scrapped in favor of a more modern structure.

Already last year, attempts were made by Iowa DOT and Linn County to encourage residents of Bertram to “upgrade” the bridges, including the Ely Street Bridge. The offer of covering a wider portion of the cost to replace them was rejected by residents for they did not want to have an increase in traffic going through the community. The decision was sensible given the quiet setting Bertram has to offer, with its narrow streets and houses that are more than 70 years old. With the Ely Street Bridge washed away, the issue of the future of the crossing will indeed be brought back onto the table of the Bertram town council, Linn County and eventually Iowa DOT.

There are three options facing the parties involved:

1. The bridge could be scrapped and replaced with a modern bridge, with the plaques being saved and showcased at either the museum or on the railings of the new bridge. There, the issue of the increase in traffic and the opposition to building a new bridge because of cost and historic significance will be discussed vehemently.

2. The second option is removing what is left of the bridge and not replacing the bridge at all. This would be a definitely inconvenience for it would cut the community in half with a crossing disappearing forever.

3. Then there is the third option, which is rebuilding the truss bridge, piece by piece, making it resemble the original crossing. While that may be expensive to undertake, judging by the state of the truss spans, most of the pieces are salvageable, with the exception of the diaginal beams and portal bracings, which can be done by a local bridge builder. This option would keep the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the honor it had received in 1998.

Even if only one of the truss spans is salvageable, one can either construct a replica of the lost span, as was done with the Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton County and the easternmost span of the Sutliff Crossing near Lisbon, both done in 2012. Both bridges had been washed away by flooding years before, and residents associated with both bridges raised funding and received help from state and federal authorities to rebuild them.  That financial support is also available if one would import a historic bridge from elsewhere to replace one of the lost spans, whether that span originates from somewhere in either Linn, Jones or Johnson Counties or a couple river miles west of the bridge. There, the Blaine’s Crossing Bridge, seen from the Hwy. 151/13 Bridge, has been out of use for many years but still has some use left, judging by the appearance after the bridge was visited by two pontists within two years of each other.

Blaine’s Crossing: A potential replacement for the Ely Street Bridge? Photo taken in August 2011, long distance from a nearby gravel road.

Given the many opportunities available, combined with the technical know-how available for rebuilding and restoring historic bridges, and the residents’ interest in a (preferrably restored) crossing at East Bertram Road, it will be most likely that the Ely Street Bridge will be rebuilt and the crossing will be reopen in the near future. The questions will remain though as to how to approach this problem. Will the bridge be rebuilt to its original form or (partially) replaced? How much money is needed to rebuild the crossing and where will the money come from? Will there be any campaigning for restoring the crossing, like on facebook, etc., and if so, how? And lastly, what will the rebuilt bridge look like: in its original form, in a replicated form, in an altered form, or in a completely new form?  All these questions will need to be answered in the coming weeks and months before construction of the crossing can commence. This time, those affected will have their say as to how (new) crossing should be built.

Author’s Note: Check out Bridgehunter.com for more pictures of the Ely Street Bridge, taken by the author and two other pontists. This includes a couple shots of the bridge after being knocked into Big Creek. 

A tour of Bertram’s bridges will appear very soon in the Chronicles. 

The Bridges of Des Moines Part III: The (lost) Truss Bridges

18th Street Bridge over the Raccoon River (now extant). Photo courtesy of IaDOT Archives

There are more bridge types that make Des Moines one of the most populous bridges in the Midwest. As we will see in this part, truss bridges were just as popular of a bridge design as the arch bridges that were built by James Marsh and company. As many as 30 truss bridges were reported to had been built during the time span between 1870 and 1930 along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as other tributaries, including those mentioned in the first two parts of the series. The majority of them featured two or more spans. And while more than half of them were Pratt designs, there were many exceptions to the rule. Already mentioned in part II there was the Post through truss design that had existed at Court Avenue before its replacement in 1917. But like this bridge, the majority of the structures lack the information regarding its history, including the date of construction and the bridge builder. This was in part because of the fact that they were gone prior to the urban renewal period in the 1960s and after 1993.  This is not good for many of these structures, like the 18th Avenue Bridge featured some decorative designs on the portal bracings, which were common during the period of bridge construction prior to 1920, when bridge builders could afford to leave their marks with ornaments and builders plaques. After 1920, with the standardization of truss bridges and the letter-shaped portal bracings (A, M and X-frames), these were seldomly used and can rarely be found today when travelling on Iowa’s highways.

