2018 Author’s Choice Awards: Mr. Smith makes his picks

Lowe Bridge in White County, Illinois. Photo taken by Melissa Brand-Welch

Before announcing the official winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards, it’s time to take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards. Here, the author of the Chronicles (yours truly) picks out the best and worst in terms of bridges. And for this year, there is plenty of fame to go around. So without further ado, let’s take a look at my picks to close off a busy year.

 

Spectacular Bridge collapse

USA:

Florida International (niversity Bridge in Miami- There are accidents with fatalities that are caused by natural disasters, then we have some caused by human error. The Florida International University Bridge in Miami, which had been built by FIGG Bridge Engineering was one that collapsed on March 15th, killing six people was one that was caused by human error. Faulty design combined with a lack of thorough inspection caused the double decker bridge to collapse in broad daylight, turning a dozen cars passing underneath into steel pancakes. Most of the fatalities were from people who were squished underneath. It was later revealed the FIGG and four other companies had violated seven regulations resulting in fines totalling $89,000. Yet they are not out of the woods just yet, due to lawsuits pending against them.  It is unknown whether a new pedestrian bridge will be built.

Honorably mentioned:

Kingsland Bridge in Texas- We have accidents caused by mother nature that produced no fatalities and not even the most modern of bridges can withstand. A pair of runner-ups come to mind on the American side: The bridges that were lost in the worst forest fire in California history, and this one, the Kingsland Viaduct, a 50-year old bridge spanning Lake Llano that was washed away by floodwaters on October 6th. Fortunately here, no casualties were reported. A new bridge is being built.

 

International:

Morandi Viaduct in Genoa, Italy- It was the collapse of the year. The Morandi Viaduct in Genoa in Italy collapsed on 14 August during a severe storm. 22 people were killed, many of them had been crossing the concrete cable-stayed suspension bridge at the time of the collapse. The work of bridge engineer Ricardo Morandi had been under scrutiny due to defects in the decking and concrete cables and it was a matter of a simple storm to bring part of the bridge down. It served as a wake-up call for the Italian Government as it introduced strict standards for bridges afterwards, also in Europe. Other Morandi bridges are being examined with replacement plans being put together. As for this bridge, the 54-year old structure is currently being replaced with a steel/concrete beam viaduct, which is expected to be finished by 2020.

Chiajara Viaduct in Colombia- Runner-up here is another cable-stayed bridge, but located in the forest near Bogota. Here one didn’t need a storm to bring down the partially-built bottle-shaped cable-stayed suspension bridge, which happened on 15 January. 200 people were attending a seminar when the collapse happened, unfortunately those who were on the bridge- about 20 workers- were not so lucky. Eight were killed and others were injured, some critically.  The completed half of the bridge was taken down six months later. It is in the process of being rebuilt.

 

Biggest Bonehead Story:

We had a lot of eye-rolling and forehead-slapping stories in this category. So we’ll start at the place where anything can happen: The United States

USA:

Man Destroys Historic Bridge in Indiana, Gets Sentenced and Asks for a Retrial- This really bonehead story goes back to the now extant Hohmann Railroad Bridge, which used to span the Grand Calumet River near Hammond. The person was arrested and tried on federal charges of not only trespassing onto the bridge, but destroying property for the sake of scrap metal- without even a permit. His claim: no one owns it so the metal was his. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole, yet he just recently asked for a retrial- for treating him unfairly in court and for wrongful judgement! Mr. President (Donald J. Trump): I have the perfect candidate for you to replace Elaine Chao as Head of the US Department of Transportation! He’s that type of guy!

Truck Driver Destroys Covered Bridge in East Chicago Days after Its Reopening- If the mother of this driver was at the scene of this rather careless accident, the person would have had a lesson of a lifetime, known as You break it, you fix it! On 28 June, 16 days after it reopened and was designated as a historic structure, Mr. Eriberto Orozco drove his truck through the covered bridge, ignoring the warning signs and sensors, and plowing smack dab into the newly restored structure. When he got out of the truck, he smiled. He has since been cited for reckless driving and destruction of property. The covered bridge is considered a total loss.