Today, eight bridges are known to exist in Des Moines that have a truss design, at least two thirds of the number that had existed prior to 1970. This does not include the CGW Railroad Bridge, which was demolished in its entirety last month. While some of the structures have already been mentioned earlier, the tour of Des Moines’ truss bridges will feature the ones not mentioned. Each one will feature a location, when they were built (and replaced), what they looked like and if there is no concrete information on the bridge builder, some assumptions will be made. As they will mentioned in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project that is being compiled by the author, any information on the bridges will be useful.

Without further ado, here are the bridges worth mentioning on the tour:

UP (Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific) Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue:  This bridge can be seen from Hartford Avenue on the southeast end of Des Moines. The three-span subdivided Warren through truss bridge with X-frame portal bracings is the fourth bridge to be located at this crossing, for the earliest crossing was dated 1871. It was rebuilt in 1890 and again in 1915 with a four-span through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. While it can be assumed that the reconstruction in 1890 and 1915 may have to do with either flooding that damaged the spans or the increase in rail traffic, the current span was built in 1920 by the American Bridge Company and it most probably had to do with the destruction of the 1915 bridge, albeit more research and information is needed to confirm that claim. The bridge is 469 feet long and is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. However, it was part of the Rock Island Railroad with had a line connecting Indianola and Kansas City to the south, going through Des Moines enroute north to Albert Lea and Minneapolis. When the railroad company was liquidated in 1981, the line was acquired by Chicago and Northwestern, which in turn was bought by Union Pacific in 1995. 20 trains a day use this bridge.

18th Street Bridge: As seen in the picture at the very top of the article, this bridge crossed the Raccoon River at what is now Fleur Drive, southeast of the Central Academy. Before its demolition in 1936, the bridge featured four Camelback truss spans and was one of the most ornate bridges in Des Moines, let alone along the Des Moines River. More information is needed as to when the bridge was built (and by who) and why it was demolished. It is known that today’s Fleur Drive Bridge serves four-lane traffic and serves as a key link to Martin Luther King Drive and all points south of downtown Des Moines.

Inter-Rail Bridge Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Inter-Urban Trail Bridge:     Built in 1902, this bridge spans the Des Moines River south of the Euclid Avenue Bridge. The structure features four spans of Pratt with pinned connections, yet three of the spans feature lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the fourth and easternmost span features V-laced portal bracings with a 45° angle heel bracing- quite possibly a span that was either brought in or built on-site to replace an earlier span destroyed. This bridge used to serve the Inter-Urban Rail Line, one of eight in Iowa accomodated commuters through the 1950s. This route connected Des Moines with Colfax in Poweshiek County, a length of 23 miles. Service continued until 1949, when the freight railroads took over and people resorted to the car or bus. 33 years later, the railroad line and bridge was abandoned, but the City bought both of them to be converted into a bike trail, which was opened in 1998. With the exception of the replacement of the approach spans in 2012, the bridge today retains its integrity and still serves bike traffic, while providing access to the Neal Smith Bike Trail, which combs the Des Moines River.

Commerce Bridge: Spanning the Raccoon River, this bridge featured four truss spans which included three Camelbacks with Howe Lattice portal bracings with subdivided heels and a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings. The latter was built at a later time, whereas the three Camelbacks were reportedly to had been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, one of many Iowa bridge builders that existed during the period between 1890 and 1930. It is unknown when they were built, let alone rebuilt, but records had it that the bridge was destroyed during the Flood of 1965. The bridge was later removed, and Commerce Street was rerouted to run along the Raccoon. All that remains are the abutments and the rapids where the bridge once stood. They can be seen as 105th Street southwest curves to the south.

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge. Photo taken in August 2013

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge:   Spanning the Des Moines River south of the Red Bridge and once part of the Rock Island Railroad, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge was built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company and featured eight spans of pony girders totalling 625 feet. While it used to be a double-tracked bridge, the eastbound track was abandoned and fenced off in the 1980s and today, only one track is used. It replaced a four-span lattice through truss bridge, which had served one-lane of rail traffic and was built 30 years earlier. The future of this bridge is in doubt due to its sparse use, combined with the city’s plans to raise the dikes. Already the Red Bridge was raised four feet and the CGW Railroad Bridge were removed as part of the city flood planning. It would not be surprising that the bridge’s owner, Iowa Interstate Railroad would abandon the bridge altogether, making it the target for scrap metal. But it is unknown if and when that would happen.

SW 63rd Street Bridge: Located over the Raccoon River between Brown’s Woods and Water Works Parks on 63rd Street in West Des Moines, this three-span truss bridge featured two pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges with portal bracings similar to the 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream. It is possible that either George E. King or Clinton Bridge and Iron Works (because of the plaque on the portal bracing) had built the original span. Its northernmost span featured a Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections and A-frame portal bracing. That bridge was most likely brought in to replace one of the original spans that was destroyed either through flooding or an accident. Little information was gathered about the bridge prior to its demolition and replacement in 1964, due to lack of interest in the history of the structure. Had the historic preservation movement started 10-15 years earlier, it would most likely have been one of the first bridges eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Historic Preservation Law was passed in 1966, one year after the replacement of this bridge was open to traffic.

Waterworks Park Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in August 2013

Waterworks Park Bridge:    Built in 1922, this Raccoon River crossing is one of the key attractions of Waterworks Park on the south end of Des Moines, as well as the city’s bike trail network. The crossing is 320 feet long and features two 98 foot riveted Pratt pony trusses that used to carry vehicular traffic until its closure in the 1990s. In 1999, the City converted the crossing into a bike trail bridge and has remained in that fashion ever since.

SW Ninth Street Bridge: This Raccoon River crossing is perhaps one of two bridges on this tour that has the least amount of information on its history, despite the fact that it was replaced with the current bridge in 1967. The structure featured three spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses with Howe lattice portal bracings. Yet that is about it as far as further information is concerned…..

Old Highway 46 Bridge:    This is the second of the two bridges that is missing information (including dimensions) and even more detailed photos than what is shown in the link. No information was found in the historic bridge survey conducted in the early 1990s.  Located southeast of Des Moines, this multiple-span polygonal through truss bridge was built in 1938 and was removed 60 years later when the Hwy. 65 freeway opened. Other than that, there was no information as to whether a previous structure had existed before that, let alone who the bridge builder was that built the 1938 structure. It is known though that the removal of the bridge came despite protests from farmers, who wanted the bridge open so that they can haul farm equipment across it. Yet because the valley where the bridge was located was flood prone, safety precautions were taken and the bridge was removed. Today, portions of the highway exist on its original path from Avon to the river and from there to Des Moines, terminating at Hwy. 163.  Interestingly enough, a railroad bridge located adjacent to the bridge was removed in 1968 after the railroad decided to reroute the line through Indianola enroute to Knoxville. A section of the railroad line exists but makes a dead-end at the power plant located on the north side of the river.

Two Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad Bridges: Located south of the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge over the Des Moines River, the crossings featured two four-span through truss bridges. The northern crossing was a quadrangular through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings. The southern crossing featured Warren through trusses with A-frame portal bracings. Both of them disappeared before 1970.

Ashworth Park Truss Bridge:  This is one of three bridges that straddle Walnut Creek carrying Iowa Interstate Railroad through Des Moines (the other two are Pratt pony trusses). The 1897 Warren through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings and riveted connections used to serve dual track rail traffic until the 1990s when it was reduced to only one track. The bridge still serves traffic and can be seen up close from the bike trail while passing through Waterworks Park.

This sums up the tour through Des Moines. The truss bridge portion of the tour is rather the most interesting, but the most challenging if one wants to find information and photos of the structure. As some of the structures will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project, if you have any information that is useful for the project, or for other people who are interested in bridges in general, you can leave a comment here, or you can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Aside from that, it is hoped that people will have an opportunity to visit the bridges while in Des Moines and listen (or read) the stories involved with each of them, for the bridges span a total of 160 years and three periods, both in terms of materials (wood-iron/steel- concrete) as well as the period of bridge building (trusses-arch-modern bridges). Through the interest in history, you are doing more than just collect stories, you are sharing them with others as well, for there is no such thing as no interest in history. Without history, we are ignorant and a group of people with no identity, no pride and no soul. We take pride in history to ensure we know who we are and bridges are an integral part of our history.

 

Author’s Note: More info can be obtained by clicking on the links marked in the heading and text. Special thanks to John Marvig for photographing the bridges and allowing usage in this article.