 

International:

Three-Bridge Solution in Saxony- The battle between preservation and progress got a bit hairier and went way over the top with this story: A stone arch bridge had to be rebuilt elsewhere, moved aside for a modern bridge. Unfortunately, as you can see in the video, things went south in a hurry. Watch and find out what happened and why we have three bridges instead of one. The story is in the documentary Voss & Team and starts in the 11th minute.

 

Best example of a restored historic bridge: 

 

International:

Blackfriars Street Bridge-  This year’s awards are the year of the bowstring arch bridge for there were some great examples of restored bridges of this kind that have been reported. While the Paper Mill Bridge won the Ammann Awards in two categories, the Author’s Choice goes directly to the Blackfriars Street Bridge because of the painstaking task of dismantling, sandblasting and repairing (in some cases replacing) and reassembling the structure back into place. All within 18 months time, keeping the historic integrity in mind and the fact that the bridge still holds the world’s record for longest of its kind. This is one that will be discussed in the historic bridge community for years to come and one that deserves some kind of recognition of sorts.

Silk Road Bridge in Turkey- Runner-up in this category goes to the Silk Road Bridge in Turkey. The over 700-year old structure features a multiple span stone arch bridge, built at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. The bridge underwent an extensive renovation project to strengthen the arches and super structure and put new decking in. The bridge looks just like new. A link to the project is here: https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2018/12/26/restoration-of-5-centuries-old-silk-road-bridge-in-central-turkey-completed

USA:

A pair of bridges visited during my US trip definitely deserve some recognition for its work. The Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota is one of them. The 1930s two-span through truss bridge underwent a makeover in 2017 with new decking and lighting, fixing some truss parts and a new coat of paint. The forest green colored bridge looks like it was newly built. It’s definitely one for the ages.  The other bridge worth noting is the State Street Bridge in Bridgeport, Michigan. The 112-year old two-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored in 2016 where the trusses were taken apart, sandblasted and painted. Some of the truss parts were bent and needed to be straightened. A new pier and new decking followed. The bridge is now one of the key components of the county historical museum, where a collection of historic houses and a park line up along Main Street, adjacent to the Cass River crossing.

 

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The Hidden Gem: Best Find of a Historic Bridge

Originally meant for finding only one historic bridge, I had to make some exceptions for two of the notables that deserve to be recognized. Henceforth, let’s have a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice in this category:

USA:

The Bridges of White County, Illinois- Fellow Bridgehunter Melissa Brand-Welch found a collection of abandoned truss bridges in this southeastern Illinois county, each of which had its unique design and history. There are at least six through truss bridges and numerous pony trusses that one can find here. Each of them have potential to be restored and reused as a bike/pedestrian crossing. This county got second place in the category of Tour Guide for American Bridges in the 2018 Ammann Awards, while Ms. Brand-Welch won in the Best Bridge Photo category with her oblique photo of the Siglar Bridge. Winning the Author’s Choice Awards in this category should be the third and most convincing reason for county officials to act to collaborate on saving these precious structures. If not, then Ms. Brand-Welch has at least three accolades in her name.

Camelback Girder Bridge in Wakefield, Michigan- Runner-up is this small crossing. Michigan is famous for its camelback girder bridges of concrete, for dozens were built between 1910 and 1925. This bridge, located 500 feet away from a park in Wakefield, is easy to miss unless the oversized chair next to the shelter catches you. Then during your stop for a photo and picnic, you will see it. May be a boring concrete structure to some, but it is unique enough for a brief stop.