 

Canadian Bridges washed away

 

 

 

 

 

Unprecedented Flooding in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and with that several bridges gone

Of all the areas in the world that have been prone to flooding over the last 15 years, including those along major rivers, western Canada was one of the places where flooding was least expected. During the time span between the 20th of June and present,  many small to medium sized rivers became large bodies of water, with raging rapids and mudslides, taking towns and large cities by surprise, when no one expected it. For many regions, this is the worst flooding since the 2005 Floods, which was considered the 100-year flood.   The hardest hit areas were places in the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, where many communities located next to rivers were underwater in a matter of minutes. All of Calgary, the city of 3 million inhabitants located at the junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers was flooded out (as seen in a video clip shown here), with other communities, like Medicine Hat, Canmore and High River sustaining considerable flood damage despite people fighting to keep the floodwaters in the river. The cost of repairs and reconstruction is expected to be in the billions of US Dollars and like the areas in Europe that are drying out from their Great Flood, Canada will most likely enter a recession for cities like Calgary, considered engines for economic growth, will suffer from millions of Dollars in lost revenue.

The unexpected flooding wiped out many bridges in the region and caused considerable damage to others, some to a point of collapse. No matter whether they were pedestrian crossings, railroad bridges or even bridges being constructed, no bridge was safe from the raging waters of the swollen river unless they were inspected, rehabilitated or built higher than the dikes.  While some bridges, like the Finlay Bridge in Medicine Hat were spared flood damage, some, like the Bragg Creek Bridge near Calgary was used as a buttress to shred houses washed away as seen in the video. But unfortunately for many bridges, like the ones highlighted here in this article, they were not so lucky. Here are the highlights of some of the bridges reported that were affected by the floods in one way or another:

Bonnybrook Bridge undermined by flood waters, collapses

Many of Calgary’s bridges, both old and new, were damaged substantially, as the Bow and Elbow Rivers turned the metropolis into Venice, and the bridges were undermined either through the severe erosion of the abutments, a span or two being washed away, or in this case, water currents undermining one of the piers of the Bonnybrook Railroad Bridge, spanning the Bow River next to another bridge.  While the bridge was inspected 18 times during the floods, it would have needed a 19th or 20th check-up to see that the pier was instable enough to cause two spans of a five-span pony truss bridge to partially collapse on 27 June in the afternoon with train coaches parked on the bridge to hold down the weight. The owner of the bridge, Canadian Pacific (CP) worked with haste to pull the wagons off the bridge. Despite this questions are being raised as to whether the bridge inspections were thorough enough, and that the extra work would have been needed to see that something was seriously wrong with the 1920 structure. It is expected that a new bridge built 4-6 feet higher- just as high as its neighboring bridge located 150 feet from the collapsed span- will be needed to accomodate rail traffic. A link to the story with videos can be found here. More information on the fate of the Bonnybrook Bridge will come here on the Chronicles.

Fish Creek Provincial Park and Bridges a total loss

Many pedestrian bridges including a pair of suspension bridges in and near Calgary were destroyed during the flooding. This include a couple at Fish Creek Provincial Park. Consisting of two sections straddling the Bow River featuring a dozen bridges, a zoo, golf course, bike trail and a natural area, this area was no stranger to disasters, for seven bridges on the western section of the park were wiped out during the 2005 floods and had to be replaced. Even though they were for the most part spared the flooding, three bridges were severely damaged or were destroyed this time around. This includes a bridge whose structure and abutment were completely washed away down the river, and a newly built MacKenzie Pedestrian Bridge, built in 2007. All that is left of the bridge is its Warren through truss span above the river as the approach and abutments were washed away. Another pedestrian bridge near the park, a beam bridge, suffered a similar fate. The cost of repairing or replacing the bridge represents a fraction of the cost for rebuilding the park, which is expected to be in the millions of US Dollars and will take at least 1-2 years to be fully restored. More information about the park and the bridges can be found here.

Bragg Creek Bridge survives onslaught of floating house

While this bridge represents an example of a bland plain grey concrete bridge built a few years ago to replace a previous structure, this structure made headlines in another way, for a spectator filmed a two-story house that had been washed into the creek and was floating at over 80 kilometers per hour when it encountered the structure and its center pier. Upon impact, the house was reduced to a pile of rubble. While the damage to the bridge was only slight, the owner of the house will have to go to the drawing board to design a new house.  A video of the impact can be viewed here.

To summarize the whole event in one sentence would be difficult except to say that the region is a whole mess right now, and people are working to rebuild their livelihoods. A difficult road is ahead of them for many homes, buildings and even bridges, damaged by the floods may have to be torn down and replaced. Already there was talk of Calgary tearing down over 100 buildings damaged by flooding. Yet this is only part of the rebuilding process as local and provincial governments and residents alike are working to ensure that the next flood of biblical proportions will not destroy the region again, for the third time may force many to leave the region for good. However, such preventive measures will come at a price, which includes redrawing the landscape and infrasturcture to ensure a three-peat will never happen.