International:

In the international category we have three bridges that deserve recognition because they are either rare to find or are rarely recognized by the public. We’ll start off with the first bridge:

Höpfenbrücke in Pausa-Mühltropf (Vogtland), Germany- Located just off a major highway, 15 kilometers west of Plauen in Saxony, this bridge was built in 1396 and was an example of a typical house bridge- a bridge with houses either on the structure or in this case, on the abutments. This structure was restored recently after flood damage forced its closure. The bridge is definitely worth the stop as it is one of three key points the village has to offer. The other two are the palace and the city center, where the bridge is located in.

Pul Doba Suspension Bridge- One of the fellow readers wanted some information about this bridge. It is one of a half dozen in India whose towers is shaped like one of the towers of a castle. It was built in 1896 but we don’t know who built it. We do know that this bridge is a beauty.

The Bridges of Conwy, Wales-  How many bridges does it take to get to a castle? Three, according to the city of Conwy in Wales, which has three structures that lead to one of the most popular places in the country: an arch bridge for traffic, a chain suspension bridge for pedestrians and a box through girder with towers for trains. Not bad planning there, especially as they fit the landscape together despite its space issues with the channel and the penninsula.

 

This sums up my picks for 2018. While we will see what 2019 will bring us for historic bridges, we will now take a look at the results of the Ammann Awards, which you can click here. Remember the results include a podcast powered by SoundCloud.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 92: The Unusual Truss/Arch Bridge at Van Loon

This next mystery bridge takes us to a place out in the middle of nowhere east of a larger city in Indiana. The Van Loon Bridge was one of the most unusual truss bridges found on record. The bridge used to span the Little Calumet River east of Hammond and features a two-span pony arch bridge with Warren truss features and riveted connections. According to an article in the Engineering News Magazine  dated in 1915, the bridge was assembled using scrap metal from an unknown source in Van Loon, Indiana. Unfortunately there were no records that indicated the existence of the community except that it was probably located somewhere outside Hammond. While fellow pontist Nathan Holth pinpointed the bridge’s location to the east, it is not 100% correct and chances are most likely that it could be either to the west or even somewhere along the Calumet. The same applies to the community of Van Loon for the community may have existed for a few years before having disappeared even from the record books.  What we do know is that the bridge, which is approximately 100-120 feet long and 13 feet wide has been extant for many years. This leads to several questions that need explaining about this bridge:

  1. Where exactly along the Calumet was this bridge located?
  2. Where was Van Loon located? When was the community founded, let alone when it vanished?
  3. If the bridge was built using scrap metal, where (in or around Van Loon) did the metal come from?
  4. When was the bridge built and by whom?
  5. When was the bridge demolished?
  6. Was there a replacement for the bridge?

This mystery bridge is unique for we are not only looking for the history of the bridge itself but also the community that only existed for a Brief time. Henceforth if you have any history of Van Loon that would be of great help for to better understand about the bridge’s history, one Needs to know more about the community it served. This includes the people who lived there, the businesses and the events that affected the community, including the factors that led to ist disappearance. You can provide one or both here or through the bridgehunter.com website.

While we have seen fancy bridges, like the one constructed using the remains of a Ferris Wheel, a car dealership, a stadium and the like, nothing is as fancy and interesting is a unique bridge built using parts from an unknown location. The bridge at Van Loon is one of those particular bridges that has that beauty.

 

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Newsflyer: 3 February, 2015

Plaka Bridge in Epirus, Greece- now gone. Photo courtesy of Inge Kanakaris-Wirtl.

One Historic Bridge Gone by Mother Nature, Another Destroyed Illegally, Another Disappears but One is Restored and Reused

Greece has been a thorn in the side of the European Union since 2010, or rather the EU has been a thorn in the side of Greece, if looking at it from Prime Minister Tsipras, who was recently elected and has promised changes not pleasing to Brussels. Yet with recent flooding going on in Greece, he will have more to do at home, as clean-up efforts are taking place. This includes rebuilding historic bridges, like this one, the 1866 Plaka Bridge. That bridge was destroyed by flooding, while the other two bridges to be mentioned in the Newsflyer have also disappeared mysteriously. How this happened will be featured here in the Chronicles’ Newsflyer.

Plaka Bridge in Greece Falls to Flooding

INOANNINA, GREECE: Located 400 km northwest of Athens, the Plaka Bridge was one of Greece’s prized treasures. Built in 1866 by Constantinos Bekas, this vaulted arch bridge spanned the Arachthos River, and tourists had an opportunity to view the beautiful and steep valley. Unfortunately, rainwaters swelled the river to the point where flooding wreaked havoc in the region. This bridge collapsed on Sunday as a result of  flooding. Photos from a local newspaper shows that the entire arch span fell into the water, leaving the abutments remaining. A video shows the bridge remains while a Bailey Truss Bridge was constructed to allow for one lane traffic to cross. While Tspiras is sending aid to the region as well as experts to determine the extent to the damage in the region, experts from a polytechnical university in Athens are being summoned to the region once the floodwaters subside to look at the bridge remains and produce a design for a replica of the bridge. This is the second bridge of its kind that has succumbed to either mother nature or man-made disasters. The Stari Most Bridge in Bosnia-Herzegovina was destroyed in the Yugoslavian Civil War in 1993. It took 11 years to rebuild the Ottoman structure. It is unknown how long it will take until the Plaka Bridge is rebuilt. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the developments.

Oblique view of the Hammond Railroad Bridge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Historic Bridge Illegally Destroyed for Scrap Metal

HAMMOND, INDIANA: Police and local officials are looking for a group of people responsible for the dismantling and demolition of an abandoned railroad bridge spanning the Grand Calumet River in Hammon. Ronald Novak, director of the Hammond .Department of Environmental Management received a tip from locals on Thursday of a group of people taking the bridge apart, which was located west of Hohmann Avenue, using bulldozers and other cutting tools to pull the main span into the river. The fallen span presents a double danger, where cresolate, a chemical used to coat wooden rail ties could dissolve in the river, and the steel structure itself could cause blockage of the river. The Army Corps of Engineers has been notified of the matter. It has been suspected that the crew tore the structure down not because of its abandonment for over a decade, but because of the scrap metal, whose value has been sitting high for many years. Because the demolition process was not approved by the City, your help is needed to find the people responsible for tearing down the bridge without permission. Any tips should be given to the police or the City as soon as possible. The 1909 railroad bridge itself was unique because it was a two-span Warren through truss bridge functioning as a Page bascule bridge. More information can be found here. With the Hammon Bridge destroyed, there is only one bridge of its kind left in the US, located in Chicago.

 

Abandoned Iowa Bridge Disappears

OSKALOOSA, IOWA:  Local pontists are looking for clues behind the disappearance of an iron through truss bridge spanning the North Skunk River at Yarnell Avenue, a half mile north of Iowa Hwy. 92. A product of the King Bridge Company, the Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracing had been abandoned for many years and was reported present in 2012. However upon recent visit by one of the pontists, the bridge disappeared. The question is now narrowed down to how the bridge disappeared, whether flooding washed it away or the bridge was torn down. More information is needed and leads should be posted in the bridgehunter.com website under Yarnell Avenue Bridge.

 

San Saba Railroad Bridge Restored and In Use

SAN SABA COUNTY, TEXAS: Spanning the Colorado River at the San Saba and Mills County border, this bridge received the Author’s Choice Award in 2013 after a fire burned the trestle approach span (all 800 of the 1050 feet bridge) to the ground. The good news is that the bridge has been rebuilt. JCF Bridge and Concrete Company, a local company, rebuilt the trestle last year in order for the Heart of Texas Railroad to resume rail service. A gallery of photos show the finished work, which you can see here. Made of steel and concrete, this portion of the bridge will allow trains to run heavier equipment across the river at moderate speed. As for the Warren through truss main span, that bridge was spared from the fire as well as the replacement process and can still be seen from US 190, just a half mile south of the bridge.